I grew up in Omaha, but moved away when I was 18, right when Omaha started to blossom. However, 15 years later and I find myself frequently heading back “home” (what I still refer to Omaha as) to spend time with friends and family and explore the rapidly expanding city of Omaha. In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to know about visiting Omaha including where to stay in Omaha, what to do when you visit Omaha, the best restaurants in Omaha, and so much more!
Visiting Omaha – What You Need to Know
How to Get to Omaha
Omaha’s main airport is Eppley Airfield (OMA), located just three miles from downtown Omaha. The airport is very small and easy to navigate.
To get from the airport to the city you can rely on Uber, Lyft, or rent a car from the airport. (I do recommend having a car to get around Omaha).
My favorite resources for finding flights are…
How to Get Around Omaha
While Uber and Lyft are both reliable resources for getting around Omaha, I highly recommend renting a car to explore the city. Omaha is not a walkable city and the public transportation is lacking. If you want to see a large portion of the city, a car will be necessary.
Where to Stay in Omaha
There are tons of hotels and rental options in Omaha, and even some newer properties that are pretty exciting! The great thing about Omaha is that it’s very budget friendly so there’s truly an option for any type of traveler. As far as which neighborhoods to stay in when you visit Omaha, I suggest Dundee, Blackstone, Benson, midtown, or downtown.
My favorite hotel in Omaha is the Kimpton Cottonwood Hotel. It’s a newer hotel in the Midtown Crossing area of Omaha and has a pool, a great afternoon tea, and beautifully designed rooms.
My favorite resources for finding hotels/rentals…
The Best Restaurants in Omaha
I’ll be the first to admit, the bar and restaurant scene in Omaha was lacking for the 18 years that I grew up in Omaha. But in the past 15 years, that has all changed! Not only does Omaha have some incredible restaurants, but the food scene is quickly growing!
AU COURANT REGIONAL KITCHEN
This small, brick restaurant serves European fare in an intimate and cozy setting. It’s an ideal spot for a date night or night out on the town with your girlfriends. My family and I love this restaurant so much that my sister had her rehearsal dinner here!
When Avoli Osteria opened in the Dundee neighborhood in 2006, that’s when I knew that Omaha was going through a turning point. Gone were the days of Cheesecake Factory, P.F. Chang’s, and Joe’s Crab Shack. New and innovative non-chain restaurants were taking over, and I wasn’t upset about it! Avoli is a very good Italian restaurant – I highly recommend it!
My friend Brooke recently took me to Block 16 and as we waited in line outside, I couldn’t help but wonder what all the fuss was about it. After all, from the outside it looked like a small, no-fuss restaurant, that served burgers. What was the hype?
When I sat down to actually try the food, I was blown away! The portions are huge, tasty, and really make you re-think what a burger can be. Plus, I heard a rumor that this little place just filmed for Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives and I can’t wait to see this Omaha spot on TV!
Arguably the best ice cream in the city of Omaha, Coneflower Creamery is located in the heart of the Blackstone neighborhood. This ice cream is made in-house using local ingredients. While Coneflower serves the basic flavors using common ingredients, they also serve unique flavors using uncommon ingredients… such as corn. They experiment with different flavors and rotate their scoop of the day so there’s always something new to try on the menu.
Le Bouillon is a French, comfort food restaurant located in downtown Omaha. It’s chic, airy, and the perfect spot for a more elevated date night. Plus, they have a great Sunday brunch too!
Nite Owl is the place to go if you want elevated bar food. Not only can you go late night after drinking (the kitchen stays open until 2 am Monday-Saturday), but it’s also a great spot if you’re simply craving something unhealthy. My favorite menu item from Nite Owl are their famous tot-chos!
Pitch is so popular that they now have two locations – one in West Omaha, and one in Dundee (the Dundee location will always be my favorite). It’s the perfect place to go if you’re craving a more artisanal style pizza. (Pitch has also expanded to Arizona, but it originally hails from Omaha).
SADDLE CREEK BREAKFAST CLUB
This small, diner-like restaurant serves up the best brunch in all of Omaha. With the classics like omelets and egg salad, you can also expect more elevated brunch food like burrata toast, banana pancakes (with peanut butter whip), and chorizo burritos.
Another great Italian restaurant located in Omaha’s Little Bohemia is Via Ferina. Via Ferina specializes in contemporary pasta dishes and wood-fired pizzas.
Out of every restaurant on this list, Yoshitomo is my absolute favorite. It’s a sushi restaurant that was opened by Dave Utterback (who was recently nominated for a James Beard Award in 2023), and everything on the menu is to die for. If you only have time for one restaurant when you visit Omaha, Yoshitomo should be it. And don’t miss the hama toast!
The Best Bars in Omaha
Another thing Omaha has going for it is the funky, unique bars scattered throughout the city. (Hardly none of which were around when I was growing up). Below are my favorite bars in Omaha!
DUNDEE CORK & BOTTLE
This little (very little) hole in the wall bar is a Dundee staple. I love to come here for a Moscow mule (they do them good here) when I’m having a casual night out with friends.
FIZZY’S FOUNTAIN & LIQUORS
The owners of Nite Owl recently opened Fizzy’s, an old school style diner where you use the telephones on the wall to call and place your order. Not only does Fizzy’s serve some really great cocktails, but the way it’s been decorated truly makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
LA BUVETTE WINE & GROCERY
If you’re a wine lover, La Buvette is for you. This small wine shop doesn’t take reservations, so if you’re hoping to get a table I recommend coming early in the day or on a week night when your chances are better. While you can sit down and order a glass, my favorite way to do it is to browse the hundreds of bottles of wine lining the restaurant – all of which are divided by country – and choose a bottle to share with the table. La Buvette is a completely fresh concept for the city of Omaha.
THE BERRY & RYE
The Berry & Rye is my favorite cocktail bar in Omaha and it’s located in the heart of the Old Market. It’s upscale, elegant, and of course serves pretty great cocktails. It’s the perfect spot for after dinner drinks with friends, or on a date night!
THE HOMY INN
If you’re coming to Nebraska and you want a more “Nebraska-style bar”, then The Homy Inn will be right up your alley. It’s has a vintage vibe to it and is most famous for serving champagne and sangria on tap. If you’re hungry, you can also order take out to be delivered to the bar! (A common order is pizza from Sgt. Peffer’s, but my favorite pizza place nearby is Mama’s Pizza).
The Best Things to See & Do in Omaha
BOB KERREY PEDESTRIAN BRIDGE
A 3,000-foot footbridge, Bob Kerrey spans across the Missouri River connecting Nebraska and Iowa. You can walk the length of the bridge (or bike across) crossing off two states – at once! There is a marking on the bridge to let you know when you cross states; by putting one foot on each side you can truthfully say that you’ve been in two states at the same time.
COLLEGE WORLD SERIES
Each summer, for 2-weeks, Omaha gets bombarded by baseball fans coming to watch the annual College World Series played at TD Ameritrade Park in downtown Omaha. In fact, the CWS itself brings in the most visitors to Nebraska than any other time of the year. Because you can’t find this tournament anywhere else, I highly recommend booking a trip to Omaha to experience it for yourself. If you like tailgating, grilling, a friendly rivalry, and a fun atmosphere, you’ll definitely want to be in Omaha during part of the series. The city completely transforms into a fun and lively town, packed with people tailgating, crowding the bars downtown, and filling up the hotels. The CWS is one of the most unique sporting events I’ve been to and full-heartedly believe that everyone should come to try it out at some point.
DAY TRIP TO ASHLAND
Located just 30-minutes southwest of Omaha, Ashland is the perfect place for a quick and easy day trip! It’s one of those small towns that just makes you feel like you’ve landed in a magazine with quaint shops, a historic downtown, and complete with a cider house and tasting room!
Read more: How to Spend a Day in Ashland, Nebraska
OMAHA HENRY DOORLY ZOO
The Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo is one of the biggest, most expansive zoos in the world. It opened in 1895 with only 3 animals – a bear, mouse, and a fish – and has now grown into over 15+ exhibits containing 962 different animal species. It’s unique because it has been built to reflect the habitats of animals. For example, there’s a desert dome (the biggest indoor desert in the world), emulating 3 different desert habitats; the Namib Desert, the Red Center of Australia, and the Sonoran Desert. There’s also an aquarium, jungle, butterfly exhibit, and more. While the zoo draws families from all over, there are designated adult-only times if you’re looking to avoid the crowds of children. For complete information on what’s going on in the zoo and the price of entry, make sure to check out their website.
The Omaha Riverfront (or Gene Leahy Mall) opened July 1, 2022. This public park runs from the historic Old Market to north downtown Omaha along the Missouri River. While it’s incredibly kid friendly with slides and water activities, its also nice to just stroll along the river as well. I do hope in the future they add some more adult friendly activities too!
THE DURHAM MUSEUM
The Durham Museum in Omaha is my favorite museum in the city. The museum is housed in the old Union Station and is dedicated to preserving and displaying the history of the United States’ western region. You should plan to spend at least two hours here going through all of the displays.
THE OLD MARKET
No trip to Omaha is complete without walking through the historic Old Market. With cobblestone streets, outdoor cafes, and horse-drawn carriages, the Old Market feels like it was plucked right out of Europe and placed in the middle of America.
When you’re in the Old Market don’t miss Ted and Wally’s for ice cream, the Old Market Passageway, and La Buvette.
VALA’S PUMPKIN PATCH
Once fall rolls around, a visit to Vala’s Pumpkin Patch is always at the top of my bucket list. And while you can visit a pumpkin patch in almost every city and town these days, there aren’t any quite like Vala’s. Vala’s is a family-run patch and apple orchard that has continued to grow and thrive for 35+ years. With haunted houses, corn mazes, pumpkin picking, fall treats, warm cider, and fire pits; you could spend hours at Vala’s walking around the 55-acres of land. To enter Vala’s you’ll pay a fee, which varies depending on age and when you’re visiting. The patch is open in the fall around September-November, but dates vary each year.
Read more about visiting Vala’s: Everything You Need to Know About Visiting Vala’s Pumpkin Patch
How Many Days Should You Spend in Omaha/The Best Time to Visit Omaha
To see Omaha, I would recommend spending 2-3 days. This will give you ample time to check out the restaurant scene, visit the zoo, and maybe even take a quick day trip. (If you’re visiting Omaha before heading out on a longer Nebraska road trip, make sure to check out From Omaha: A 2-Day Road Trip to Western Nebraska).
As for the best time to visit, Omaha experiences hot summers and cold winters. I don’t think there’s a bad time to visit the city, but if it’s your first time, I would definitely recommend coming in the summer or fall. If you aren’t coming to Omaha for the College World Series, make sure to skip the last two weeks of June (dates vary each year) because that’s when Omaha sees the most visitors and hotel prices soar.
While visiting Omaha might not be at the top of your list, the city really does have some charm to it. I mean, I continue to make my way back multiple times a year – so it can’t be that bad ;).
For more information on Omaha and Nebraska, don’t miss:
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