Update: On March 30, 2018, The Omaha Market announced a disassociation with Fairmont Mercantile. Omaha Market no longer exists at Fairmont Mercantile.
The Fairmont Mercantile (AKA Hollywood Candy to most of us, thought it’s really connected to the candy shop) is full of many, many odds and ends. In March 2018, the owners opened another space within the mercantile for another assortment of goods: The Omaha Market.
The Omaha Market is a collection of handmade items, almost all exclusively made by local artisans. There are some beautiful things, practical things, and more than a few giftable things. Everything is for sale in The Omaha Market.
This is likely going to be my go-spot for gifts now.
I attended a sneak preview, and had the chance to meet a few of the creatives with products sold at The Omaha Market:
Big Dob’s Beard Balm – Alan started making his own beard balm and got so many requests for it, he now makes small batches as Big Dob’s to sell to other bearded fellows. He had me smell one, and I can vouch for the stuff smelling pretty good.
The Gourmet Granola – Nicole is the woman behind The Gourmet Granola, handcrafted granola made here in Omaha. Be on the lookout for the granola with BACON in it.
Deepfried Woodworks – Jason is a chef at one of my favorite Omaha restaurants, La Casa, but let’s not talk about that. He carves spoons and other items out of wood, and their quite pretty. Check out his work on Instagram.
Wander Rock Photography – I didn’t technically meet Chelsea at the preview, but she was there, and is a Twitter friend, so it counts. Chelsea takes awesome photos and sells them.
Other artisans at The Omaha Market
Benson Soap Mill (soaps)
Wick & Oil (candles)
Artemis Teas (teas)
The Green House (home and garden)
The Anastasia Co. (stationary)
Reboot Roasting (coffee)
The Barnwood Store (wooden products)
Omaha Screen Co. (Tshirts)
Biologic Pottery Studio (pottery)
Sweet Harvest Popcorn (popcorn)
War and Pieces (signs – many are really funny)
Creative Clay Cafe (pottery/jewelry)
Amazen Popcorn (popcorn)
Chalking With Love (signs)
Love Yo Pup (dog treats)
It looks like there’s a possibility to add more soon, so this list is probably going to change. Check Artisan List here to see if anyone knew has been added.
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Omaha has an abundance of art galleries that are free and open to the public. The bulk of them are located in the Old Market and around the downtown area. You should check them out sometime. Don’t be shy.To get you and your family started on your gallery adventures, I sought advice from two people with a lot of insight: Writer Suzanne Smith Arney, who focuses often on art, and Omaha painter and printmaker, Lori Elliott-Bartle.
Arney’s tips for enjoying a gallery visit with children:
“For a successful visit that’s fun for everyone, it’s best to do a little prep work.”
I’m a firm believer that there’s something for everyone to love about museums. I say museums (a place to look), rather than galleries (a place to sell). For a successful visit that’s fun for everyone, it’s best to do a little prep work.
Check out the website for basics like hours, fees, current exhibitions, and special events, or call and ask what is available for kids. Joslyn Art Museum, for example, has kids’ programs under the “Visit” tab. For little ones, see “Education,” “Classes” and “Art Adventures.” And Joslyn’s Discovery Garden and Mind’s Eye Gallery are family must-dos.
Another place to prepare is the library. An advanced search using keywords “museum” and “visit” and selecting “children” as audience brings up a wide range of materials sure to build anticipation.
Do teach your child museum manners. I use the “two feet and ten fingers” rule – stand about two feet away from the art and fingers all still. Even a toddler can learn to hold his hands behind his back and to describe rather than point. The visit is much pleasanter without scoldings!
Have your child make a drawing to remember the visit, or buy a souvenir postcard and let her start an art collection of her own.
Remember to keep each visit short and sweet, and come back often. The objective is to discover, at any age, that art is enjoyable, interesting, relevant, and even necessary to a whole life.
Besides museums, you can have fun finding art in the neighborhood. Start at www.publicartomaha.org.
An older child who’s interested in art may enjoy a gallery show, especially an opening reception with a chance to meet the artist. Art fairs and the May and December Open Houses at Omaha’s Hot Shops Art Center are wonderful places to watch artists at work.
The late Roberta Rogers, gallerist, collector, docent, and dear friend, liked to say that she’d been bitten by the art bug. If you’re lucky, it could happen to you!
– Suzanne Smith Arney is a freelance writer living in Omaha, Nebraska, who enjoys writing about artists and their work, and the role of art in our everyday lives. Although primarily an art writer, she also writes about family, education, food, and travel. In addition to articles in local, national, and European magazines, Arney has written/contributed to three books. She’ll seize any opportunity to go arting with granddaughters, Kate and Chloe, who always have something new to teach her about art.
Visiting Omaha galleries Q&A with Elliott-Bartle:
Look for opportunities that allow children to engage with and handle the art.
1. If a person has never been into a local art gallery, what can they expect?
You can think of galleries as you might consider different retail shops. Each has its own personality and tone; some are more formal than others. I encourage people to visit several galleries to get a sense about the variety of art displayed and to see a range of media, styles and price points. When entering a gallery, visitors should expect a warm greeting and the opportunity to ask questions. Most galleries have web sites so visitors can preview examples of the types of work they can expect to see during a visit.
2. If they’re planning on bringing children, is there a good time to visit?
In planning a gallery visit with children, I would base the timing on the children. Take kids along when they are well rested and fresh, open to exploring and listening to directions about whether or not to touch things.
Look for opportunities that allow children to engage with and handle the art. In some venues, they can create something of their own. Family fun days at Joslyn Art Museum, public art displays around the city, special exhibits at Fontenelle Forest, demonstrations at art fairs, gallery receptions, or studio open houses offer chances to touch artwork and learn more about materials, tools and techniques.
3. What are some do’s and don’t of visiting the Artist Co-op and Hot Shops with children?
Both places welcome children, but I think a good guideline is to talk to your kids before you go into a gallery about looking at things but not touching them. An artist will invite visitors to touch something if it’s OK, but wait for the invitation before handling artwork.At Hot Shops Art Center, 1301 Nicholas St. in Omaha, you have the chance to visit the working spaces of artists, and many are happy to demonstrate or describe their techniques and tools. On the first floor, visitors can stroll through galleries, as well as see where the building gets its name by visiting the glassblowers, potters and metalworkers who all use heat to transform their materials. Two additional floors filled with studios allow visitors to find artists who draw, paint, carve, sculpt, print, weave, design jewelry and make photographs all under one roof. While the building is open every day, a great time to visit many artists is during an open house, always held the first weekends of December and May.
Members of the Artists’ Cooperative Gallery, 405 S. 11th St. in Omaha, staff and run the gallery, so whenever you visit, you have the chance to meet at least one of the artist-members. We get to know one another’s work, so we often can answer questions about the styles and techniques other artist-members use. There are painters, potters, sculptors, weavers, printmakers, glass artists and photographers who represent a wide range of styles. If you’re interested in looking at a piece more closely, just ask the member on duty to pick it up for you.
4. Any interesting facts, tips about local artists or fun mediums that parents can point out when walking around a gallery with children? (Kinda like a cheat sheet for parents)
You can always challenge kids to talk about what they see, how the piece makes them feel, what shapes and colors do they recognize, whether it reminds them of something else, like illustrations in a book they’re familiar with or a place or person they know. Depending on how interested they are, you can talk about point of view and perspective, whether it’s realism or surrealism or abstraction, or some combination. Let your imagination open up and build on what you hear from your children.
– Lori Elliott-Bartle is a painter and printmaker who maintains a studio on the third floor of Hot Shops Art Center and shows her work at the Artists’ Cooperative Gallery in Omaha’s Old Market. She is one of several artists participating in the upcoming “Play Me, I’m Yours” public art installation, in which pianos will be placed in high-traffic areas around town for people to play. You can see examples of her work on her web site http://lorielliottbartle.com.
I’ve had a love affair with the Old Market for years. The twinkling lights at night, the carriage rides, the sounds of street musicians, the smell of pizza, the lively chatter of the farmers market. I love it. There’s just so much to do in the Old Market.
Kids love the Old Market, too, so don’t be nervous about bringing them downtown. There are a lot of family-friendly things to see and do that don’t cost a dime.
Note: This post was published in 2013 and updated in August 2019. If you know of any things that can be added to this post or know of any closures, please comment and let me know!
Where is the Old Market in Omaha?
The Old Market is located in downtown Omaha. Just a square few blocks, the neighborhood is between 10th and 13th streets and Leavenworth and Farnam streets.
The iconic brick roads stem from the intersection of 11th and Howard streets.
1. From May to October, you have to bring the family down to the Old Market for the Omaha Farmers Market on Saturday mornings from 8 to about 12:30 p.m. Live music, samples, a balloon man (free balloons, but donations are suggested), and great people watching, all for free.
And dogs. There are A LOT of dogs at the farmers market, if your kids love them.
The atmosphere is so lively, I know you’ll have fun. Read about the fun things to find at the Omaha Farmers Market!
2. You’ll find horse carriages parked in 11th and Howard in the Old Market, weather permitting, for much of the year. The carriage rides aren’t free, but kids love seeing the horses, so go check them out.
Last time I checked (and it could’ve gone up), rides started at $25. The most popular carriage is, of course, the one affectionately dubbed the Cinderella Carriage.
3. Almost any time of day or night, you’ll find street musicians throughout the Old Market. Take your time and listen to one that you like with your kids.
My kids’ favorite thing to do is put money in the collection cup to show appreciation for the music.
4. While you’re walking around the place, there is a lot of unexpected “art” to see, especially on some of the old buildings. My old apartment building on 10th and Jackson has a neat lion fountain in front to see.
As you walk, see what else you and your kids can spot. Downtown Omaha has a complete art walk if you’re interest. Read this post about the Omaha Art Walk.
5. The Passage Way is a cool indoor shopping center to visit with kids. There are fun stores to browse, hallways (the “passage ways”) to explore, and mysterious art work to marvel at.
Venture into the second floor gallery called Garden of the Zodiac Gallery. In the rear of the gallery, you’ll find a door that leads outside to small, fascinating garden with sculptures. It’s a hidden gem!
You’ll find that the Passage Way is also a cool place to take Instagram-worthy pictures.
5. Speaking of shopping, there are some neat shops to bring your kids into, though strollers often don’t manage well in many stores, so beware.
The second hand shops are full of interesting stuff to see (like the Imaginarium). City Limits is a fun one for older kids.
While it’s free to go in these next two fun places, I doubt you’ll make it out without spending something: Old Market Candy Shop and Hollywood Candy. Read about the arcade and fun things to discover inside Hollywood Candy.
6. There are a number of art galleries in area that are free and love visitors. My favorites that are full of colorful things for kids to look at are the Artist Co-operative Gallery, 405 S. 11th St., the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, 12th and Leavenworth streets, and KANEKO, 1111 Jones St.
I like heading to the Bemis Center with my kids when they have open studios – it’s free and a chance for kids to see where the resident artists work and live. Other places to visit include Passageway Gallery, and Garden of the Zodiac, and Mangelsen: Images of Nature Gallery, where they had a scavenger hunt for my kids the last time we went there
Know your kids, though. Do they have to touch everything? Maybe wait to bring them to a gallery until they’re a little older, or use it as a good teaching experience.
A few blocks from the Old Market:
7. The main branch of the Omaha Public Library, W. Dale Clark, is at 215 S. 15th St. It’s not uncommon for a trip to the Old Market to include a stop here for us.
The kids area is on the first floor and has computers and some toys in addition to a lot of books. It’s also a stop on the Omaha Public Art Walk that I mentioned earlier.
8. To the north of the Old Market, find two large slides that are very popular with families (for obvious reasons). The slides are found at 11th and Farnam streets.
Note: Currently, the mall where these slides are located is under construction, so know that parking will be sparse and the scenery will be limited.
9. Just east of the mall is another wonderful lake at Heartland of America Park with a host of geese and ducks. It’s our go-to spot for picnics downtown, and it’s fun to feed the leftovers to the animals.
It’s a pleasant little stroll around the the lake at Heartland of America Park. There’s a huge fountain in the middle of the lake, so be weary of standing downwind of it!
The area around the park is slated to undergo major changes very soon, though.
10. If you’re doing your exploring on bike, you cross a bridge on the north side of Heartland of America Park, and find yourself on your way to see the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge connecting Omaha to Council Bluffs.
It’s a bit of a walk to the bridge. but manageable, if you’re not on a bike.
Kids love watching the river from the bridge, but by far, the thing to do (and get a photo of) is straddling the state line between Iowa and Nebraska.
In the summer time, there’s a water play area on the Omaha side of the bridge. The Council Bluffs side of the bridge has a Great Lawn suitable for running around, picnicking and playing.
It’s small, but has several hands-on and interactive things to do for kids. When we visited, the kids took a quick tour with a park ranger, who told them about the animals Lewis and Clark encountered.
Parking in the Old Market
The Old Market and surrounding downtown area has several parking lots. You’ll find parking lots along 10th Street at Jackson Street and Harney Street, as well as at 12th and Harney streets.
There is also metered parking throughout the Old Market. Note: There is limited parking on the mornings of the farmers market.
If you’re looking for free parking in the Old Market, those spots are getting rarer and rarer. Head south on 10th Street, traveling over the bridge toward The Durham Museum, and you may find some free spots.
Below that bridge, around Leavenworth Street, you may find some free parking spots too.
You’ll find free parking lots around Heartland of America Park or the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge.
Note: The parking lots around CHI Health Center are not going to be free.
Driving in downtown Omaha is a headache for most people not familiar with the area. There are one-way streets everywhere. If you’re from out of town and considering a visit, I recommend finding a hotel with a shuttle so you can avoid the hassle.
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