Steak from Omaha, Nebraska. Pic via Shutterstock.

Best Things to Do in Omaha

BY Fifty Grande Editors | December 27, 2020

Welcome to Fifty Grande’s Best of the U.S. Bucket List series. This is your one-stop travel guide to the best, most unique and quintessential experiences of a city, state or event. Want to know how to “do” Omaha? We’ve got you covered. Curated by experts, vetted by in-the-know locals, this is all you need to have the best trip ever. If we’ve written a Bucket List, we recommend you go. If it’s on this list, it’s the best the city has to offer right now. Consider this your one-stop answer to “What are the best things to do in Omaha?”

Everyone knows there are three things that make a city cool: trendy bars, steaks and more steaks. And Omaha, Neb., checks all the boxes. For those who’ve never been there, it’s a swath of cornfields and Cornhuskers. Spend some time here and you’ll hear rumblings of its indie rock notoriety, smell the choice beef from historic restaurants, and see its rich industrial history. Malcolm X was born here. The College World Series is played here. You might walk by Warren Buffett’s surprisingly normal suburban house here. Point is: it’s time to stop calling Omaha a “flyover city.” This is a destination. Here are the best things to do right now.

 

Grab some beer and go tanking

There are plenty of ways to float down a river, but Omaha residents might have one of the best. This long-standing tradition trades tubes and rafts for big plastic (or metal) water containers, the same ones that cattle drink from. Rental places outfit these makeshift boats with benches, tables and coolers, then send you downstream. Make sure you pack some local beer from Brickway Brewery, Infusion Brewing Co. or another local craft brewery for the complete experience. Don’t worry, they won’t flip and you don’t even need to paddle.

Tubing down a river. Pic via Shutterstock.
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This is not a shot of people tubing the Elkhorn River because we couldn't find or license one anywhere. How absurd is that? What this is: A bunch of people enjoy tubing down the Chattahoochee River in North Georgia on a warm summer afternoon, on August 24, 2013 in Helen, GA. But, HOW FUN DOES THIS LOOK?! Pic via Shutterstock.

Elkhorn River

Elkhorn River, Nebraska, USA

The best and most popular spot for tanking. Tank Down the Elkhorn will provide everything you need (minus snacks and beverages), even a shuttle ride at the end of the four- or five-hour trip.

Wander the world’s largest indoor desert

Almost every city has a zoo, but Omaha’s is truly special. The Henry Doorly Zoo ventures beyond the classic stop-and-stare animal exhibit into the realm of the interactive. 

The Desert Dome in Omaha, Nebraska.
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The Desert Dome in Omaha, Nebraska. Pic via Shutterstock.

Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium

3701 S 10th St, Omaha, NE, USA

A perennial contender on “America’s Best Zoo” lists, it has 130 acres of indoor and outdoor exhibits, including the world’s largest indoor desert (Desert Dome) and one of world’s largest indoor rainforest exhibits (Lied Jungle). These exhibits offer a chance to walk through various climates and ecosystems firsthand.  

Nabes to know

Blackstone District in Omaha, Nebraska. Photo credit: Shutterstock.
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Blackstone District in Omaha, Nebraska. Photo credit: Shutterstock.

Blackstone District

Blackstone, Omaha, NE, USA

Recently revitalized, the Blackstone District is a hub for cool eateries and bars. Grab a bite at Blackstone Meatball, ice cream at Coneflower Creamery and a nightcap at Blackstone Social or Crescent Moon Tavern.

Old Market in Omaha.
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Old Market in Omaha.

Old Market

Old Market, Omaha, NE, USA

Before Blackstone earned the “up and coming” label, Old Market was the place to be, and in a lot of ways, it still is. Among the area’s standouts are culinary gems Twisted Fork and Jams American Grill, and the record store/bar combo, Drastic Plastic Vinyl Lounge. 

Benson in Omaha, Nebraska.
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Benson in Omaha, Nebraska.

Benson

Benson, Omaha, NE, USA

During the day, Benson’s got you for coffee, yoga and lunch options. After the sun sets, the nabe has some of the city’s best places to drink, like 1912 Benson, Krug Park, Benson Brewing and Infusion Brewing.

See why Omaha is steak country

Omaha Steaks has given the city a reputation across the United States as a choice cut destination. But Omaha’s steak expertise runs deep. And you’re more likely to find it in historic steakhouses and innovative kitchens than in a Styrofoam box shipped to your doorstep. 

Farmer Brown's steak in Omaha, Nebraska.
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Farmer Brown's steak in Omaha, Nebraska.

Farmer Brown’s

2620 River Rd Dr, Waterloo, Nebraska, USA

Don’t expect the extravagant trappings of a fancy steakhouse. This unassuming Waterloo restaurant eschews the bells and whistles in favor of simple steaks done right.

Steak at Monarch in Omaha, Nebraska.
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Steak at Monarch in Omaha, Nebraska.

Monarch Prime & Bar

316 S 15th St, Omaha, Nebraska, USA

Inside the Hotel Deco, you’ll find this upscale spot known for its dry-aged steaks and creative cocktails.

Gorat's in Omaha, Nebraska.
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Gorat's in Omaha, Nebraska.

Gorat’s

4917 Center St, Omaha, Nebraska, USA

Settle in at Gorat’s and you might find your table next to Warren Buffett, who’s known to frequent this Omaha mainstay. The Midwest-sourced steak prices are surprisingly reasonable, considering it’s a billionaire’s favorite restaurant.

Sebastian's in Omaha, Nebraska.
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Sebastian's in Omaha, Nebraska.

Brother Sebastian’s Steakhouse and Winery

1350 S 119th St, Omaha, Nebraska, USA

The atmosphere was inspired by Spanish monasteries and makes for an intimate, romantic steakhouse experience. And they have an extensive wine list to deliver the perfect pairing for your filet or ribeye.

Eat a Reuben sandwich in its birthplace

As the story goes, the first-ever Reuben sandwich was assembled during the throes of a high-stakes poker game at the Blackstone Hotel. The delicatessens in New York might have something to say about it, but Omaha is still one of the best places to grab a corned beef, Swiss and sauerkraut creation.

Oh wow, look at that Reuben sandwich! Totally stock image from Shutterstock. But, still.
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Oh wow, look at that Reuben sandwich! Totally stock image from Shutterstock. But, still.

Wilson & Washburn

1407 Harney St, Omaha, Nebraska, USA

A cozy downtown Omaha bar with a craft beer on tap and bar food favorites, including a locally famous Reuben. 

M’s Pub in Omaha, Nebraska.
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M’s Pub in Omaha, Nebraska.

M’s Pub

422 S 11th St, Omaha, Nebraska, USA

A stylish eatery in the Old Market district featuring New American fare along with beer, wine and cocktails.

See a show

In the mid-’00s, Omaha had a thriving indie music scene, one galvanized by bands like Bright Eyes and the major independent label Saddle Creek Records. Today, that indie emergence persists in these intimate venues. 

The Waiting Room Lounge in Omaha, Nebraska.
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The Waiting Room Lounge in Omaha, Nebraska.

The Waiting Room Lounge

6212 Maple St, Omaha, Nebraska, USA

Here’s where the big names hang out. This industrial bar venue has seen touring acts from every genre, including Matt & Kim, Wiz Khalifa, Imagine Dragons and the Psychedelic Furs. 

Slowdown in Omaha, Nebraska.
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Slowdown in Omaha, Nebraska.

Slowdown

729 N 14th St, Omaha, Nebraska, USA

This indie-rock venue is a venture of Saddle Creek Records and is surrounded by restaurants, shops and apartments. They often have shows three to four nights a week. 

Harney St. Tavern in Omaha, Nebraska.
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Harney St. Tavern in Omaha, Nebraska.

Harney St. Tavern

1215 Harney St, Omaha, Nebraska, USA

For a warm, rustic vibe with local talent, head here. They typically host blues bands and singer-songwriter types but venture into other genres too. Plus, there’s no cover.

Pageturners Lounge in Omaha, Nebraska.
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Pageturners Lounge in Omaha, Nebraska.

Pageturners Lounge

5004 Dodge St, Omaha, NE, USA

A vintage, laid-back bar founded by Omaha native musicians Philip Schaffart and Conor Oberst.

Cool places to stay

Omaha’s one-of-a-kind hotels offer upscale amenities, sleek style, and great eats. 

Magnolia Hotel in Omaha, Nebraska.
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Magnolia Hotel in Omaha, Nebraska.

Magnolia

1615 Howard St, Omaha, NE, USA

This is the city’s flagship luxury hotel, born out of the historic Aquila Court Building. Situated downtown, it’s near some of Omaha’s top attractions, like the Joslyn Art Museum and the Henry Doorly Zoo. They serve three meals a day, have $3 craft beers for happy hour and even serve fresh, house-made cookies at 8 p.m. every night.

Hotel Deco in Omaha, Nebraska.
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Hotel Deco in Omaha, Nebraska.

Hotel Deco

1504 Harney St, Omaha, NE, USA

A sophisticated boutique hotel near Old Market that’s not short on style. It walks the line between hip and historic and houses the swanky Monarch Prime & Bar. 

 

Where Malcolm X grew up

Malcolm X House Site in Omaha, Nebraska.
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Malcolm X House Site in Omaha, Nebraska.

Malcolm X House Site

3448 Pinkney Street, North Omaha, Omaha, Nebraska, USA

The civil rights activist’s birth home isn’t standing anymore. In its place are 10 acres of land owned by the Malcolm X Foundation, including a community garden.

Watch the College World Series

The College World Series is one of the only sports championships that’s held in the same location every year. If you’re visiting in June, you can watch some of the top collegiate baseball players hit dingers at TD Ameritrade Park.

TD Ameritrade Park. Photo cred: Shutterstock.
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TD Ameritrade Park. Photo cred: Shutterstock.

TD Ameritrade Park

1200 Mike Fahey St, Omaha, Nebraska, USA

It’s played host to the College World Series since 2011 (and will continue to host until 2035). And over the rest of the year, it’s home to Creighton’s Division I baseball team. 

Go “Bobbing”

The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge spans 3,000 feet over the Missouri River and the state line between Iowa and Nebraska. It’s linked to 150 miles of nature trails, making it an ideal spot for outdoor activities like walking, biking and jogging. But the most popular tradition, especially among visitors, is “Bobbing,” which is taking a photo while straddling the state line. It’s touristy, sure, but a fun way to take in some stunning views of the river and city. 

Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge in Omaha, Nebraska.
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Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge in Omaha, Nebraska.

Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge

705 Riverfront Dr, Omaha, NE

Discover street art

Omaha’s art scene favors the collaborative over the traditional. Take the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, for example, and their long-standing residency program. Or small art galleries like Modern Arts Midtown, which supports local artists. But if you want a more spontaneous, organic art experience, seek out some street art. 

Fertile Ground mural in Omaha, Nebraska.
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Fertile Ground mural in Omaha, Nebraska.

Fertile Ground

602 N 13th St, Omaha, Nebraska, USA

This is one of the nation’s largest murals, coming in a total of 32,500 square feet. It traces Omaha’s history to the present day and beyond. 

Home Run mural in Omaha, Nebraska.
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Home Run mural in Omaha, Nebraska.

Home Run

J F Bloom & Co, South 84th Street, Omaha, NE, USA

A striking mural adorning the historic J.F. Bloom Building, it depicts a baseball player and a laborer, a tribute to the city’s sports and industrial history.

Visit an old-timey candy and variety store

Maybe you lived in the ’50s and ’60s. Or maybe you didn’t, but you just binged Mad Men. Either way, Hollywood Candy is worth a stop. This complex is a throwback to midcentury America, when you could get a fistful of candy for a nickel and a hand-dipped root beer float from the soda fountain. 

Hollywood Candy and Variety Store in Omaha, Nebraska.
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Hollywood Candy and Variety Store in Omaha, Nebraska.

Hollywood Candy and Variety Store

1209 Jackson St, Omaha, Nebraska, USA

Here’s Nebraska’s largest Jelly Belly assortment and 150+ flavors of soda. But the building contains more than just sweets. It’s actually four different shops — a candy store, a pinball arcade, a movie theater and a diner — each providing a retro entertainment experience.