Omaha

Overview

Introduction

Omaha, Nebraska's largest city, is located along the banks of the Missouri River at the state's eastern border. The name Omaha is taken from a Native American word meaning "those who go against the current."

Visitors to Omaha can choose from a number of museums. The Joslyn Art Museum is the state's only accredited fine art museum. Housed in an unusual building that's a hybrid of art-deco and neoclassical design, the interior is truly impressive, with 38 different kinds of marble used in the floors and walls. Joslyn has an eclectic collection, ranging from western art to works of old masters, and it is known for its collection of Karl Bodmer prints. The museum recently revamped its outdoor sculpture garden to include a new fountain and other elements. http://www.joslyn.org.

There's much to see at the Durham Museum. The art-deco building—once a railroad terminal—is an attraction in itself: The chandeliers and murals inside suggest a little of the lost glamour of rail travel. The museum's exhibits detail the development of Omaha and include an impressive collection of historic coins, maps and documents.

Other attractions include the legendary Boys Town, the site of the residential program for underprivileged youths established by Father Edward Flanagan in 1917. The tour of the grounds includes the Hall of History, which depicts the lifework of the founder.

Don't miss the two perfectly preserved Navy vessels that are on display at Freedom Park: the USS Hazard (a minesweeper) and the USS Marlin (a submarine).

You also should consider a trip to the Henry Doorly Zoo, home of the Lied Jungle and the Desert Dome, said to be the world's largest indoor rain forest and largest indoor desert and nocturnal exhibit, respectively. You can walk through the Lied Jungle at ground level and on an elevated walkway that runs through the treetops. The Desert Dome offers a 30-ft/9-m sand dune and a hummingbird canyon, along with habitats for a variety of creatures including monitor lizards, meerkats, prairie dogs and pumas. The orangutan forest and gorilla village are also must-sees, as is the butterfly and insect pavilion. The zoo also contains the Kingdoms of the Sea Aquarium, with underwater tunnels for viewing sharks or penguins up close, and an IMAX theater. The zoo is worth a full-day visit, or even two.

If there's time, see the Omaha Children's Museum, the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts and the Kaneko Museum, founded by Japanese sculptor and Omaha resident Jun Kaneko. Or stop by the birthplace of former U.S. President Gerald Ford—there are some elaborate gardens on the grounds. The Mormon Trail Center at Winter Quarters is adjacent to the burial site of 600 Mormon pioneers who died in the winter of 1846.

Florence, a small area of Omaha, is home to the Bank of Florence (with artifacts from the mid-1800s), the Historic Depot and Historic Mill. Old Market is another area of vintage buildings. They now house shops, galleries and restaurants. If you're interested in other neighborhoods, check out historic Dundee—home to bars, restaurants, galleries and one of the city's most eclectic movie theaters, the Dundee Theater. Benson is the most recently revived Omaha neighborhood, and is home to nightclubs with live music, bars, galleries, restaurants, shops and other fun historical attractions.

North downtown Omaha is also going through a renaissance. The area, referred to as "NoDo" by locals, is home to the Qwest Center Omaha, which attracts big-name performers in concert almost every weekend and played host to the 2008 Olympic Swimming Trials. Nearby, find the Slowdown complex, home to the Slowdown music club and Filmsreams, the city's only art-house theater.

Between Omaha and Lincoln, just off Interstate 80 near Mahoney State Park and the drive-through Wildlife Safari, is the Strategic Air & Space Museum. It contains almost three dozen aircraft, many of which have been restored, including a World War II bomber. The museum also hosts traveling exhibits of airplane memorabilia and art.

Among the notable events on Omaha's calendar are the Omaha Quilters Guild Show (April), the NCAA College World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium (June), the River City Roundup (September) and the Ak-Sar-Ben 4-H Livestock Exposition & Rodeo (September).

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