Long before the sounds of bands playing at Stinson Park and diners grabbing a bite to eat at hip restaurants in Aksarben Village, the sounds of hoofs pounding the dirt track at Aksarben’s race track echoed throughout the area. Stars like Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra entertained thousands at the Aksarben Coliseum. Even professional ice hockey and a growing amateur team called the arena home.
From its early days as an entertainment venue to its current status as one of Omaha’s best retail and entertainment districts, Aksarben Village has grown into a key attraction. You can enjoy a self-guided walk through history, as you take in the former sites of key historical places, as well as shops, restaurants, and bars at Aksarben Village.
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A look at Aksarben Village history
Where: South 67th Street
It may be a parking lot today, but a historical marker recalls the role Ak-Sar-Ben Airfield played in Omaha’s aviation history. With hangars and a small landing strip, Ak-Sar-Ben Airfield played a major role in the development of air mail delivery in the United States.
Day flights were common, but on one wintry night in February 1921, pilot Jack Knight took off from North Platte and landed in Omaha later that night, as part of the first night flight involving US mail. A few years later, day-night mail service became routine.
Ak-Sar-Ben Race Track
Where: 6800 Mercy Road
With Who Doctor Who among the most-famous thoroughbreds to race there, Ak-Sar-Ben Race Track grew to become one of the 10 top horse racing venues in the United States. Thousands of people, wearing suits and evening dresses in the early days, gathered to place a bet and enjoy a drink as they watched the ponies compete for trophies and a big payday.
Triple Crown winner Omaha, who spent his retirement in the area, often visited the race track, eventually being buried on the grounds. A marker at Stinson Park honors the famous thoroughbred.
During the height of its popularity in 1985, weekends brought betting up to a couple million dollars. But, then, greyhound dog racing and riverboat gambling across the Missouri River in Council Bluffs. By the mid-1990s, about 76 years after opening in 1919, horse racing was gone at Ak-Sar-Ben, becoming a victim of an aging sport and the birth of new gambling opportunities in the Metro area.
Where: 6800 Mercy Road
Opened in 1920 by the Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben, the coliseum hosted plays, musicals, concerts, and special events over its 85 years. Among the best-known acts to perform there, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Desi Arnaz, and Nirvana entertained thousands of fans packing the Ak-Sar-Ben Coliseum.
Note: If you read my book, “Lost Restaurants of Omaha,” you may recall reading about performers who finished their shows at the Coliseum and then made appearances at Venice Inn nearby.
The coliseum, host to agriculture shows, River City Round-up, and the annual Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben coronation ball, also was home to some of the best ice hockey teams to play in the minor leagues, and juniors. For decades, the Omaha Knights called the ice home, and served as the homes of up-and-coming professional players such as Gordie Howe and Motto McLean.
After the Knights left Omaha for good in the mid-1970s, the ice sat empty, except for skating shows and events, until the Omaha Lancers moved in for the final eight seasons of the coliseum’s life, winning championships as part of the United States Hockey League. The Lancers were the final tenants, leaving in the early 2000s, prior to the Coliseum’s demolition to make way for a business park and later Aksarben Village.
Today’s Aksarben Village
With corporations such as HDR, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Right at Home, and Pacific Life calling it home, Aksarben Village serves multiple uses, including restaurants, spas, shopping, entertainment, and bars, as well as apartment and condo living.
Aksarben Village restaurants & coffee shops
With more than 20 eateries located at Aksarben Village, it’s easy to find a new place to explore its culinary senses.
Where: 1934 S. 67th St.
Serving a Cajun menu, Herb Sainte is a great spot to test your bayou tastes. With gumbo, chowder, and jambalaya, it’s easy to think you’re in New Orleans’ French Quarter. WIth a menu full of fantastic drinks, Herb Sainte is an excellent choice for a night cap or a Happy Hour visit.
Where: 2295 S. 67th St
Ever try an alligator taco? How about a ghost pepper pork taco? If not, stop by VooDoo Taco for a truly unique eating experience. From Mahi Mahi tacos to beef brisket, you’ll enjoy a tasty meal without worrying about any evil spells cast on you.
Where: 6750 Mercy Road
If a more standard American fare is your preference, Beacon Hills offers a spin on classics such as burgers, meatloaf sandwich, or entrees including Delmonico ribeye steak and salmon filet.
Where: 2110 S. 67th St.
Enjoy Detroit-style pizza — square-style served in a large pan — and sides such as chicken wings and Korean fries at Backlot Taphouse. Backlot has a great selection of beer on tap.
Inner Rail Food Hall
Where: 1911 S. 67th St.
No dining excursion to Aksarben Village is complete without a stop at Inner Rail Food Hall. With its German bier hall-style open seating, diners enjoy standards such as Kathmandu Momo Station and Maharani Indian Kitchen, as well as six more eateries and the Backstretch lounge.
Dine inside with Inner Rail’s garage-type doors open for fresh air or spend a relaxing evening drinking, eating, and socializing on the patio.
Where: 2102 S. 67th St.
Sports fans enjoy watching Husker and Creighton Bluejays’ games on the wall-to-wall TVs at DJ’s Dugout. With a menu favoring pub food, DJ’s is an excellent spot to grab a burger, sandwich, or wings and enjoy while rooting on your favorite team.
Where: 1904 S. 67th St.
A Hill of Beans is one of Omaha’s original coffee roasters. When its owners decided to open their own coffeehouse, Aksarben Village seemed like a natural fit.
Roast is located on the north side of the district, and features a variety of coffee drinks, as well as a few pastry options. With limited seating, it makes for an intimate setting for meetings or to make do a little work on your laptop.
Jones Bros. Cupcakes
Where: 2121 S. 67th St.
Whether you’re in the mood for a cupcake with your coffee or just a coffee by itself, stop by Jones Bros. Cupcakes. Having competed on the Food Network, Jones Bros.’ original location in Aksarben Village is an excellent choice for a freshly-made cupcake the size of a softball or a bit smaller.
With choices ranging from a plain old cup of black coffee to a tasty latte or cappuccino — maybe a Boba tea — Jones Bros. is a nice spot to enjoy a drink with friends, inside the restaurant or outdoors on its patio. Grab a breakfast entrée or lunch salad or sandwich to complete your mission.
Where: 1918 S. 67th St.
After you’ve enjoyed a show, dinner, drinks, or a little shopping, it’s time for a treat. And Freezing has the perfect recipe — Thai rolled ice cream!
Watch as your frozen treat is scooped up, laid out on a plate and rolled flat, tossing in a few extra goodies, such as Reese’s Pieces, candy bar chunks, and even Swedish fish (your choose). Find a seat curbside and enjoy dessert at Aksarben Village.
Bars & breweries at Aksarben Village
With so many offices and entertainment venues, Aksarben Village offers a nice selection of bars and clubs.
Kincaider Brewing Co.
Where: 2285 S. 67th St.
Based in Nebraska’s Sandhills, Kincaider Brewing Co. produces more than a dozen beers, each offered at the Omaha location. The taproom also features a variety of spirits, including whiskey and wine.
Where: 6750 Mercy Road
You don’t need to be a Chicago Cubs fan to visit Pauli’s, but it helps. Pauli’s shows its allegiance to the Northside team with a large window banner. But, if you enjoy sports and a cold beer, this is the spot for you.
Located just north of Mercy Road, between Gold Mountain Chinese restaurant and a parking garage, Pauli’s has the feel of a Chicago bar.
Where: 6680 Center St.
If you’re looking for something to take home, stop in at Spirit World, one of Omaha’s largest alcohol distributors. With a wide berth of alcohol — beer, wine, and a substantial choice of spirits — the liquor store is sure to have something for every preference.
Food and drinks may also be purchased and consumed while at Spirit World.
Where: 1905 S. 67th St.
Located at Airstream, north of Inner Rail, people gather at Sonny’s to enjoy cocktails and wines, as an attractive area for social gatherings.
Aksarben Village entertainment options
Where: 2285 S. 67th St.
Hosting outdoor concerts – including free concerts summer weekends — Stinson Park is the neighborhood’s gathering spot. With music festivals, such as Maha, calling Stinson home, you’ll appreciate its appeal once you see a show there.
Stinson also has children’s play areas and a water feature for families.
Where: 2425 S. 67th St.
With Baxter Arena anchoring the south end of Aksarben Village, sports fans can catch UNO hockey, volleyball and basketball there. The University of Nebraska-Omaha’s baseball and softball teams play their games nearby. Baxter is also the site of national concerts and special events, such as the US Olympic curling trials.
Where: 2110 S. 67th St.
If movies are your thing, buy a ticket and sit back and enjoy a movie at the locally-owned Aksarben Cinema. With comfortable seats, the cinema showcases several new movies on its 10 screens. With an arcade and party room, Aksarben Cinema is perfect for family events. It also has a full bar for adults.
Shopping in Aksarben
With people living and working at Aksarben Village, retail outlets offer a variety of options.
Where: 1917 S. 67th St.
What started as a yoga pants company has grown into an array of athletic clothing and supplies, for women, men, and children. Lululemon is located in the heart of Aksarben Village and features a variety of clothing and accessories.
Green Street Cycles
Where: 2111 S. 67th St., Suite 118
Bicycling enthusiasts enjoy checking out the clothing and accessories available at Green Street Cycles.
The Book Nook Aksarben
Where: 2115 S. 67th St.
In search of a rare book? The Book Nook Aksarben may just have what you’re looking for, as the used and rare books store has a nice selection of reading material.
With a mural that changes seasonally near Aksarben Cinema, art enthusiasts will find several art pieces on a self-guided walk around Aksarben Village. From a sculpture at Blue Cross Blue Shield building to creative pieces on UNO’s south campus, a public art jaunt offers intriguing works to interpret and discuss, possibly over coffee or a meal at one of the Aksarben Village eateries.
FAQs about Aksarben Village
Q. What’s parking like at Aksarben Village?
A. Parking is absolutely free — and plentiful — at Aksarben Village. There are two covered parking garages available (with some tenant parking reserved), as well as street parking.
The shopping center installed digital signs for each lot that keep an updated count of available spaces.
Q. When is the farmers market at Aksarben Village?
A. There’s a large farmers market every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. from early May to mid-October. It’s held along 67th Street and Mercy Road.
The organizers of the farmers market also hold a holiday market in early December at Stinson Park.