After being rescheduled due to COVID-19 in 2020, the Summer Olympics are finally happening in Tokyo this year! While we love watching all the events—from tennis to rowing to skateboarding—we are particularly interested in swimming, mostly because Omaha plays a big part in that Olympic sport.
That’s right, Omaha, Nebraska is home to the Olympic Swim Trials, the contest held before every Summer Olympic Games to select the participants for the U.S. Olympic Swimming Team. Omaha has been hosting this prestigious event since 2008 and will hopefully be hosting it for a long time to come.
If you’re curious when the swim trials are actually happening (and want to know how COVID-19 comes into play) keep reading! We’ve broken down all the information you’ll need to know going into the trials and listed some nearby hotels, restaurants and other points of interest in case you’ll be visiting from out of town. Have fun!
2020 Olympic Swim Trials Information
Photo courtesy of USA Swimming
The Swim Trials for the 2020 Summer Olympics (which will retain the 2020 in its name) will be held in two “Waves” at Omaha’s CHI Health Center. Wave I was on June 4-7 and Wave II is coming up on June 13-20. Wave II will serve as the sole qualifier for pool swimmers on the U.S. Olympic Team. In an effort to deliver the safest competition possible and to mitigate the potential spread of COVID-19, the venue seating map has been reconfigured, reducing daily session attendance capacity to approximately 50%. The event Organizing Committee is continuing to work with USA Swimming National Team physicians, along with the Douglas County Health Department in the development of the Trials’ health and safety plans. Masks will be required within the arena at all times but proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test will not be required for spectators to enter the arena.
If you are visiting out of town to watch the Swim Trials, there are plenty of lodging options near the CHI Health Center that you can take advantage of! VisitOmaha and the Trials Organizing Committee are working with hotels around the area to provide the best rates and rooms to swim trial swimmers, coaches and fans. For a full list of hotels currently accepting reservations for the swim trials — which includes nearby hotels like Hilton Omaha, Omaha Marriott Downtown, Hilton Garden Inn, and Hampton Inn & Suites — visit VisitOmaha’s website.
If you’re interested in camping or visiting in a recreational vehicle instead, there are several amazing campgrounds around the Omaha area that you can visit! Click here for a thorough list of the best places to go camping within two hours of Omaha.
After you’ve dropped off your bags and gotten settled in the city, you may be wondering where the best place to get a bite to eat is near your hotel! Well, we are happy to inform you that Omaha is home to an exquisite culinary scene—one that Livability calls “the best in America right now”. That means that our amazing city is home to incredible bars, restaurants, bakeries and much more. Here are just a few near the CHI Health Center for you to try while you’re in town:
With a warm and lively atmosphere, an impressive selection of beer on draft, and delicious pub grub, Blatt Beer & Table is a favorite gathering place for locals. Make sure to try the Buffalo Chachos! Expect crispy potato chips topped with applewood-smoked bacon, sriracha buffalo sauce, blue cheese sauce and crumbles and chives. Once you’ve had a bite, you’ll understand why this appetizer is so popular!
If you’re looking for a romantic night on the town, don’t miss Nosh Restaurant and Wine Lounge! Their atmosphere is sophisticated but comfortable, and the menu has everything from Chicken Chorizo Nachos to Rosemary Salmon. Don’t forget to order a bottle of wine while you’re at it—they have one of the best selections in the entire city.
For a more laid-back vibe, you can’t do better than The Old Mattress Factory Bar & Grill (also known as The Matt). This Omaha favorite is situated in an old, 19th-century mattress factory, but has been renovated into a community gathering spot, concert venue, bar and eatery. The Matt is open until 1 am daily, so it’s an ideal spot for a late-night drink with your crew.
In 1854, our beloved city of Omaha was founded, and with it, came a Midwestern community unlike any other. Society 1854 seeks to invoke that sense of community while serving up authentic food inspired by the region’s heritage. The bright, open aesthetic of this eatery is perfect for both our Instagram and our Omaha-loving hearts.
Serving ridiculously large pizza slices, fries piled high and unique topping creations in a fun atmosphere, Lighthouse Pizza is an Omaha must-try. Eating at Lighthouse is like playing a “choose your own adventure” game, and you and your family or friends will have a blast as you go through the steps to craft your perfect dish, like choosing your pizza toppings, fry sauce and, of course, whether you want cheesy garlic bread with your order (hint: the answer is always “yes”). They are open late every night and you can eat in, hit the drive-thru, pick up your order, or even get your meal delivered.
For fish tacos, you don’t want to miss Hook and Lime, a modern Mexican restaurant specializing in seafood-centric tacos, small plates, cocktails and tequila! Located in NoDo, they make everything in-house, from the brisket they smoke overnight to the fresh corn tortillas they make fresh every morning.
Omaha’s premier craft burger and beer joint, the Omaha Tap House is known for their vast menu of—you guessed it—burgers and beer! They have one of the largest selections of beer on tap in town. But if it’s pub grub you’re looking for, check out their tasty chicken nachos, legendary wings and long menu of unique burgers, including one marinated in blueberries and raspberry vinaigrette and one topped with giant cheese curds!
The Boiler Room, situated in the heart of Old Market, was actually once a functional boiler room for the 120-year-old Bemis Bag Building. Industrial accents have been left behind for a rustic feel, but the overall vibe here is contemporary and approachable! As for the food, the menu showcases ingredients from local growers in the European-inspired dishes and chef Tim Nicholson’s expertise shines through in everything he creates.
Other Things to Do Around Town
When you aren’t cheering on your favorite swimmers, we recommend exploring everything else Omaha has to offer! While many consider Omaha as a fly-over city, it is actually home to incredible theater companies, museums, zoos, events and more. Here is a short list of some things you can (and should!) do while you’re in town:
Check out the Zoo
The Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is not just any zoo. In fact, it was recently ranked as one of the best zoos 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. Feel like you’re walking through a South American rainforest in the Lied Jungle or explore strange desert-based plants and wildlife in the Desert Dome (which spans more than 84,000 square feet).
Additionally, the zoo is affiliated with the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park, located just 30 minutes outside of town. The park houses native North American species in their natural habitats, but also a few exotic species—and you can see them all from the comfort of your own car during a drive-through tour!
Joslyn Art Museum houses an impressive and eclectic collection of more than 11,000 pieces that spans from ancient Greek pottery to pivotal 21st-century works. The iconic Omaha landmark was actually donated to the city by public figure Sarah Joslyn in memory of her late husband, George, in 1931. Of course, the museum has come a long way since its humble beginnings, but the public can still enjoy free admission any day of the week, which is almost unheard of when it comes to upscale art facilities!
Go wine tasting
The extensive menu at Soaring Wings Vineyard will please even the most discerning of palettes, offering a large selection of dry wines, sweet wines and even beers brewed in-house. The winery has scooped up more than 400 awards since it opened to the public in 2004, and it’s easy to see why. Owner Jim Shaw and his family have poured so much passion and hard work into their business, and it can be tasted in every sip.
Stand in two places at once
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.
The Capitol District emerged in the fall of 2017, transforming the landscape of downtown Omaha by introducing luxury overnight accommodations and apartments, as well as more options for shopping, nightlife and fine dining. And it just happens to be a short jaunt away from the CHI Health Center and home to several nearby hotels. Take an evening to explore everything this area has to offer!
…And Old Market
Situated in the heart of downtown Omaha, Old Market features brick-paved roads, unique shops and boutiques, fine dining, plenty of art galleries, and horse-drawn carriage rides through the streets. This is also where you can experience Omaha from a whole new vantage point: horse-drawn carriage!
Whether you live here or are just visiting, we hope you have a blast at the 2021 Olympic Swim Trials here in Omaha! For more ideas on what to do in the area, check out the rest of our blog posts or follow us on Instagram. We can’t wait to prove to you that Omaha really is one of the best cities in the world.