Nestled along the Missouri River, Downtown Omaha, Nebraska, is a vibrant urban hub where the past gracefully intertwines with the present. The city’s business and culture hub boasts a treasure trove of attractions and activities waiting to be explored.
With roots dating back to the 19th century, Downtown Omaha carries the rich heritage of its pioneer days while embracing the energy of contemporary city life. The heart of Omaha pulses here, offering a dynamic atmosphere where historic buildings stand as reminders of days gone by and modern skyscrapers showcase the ambition of Nebraska’s biggest city.
The Old Market rests at the center of Downtown Omaha with beautiful Victorian buildings, eclectic art galleries, and stylish boutiques. Street musicians and artists entertain as you wander the cobblestone streets of this historic district.
Admire masterpieces at the Joslyn Art Museum, discover the history of Omaha at the Durham Museum, and catch a Broadway show at the Orpheum Theater. Unwind in beautiful parks along the Missouri River and experience the power of art and light at the Kiewit Luminarium.
Eager to start exploring the Gateway to the West? Check out this in-depth guide about what to see and do in Omaha, Nebraska.
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What to see & do in Downtown Omaha
Make your first the Old Market, a captivating neighborhood that’s steeped in history and bursting with charm. Nestled between 10th Street and 13th Street, the Old Market’s roots trace back to the city’s founding in the 1800s. Today, its cobblestone streets and historic warehouses transport you to a bygone era.
The Old Market is a treasure trove of historic architecture. You’ll find beautifully preserved warehouses and buildings dating back to the late 19th century, some of which have been repurposed into trendy apartments and offices. The district’s unique blend of old and new architecture is a visual delight.
Explore the eclectic blend of boutiques, galleries, and antique shops. Admire public art installations and historic markers as you wander the streets. Don’t miss the iconic Passageway, a glass-covered arcade filled with shops and eateries that’s one of the coolest places to visit in Omaha.
Immerse yourself in the local arts scene at galleries like the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts. Keep an eye out for street art and sculptures that add a dash of creativity to the district’s streets. Catch a show at the Omaha Community Playhouse or enjoy live music at venues like The Hive or The Down Under Lounge.
Throughout the year, the Old Market hosts various events and festivals. The Omaha Farmers Market, held on Saturdays in the warmer months, offers fresh produce, artisanal goods, and a lively atmosphere.
Joslyn Art Museum
Enjoy a visual journey through the ages at the Joslyn Art Museum. Housed in an exquisite Art Deco building with a pink marble façade, intricate detailing, and impressive columns, the museum is a work of art.
Established in 1931, the Joslyn Art Museum houses a collection of over 11,000 works of art, ranging from ancient to contemporary pieces. Explore European, American, and Native American art, decorative arts, and more. Admire works by famous artists such as Edgar Degas, Mary Cassatt, Albert Bierstadt, and Grant Wood.
Stroll through beautifully landscaped grounds adorned with sculptures by artists like Jun Kaneko and Aristide Maillol. It’s a lovely place to relax and appreciate art in a natural setting.
Don’t forget to explore the museum’s gift shop, which features a curated selection of art-inspired merchandise, books, and unique gifts.
If you love the grandeur of an elegant theater and the visual feast of a performance, catching a show at the Orpheum Theater is a must!
Stepping into the Orpheum Theater is like stepping back in time. This opulent theater, adorned with grand chandeliers and ornate decor, opened in 1927 as a vaudeville and movie palace. Today, it stands as a testament to the Golden Age of entertainment.
The theater itself is the star attraction. Its architecture and design are a feast for the eyes, featuring Spanish Baroque and Italian Renaissance elements. Be sure to look up and admire the spectacular ceiling.
The Orpheum Theater hosts diverse performances, including Broadway shows, concerts, ballets, and more. Attending a show at the Orpheum is an unforgettable experience with superb acoustics that ensure that every note and word resonates beautifully.
The Orpheum is renowned for its Broadway Series, featuring touring productions of popular Broadway shows. It’s a fantastic opportunity to enjoy top-notch performances without traveling to New York City.
The Durham Museum
Discover the vibrant history of Omaha and the American West at the Durham Museum. You’ll find the museum in the former Union Station, a magnificent Art Deco building on South 10th Street that adds to the museum’s allure.
One of Omaha’s most popular museums, the Durham Museum is a treasure trove of artifacts and exhibits that showcase Omaha’s rich history. From the city’s early days to the significance of the railroad in its development, the museum offers an insightful journey through time.
Wander through the beautifully restored Art Deco architecture and immerse yourself in engaging exhibits. Explore vintage train cars and learn about the railroad’s role in shaping the American West. Don’t miss the exceptional photography collection, a visual narrative of the region’s history.
Wander down a re-created 1930s street with storefronts and vehicles from the era. It’s a vivid snapshot of life during the Great Depression. Learn about the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition that put Omaha on the map in 1898. Discover the grandeur of this event and its impact on the city.
Take a break at the museum’s café and stop by the gift shop for souvenirs and books about Omaha’s history.
Gene Leahy Mall at The RiverFront
Escape the hustle and bustle of the city at the Gene Leahy Mall at The RiverFront. Also known locally as Central Park or The Mall, this 9.6-acre park is a serene oasis stretching along the banks of the Missouri River.
Named after former Omaha mayor Gene Leahy, the Gene Leahy Mall offers a delightful blend of natural beauty and urban aesthetics. Stroll along the lush green pathways and enjoy the picturesque ponds and water features. You’ll find sculptures and public art installations that add a creative touch to the landscape.
The winding pathways are perfect for a leisurely walk or a refreshing jog. Pack a picnic and enjoy a meal in the shade of the park’s trees. Watch for ducks, geese, and other wildlife that call the mall’s ponds home.
Gene Leahy Mall’s beauty changes with the seasons. Spring blooms, summer greenery, vibrant fall foliage, and even a winter wonderland after a snowfall make it worth a visit year-round.
Heartland of America Park at The RiverFront
Another lovely spot for relaxing and soaking up the scenery is Heartland of America Park at The RiverFront. Set on the banks of the Missouri River, the park is a scenic gem that offers a serene escape from the urban bustle.
The picturesque Heartland of America Park is known for its spectacular 320-foot water jet fountain, one of the world’s largest of its kind. The fountain’s mesmerizing water and light shows are a sight to behold, especially in the evening when they illuminate the night sky.
Don’t miss the captivating fountain shows, which occur regularly throughout the day and evening. The dancing water, colorful lights, and music create a magical experience. The park offers paddle boating on its 15-acre lake, providing a unique way to experience its beauty from the water.
With its scenic views and well-maintained green spaces, the Heartland of America Park is ideal for a picnic. Bring a blanket and enjoy a meal while surrounded by nature. The park’s location along the river offers excellent sunset views. Consider visiting in the evening to witness the sunset over the water, a truly breathtaking sight.
Omaha Children’s Museum
Enjoy an afternoon of fun and learning at the Omaha Children’s Museum. Located on South 20th Street in the heart of Downtown Omaha, the museum is a vibrant and interactive space designed to ignite the imaginations of young minds.
The Omaha Children’s Museum’s three floors are brimming with engaging exhibits designed to stimulate young minds. Head to the Imagination Playground, an interactive space that allows kids to build and create using large foam blocks, encouraging creativity and teamwork.
Explore the wonders of science and technology through hands-on exhibits at the Charlie Campbell Science & Technology Center that teach kids about the world around them. Kids can dissect a virtual frog, experiment with electricity, and engage in activities that make science and technology fun.
The Creative Arts Center is an art studio where kids can experiment with various materials and let their creativity soar. Enjoy live performances, storytelling, and puppet shows that captivate young audiences at the Fantasy Theatre.
Explore the power of art and light at the Kiewit Luminarium. Whether you’re a lover of art, looking for a unique experience, or simply want to be dazzled, this luminous attraction promises an unforgettable journey of the senses.
Created by the renowned Architects of Air, the Kiewit Luminarium is a fusion of art, architecture, and science. Inspired by natural forms and geometric patterns, the luminarium’s intricate architecture is a work of art in itself. The colorful light and winding passageways create a mesmerizing atmosphere.
As you wander through the Kiewit Luminarium, you’ll be enveloped in a world of radiant colors and soft, ethereal light. It’s a sensory journey like no other. Stepping into the luminarium is like entering a different realm.
The diffused sunlight creates a gentle, calming ambiance, while the radiant colors and intricate patterns on the walls and ceilings stimulate the senses. Capture the beauty of the luminarium with your camera or smartphone. The interplay of light and space makes for breathtaking photos.
Where to eat & drink
When it’s time for a bite and a drink, Downtown Omaha is a gastronomic paradise with many fantastic restaurants and bars.
If you’re looking for a cozy spot in downtown Omaha to satisfy your pasta cravings, head to Spaghetti Works. Craft your pasta masterpiece by choosing from a variety of sauces and toppings. They also offer salads, sandwiches, and pizzas if you’re not in the mood for noodles. The ambiance is laid-back and family-friendly, making it ideal for a casual dinner with friends or a family outing. Don’t forget to try their homemade bread and garlic butter – it’s a fan favorite.
For a twist on classic American eats, swing by Twisted Fork on Howard Street. They’ve got a menu that covers all the bases, from steaks to seafood and creative starters. Sundays are brunch heaven here. The atmosphere strikes a balance between classy and relaxed, making it spot-on for special occasions or a romantic dinner. If the weather’s playing nice, grab a seat on their sweet patio.
M’s Pub dishes out a blend of American and European-inspired goodies. From their famous chicken pot pie to a juicy filet mignon, there’s something for every taste bud. The place oozes charm and history, with exposed brick walls and soft lighting for a cozy vibe. It’s a top pick for a snug dinner or a night out with pals. Don’t skip their famous ‘Monkey Bread.’
Seafood lovers, Plank Seafood Provisions is for you. Fresh catches of the day, oysters, crab legs – they’ve got it all. And if seafood isn’t your jam, they’ve got land-based dishes, too. The vibe here strikes a fantastic balance between laid-back and upscale, making it a special seafood night out winner. For the freshest catches, peek at their daily specials and think about hitting happy hour for some budget-friendly oysters.
Omaha Tap House is a paradise for craft beer and gourmet burger fanatics. Their menu boasts creative burgers, sarmies, and comfort food. The vibe is easygoing and vibrant – a sweet spot for a relaxed meal with buddies. The rustic interior sets the stage for a memorable dining gig. Don’t miss their killer craft beer selection and give the “PB & J Burger” a whirl for a delightful twist on a classic fav.
Looking for a classic American food fix? Trot on over to The Tavern on S 10th Street. They’ve got burgers, sandwiches, and hearty plates that hit the spot. This is your friendly neighborhood bar and grill, where you can catch the game, unwind after work, or chew the fat with pals. Keep an eye out for their daily specials – your wallet will thank you.
Wicked Rabbit is a trendy gastropub with a knack for inventive cocktails and small plates. Expect a whirlwind of global flavors and unique drink concoctions. The vibe? Chic and stylish, making it your go-to choice for a swanky date night or a night on the town with pals. Don’t skip their craft cocktails, especially the ones made with seasonal ingredients.
Looking for a cozy, intimate cocktail bar? Head to The Berry & Rye. They’ve got a petite menu of appetizers and light bites to pair with your drinks. The bartenders here are cocktail wizards, so don’t hesitate to ask for their recommendations as they whip up your perfect drink.
Where to stay
As it’s located in the heart of the city, Downtown is one of the coolest areas to stay in Omaha, NE. In the city center, you’ll find a variety of excellent accommodation options, from boutique hotels to top-rated luxury properties.
Hotel Indigo – Omaha Downtown, an IHG Hotel, offers a unique blend of modern design and historic charm. Contemporary rooms boast vibrant décor and modern amenities. The Fair Deal Café is a wonderful spot for a meal. The rooftop bar is a superb spot with excellent views of the city, making it a popular place to unwind with a drink after a day of exploration.
The Courtyard Omaha Downtown is a reliable choice for a comfortable stay. Their rooms are spacious and well-appointed, with workspaces for business travelers. The inviting lobby area is more than just a check-in spot; it’s a gathering space where you can relax or catch up on work. If you’re looking for dining options, the Bistro at the hotel offers a range of breakfast and dinner choices, as well as evening cocktails.
The Peregrine Omaha Downtown Curio Collection By Hilton is a luxurious and artfully designed hotel that will make your stay in Omaha memorable. Each room is thoughtfully decorated with a modern touch. The Whistling Hare Distillery and Pub serves handcrafted cocktails and delicious bites.
The Farnam, Autograph Collection is a boutique gem that highlights Omaha’s vibrant culture. The rooms are designed with an artistic flair, and you’ll find unique touches throughout the hotel. Dining at Provisions by The Grey Plume is a culinary journey where you can savor farm-to-table dishes. Don’t miss the rooftop bar with its gorgeous views, perfect for a nightcap.
The Omaha Marriott Downtown at the Capitol District is a familiar name with a touch of elegance. The rooms are comfortable and well-equipped, ensuring a pleasant stay. Dining options within the hotel include Society 1854, which offers a mix of regional flavors, and Burdock + Bitters, a rooftop bar where you can enjoy a drink with a view.