Omaha is a city in eastern Nebraska that lies on the Missouri River and near Iowa’s western border. It''s the largest city in Nebraska, with a population of over 400,000. The city earned the nickname "Gateway to the West" after opening the Lone Tree Ferry that crossed the Missouri River. It was an important transportation hub in the 19th century for its central location in the United States. Omaha now has a thriving business community and is home to five Fortune 500 companies. The city was named the nation''s number one "Best Bang-For-The-Buck City" and one of "America''s Fastest-Recovering Cities" by Forbes within the past decade.
Omaha isn’t just the where the College World Series for baseball has been taking place since 1950. It also has a huge arts scene, a diverse economy, and a lot of good food. Check out some of the local performers at Omaha Community Playhouse, the largest community theater in the United States. One of the first urban artist colonies was founded in Omaha in 1981, and you can learn more about them at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts. The largest singly funded mural in the nation is also here in downtown Omaha. But if one thing you shouldn’t miss, it’s Nebraska’s number one paid attraction that over 25 million people have seen over the past 40 years. The Henry Doorly Zoo is home to the world’s largest nocturnal exhibit, indoor swamp, rainforest, indoor desert, and geodesic dome. The Old Market is another must-see as a major historic district within the city. It’s on the National Register of Historical Places and its warehouses and buildings house shops, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and art galleries. The city’s music scene is also vibrant, and the Omaha Black Music Hall of Fame is where you can learn more about the city’s rich history around rhythm and blues and jazz.
Why not cross the border into an entirely different state? Des Moines, the capitol of Iowa, is only a 2-hour drive from Omaha, Nebraska. It’s the most populous city in Iowa, so you can bet there will be things to do and people to see. Saint Joseph, Missouri is also close enough for a day trip. It’s where the Pony Express was born, which you can learn more about at the National Pony Express Museum. Four other popular museum attractions include the Glore, a museum about mental institutions; Black Archives; Civil War; and Native Americans. Kansas City, Missouri also takes less than three hours from Omaha by car, if you’re into jazz, barbeque and fountains. Elk Horn, Iowa is about an hour away, and one of the largest Danish rural settlements in the United States. If you want to stay inside state lines, Lincoln is the capitol of Nebraska, and about an hour’s drive. You can check out the Sunken Gardens in downtown Lincoln or the Nebraska State Capitol. Ashland, Nebraska is just 30 minutes southwest of Omaha and a great place for outdoorsy activities at Mahoney State Park.
Omaha’s first neighborhoods were built up around 12th and Jackson Streets in the Old Market district. Since then, the city expanded west and is divided into North and South sections by Dodge Street. There are plenty of accommodations on the east end of Dodge Street. These lodgings are close to the Missouri River and kid friendly attractions like the Children’s Museum, Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. Further north towards the Dodge Street divide is the young professionals’ neighborhood in the Old Market district. This area has a vibrant social culture and is perfect for tourists who want to stay in the middle of all the action. On the west side of Omaha are the shops and recreational areas such as Legacy Plaza and Zorinsky Lake. This part of Omaha will give tourists some space and quiet. Finding a place in central Omaha will bring you close to the University of Nebraska Omaha and the Omaha Community Playhouse. While perhaps less lively than the Old Market area, this neighborhood is also busy.
The only form of public transportation in Omaha is the Metro, a bus system with six routes that pass north/south through the city, and three that travel east to west. All buses pass through the Downtown Transit Center, where passengers can transfer to other lines. Fares are $1.25 per ride, plus an additional 25 cents for transfers. There is also a downtown circulator bus that costs 25 cents per ride. Walking and biking are also popular forms getting around the city. If you’re trying to get out of town, there are shuttle services that provide rides to the Lincoln and Omaha airports. For day trips or quick getaways, Megabus offers service to Des Moines, Iowa City or Chicago. Amtrak also has routes outside town that are listed on their website.
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