Because I was born and raised in Omaha, there hasn’t really been a time I haven’t loved my home city. Except for that brief moment in high school when I was taking classes at The Rose Theatre and fantasized about moving to NYC to be a Broadway actress. However, after a two-week stint in the BIG city, I couldn’t wait to get home! My friends would say I “know everything there is to know” about our city and up until a couple weeks ago, that was true! I was recently humbled about my lack of knowledge of Omaha when I won tickets to the International Omaha Horse Show. I found myself driving downtown to pick up my winnings at the Omaha Visitors Center on 10th in Farnam, a place I had never visited. The only Visitor Centers that I know of are worn brown buildings on the side of the road with sticky maps, vending machines, and smelly restrooms. However, what greeted my little party of three was so much more!
Omaha’s Visitors Center
This is a beautiful, hip venue that pays tribute to our growing city. The staff warmly greeted us, offered my sister some coffee, and made sure we took advantage of all that they offer. Bookshelves full of rich history about Omaha as well as loads of pamphlets of current events adorned the walls of the center. We took pictures like we were tourists and chatted with the two older gentlemen on staff. They held a plethora of knowledge about our hometown and speedily shared with me their favorite things to do and see in Omaha.
A Few Of Their Favorite Things
When I asked the two gentlemen working that day what their favorite thing to do in Omaha was, they responded with wide-eyed enthusiasm. Jesse told me about how most people don’t realize how Boys Town is open to the public. A “scenic drive,” thrown in with a bit of history is a wonderful way to help celebrate Boys Town’s 100th birthday this year. They also boast about having the World’s Largest Ball of Stamps. Roadside America says, “The sphere is 32 inches in diameter, weighs 600 pounds, and contains a reported 4,655,000 canceled stamps. It was stuck together, layer upon layer, by the sticky tongues and fingers of the Boys Town Stamp Collecting Club starting in 1953.” Check out more about Boys Town here.
Jesse also suggested that every city member should visit First National Spirit of Nebraska’s Wilderness and Pioneer Courage Park. The statues span several blocks and some are even displayed inside the First National Lobby, which is open to the public, but rarely visited. The stories behind the statues provide an amazing life-sized lesson about the courageous individuals who took the long road across the country to settle in Nebraska. I’ve driven by the statues a million times, but never got out of my car to take the tour. This year it’s on my summer bucket list! Click here to find out more information.
The Durham Museum
Jesse’s co-worker chimed in with two places he deemed “must-see” for every Omaha resident and tourist. The Durham Museum provides an amazing amount of history about Omaha and a time-frame we can only imagine. With several interactive exhibits, children can find themselves transported to a 1860’s classroom, pretend to “ride the rails,” and visit the traveling exhibits the Durham brings. For hours and admission information, click here.
His last suggestion was the Hot Shops Art Center downtown. With four anchor studios, which produce ceramic tile, bronze sculpture, forged steel, and glass artwork, plus over fifty art studios, and four art galleries, make plans to take a couple of hours to discover this 9200 square foot one-of-a-kind art center. What he said he loved best about Hot Shops, was that it allowed you to “see what people are contributing to the community.”
All in all, our visit to the center was super informative, and I now have a ton of research to do for our summer stay-cation. I encourage you to take a trip down if you haven’t already! Make sure to check out Visit Omaha to stay in the know about all that’s happening and check out their Facebook page for contests and activities. I would love to hear about any city gems you know about. Feel free to share in the comments! From my family to yours, Happy Touring!