July 18, 2018

Omaha History Tours By Trolley

This summer, I took my first history tour thanks The Durham Museum. While I’m pretty familiar with Omaha’s history as explained through the museum’s exhibits, this tour was on a trolley and took us past many of the sites I’ve only read about (or wrote about). Keep reading – I’m going to share what you can expect if you take a River City History Tour.

Learn about Omaha history with trolley tours by The Durham Museum #Nebraska #historic #tour

Disclosure: I was provided complimentary tickets for a tour so I could tell you all about it. This post contains affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, making a purchase after clicking an affiliate link earns me a small payment to help me keep doing what I love best – writing. Thanks!

River City History Tours

The Durham Museum’s River City History Tours include seven different choices of tours, each exploring an interesting side of Omaha history. Beer? There’s a tour for that. Crime? There’s a tour for that.

Each tour starts and ends at The Durham Museum. There’s a tour guide well-versed in history pointing out things along the way and sharing interesting stories related to the tour topic.

Tablet used for the Gritty City tour
Some tours include a tablet with photos from The Durham Museum Photo Archive. While some buildings are still standing, many on the Gritty City tour were not, so it was helpful to see photos of how things once were.

Guests on some tours, like ours, include are given a tablet with a photo slide show. During the tour, the guide connects the historic photos we see on the slides to places we past. It’s a fascinating way to see history as it was and then see what things look like today. Those tours are: Gritty City, On Tap!, Expositions to Jazz Musicians and The Great Escape.

What my trolley tour was like

Durham Museum's River City History Tours trolley
The trolley for each River City History Tour departs and returns to The Durham Museum in downtown Omaha.

I brought Mr. Wonderful with me for a history-filled date night learning about Omaha’s seedier times in the tour Gritty City. I was hoping for some real dirt, and maybe some things connected to the crimes that happened at some of the restaurants in my book, Lost Restaurants of Omaha. Alas, this was just a taste of crime history, and more about how Omaha grew from a “rough and tumble town” to a thriving city. I think I would’ve enjoyed a tour like “Last Call for Alcohol” if I wanted to hear more about bootlegging and organized crime.

We boarded our trolley, Porkchop, and began the tour past the Old Market and then through more of the downtown area. Our tour included the tablet, which was a great idea. Our tablet was missing some of the photos the guide was talking about, so that got a little frustrating.

Tours last an hour and a half. Sunday tours start at 2 p.m. and Tuesday tours start at 6 p.m. We opted for 6 p.m. to make it a date. Of course, we’re lame and did not go out for a night cap after our tour, but the option was there.

Are the tours kid-friendly?

I wouldn’t take my kids on the tour, but I could see how teens could get something out of the trolley tour if they’re learning about some of the topics in school. There’s nothing necessarily inappropriate about the tour, though some subjects that came up on ours was prostitution and lynching. History isn’t the prettiest.

However, given the length of the tour and the subject, young kids are not going to sit well on a trolley. Plus, if your kids are anything like mine, they get SO EXCITED about trolleys, that they would surely be a distracting bundle of energy.

Remaining Omaha history tours for 2018

Unfortunately, you guys missed the bulk of the River City History Tours this summer, but they still have some that go through the fall. The remaining tours are:

River City History Tours logo

From Expositions to Jazz Musicians Tour – Aug. 5

Millionaires and Mansions South Tour – Aug. 14 and Oct. 7

The Great Escape: Exploring Omaha’s Historic Theaters – Aug. 26 and Oct. 21

Millionaires and Mansions North Tour – Sept. 9

Magic City Tour – Sept. 18

Last Call for Alcohol Tour – Sept. 23

Gritty City Tour – Oct. 16

The other tour that’s done for the year is On Tap! Omaha’s Brewing History. To register for a tour, go to durhammuseum.org. Tours are $20 for members and $25 for non-members. Membership discount
applies only to those in the household.

These are the kinds of tours that would make great gifts to history buffs in your life. If you have a foodie in your life, take a look at Omaha Culinary Tours.

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