Omaha, the Gateway to the West, is unlike any place on earth. Our city’s blend of Midwestern charm, big-city attractions and small-town vibes make it an amazingly unique place to live!
While you might think of Omaha as a fly-over city offering nothing but cornfields, our amazing city is actually a start-up hub, a destination for beer lovers, and has even been named one of the best places in the country for millennials to settle down. So, whether you’re new to town or are just passing through, we’ve made it our mission to change your perception of The Big O today. Here are 14 incredibly “cool” things you can only do in Omaha. Enjoy!
As always, we encourage you to wear a mask and social distance when going out. We also recommend checking the website of each individual business before visiting, in case of closures and special COVID-19 procedures.
Explore one of the best zoos in the country
Photo courtesy of the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium
Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is not just another zoo. In fact, it was recently ranked as the third-best zoo in the country by USA Today! Plants, animals and unique habitats from all over the world sprawl over more than 160 acres, and it’s all available for you to explore. The interesting exhibits are probably what lands this spot on every “best of” list; when you visit the Lied Jungle, you actually feel like you’re walking through a South American rainforest. And the Desert Dome is a spectacular indoor desert spanning 84,000 square feet, featuring plants and animal life from the Namib Desert of southern Africa, the Red Center of Australia and the Sonoran Desert of the southwestern United States. Masks and social distancing are required upon entry. Click here to reserve your tickets in advance!
“Pinpoint” a location and then go there
While driving around Omaha, you may have seen giant blue push pins that say “Omaha” on them! These pins dot the city’s must-see attractions, from the Henry Doorly Zoo and Lauritzen Gardens to Durham Museum, the Joslyn Art Museum and Hot Shops Art Center. The 8-foot tall push pins are at 15 locations. Pick up a brochure of all the locations at the Omaha Convention & Tourism Center or at VisitOmaha.com and see how many you can visit!
Be in both Nebraska and Iowa at the same time
The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge (more fondly known as “Bob the Bridge”) is one of Omaha’s most cherished landmarks. The 3,000-foot steel structure spans the Missouri River, connecting Omaha to Council Bluffs via a pedestrian pathway. The bridge also crosses the state line that separates Nebraska from Iowa, so if you’d like to get a little bit cheeky, you can stand in the middle of the bridge and claim to be standing in two places at once! Bonus: The views of the Omaha skyline from this vantage point can’t be beat.
Watch raccoons eat dinner
Not only is the historic Alpine Inn home to some of the best fried chicken in the country, but they also play host to some of the cutest guests around. Over 50 raccoons come around every day for food scraps. Don’t be afraid of them—these creatures are adorable and friendly. If you can’t stop by for a visit, follow them on Facebook for charming videos of these furry creatures.
Explore a garden full of bronze heads
Next time you’re perusing the Old Market passageway, veer to the right and head all the way down the hallway until you see a sign that says “Garden of the Zodiac: Sculpture Garden & Gallery.” Step inside and you’ll find yourself in an art gallery that features rotating contemporary art exhibits—but it’s the garden out back that is the true gem of this unique locale. The garden is a tiny, round green space covered in trees, bushes… and 22 bronze heads. The heads were created by Swedish artist Eva Aeppli and installed in the garden to represent relaxation and meditation. And the garden itself is meant to represent the 12 constellations of the Zodiac and the planets as a group.
Drink champagne on tap
Have you ever wanted to drink champagne from a tap? Well you can at Omaha’s Homey Inn! They have sweet, dry, strawberry and peach champagne on tap as well as sangria and a full bar. Stop by for a glass any day of the week or visit to get a growler full of bubbly to take home with you!
Try corn-flavored ice cream
While Nebraska may not be the nation’s top corn-producing state—that honor goes to Iowa—but the stuff is everywhere. As the “Cornhusker State,” we passionately embrace that moniker any way we can. Dishes such as corn fritters, corn chowder and corn pudding are a staple on many Omaha menus, and our local ice cream shop, Ted and Wally’s, takes corniness to a whole new level with flavors including sweet corn, honey cornbread and caramel popcorn.
Go on a sculpture scavenger hunt
Omaha is home to some larger-than-life art displays spread out throughout the city. The Spirit of Nebraska’s Wilderness and Pioneer Courage Park consists of more than 100 individual bronze pieces that cover more than six city blocks! Each of them allows you to visualize what it must have been like to journey like a pioneer. You could spend an entire day exploring the city and hunting down these stunning structures—and you should! Take a day to try to locate them all; you can find a map of all of their locations here.
Visit an Alice in Wonderland-inspired speakeasy
The mysterious atmospheres and high-end cocktails make speakeasies an awesome destination for date night or an evening out with friends. Of course, part of what makes the experience so fun is figuring out how exactly to get in, so we won’t divulge too much here—but we highly recommend checking out the Wicked Rabbit, an Alice in Wonderland-esque speakeasy offering some of the best cocktails in town.
Go on a safari in your own car
Photo courtesy of the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari
Situated just 30 minutes outside of Omaha, the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari is home to more than 350 animals and 53 species from all over the world. The park is a partner of the Henry Doorly Zoo and allows animals to thrive in a more natural habitat while researchers study their behavior. The park is unlike normal zoos in the fact that it offers the fabulous opportunity to take a drive-through tour of the park and witness animal demonstrations—our own little Nebraska safari! Learn more about the park here.
Eat the original Reuben sandwich
Although there are several claims to the invention of the Reuben sandwich, many believe that it was originally crafted by Omaha’s own Reuben Kulakofsky in the heart of the Blackstone Hotel. It appeared on the menu in 1925 (for a whopping 40 cents), and was further developed by the Blackstone’s Charles Schimmel, who insisted on soaking the kraut in Russian dressing at least 24 hours in advance. The Reuben is now a popular option at delis across the country. One of our favorites (and most authentic) here in Omaha is served by Crescent Moon, conveniently located just across from the historic hotel.
See where a Japanese balloon bomb exploded during WWII
It wasn’t just Pearl Harbor that was hit during WWII. On April 18, 1945, a Japanese balloon bomb exploded in the sky over Dundee. Fortunately, it didn’t do much damage, and the attempt was kept hush-hush until after the war was over. Today, a plaque commemorates where the bomb exploded and sits surrounded by the neighborhood’s trendy restaurants, bars and shops.
See the world’s largest ball of stamps
From 1953-1955, the Boys Town Stamp Collecting Club embarked on an adventure: to create the world’s largest ball of stamps. We are happy to report that they succeeded, creating a 600-pound ball measuring 32 inches in diameter and made up of over 4.6 million stamps. This magnificent sight is located in the Leon Myers Stamp Center in the Boy’s Town Visitors Center—just a short drive from the center of Omaha. Due to COVID-19, the Stamp Center is currently closed. They hope to reopen soon when cases in the area go down. Visit their website for updates!
Work with the country’s oldest real estate company
NP Dodge Real Estate (that’s us!) is the oldest real estate company in the country, having opened our doors in 1855. Our company was founded by brothers Grenville and Nathan Phillips Dodge after moving to Douglas County in 1853 and 1854. While Grenville went on to serve as a general in the Civil War and helped found the Union Pacific Railroad, N.P. stayed in the land-sale business, building the foundation for what is now America’s longest-running, family-owned real estate firm.
We’ve been around a long time, so if anyone is equipped to help you navigate this ever-changing real estate climate—it’s us. If you’re interested in buying or selling a home, we can help. Click here to contact us with all of your real estate needs!
Wow, Omaha’s Cool!
We absolutely love living in Omaha! Let us know why you love it here in the comments below.