20 Things you didn't know about Omaha
Did you know that Omaha is the birthplace of the Reuben sandwich? Or that civil rights champion and minister Malcolm X called Omaha home? Or that hundreds of temporary buildings – most resembling the architecture of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. – were constructed in Omaha for the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition of 1898?
Welcome Back to Omaha
By Mike Watkins//Correspondent
Back by popular demand, Omaha, Nebraska, will be the site of the 2012 Olympic Swim Trials. Correspondent Michael Watkins, who lives in the Omaha Metro, welcomes you back with some suggestions for where to eat, shop and visit while you’re in town next summer.
Tickets for the 2012 Olympic Swim Trials went on sale June 25, marking the yearlong countdown to the start of next summer’s event back in Omaha, Neb.
If you were in town three years ago for Trials, you already know about the friendly people, convenience and accessibility and great values in the metro. You also know about the plethora of great restaurants, shopping and entertainment.
If this is your first trip to River City, there is much more to see and do than you might expect. Along with the multi-purpose CenturyLink Center Omaha, the site of the 2008 and 2012 Trials, the city boasts great food and great fun.
You'll quickly discover we're more than cows and cornfields in Omaha, which has five Fortune 500 companies and is the place billionaire philanthropist (and Bill Gates' bridge partner) Warren Buffet calls home.
Here are a few hot spots and attractions you can't miss while you're in town next summer:
- Under construction during the Trials in 2008, the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge is a glimmering addition to downtown. Spanning the Missouri River just north of the CenturyLink Center, the 2,300-foot bridge twists and turns across the Missouri River and connects Nebraska and Iowa along with hundreds of miles of walking and biking trails. When it lights up at night, it lights up the city.
- For at least one day, possibly two, Trials visitors can intermix and mingle with the fans visiting for the College World Series, which moved into downtown and TD Ameritrade Park this year. If you arrive early or are a baseball fan, take in a game at the state-of-the-art stadium, which is just a short distance from the CenturyLink Center. www.tdameritradeparkomaha.com
- On the western outskirts of downtown is Omaha’s newest shopping and dining jewel, Midtown Crossing. Boasting a wide array of local and national eateries, Midtown also has a sit-down dinner/movie theater, a gym, ‘green’ hotel and several chain and unique shops and stores. It is the complete, sophisticated destination in Omaha. www.midtowncrossing.com
- Directly west and slightly north of the CenturyLink Center is the continually developing NoDo (North Downtown) area, featuring restaurants, lodging and shopping not far from TD Ameritrade Park. Includes Urban Outfitters, Film Streams movie theater and several restaurants and shops.
- In renovated historic buildings just south and west of the CenturyLink Center are new downtown hotspots The Capitol and DJ’s Dugout, along with Farrells Bar and Grill one block south of the CenturyLink Center. Spencer’s Steakhouse is in the first floor of the Marriott Garden Inn, and the Liberty Tavern restaurant is in the Hilton Omaha hotel attached by skywalk to the CenturyLink Center.
- The Old Market, once the city’s warehouse and railroad district, is one of Omaha’s most popular attractions. It boasts more than 30 restaurants, art galleries, coffee houses and numerous one-of-a-kind shops.
- Just a few steps from the Old Market is Heartland of America Park, located on the world headquarters of Fortune 500 company, ConAgra Foods (as in Orville Redenbacher popcorn and Peter Pan peanut butter). The park boasts a man-made lake bordering the Missouri River that includes a beautiful water jet and light show, as well as surrounding walking trails.
- Adjacent to the Old Market is Gene Leahy Mall, also known as Central Park Mall. The former site of run-down warehouses, Leahy excavated the site to include a lagoon, outdoor green space, public art and bridges in the heart of downtown.
- The Henry Doorly Zoo, ranked annually as one of the best zoos in America, is open year-round and should not be missed. Located just south of Interstate 80, the zoo has the world’s largest indoor rain forest and desert dome, an IMAX theater and the Scott Aquarium, where a 70-foot-long acrylic viewing tunnel puts sharks and other fish above and alongside their human guests.
- Lauritzen Botanical Gardens is a 100-acre garden located south of downtown and overlooks the Missouri River. It features 13 outdoor areas, including a rose garden, herb garden, children’s garden and arboretum.
- Other attractions within walking (or biking) distance of the CenturyLink Center and downtown hotels include the Durham Museum, a converted Union Pacific train station that houses the city’s most comprehensive historical information and archives; the Omaha Children’s Museum, which boasts some of the country’s most technologically innovative and interactive learning displays for children; Joslyn Art Museum, built in 1931 and consists of 20 galleries with 19th and 20th century art from Europe and America; and the Holland Performing Arts Center, which is home to some of the biggest acts in the music and theater and the Omaha Symphony.
For more information about Omaha, check out www.visitomaha.com.