July 14, 2019

15+ Quirky Restaurants in Omaha

I’ve written a lot about great Omaha restaurants and the best kid-friendly restaurants. Now it’s time to dive to look around Omaha and beyond and see what’s unique, what’s unusual in the Omaha dining scene. So here’s my list of the quirky restaurants in Omaha and nearby.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, if you make a purchase after clicking on an affiliate link, I will receive a small compensation for referring you.

Unique and quirky restaurants in Omaha and in nearby towns - This list includes restaurants with unique atmosphere and decor, peculiar menu items, or one-of-a-kind entertainment. #dining #guide #nebraska

This list is divided into sections. The first section covers restaurants that either have quirky atmosphere and decor or offer some unique form of keeping diners entertained. The second section features restaurants with weird or off-the-wall menu items.

Discover even more unique and quirky restaurants in the book “Unique Eats and Eateries of Omaha.” It’s written by two of my friends, Tim and Lisa Trudell (AKA, The Walking Tourists), and they’ve included and quite a few restaurants on this list, and several more. They provided several photos for this post, too.

Restaurants near Omaha with quirky entertainment or decor

Want a restaurant in Omaha that stands out from the crowd? Here are a few of Omaha’s most unique restaurants, from a chance to dine with monsters, raccoons and flashing boaters.

Quirky Omaha restaurants include Alpine Inn, where diners can watch raccoons through large windows as they pick at discarded chicken bones.
Photo courtesy Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau

Alpine Inn

Where: Northeast Omaha

Alpine Inn has been a family-run establishment for three generations. Appearing to look more like a bar than a restaurant, Alpine Inn proudly has one thing no one else in the area offers: Raccoons.

Your dining entertainment is watching raccoons and stray cats pick at discarded chicken bones. Don’t worry, they’re not indoors. You watch them through a window.

People are divided if the fried chicken served at Alpine Inn is good or not, though. The raccoons seems to like it.

One of the most unique places to dine in Omaha is Brother Sebastian's Steakhouse & Winery, where the theme is old California monastery.
Photo courtesy The Walking Tourists

Brother Sebastian’s Steakhouse & Winery

Where: Central Omaha

Ever just felt like dining in an old, California monastery? Haven’t we all? Brother Sebastian’s is one of Omaha’s oldest steakhouses and its atmosphere hasn’t changed much since the beginning.

It’s dimly lit and servers are dressed as monks. There’s stained glass windows and wine barrels in keeping with the monastery theme.

Put it all together and the effect is actually quite romantic.

Guaca Maya

Where: South Omaha

South Omaha is where you go for good Mexican food. Guaca Maya sets itself apart from other restaurants in South Omaha, though. I liken its dining room to a Mexican plaza…but an indoor plaza. It’s colorful, for sure.

I’m told there’s also someone making fresh, homemade tortillas right out in the open. I didn’t notice that when we visited, but I can see it fitting in there.

One of the oldest Omaha restaurants is Johnny's Cafe, with unique retro decor to check out.

Johnny’s Cafe

Where: South Omaha

Johnny’s Cafe has been around since 1922, making it one of Omaha’s oldest restaurants. The decor is the draw here – it’s so old school and retro. The massive front doors are just the start.

The lobby is fun to wander around, but really, it’s the dining room and bar area that steal the show (though, ladies, peek in the bathroom to see the funky tiles). The look of the place is so iconic, it served as a scene in Alexander Payne’s film, “About Schmidt.”

Monster Club is Omaha's only monster-themed restaurant.
Photo courtesy The Walking Tourists

Monster Club

Where: Old Market

One of the newest restaurants in the Old Market, The Monster Club is a horror movie-themed eatery. From the decor to what’s playing on the screen, there’s no mistaking the monster love.

It’s surprisingly kid-friendly (assuming your kids aren’t spooked by Hollywood monsters) – there’s a kid’s menu.

Photo courtesy The Walking Tourists

Surfside Club

Where: Northeast Omaha

I love Surfside Club but not for its food (it’s all fried…but the fritters are great). I love dining outdoors and this is one of the few places where you can sit with a view of the Missouri River. And it’s a festive kind of place.

However, the quirk of this place is what’s going on the river itself. People who go to the Surfside know that it’s pretty common to have boaters attempt to one-up each other entertaining the restaurant crowd. Usually that involves mooning the diners.

Wicked Rabbit

Where: Downtown Omaha

Part of the fun of the Wicked Rabbit is that you don’t know what to expect, other than, you know, there will be drinks there. Wicked Rabbit is a speakeasy and to get to it, you’ll need to use a secret passage hidden behind a wall in a small shop next to Hotel Deco.

The dimly lit, small bar is cozy and feels removed from the rest of the world.

Quirky honorable mentions

Quite a few Oh My! Omaha Facebook fans mentioned restaurants that had quirky decor, particularly those with with memorabilia or nostalgic decorations. Some of those mentioned include Lisa’s Radial Cafe, 11-Worth Cafe, Shirley’s Diner, Louie M’s Burger Lust, and Goldbergs In Dundee.

I’m particularly indebted to Louie M’s, since Lou helped me collect photos and stories for my book, “Lost Restaurants of Omaha.” The restaurant is a trove of particularly for interested in seeing photos of what Omaha’s Little Italy once looked like.

Restaurants with quirky menu items

eCreamery

Where: Midtown Omaha

This ice cream shop typically has an odd flavor or two on rotation (avocado ice cream, anyone?), but that’s pretty standard for ice cream shops. eCreamery is unique for having the Dundee Dozen ice cream challenge.

The Dundee Dozen is eating 12 scoops of ice cream, gelato or sorbet of your choice, then topped with 12 toppings of your choice and a bunch of whipped cream. If that sounds manageable, don’t forget that you have just 20 minutes to finish it on your own.

Unique restaurants and bars in Omaha - The Homy Inn is known for its unique offering on tap (four kinds of champagne).
Photo courtesy Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Homy Inn

Where: Midtown Omaha

Confession: The Homy Inn is pretty much just a bar (unless you want to count the peanuts served in a dog bowl). But The Homy, as we call it, is on this list because of what’s on tap.

Champagne. They have four kinds of champagne on tap. So, yeah, you can get a pitcher of champagne at The Homy Inn if you so choose.

A unique spot in Omaha, Laka Lono Rum Club is a tiki bar that has both the quirky atmosphere and the quirky menu items.

Laka Lono Rum Club

Where: Old Market

Confession No. 2: Laka Lono Rum Club is also a bar and not a quirky restaurant. I love a good tiki bar, and Laka Lono embodies tiki life to the fullest. It has the quirky atmosphere, complete with pufferfish lights (I mean, real pufferfish that have been tinkered into becoming lightbulbs).

But, the draw here is definitely the rum drinks and their unique presentation. Some will arrive at the table on fire.

Group drinks are available too. Four types of group cocktails are available, serving anywhere from 2-3 people to 10-11 people.

M’s Pub

Where: Old Market

Almost everything on the menu of this Old Market favorite is great, and not exactly what anyone would consider quirky. Everything, that is, except for the carrot dog.

The carrot dog is the M’s Pub veg alternative to the hot dog, and it’s what it sounds like. The “dog” is marinated and grilled, served on a whole wheat hoagie and topped with lettuce, tomato, relish, stone ground mustard and sauerkraut.

Quirky restaurant near Omaha - Round the Bend in Ashland, Nebraska, is home to the annual Testicle Festival
Photo courtesy RedThread

Round The Bend Steakhouse

Where: Ashland, Neb.

It looks like your typical Nebraska steakhouse, but Round The Bend Steakhouse serves more than a prime cut of beef. This restaurant is home to the Testicle Festival. Every Father’s Day weekend, the festival has live music, fireworks, ball eating contests, and well, just regular portions of fried testicles to eat.

If you can’t make the June event, the menu always has “Beef Fries” to order at any time. For the faint of heart, you can just order one… it’s called a Buck A Nut.

Stella's Bar & Grill is home to one of the craziest food challenges, The Stellanator. You have 45 minutes to eat a burger that six patties, six fried eggs, six pieces of cheese, 12 pieces of bacon, lettuce, tomato, fried onions, pickles, jalapeños, peanut butter, and a bun...plus fries.
Photo courtesy The Walking Tourists

Stella’s Bar & Grill

Where: Bellevue, Neb.

A regular contender for the best burger in Omaha on various lists (and some national ones), Stella’s has something no one else has: The Stellenator.

The Stellenator is a food challenge few can conquer. You have 45 minutes to eat a burger that six patties, six fried eggs, six pieces of cheese, 12 pieces of bacon, lettuce, tomato, fried onions, pickles, jalapeños, peanut butter, and a bun. Oh, and an order of french fries.

Learn about Omaha's most unique restaurants & bars - Plan a night out at one Omaha's most unique restaurants, including a monster-themed restaurant, a steakhouse that resembles a monastery, and a place where you can watch raccoons through the window while you dine.

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June 18, 2019

What’s At The Durham Museum This Summer

Every year, I wait with anticipation to hear what’s the summer exhibit at The Durham Museum. Without fail, they’ve opened a fun temporary exhibit that my kids (and I) enjoy. This year, the summer exhibit is called “Tyrannosaurs: Meet the Family.” The exhibit runs through Sept. 1, 2019.

Looking for fun things to do in Omaha this summer? Check out the summer exhibit at The Durham Museum - "Tyrannosaurs: Meet The Family"! Get details on the exhibit, when to see, and the kids activities inspired by the exhibit. #Omaha #Nebraska #museums

Disclosure: I have a partnership with The Durham Museum. I was not paid to write this post, but I do receive a complimentary membership in order to visit and write about the exhibits. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

About the Durham Museum summer exhibit

As the name implies, “Tyrannosaurs: Meet the Family” is about the Tyrannosaurs and the various prehistoric creatures that are classified under that name. It’s not just T.rex, it turns out.

Things to know about The Durham Museum summer exhibit about Tyrannosaurs - The exhibit is a mix of specimens and fossil casts along with interactive screens.

The most fun my whole family had at the exhibit was learning about the family tree by playing the interactive game table. After about three or four rounds, we declared ourselves experts of in the entire Tyrannosaur family tree.

I can see us returning a few times this summer so my kids can try to beat their previous top time on the game.

Things kids love about the Tyrannosaurs: Meet The Family exhibit - The interactive family tree is a popular game for kids and even adults.

The exhibit uses both technology and dinosaur specimens. My kids were drawn more to the tech than the casts and models of dinosaurs.

One of the more amusing pieces in the exhibit was the interactive augmented reality screen. We watched as life-sized dinosaurs roamed nearby.

My kids may or may not have tried to kick the dinosaurs. Sorry about that!

Interactive things to do in the summer exhibit at The Durham Museum - The augmented reality screen puts you in a scene with life-sized dinosaurs.

Other multimedia experiences and touch screen interactive were interspersed by exhibit pieces, and their were large-scale projections at the exhibit entrance. The projections feature Omaha streetscapes and dinosaurs roaming them.

My son was particularly interested in the interactive piece comparing his strength to that of a T.rex.

The life-sized dinosaur specimens included five complete tyrannosaurs cast skeletons.

The ‘Big’ draw of the exhibit

“Scotty,” the largest and oldest T.rex ever discovered, is a part of this exhibit. Well, the exhibit doesn’t have THE “Scotty.” One of only four casts of the T.rex skeleton is included in this exhibit.

The cast of "Scotty," the largest and oldest T.rex ever discovered, is part of the Tyrannosaurs: Meet The Family exhibition at The Durham Museum through Sept. 1, 2019.

It’s an impressive sight, putting the scale of what T.rex was like millions of years ago into perspective.

Another interesting thing to check out in the exhibit is the feathery Guanlong wucaii. This newly-discovered dinosaur is a relative of the T.rex.

It’s easy to walk right past the bird-like dinosaur, though. There’s a big screen nearby that will easily distract you and the kids.

Things to know about the Tyrannosaurs: Meet The Family exhibition - The traveling exhibit has a newly-discovered Guanlong wucaii display.

Things to know about visiting the Durham in the summer

The Durham Museum experiences an uptick in visitors in the summer, but you don’t have to be too strategic about when to visit. Why? It’s a huge museum. You won’t feel the crowd.

Things to know about visiting The Durham Museum in the summer - The museum is housed in Omaha's former Union Station, so it's spacious. Summer crowds aren't usually noticed due to its size.

You may feel the crowd, however, in the special exhibit space. Consider going first thing in the morning or at the last hour or two of the day.

We visited about an hour after the museum opened on a Saturday and didn’t have to jockey for position at any interactive exhibit piece. However, once a tour group walked into the exhibit, it did start to feel a little more packed.

If you want more tips for visiting The Durham Museum, especially if you’re bringing children with you, visit this guide to exploring the museum with kids!

Summer exhibit special events

The good thing to know about summers at the museum is that there are usually extra events planned in coordination with the summer exhibit. “Tyrannosaurs: Meet The Family” has a few great ones including some for kids and adults.

Tyrannosaurs: Meet The Family - The 2019 summer exhibit at The Durham Museum has special events planned throughout the exhibit's run.

For kids: Storytime with Scotty is held every Wednesday through July 31 at 10:30 a.m. Each week features a different dinosaur-themed book and craft led by one of the museum’s engaging education facilitators. Registration is not required and regular museum admission applies. All ages are welcome.

For adults: Dinos and Daiquiris is June 27 from 6 to 9 p.m. Search for hidden “fossils” around the museum to win a prize, and sip on a daiquiri, enjoy the cash bar or visit the Soda Fountain for some snacks and sweet treats. Tickets are $10 for members, $20 for nonmembers, and with the ticket you get admission to the museum after hours and one drink ticket.

For everyone: There are daily tours at 2 p.m. until the close of the exhibit. Each day of the week will have a different topic, complete with trivia and prizes.

Fossil Fridays include crafts, games, guided tours, giveaways from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through Aug. 9. The crafts and giveaways are from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. and there’s a dino-themed game at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Back-to-School Bash is Aug. 9 from 5 to 9 p.m. There will be a dino movie on the big screen, a bounce house, and kids can get their faces painted like a dinosaur. There will also be a food truck. This event is included with museum admission and free for members, but reservations are required.

Planning a trip to Omaha this summer? See what special exhibit is on display at The Durham Museum! In the summer of 2019, the exhibit is "Tyrannosaurs: Meet The Family." Get the scoop on special events planned for the exhibit plus what things kids will like there. #Omaha #Nebraska #FamilyTravel

If you go

The Durham Museum

Where: 801 S. 10th St., Omaha

When: Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Wednesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (during the summer, the museum is open on Mondays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.); Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Closed major holidays.

Cost: Adults, $11; Seniors (62+), $8; Children (ages 3 – 12), $7; children 2 years and under, FREE; Members, FREE.

A note on memberships: If you’re going to visit the Durham Museum more than once a year, it pays to get a family membership. It’s $60 for 12 months, and includes admission to the special events like the Great Halloween Haunt and all the Christmas festivities. It also gets you discounts to the gift shop, soda fountain and summer camps.

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June 3, 2019

Guide To The Best Girl’s Night Out At Board and Brush

My friends and I like planning unique nights out in Omaha, looking for something a little beyond the typical dinner and bar thing. So, we’ve thrown axes, beat an escape room, and now, we can add woodworking to the mix. I recently gathered a group of girls and we went to Board and Brush to weather and paint wood. And it was a blast. There are a few things I’d recommend to make it the best girl’s night out, so read on for my tips to going to Board and Brush.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Board and Brush. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Board & Brush workshops are a great girl's night out! Here are tips for getting the most of your night out with friends, including what to bring, what to expect and how long a typical workshop takes. #sponsored #Omaha #boardandbrush

Tips for the best girl’s night out at Board and Brush

Gather the right group: Ours was a small group of four. The table could fit up to about six people comfortably, so if you have a larger group, you may need to split up. Each person needs to make a reservation and you can request to be seated with the people in your group. 

There was a bachelorette party at the two tables next to us, so it totally is possible to enjoy yourself even at two tables.

Pick your project ahead of time. When you reserve your spot at Board and Brush, you have to pick what project you work on. They prep your personalization ahead of time. Know that some pieces are going to be more difficult than others, so if you don’t want to be the one holding up your whole group, pick something not too elaborate. 

Board and Brush Girl's Night Out - Select your personalization for your project ahead of time.

A lot of people the night we went chose to paint signs. However, there are dozens of projects to choose from, ranging from planters and clocks to serving trays.

Don’t be afraid to request any changes to your personalization. I had made a mistake on my order, but the instructors happily fixed it for me. Ask early on if you need to make a change.

Bring treats and refreshments. Board and Brush is a BYOB place, and my group decided that we’d bring some treats to go with our wine and beer (that’s right, we brought both). Our spread was the stuff of envy. There was cheese, crackers, caramel popcorn, and sliced apples. The Omaha Board and Brush had a counter space away from the workspace to leave our stuff.  

Girl's Night Out at Board and Brush in Omaha - Your group can bring snacks and drinks for the three-hour workshop. This was the spread my group made.

You’ll be spending about three or so hours at Board and Brush, so you’re going to want snacks at the very least. But a good prosecco is pretty nice to sip on, too.

Listen to the directions. The staff goes through all the directions and demonstrate exactly what you need to do to at each step of your project. It’s pretty tempting to keep on talking with your group (so I hear), but it’s best to listen up. And when they say to wear ear plugs or to layer the gloves before staining your board, follow their recommendations. They make these suggestions based on experience.

Relax. You are faced with quite a few choices throughout the night: What stain to choose, what color of paint(s) to use, effects to do, etc. Trust yourself and don’t overthink things.

Plus, even if you do make a mistake – which happens – the staff at Board and Brush can fix anything. Anything. And my friends and I certainly tested them with some of our mistakes.

Girl's Night Out at Board and Brush - Instructors help with difficult steps in projects, if you want them to.

Just don’t feel rushed. They will not shut the lights off on you if you’re taking longer on your project than everyone else. I mean, don’t just dawdle, and go for the record on how long it takes to paint a sign, but don’t stress out either. It’s supposed to be fun.

Take a picture. Don’t just rush out when everyone in your group is finished. Have the staff take a picture of your finished work.

GIrl's Night Out at Board and Brush - My GNO group posing with our finished projects at the Omaha location.

Related post: Read this post for more girl’s night out ideas in Omaha.

More things to know about Board and Brush

– Board and Brush often has themed workshops, including a Christmas in July theme coming up. You can deck out your home with personalized projects following all of their seasonal offerings.

Board and Brush in Omaha - A few of the holiday projects available

– There are square projects available as add-ons to your main project. Two of my friends opted to add on these quick side projects. They’re only $15 each. I loved how they turned out! 

There are mini workshops that are drop-in sessions to make these projects for the same price. Check the calendar to see when there’s a drop-in session coming up.

Board and Brush - An example of one of the add-on projects you can pick during your session

– Board and Brush is primarily for adults, just due to the detailed steps involved. We had to hammer boards and then stain them. Then there’s painting and then waiting, and then maybe some more hammering. 

However, there are sessions specifically for families. I was told kids as young as 4 have enjoyed them but they’re best for kids ages 6 and older. You may still need to help with some steps, but if you want to have a fun day out with your kiddo, look into these kid-friendly sessions.

If you go

Board and Brush

Where: 539 N. 155th Plaza in Omaha. There are locations throughout the U.S.

Oh My! Omaha Discount: Oh My! Omaha readers can enjoy a $10 off discount on a workshop at Board and Brush. Use the promo code OHMYOMAHA when booking a class. To book a class, start here.

Board & Brush workshops are a great girl's night out! Here are tips for getting the most of your night out with friends, including what to bring, what to expect and how long a typical workshop takes. #sponsored #Omaha #boardandbrush

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May 24, 2019

First-timer’s Guide To HIITZone Classes At Crunch

I’ve been in a rut with workouts lately. I ended 2018 with a motivation and beach vacations booked (plus, I had the cute workout clothes from H2W Apparel). But, that drive tapered off. Enter Crunch. The Omaha Crunch location has a new HIITZone training area. They asked me if I’d give an Advanced HIITZone class a try. It sounded like it just might be the kick in the butt I needed to get back into a gym. Some of you may be in the same boat as me–perhaps you’ve fallen off the New Year’s resolution bandwagon, too. If you need a kick in the butt, too, here’s a guide to The HIITZone at Crunch and what you can expect at your first class. I’ll explain what The HIITZone is, what equipment you’ll find there, and what a class is like. And I’ll try my best to assure you that you will not throw up or die during your first class.

First timer's guide to HIITZone classes - Crunch locations around the world, including Omaha, are getting HIITZones.  Find out what The HIITZone is and what you can expect in your first class. #sponsored #fitness #crunchfitness #guide

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Crunch. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

What is The HIITZone

If you’re not familiar with Crunch, it’s a worldwide gym chain that believes in making fitness fun. They’re all about inclusivity and positivity. So, right away, I walked into the gym and felt welcomed. I wasn’t quite at ease, to be honest, since I knew I was in for a killer workout in a few minutes. But, I still felt comfortable.

I toured the gym and, like typical gyms, there were free weights and machines, cardio machines, and a group class room. It’s incredibly clean, and bright. But, what Crunch had that I’ve never seen before is The HIITZone.

First-timer's guide to The HIITZone at Crunch - What to expect if you take a class in The HIITZone. There's a turf area in The HIITZone.

The HIITZone is for group classes led by a trainer. It’s one-of-a-kind and designed just for Crunch. In the class, you do short intervals of exercises and then move to the next station. (FYI: HIIT stands for “high intensity interval training.”)

Here’s what you’ll find in The HIITZone:

•  – 20 Yards of Functional Training Turf

•  – Tire Flips

•  – Battle Ropes

•  – Marpo Rope Pulls

•  – Agility Ladder

•  – Power Rowers

•  – Target Throws

•  – Landmines

•  – Plyo Boxes

•  – Heavy Bags

•  – Power Sleds

•  – Kettle Bells

•  – Free Weights

What HIITZone classes are like

There are three types of Advanced HIIT classes to attend in The HIITZone: PunchHIIT, AccelerateHIIT and StrongHIIT. There’s a fourth one at some locations called ExtremeHIIT, but I didn’t see it on the spring calendar at Deerfield.

I attended an AccelerateHIIT, which had 10 stations. Class is about 45 minutes long, and that includes warm-up, stations, turf work, ab work and cool down.

First-timer's guide to The HIITZone - What to expect in your first class. AccelerateHIIT had stations like this where you squatted and lifted into a press.

We had three reps at each station. The first rep was the longest, followed by a short rest, then the next rep began. You ended with a rep lasting 20 seconds where you do the station’s activity at as high intensity as you can manage…and then move to the next station.

Those more fit than me could, obviously, sustain high intensity for those three short bursts of time. Luckily, just when I was about to give up at a station, the timer was up and we moved on. The variety kept me motivated and time flew. I usually watch the clocks during a workout class (even my yoga class), and I didn’t do that here.

First-timer's guide to The HIITZone at Crunch - Participants do short and intense movements at each station, like this rope pull station.

My stations involved the gamut of movements, from pulling rope and whipping rope (is that what you call it?), to rowing, jumping, high knees, and ladder lunges. It is tough, but only as tough as you want it to be.

Tip: It starts out feeling super easy, but don’t get overly confident and do too much too quickly. At my first station, I was all smiles and feeling like “Bring on the heavier weights.” By second station, I realized I needed to slow down.

First-timer's guide to The HIITZone at Crunch - Participants do short and intense movements at each station. The trainer will give you modifications, if needed.

You’d think class is over after doing 10 stations, but no. After the stations, we moved over to the turf area for some short obstacles and sprints. You’d think we’d be done after that, too, but no. Next, we had a few minutes of ab work to do.

Finally, we cooled down. The trainer high-fived everyone and the class was over.

Who attends The HIITZone classes

I was a little nervous going to my first class at Crunch. Who else feels worried walking into your first fitness class and wondering how you’d compare to everyone? Wondering if you’re too old, too out of shape, too weak, etc.?

Classes can be up to 16 people, and in my first class, there were 12 of us. What a relief to see there was every body type there and a wide age range. I fit right in. And, they were all friendly to me!

Before the workouts began, we were split into groups of four, so I had my tribe that night. They showed me where to go next and offered lighter weights when it looked like I needed them.

Since it was announced I was a first-timer, my group mates made sure I didn’t wander into a different station. And even though the trainer went through all the stations and explained the moves, my group mates were quick to remind me what to do at each station.

When class was over, several people told me I did a good job. And I believed them.

The gym seems to be pretty adamant about the place being a “no judgement zone” and I saw it in action that night.

First-timer's guide to The HIITZone at Crunch - Expect to be sweaty and tired after class.
I survived my first Advanced HIIT class at Crunch!

Who teaches The HIITZone classes

The Crunch Omaha Deerfield location has a couple trainers leading Advanced HIIT classes. During class, the trainer wears a microphone so you can hear him/her no matter where you are in The HIITZone.

My class was led by Cristina and she was awesome. She had just the right amount of energy and was super friendly. She didn’t yell like a drill sergeant, nor was she a cheerleader. She was my kind of instructor.

Cristina offered modifications to those who needed them (like me). About midway through the stations, I was fading quickly and rather than let me half-ass it or rest, she suggested a different way of doing things to still get a good workout.

First-timer's guide to The HIITZone classes at Crunch - There are three levels of membership, and Peak Results memberships include unlimited Advanced HIIT classes.

Memberships at Crunch

So, want to try Crunch? Membership comes in three levels:

Base: Includes access to the Workout Essentials (cardio machines, weights) and things like the Power Half Hour Circuit Training. It’s incredibly inexpensive. Advanced HIIT classes can be added on to this membership.

Peak: Includes all of the Base perks, plus things like group class access, use of the tanning beds, and, my favorite, use of the HydroMassage® chair (seriously, go check this thing out). It also allows you to use any of the 260+ gyms around the world. Advanced HIIT classes can be added on to this membership.

Peak Results: This one has all the perks of Peak with the addition of unlimited Advanced HIIT classes.

What to expect at Crunch - Memberships at Peak and Peak Results levels can have access to the HyrdroMassage chairs at Crunch. They're a great reward after a workout.

Monthly membership fees are $9.95, $21.95, and 29.95 respectively. If you enroll in May, the enrollment fee is only $10. I only shared just a few of the perks of membership, though, so you’ll want to do a little research before picking one.

If you want to go

Crunch Omaha Deerfield

Where: 5218 S. 136th St. (FYI: There are 260+ locations around the world)

Try it out an Advanced HIIT class for FREE! Visit crunch.com to get your pass.

Guide to HIITZone classes at Crunch - What you can expect in your first Advanced HIIT Class in The HIITZone at Crunch. Get details on the equipment and exercises, plus what the trainer is like. #sponsored #guide #fitness #crunchfitness

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May 19, 2019

College World Series Guide To Omaha Hotels & Dining

You’ve got your College World Series™ tickets, you know when you need to be at TD Ameritrade Park… now what? This College World Series guide is designed to help you plan a trip to Omaha for the games. If you don’t have hotel reservations, read on for suggested places to stay. If you don’t have a restaurant plan for dining before or after the game, read on. Feel free to comment with any specific questions – I’m happy to help!

Related post: Essential Guide To The College World Series

Headed to Omaha for the College World Series? Here are locals' tips on where to eat, where to drink, and where to stay near the ballpark. #guide #Omaha #Nebraska #tips

Hotels for College World Series fans

Omaha has plenty of hotels, but if you’re looking for a room within walking distance of TD Ameritrade Park, you’d better book early. The closest hotels will be full when the College World Series start in June.

If you want some hotel recommendations, here are my top picks for CWS hotels:

– If you want to be within walking distance to TD Ameritrade Park, look at Holiday Inn Omaha Downtown, Hampton Inn & Suites, Homewood Suites by Hilton, Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott, and Cambria Hotel. I can vouch for Holiday Inn being a great location for families, especially with its small indoor waterpark.

Tips for College Works Series Fans - Hotels near College World Series Games Cambria Downtown Omaha, which has some rooms with views of the ballpark
Cambria Downtown Omaha is one of the city’s newest hotels. Some of the rooms have a view of TD Ameritrade Park. Request a top floor room with an even number and you may luck out with this view.

– The Old Market has several hotel options as well, and they could be within walking distance if you’re willing (and don’t mind the heat!). Many will likely have some sort of shuttle  service, too. My family’s favorite is Embassy Suites because the rooms are large, the manager’s happy hour is great, and it has possibly the best complimentary hot breakfast in town.

Tips for College Works Series Fans - Hotels near College World Series include an Old Market favorite, Embassy Suites. The size of the rooms, complimentary breakfast and happy hour make it popular with out of town visitors.
All rooms at the Embassy Suites in the Old Market of Omaha face the large atrium of the hotel. Strolling along the bottom floor, you’ll find water features, as well as a lot of seating for the complimentary happy hour and breakfast.

– If North Downtown and Old Market hotels are booked (or out of your price range), look further afield. Consider looking at hotels that are near the airport, on the outskirts of downtown or in Midtown Omaha. DoubleTree is a great option, and for a more chic historic stay, check out Magnolia. While Magnolia doesn’t have a pool, Pickles Travel stayed there with her family and wrote a good review of the Magnolia family experience. At Midtown Crossing, you’ll find Element, known for its eco-friendly practices.

Restaurants & bars suggestions for CWS fans

This is my favorite topic: Eating. Omaha has a lot of great restaurants, so you’re in for a treat when you visit during the College World Series! I’ve written about the 20+ must-try restaurants in Omaha, so it’s a good post to start with.

Tip: If you’ve brought kids with you to the CWS, start with this list of downtown Omaha restaurants that are great for families.

Where to eat near the College World Series games - Blatt Beer and Table is one of the closest restaurants to TD Ameritrade Park. It's home to the delicious Dirty Bird sandwich.
My favorite guilty pleasure: The Dirty Bird sandwich at Blatt Beer and Table. Blatt has several locations, including one next to TD Ameritrade Park in downtown Omaha.

I asked my Facebook fans to share some of their restaurants recommendations, and they mentioned a few great places to eat near TD Ameritrade Park. Near the stadium, Emily K. recommended Blatt Beer and Table. I’d have to second this recommendation – there’s a reason why it shows up on all of my “best of” restaurant lists for Omaha. However, due to its proximity to the stadium, be ready for a wait. But, hey, if you snag a seat on the rooftop, it’s worth it, right?

Like parties? If you’re looking for a restaurant or bar scene that’s going on the nutty side, insiders tell me that Capitol District and Mattress Factory will have the largest parties.  There are several other bars outside the stadium that are a blast to be at pre- and post-game.

Recommended downtown Omaha restaurants and bars for CWS fans - Lighthouse Pizza & Fries in the Capitol District has great pizza, plus if you enjoy beer, you'll have to check out the self serve taps.
Lighthouse Pizza & Fries has a location in the Capitol District with self serve taps.

Not looking for a party? I’d recommend getting out of the NoDo area around the stadium. Head to neighborhoods like Benson and Blackstone for a variety of local restaurants and bars without the rowdiness (usually).

In the Old Market area, bars to head to include Barry O’s or the Stadium Club. Several bars around Omaha become specific spots for teams. Barrett’s on Leavenworth Street, for instance, is definitely big for LSU fans. Dannel T. recommends you try Big Mama’s Kitchen And Catering, which was featured on “Diners, Drive-ins, & Dives.” You’ll get your fix of Southern good eats there.

Another recommendation was in Midtown Omaha, Ann D. suggested Spezia. Spezia is an Italian restaurant with a pretty big steak selection. There are a ton of places to get steaks in Omaha (and who comes to Omaha and doesn’t seek out the best steak??!).

Want some more food ideas?

The following lists will include restaurants in downtown Omaha, but also many that are a few miles away from TD Ameritrade Park. Note the address, especially if you’re relying on public transportation or Lyft.

So, let’s see, what are you hungry for?

For the best pizzerias in Omaha, read this post.

Need breakfast inspiration, check out these 19 places to get breakfast in Omaha. If you just want donuts, read this post instead.

Want to cool off with ice cream? Here are 8 great places to get ice cream in Omaha.

College World Series fans' guide to restaurants, bars & hotels. Here are some tips on where to stay near the baseball stadium, plus tips on nearby restaurants and bars you can go to between games. Find kid-friendly suggestions, too. #Omaha #Nebraska #Guide

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May 10, 2019

The Inspiration Behind ‘She Rocks’

There’s usually a great music-based show at Omaha Community Playhouse each summer. The music is familiar, the local performers is phenomenal (Example A: Last year’s “Rock Twist” with Billy McGuigan). This year, the show is “She Rocks: The Women of Rock” and the star is Tara Vaughan. Vaughan has been in McGuigan’s band for six years and this is first time having a summer residency at OCP! “She Rocks” runs June 13-30, 2019 and tickets are available now.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by “She Rocks: The Women of Rock” and Rave On Productions. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Tara Vaughan performs "She Rocks: The Women of Rock" at the Omaha Community Playhouse June 13-30, 2019. She says her mother is the inspiration behind the show.

To Vaughan, “She Rocks: The Women of Rock” is more than simply a show celebrating female singers and songwriters from the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. Vaughn’s inspiration for “She Rocks” comes from her Mom, LeeAnn. LeeAnn not only helped share the show, but she also remains a constant source of encouragement as Vaughan prepares for her first residency at the Omaha Community Playhouse before taking the show on its maiden tour across North America in the fall.

Vaughan shared with me her thoughts on her mother just in time for Mother’s Day. Enjoy!

A Mother’s Day Note From Tara Vaughan

As a little girl growing up in 1960s South Omaha, my mom would wrap herself in a bath towel, pretending it was an opulent evening gown, and sang the hits of Diana Ross and Petula Clark to the dolls and stuffed animals she’d lined up on her front porch. Did she see a little of that child in me 30 years later as I’d clomp around the living room in her high heels, singing Paula Abdul for her and my dad? Now another 30 years behind us, does she feel a twinge of that child again as she watches me onstage? She’s my biggest cheerleader, so it’s very easy for me to conjure up a mental image of her in the audience; nervously biting her lip, silently mouthing along the words to each song and probably internally praying I won’t make a joke
too awkward for this crowd.

Tara Vaughan and her mother, LeeAnn, the inspiration behind Tara's show "She Rocks: The Women of Rock"
Tara and her mother, LeAnne. Photo courtesy Tara Vaughan

As I developed my stage show “She Rocks,” I knew that I wanted to pay tribute to the women who have inspired me. I wanted to play the songs that have been the soundtrack to my life, and tell stories of the women who performed and wrote those songs, overcoming odds and adversity to be voices for women everywhere in a male-dominated industry. So sure, “She Rocks” is about Carole and Aretha and Stevie. But for me, it’s also about the original rock goddess in my life. She may not have the gold records or Grammys of some of the other women I pay tribute to, but LeeAnn Vaughan is a total and complete badass.

In addition to raising four of us kids (no easy feat; somewhere in the Omaha World Herald archives is a photo of the three oldest of us proudly sporting synchronous broken right arms), my mom is a science teacher for Omaha’s public schools. After going to college in her 30s when she felt a calling to education, she became a pioneer in the field, developing Nebraska’s first biotechnology program for high schoolers at Omaha North and the Air and Space Academy at Burke. She’s been recognized nationally for her teaching,
earning the Christa McAuliffe Prize for Courage and Excellence twice, receiving the Presidential Award for Excellence, and even being invited to join a NASA flight to observe infrared astronomy.

Tara Vaughan, her siblings and their mother, LeeAnn. Tara credits her mom for inspiring the show "She Rocks: The Women of Rock"
Tara Vaughan and her three siblings with their mom, LeeAnn. Tara credits her mom for inspiring the show “She Rocks: The Women of Rock.” Photo courtesy Tara Vaughan

I haven’t gotten to learn physics or rocketry from my mom like some students, but she’s taught me so much. She’s shown me by her example that each day brings a series of rich moments to relish, each set of challenges a set of lessons worth learning, and each stranger in line at the grocery store, a new potential friend. She’s shown me to be at once fierce and vulnerable, in love with all the beauty that this world has to offer and angry at its injustices, bold and defiant but ferociously loving. She’s shown me that all of these things, all these gloriously vexing parts and pieces, are what it means to be a woman.

Tara Vaughan and her parents. Tara credits her mom for inspiring the show "She Rocks: The Women of Rock"
Tara Vaughan and her parents. Tara will perform “She Rocks: The Women of Rock” June 13-30 at Omaha Community Playhouse. She credits her mom for inspiring the show. Photo courtesy Tara Vaughan

My mom has had a big hand in “She Rocks,” planting the seeds of its set list as she cranked KGOR in our family minivan, and putting the final touches on it as I modeled different hats options for her, asking “Is this one too hipster?” She has shaped and inspired me immeasurably, and I hope that when she sings along with me to “Downtown,” she’s taken back to that little girl on the front porch, wrapped in a towel. Happy Mother’s Day, Marm.

About ‘She Rocks’ & Tara Vaughan

“She Rocks: The Women of Rock” celebrates women artists and songwriters of the 1960s to the 1980s, woven together with songs and stories. Backed by an all-star band, Tara Vaughan performs music from artists like Janis Joplin, Linda Ronstadt, Aretha Franklin, Blondie, Heart, and many more. In this unique review, Vaughan masterfully presents an evening of classic rock and roll with the focus on female artists and songwriters.

Vaughan’s influences can be heard throughout the show. In her vocal style, you can hear echoes and influence of legends like Patsy Cline and Sam Cooke. Her abilities on the piano are strongly influenced by rock icons like Carole King and Elton John.

A graduate of Tufts University, Vaughan is a singer-songwriter who has independently released three albums, the most recent of which, “Dandelion Wine,” was nominated for several Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards. Vaughan’s extensive touring history has lead her to open for such artists as Lifehouse, Ben Kweller, and James McCartney. Most recently, she has been touring internationally with “Billy McGuigan’s: Yesterday and Today: The Interactive Beatles Experience,” “Rave On! The Buddy Holly Experience” and “Rock Twist.”

"She Rocks: The Women of Rock" begins its North American tour soon. It starts with a run at Omaha Community Playhouse in June 2019.  Tara Vaughan says her mother is the inspiration for the show. Read her words about her mother's influence on her.

If you go

“She Rocks: The Women of Rock”

When: June 13-30, 2019; performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.

Where: Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St.

Cost: $30. Tickets are available online at TicketOmaha.com or calling the box office at 402-552-0800.

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