January 28, 2020

8 Things To Do At The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge

As one of Omaha’s most popular attractions, the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge offers visitors more than just a place to enjoy a walk or bicycle ride. From a troll guarding its entrance to photo opportunities, “Bob,” as locals call it, offers family fun with a splash park and summer concerts.

As the country’s longest pedestrian bridge that connects two states (Nebraska and Iowa), the Bob Kerrey offers several fun opportunities. On the Iowa side, you can enjoy long walks or bicycle rides along western Iowa trails. With his own Twitter account (@BobTBridge), the bridge shares jokes and fun tips.

Don't miss a chance to visit The Bob when you're in downtown Omaha, Nebraska! Here's a guide to fun things to do at the landmark, from running the world's shortest marathon and meeting a troll to learning about the area's history. Don't miss the chance to go "Bobbing"! #Omaha #Nebraska #Midwest #bridges #MissouriRiver #familytravel

The Kerrey bridge’s design reflects the current of the Missouri River. As you walk, jog or bicycle across the bridge, take the time to stop and read the information placards that cover the river’s history, and its role in the area’s development.

Meet OMAR the Troll

OMAR, a blue troll, sits at the foot of the Kerrey bridge on the Omaha side, standing guard against all who seek to cross. Will he ask you three questions in order to cross? Or, is he looking for the Billy Goats Gruff?

Actually, he’s there to pose for photos with anyone wanting one with a 300-lbs. blue guy (who’s not a Smurf). Added to the Missouri River bridge in 2019, OMAR (Omaha Missouri Area River) quickly became a fan favorite. He even has his own book, “OMAR finds a home,” which can be found at local
book stores, such as The Bookworm.

Complete the .9k marathon

Run, bicycle, or walk the world’s shortest marathon at .9 kilometer, which is the distance from one end of the bridge to the other. The bridge is 3,000 feet long.

Complete the world's shortest marathon in Omaha on The Bob (it's .9 kilometer).
Photo courtesy Visti Omaha

Take a selfie on the bridge and stop by the Omaha visitors center at 10th and Farnam streets and show it to the staff for a bumper sticker
highlighting your achievement. It’s intended as a parody of the half- and full-marathon stickers runners receive.

Fun tip: To complete a true marathon, you’d need to cross the bridge 47 times, according to Visit Omaha.

Go ‘Bobbing’

Since the Kerrey bridge connects Nebraska and Iowa over the Missouri River, the act of standing midway across the bridge with one foot in Nebraska and the other in Iowa is known as “Bobbing.” It may be the
most popular spot in the United States for photos of feet.

"Bobbing" at the state line on the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge over the Missouri River

Take a picture and post in on social media with the hashtag #ItHappensOnBob.

Cool off at the sprayground

During the summer months (Memorial Day-Labor Day), a section of the riverfront near the foot of the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge gives families and children an opportunity to jump around in the water spraying from the ground in a circular play area.

Bridge Beats concert, a free summer concert series at The Bob in downtown Omaha
Photo courtesy Visit Omaha

Parents and others can watch from a stepped seating area.

Attend a Bridge Beats concert

Beginning mid-July and running for the next six Friday evenings, the sprayground area of the Kerrey bridge turns into a concert arena with the annual Bridge Beats series.

Kids at a Bridge Beats concert in downtown Omaha

Featuring popular local bands, such as Lemon Fresh Day, On The Fritz, and Taxi Driver, the public is invited to grab a seat on the stepped seats or the grassy area and enjoy the free concerts, which can range from Top 40 music to classic rock and country and western.

Rent a bike and ride across Bob

With a bike rack near the Bob Kerrey bridge, you can rent a single-rider bicycle from Heartland B-Cycle and enjoy a ride across the bridge and then travel along the riverfront trails on ether side of the Missouri River.

Bring your bike or rent a bike to ride along The Bob bridge in Omaha

It’s a great way to exercise and have fun exploring the area. You can even ride the bicycle to explore other Omaha sites, but you’ll need to return it to one of the Heartland B-Cycle stands located around the city.

Learn about the area’s history

You can learn about Native American history of the Missouri River and Omaha, which is the homeland of the U-mo’n-Ho’n (Omaha tribe) – also known as the “Upriver People” – at the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Headquarters and Visitor Center at the National Park Service Midwest office.

Inside the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail Headquarters and Visitor Center in Omaha, Nebraska

Located a short walk from the Kerrey bridge, the visitors center also features exhibits and information about the Lewis and Clark expedition, as well as the flags of the Native American tribes along the Missouri River to
the Columbia River at the confluence with the Pacific Ocean, where the expedition ended.

Take a ride on the River City Star

Take a river cruise aboard the River City Star and see a different view of the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge. As the paddle boat travels downriver and then upriver, you can see the bridge from beneath, admiring the curves that represent the river’s current, as well as the city’s skyline.

Riding on the River City Star near the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge in Omaha, Nebraska
Photo courtesy Visit Omaha

The River City Star offers a variety of tours, including a public tour cruise and lunch or dinner cruises. The River Star is located a short distance north of the Kerrey bridge.

With a water splash area, free concerts and more, the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge offers people more than just a place to enjoy a walk or run. Connecting two states, the bridge is a beautiful spot to connect
with family and friends.

Guide to family-friendly and active things to do near the famous bridge, The Bob, in Omaha, Nebraska. Get details on bike rentals, where to find OMAR the troll, a boat ride, and the world's shortest marathon. #Omaha #downtownomaha #Nebraska #visitnebraska #omahaweekend #midwestisbest #Midwest #MidwestWeekend

Exploring downtown Omaha

Make a day of your visit to downtown Omaha! There are a lot of free things to do in the nearby historic neighborhood, the Old Market, plus a ton of great restaurants (including kid-friendly restaurants).

Things to do in Omaha story archives

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January 25, 2020

15+ Things To Know About Benson (Omaha)

Benson is a popular neighborhood in Omaha, Neb., having a fun vibe without much pretension. You’ll encounter a mix of ages depending on where you choose to dine, drink and/or hang out.

The popular historic Omaha neighborhood, Benson, is known for great restaurants and bars. Find all the fun things to do in Benson with and without kids. #Omaha #Nebraska #thingstodo

I remember moving to the area 10 years ago, pregnant with my firstborn and not worrying about missing much while I sat at home and ate pickles and mac & cheese. And then, one year later, the neighborhood was cool. Like, everyone was going there, and great bars were opening, and breweries, and concert venues, and and and…and I had a baby so I felt like I was missing out.

These days, Benson has evolved into an eclectic neighborhood that’s welcoming to all, with unique nightspots, a stellar concert venue, and a few places that kids will love. I still don’t get to visit as much as I’d like to, but it is one of my go-to places with friends and for date nights. Here’s my guide to Benson.

Where is Benson in Omaha?

Most people refer to the stretch of Maple Street between 60th and 65th streets as Benson, but it actually extends a bit more each way (and extends north and south of Maple into neighborhoods). It’s considered a part of Midtown Omaha.

Sunset in Benson, a neighborhood in Omaha Nebraska

For the purpose of this blog post, I’m focusing on that busy stretch of Maple Street. It’s kinda what you’d call Benson’s downtown area.

Where to park it in Benson

Parking in Benson, as is the case in a few of Omaha’s popular neighborhoods, can be a bit of a headache. However, I’ve never NOT been able to park. Plus, parking is FREE. So relax. We can handle this.

The first parking lot to check is just south of 61st and Maple Street (on the southeast corner of the block). If that’s full, begin checking neighborhood streets south of Maple Street, as well as on-the-street parking along Maple Street.

Very few businesses have (tiny) parking lots, but they exist. Ted and Wally’s has a few spots, for instance. 

Dining options – Benson restaurants

Breakfast, brunch, dinner, dessert. Whatever you want to eat, Benson has it. There are a lot of restaurants to run through so I’ll start with my favovrites and then share the rest.

Rooftop bar at 1912

Breakfast

Where: Leo’s Diner, 6055 Maple St.

Why: This is a greasy spoon at its finest. It’s a small eatery, so it’s possible you’ll have a wait if you show up after about 9 a.m. The only downfall of Leo’s, alas, is that the coffee is not good. But I still have a lot of love for Leo’s.

Related post: 19 Great Places To Get Breakfast In Omaha

Lunch

Where: Star Deli, 6114 Military Ave.

Why: The sandwiches are crave-worthy. I don’t go often since my kids (weirdly) don’t like sandwiches.

Honorable mentions:

Burrito Envy & Tequila Bar, 6113 Maple St., this is a comfy place for Mexican food.

Dinner

Where: Virtuoso Pizzeria by David Losole, 6056 North Maple St.

Why: This casual pizza shop serves up delicious pie by the slice. It’s a quick option if you’re planning on going to a show and it’s low-key enough to want to hang out there with friends for a while.

Slice of pizza at Virtuoso Pizzeria

Honorable mentions:

1912 Benson, 6201 Maple St., casual hangout with burgers and great drinks, plus a nice rooftop bar

Bärchen Beer Garden, 6209 Maple St., pub grub with good German beers plus (as the name implies) they have a beer garden.

Danny’s Bar & Grill, 2007 N. 72nd St., this is a little ways from Maple Street but a solid choice for pub food. There’s also a kid’s menu.

Hartland Bar-B-Que, 5402 Northwest Radial Highway, this is a solid choice for take-out barbecue just east of the main strip of Maple Street. They have a “best of Omaha” award under their belt, too.

Date night

Where: Au Courant Regional Kitchen, 6064 Maple St.

Why: This cozy place purposely has European touches to it. I highly recommend splurging on the chef’s tasting menu. One warning about the menu, though: Creative bites are sometimes exactly that. Bites. If you’re a big eater, a tasting menu like this may not fully satisfy you.

Honorable mentions:

Yoshitomo, 6009 Maple St., this sushi restaurant has a devoted following. I have no complaints about the food, and I found the menu to be creative. But for some inexplicable reason, it’s just never one I recommend to people.

Yoshitomo sushi

Restaurant for dessert & treats

Where: Ted & Wally’s Ultra Premium Ice Cream, 6023 Maple St.

Why: This made-from-scratch ice cream is my favorite. The Benson location is Ted & Wally’s second location and I find that it’s also the one with the least amount of wait no matter the season. Same ice cream, less wait. Score!

Honorable mention:

Baked After Dark, 6103 Maple St., satisfy your sweet tooth with this late-night cookie shop.

Hardy Coffee Co., 6051 Maple St., a coffee shop that often has irresistible baked goods.

Benson restaurants I’ve yet to try

So, I haven’t eaten at every restaurant in Benson (shocking, I know). So the following restaurants I can’t quite tell you whether or not they’re great choices. Yet.

Ika Ramen and Izakaya, 6109 Maple St.

Jojo’s Diner, 6118 Military Ave., word is this new diner is a good place to go for breakfast.

Mantra Bar & Grille, 6913 Maple St.

Mayne St. Market, 6207 Maple St.

TACO CO., 6108 Maple St.

Taqueria Chingon, 6324 Maple St.

Cheers! Bars & breweries in Benson

It’s easy to bar hop in Benson, since there are a lot of unique places in one compact strip of Maple Street.

Interior of Krug Park in Benson
Photo courtesy Visit Omaha

Where: Krug Park, 6205 Maple St.

Why: This is a great bar housed in a restored 1908 building. The craft beer and cocktail selection are superb, and usually, the music is perfection.

Honorable mentions:

If you’re eager to try local beers, head to either The Benson Brewery or Infusion Brewing Co. The Benson Brewery has the bonus addition of serving up good pub food, too. The Benson Brewery, 6059 Maple St., and Infusion, 6115 Maple St.

Barley Street Tavern, 2735 N. 62nd St., go here for live music and a neighborly, convivial atmosphere.

Burke’s Pub, 6117 Maple St., it’s got the neighborhood bar feel to it.

Bars that I just haven’t been to yet

Flavas Margarita Lounge, 6052 Maple St.

Jake’s Cigars & Spirits, 6206 Maple St.

Kaitei, 6109 1/3 Maple St., look for this hidden little Japanese bar below Ika Ramen.

Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave.

St. Andrews Pub, 6102 Maple St.

The Sydney, 5918 Maple St., it’s been so long, I don’t know if I can tell you what The Sydney is like. I do recall it has good acoustics if you can catch a live show there.

Things to do in Benson with friends

Benson is a grown-up’s playground. There are several things to do for nights out with friends or for dates. But first, let’s talk about daytime.

There isn’t an abundance of shops and galleries in Benson (yet), but there are some worthy stops. For thrifty clothes, head to Daisy Jones’ Locker and Lion’s Mane Vintage. For chic home decor, check out Found Vintage Market.

There’s also a lingerie store right on the main street of Benson with window displays that nearly always makes me giggle uncomfortably like a 12-year-old.

Interior of Beercade on Maple Street in Omaha.
Photo courtesy Visit Omaha

For daytime and nighttime, a fun place to go is the Beercade at 6104 Maple St. It’s a classic arcade disguised as a really good craft beer bar. You can play pinball or challenge your friends to the likes of “Mortal Kombat.” You don’t have to have a drink in your hand to play.

If shuffleboard is your thing, head to Musette Bar. This dive bar is not really my scene, and I’ve only been there once. Bring cash.

I’m most likely, though, going to be headed to a concert at The Waiting Room Lounge if I’m in Benson at night. There are some fantastic tours that pass by this venue, as well as popular local vands. And, if craft beer is a priority, this concert venue has a fantastic selection on tap.

Concert at The Waiting Room Lounge in Benson

New to the scene, is Omaha Virtual Reality, a virtual gaming place I’ve yet to visit. It sounds like a fun place to go with friends.

Things to do with kids in Benson

Arguably, Benson is more fun for grown-ups. However, we’ve found many reasons to head to the neighborhood with the kiddos over the years.

Kids at the spray ground at Benson Park in Omaha

When the weather is nice, we’re at Benson Park, 7028 Military Ave. The playground is huge and there’s a great splash park there. There’s a short, paved trail around the lake. It’s where my kids learned to ride their bikes. Even though it gets a tad crowded, it’s one of our favorite Omaha parks.

And when it’s not so nice outside, we tend to spend time at the Omaha Public Library Benson branch, 6015 Binney St., which has a pretty solid kid’s section. They’re known for their annual event with several storybook characters that’s free and really adorable.

The Benson Community Center is also a good spot, though, to be honest, we’ve only ever been in there for the Halloween party.

Which reminds me, Benson businesses LOVE trick-or-treaters and there’s an afternoon each October set aside for kids to stop by stores and get goodies.

Chocolate ice cream in a waffle cone at Ted and Wally's in Benson

If you’re wondering which Benson restaurants are the best for families, the ones that are my family’s favorites include Ted and Wally’s, Leo’s Diner, and Virtuoso.

Events in Benson

Benson’s annual and seasonal events are more in the spirit of neighborhood celebrations, though a few can and do draw large crowds.

Benson First Friday is a free monthly art event in Benson. You can venture into pop-up galleries in businesses and see (and purchase) art by local artists. It’s pretty casual and you’ll likely meet all of the artists.

Benson Days is held in July each year. It’s a neighborhood celebration held on a single day, though the name Days has stuck. There’s typically a parade, live music and other family-friendly activities. There’s also a 5K fun run planned near or on Benson Days.

Benson Boo Bash is held on a Saturday in October and consists of trick-or-treating at various businesses as well activities as at the community center.

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Visiting Omaha and want to explore the historic Benson neighborhood? Here's a list of Benson restaurants and bars to try, shops to visit, and more fun things to do in the area - including where you can go with kids. #Omaha #Nebraska #Benson #Midwest
January 7, 2020

15+ Free Things To Do In Omaha

Enjoying the best of Omaha doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Or any money, for that matter. Read on for a big list of free things to do in Omaha, as well as top free Omaha events to enjoy. 

Looking for free things to do in Omaha, Nebraska? Here's a list of free museums, free attractions, free annual events, and more! #Omaha #Nebraska #budget #familyfun

Top free things to do in Omaha

Below are some of my favorite free attractions and free activities in Omaha. Some are open year-round and you can visit (for free!) at any time. Others are held on select days.

First Fridays

On the first Friday of the month, head to either Benson (along Maple Street) or the Old Market for a mix of art and socializing. Participating galleries will have artwork on display, and often, snacks and/or beverages. More details

Free annual events in Omaha

Year-round, Omaha has a variety of popular free events. Here are some of my favorites I recommend attending.

Explore Omaha , Nebraska on a budget with this list of free things to in Omaha. Find out about popular free annual events and festivals, plus Omaha attractions and museums that are free every day of the year. This is a great list for families looking for fun things to do on a budget. #Omaha #Nebraska #Midwest #familytravel

Find more things to do in Omaha

Have a little more of a budget? Explore 25 things to do in Omaha that cost about $25. Or check out West Omaha with this list of 25+ things to do in West Omaha.

Stay In The Know!

Subscribe to the FREE twice a month(ish) e-newsletter sharing what’s new in Omaha, giveaways, family travel ideas, and more! Subscribe here.

December 17, 2019

10 Restaurants To Try In The Blackstone District In Omaha

The Blackstone District wasn’t always the go-to spot for new restaurants and fun bars in Omaha. However, food did play a role in its early days (hint: it involves Reuben sandwiches and butter brickle ice cream).

Some of Omaha's most creative restaurants are located in the historic Blackstone District. Here's a guide to 10 must-try restaurants, creameries and donut shops. #Omaha #Nebraska #local #restaurants #Midwest

A brief history of the Blackstone District

In its early days, the Blackstone District was better known as the southern Gold Coast, home to Omaha’s wealthiest residents. With dozens of mansions in what was then west Omaha, only the richest residents were found in the area.

Then, in the early 1900s, the Blackstone Hotel was built and things started to change. The Blackstone was home to wealthy travelers and gamblers. In fact, a poker game led to the creation of the Reuben sandwich. Later, the hotel’s chef was credited with inventing butter brickle ice cream.

Today, the Blackstone District is home to nearly two-dozen restaurants and drinking establishments, businesses and residences. 

Where is Blackstone District in Omaha?

Since 2013, the area from 36th to 42nd streets along between Farnam Street (between Dodge and Harney Streets) has been officially known as the Blackstone District.

Exterior of Bob's in the Blackstone District of Omaha

The seven-block area is a mixture of about a dozen restaurants, bars, and apartments. It’s located immediately west of Midtown Crossing.

Where to park in Omaha’s Blackstone District

Parking is limited in the Blackstone District, so it can seem to come at a premium (unless you’re willing to walking).

Forno has a dedicated parking lot next to the restaurant. But, to park while you visit the other restaurants, you can park on the street or in parking lots throughout the area. Ample parking is available after 5 p.m. near 42nd and Farnam streets, while additional paid parking can be found between 39th and 40th streets, as well as 37th and 38th streets. 

Restaurants in the Blackstone District

Ansel’s Pastrami and Bagels

Located beside its partner, Noli’s, Ansel’s Pastrami and Bagels features beer-boiled bagels, breakfast sandwiches and a variety of lunch goodies.

Using Scriptown Nut Job for a malty flavor, Ansel’s bagels offer a different experience from other bagel joints. Breakfast sandwiches include pastrami, oyster mushroom, and braised pork. The lunch menu features meatball and turkey club, as well as pastrami. 

The Blackstone Meatball

With a menu heavy on locally-sourced ingredients, The Blackstone Meatball asks you to create your own dish. Diners choose the style of meatball they prefer – traditional with a side or sandwich, the flavor of meatball (classic, chicken, pork or vegetarian) and then the sauce.

Butterfish

Butterfish offers a menu sure to satisfy the palate of Asian cuisine enthusiasts. From sushi to small plates, such as cashew chicken, Butterfish is sure to appeal to everyone in your dining party. 

Sushi at Butterfish

Share sake and other drinks from their cocktail menu.

Coneflower

No visit to Blackstone is complete without a stop at Coneflower. Home to “Farm-to-cone” ice cream, Coneflower uses locally-sourced ingredients, such as milk and cream.

Exterior of Coneflower, a creamery in the Blackstone District

Related post: Must-Try Ice Cream Places In Omaha

Crescent Moon Alehouse

The oldest of the Blackstone District restaurants, Crescent Moon Alehouse is a mix of restaurant and bar. 

Opened since 1996, Crescent Moon is considered home to Omaha’s best Reuben sandwich. Located across the street from the Blackstone Hotel, Crescent Moon thought it made for a winning marketing idea to tie its Reuben to the hotel’s history. Made with corned beef provided by Omaha Steaks, the Reuben routinely wins “Best in Omaha” contests.

Interior of Crescent Moon Alehouse in Omaha

During Reubenfest, an annual weeklong celebration, Crescent Moon offers special dishes starring the Reuben.

Huber Haus – an old-fashioned German bier hall – is located in the basement, while a Beertopia is next door.

Early Bird and Bob’s

Home to possibly the most unique brunch in Omaha, Early Bird features an eclectic menu with pancakes mixed with your favorite childhood cereal, such as Fruity Pebbles and Coco Puffs, and chicken and donuts. You can order a flight of pancakes consisting of three pancakes featuring peanut butter and jelly, blueberries and more. Or, go for the more traditional omelet or chicken fried steak. 

Red velvet donut and coffee to-go at Bob's

Located down the hall from Early Bird is Bob’s, home to some of the best and strangest donuts you will ever love. Large enough to be a meal by itself, each artisan donut is a masterpiece. From the Boston crème donut and Fruity Pebbles to Peanut Butter and Jelly and Chocolate X-Treme, a trip to Bob’s is a true foodie experience.

Forno

Italian for oven, Forno is the newest restaurant from Dante owner Nick Strawhecker. Offering an upscale fast-casual Italian menu, Forno features unique dishes such as sticky pork ribs, seasonal salads, and soups and, of course, Dante’s famous wood-fired pizzas. 

With a drink menu offering only the best wine, beer and cocktails, a meal at Forno is memorable.

Mula

Mula looks at its service through two eyes – the food and the drink. Its menu is based on traditional Mexican street cuisine, such as carne asada and chicken mole tacos. 

Mula has been certified as a tequileria, which means that 80 percent of the staff has learned the history and production of the drink. 

Noli’s Pizzeria

Offering fresh made-to-order pizza by the slice, Noli’s Pizzeria quickly became an Omaha favorite. Located near 40th and Farnam streets, Noli’s is located on the western end of Blackstone.

Slice of pizza and a menu at Noli's Pizzeria

Believing water is the key to the perfect pizza dough, Noli’s uses specially-filtered water, which helps create an outstanding dough for its pizza. You can your order by name, such as the Margherita and Capricosa (made with local salami), or create your own. 

While there, try one of the dinner salads. With its house dressing, the salads are worthy of a meal of their own.

Lunchtime can be a challenge for a sitdown meal, as the small dining space is usually full. But, if you have the time, Noli’s pizza is worth waiting in line. 

Tip: Noli’s second location is at Inner Rail Food Hall

Stirnella

Working with local farms and distributors, Stirnella prides itself on a menu using locally-sourced ingredients. While its menu features American comfort food, including fried chicken, the chef puts his own twist on it with sides such as sweet potato puree and sweet and sour onion gravy. 

Interior of Stirnella in the Blackstone District

The restaurant’s name stems from the Meadowlark, the state bird, representing its genus and species.

Looking for an Omaha restaurant? Head to the trendy historic neighborhood, the Blackstone District. See where to get wood-fire pizza, sushi, donuts, and the sandwich the neighborhood is known for, the Reuben. #Omaha #Nebraska #restaurant #OmahaFood #Guide
December 13, 2019

Omaha's Oldest Restaurants You Need To Try Today

With so many restaurants to choose from, Omahans may seem spoiled when it comes to selecting a place to dine. From local mom and pop eateries to national chains, Omaha’s dining scene features more than 500 restaurants. That can make choosing the perfect dining spot very difficult.

One way to explore the culinary landscape is by visiting Omaha’s oldest restaurants. Only a handful of restaurants can say they’ve served Omahans dinner for more than 50 years.

Unique restaurants in Omaha - Omaha's longest-running restaurants to get breakfast, lunch and dinner. This list features Omaha's oldest restaurants that continue to run, including steakhouses, a greasy spoon, and century-old pizzeria. #Omaha #Nebraska #Restaurants

Even fewer can say they’ve been around for nearly a century.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking the link, I receive a small referral stipend.

Omaha's Oldest Restaurants

Omaha restaurant history

I consider restaurants to be a part of Omaha history, so I can be pretty passionate when recommending people eat local in order to help preserve Omaha’s history.

Why?

I wrote a book about well-known restaurants and hidden gems throughout Omaha’s history that have since closed. While writing the book, I learned about how restaurants played a role in the Civil Rights movement, Prohibition (and the repeal of it), and how the city fared during wars, recessions, and changing tastes.

Lest Restaurants of Omaha book cover

Regrettably, I hadn’t been to most that were open at one point in my life. In an attempt to change that, I’ve started dining at some of the oldest restaurants in Omaha. I hope you’ll do the same!

Truth be told, the food has been hit or miss at the restaurants. But I’m glad I patronized a local restaurant each and every time. There’s no mistaking how these restaurants played a role in Omaha history.

Looking for Omaha's oldest restaurants? Here are a few that are still open, including classic steakhouses, a pizzeria, popular burger joints. #Omaha #Nebraska #Midwest #Restaurants #Local

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November 25, 2019

Christmas At The Omaha Zoo

December is the perfect time to visit Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium. Seriously. Add all my reasons for visiting the zoo when it’s cold out with the enchantment of the holidays, and you can see why I recommend planning an Omaha zoo visit at Christmas time.

Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium is the city's most popular tourist attraction. Here's what to expect if you visit the zoo during the holidays - from unique holiday events to Santa scuba diving in a shark tank! #Omaha #Nebraska #OmahaZoo #Holidays #Christmas #Midwest

Where is the Omaha zoo?

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium (AKA Omaha’s zoo) is located at 3701 S. 10th St. It’s located just off Interstate 80 and about a mile south of Omaha’s bustling downtown area called the Old Market.

The zoo’s parking lots are all FREE.

Related post: Experts’ Tips For Visiting Omaha’s Zoo

Omaha zoo hours at Christmas

Plan your visit knowing that in November and December, the zoo is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (except on those holidays mentioned above). Buildings will stay open until 5 p.m.

Omaha’s zoo is open on winter holidays like Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, as well as Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. The zoo is always closed on Christmas Day.

Why go to the zoo during the holidays?

Omaha’s zoo is the state’s most-visited attraction, seeing about 2 million guests each year. The busiest season — by far — is summer. There are plenty of reasons to go to the zoo in the summer, but crowds are not one of them.

Omaha's zoo at winter

So, avoiding crowds is one reason why I love winter at the zoo. The colder weather scares away a lot of people leaving you quite a bit of room to leisurely enjoy each exhibit.

However, there are some events at Christmas that are decidedly going to draw a crowd. I think they’re worth it, though. More on each of those events in a minute.

My other reason to go to the zoo in the winter is possibly unfounded scientifically, but I think the animals are more active in the winter.

Is the zoo in Omaha decorated for Christmas?

No, the zoo doesn’t string lights or put up a lot of holiday decorations. However, you will find event spaces decorated for the holidays, especially for Supper with Santa.

If you want to see something really Christmas-y at the zoo, plan your visit to watch a holiday-themed character dive in the shark tunnel at the aquarium. These special dives are on Dec. 7, 14 and Dec. 21.

Scuba diving Santa and Mrs. Claus at Omaha's zoo.

On Dec. 7 and 14, you’ll see a variety of characters, including Santa. When we went, we saw an angel, elf and Mrs. Claus. On Dec. 21, you will only see Santa (but isn’t that enough?).

What are some special events during Christmas at Omaha’s zoo?

There are a few annual events at the zoo. These are ticketed events, so you will need to make your purchase in advance, not the day of. These events are likely to sell out.

Supper With Santa

When: Dec. 13-21; Fridays and Saturdays from 6 to 8 p.m.

Where: Lied Jungle and Durham TreeTops Restaurant on Dec. 13 & 14, and Scott Aquarium Conference Center on Dec. 20 & 21.

What: Enjoy a spaghetti dinner, activities, storytime, and of course, pictures with Santa.

Cost: $23, members; $28, non-members; and FREE for children ages 2 and young

View of the penguins at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aqarium.

Penguins and Pancakes

When: Dec. 26-30; seating times are from 9 to 10:30 a.m. or 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. seating. 

Where: Scott Aquarium Conference Center

What: Enjoy pancakes from The Pancake Man, an animal visit from an African penguin and keeper talks, as well as a special penguin plush to take home.

Cost: $20, adult members, and $25, adult non-member; $15, child member (ages 3-11), and $20, child non-member (ages 3-11); and FREE for children ages 2 and younger

Plan a visit to Omaha's zoo at Christmas time for some special events and holiday character scuba diving! Here's a guide to visiting the zoo in November and December, with the current dates of special holiday meals and chances to meet Santa. #Christmas #Omaha #Nebraska

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