It’s almost here…SUMMER!
Last week we had (what I hope was) our last cold snap of the season, and today the temperature is set to hit a sunny 84 degrees!
When I tell people I live in Omaha, they usually know it for one of four things: the zoo, Warren Buffet, the College World Series, or steak. And yes it’s true, the College World Series and Berkshire Hathaway Stockholders Meeting are exciting times in Omaha, bringing in lots of visitors. The Henry Doorly Zoo really is one of the best in the country (if not the world, serious!), and you can get a pretty good steak here (my personal favorite is at the Drover).
But there is so much more to do in Omaha than just the clichés!
Summertime is when Omaha really comes alive. Nearly every day there is a different outdoor event going on somewhere around town: concerts, outdoor movies, farmer’s markets, and festivals galore. Omaha might seem like a boring fly-over city on the outside, but there are tons of really fun things to do if you just know where to look!
So I’ve compiled my own sort of “summer bucket list” for the city.
Whether Omaha is your home or you’re considering a weekend trip, here are 15 awesome things to do in Omaha this summer:
1. Visit the Omaha Farmers Market
There are several in town, but the biggest is the Omaha Farmers Market held every weekend from May through October downtown in the Old Market (Saturday mornings) and in Aksarben Village (Sunday mornings). Aside from the usual fruits and veggies, local honey, breads, pastries, and handmade gifts can also be found.
2. Take a history tour with the Durham Museum
If you’re looking to learn a little bit about Omaha’s history, the Durham Museum is the perfect place to start. Housed in the former Union Station, the museum features exhibits on Omaha history, as well as rotating special exhibits.
To really see the city, I recommend taking one of the River City History Tours. They aren’t offered on a regular basis, but if you can plan one into your trip, it is a fun way to learn about the city and see it at the same time. My personal favorite is the “Gritty City” tour, a downtown trolley tour highlighting some of Omaha’s not so glamorous past.
3. Eat a Croque Garcon burger at Block 16
Omaha’s culinary scene is really pretty amazing and I could go on for days talking about the food here (yes, really)! One spot that’s not to be missed is the newly expanded Block 16. Specializing in “farm to table street food”, Block 16’s food is unpretentious and imaginative, with a new mouthwatering special nearly every day. Alton Brown even called the Croque Garcon burger one of his favorite in the country after his visit to Omaha last summer; more than enough reason for me to get back down there now!
4. Catch a show at the Orpheum Theater
The Orpheum is a classic theater dating back to 1926 and one of my favorite places to see a play or concert for that very reason. Though some seats are certainly better than others, it’s still maintains a bit of intimacy, and there is really not a bad seat in the house. Among the upcoming shows on the docket: The Book of Mormon, Diana Ross, and Cabaret.
5. Tour a local brewery
Not only is the food scene great in Omaha, but the craft beer scene is pretty awesome as well. If you want to hit multiple breweries in one day, try a tour with the Omaha Brew Bus, which will take you to three breweries throughout the city for tastings and a brewery tour. Or for a more local experience, spend the evening bar hopping with hipsters in the Benson neighborhood.
6. Go antiquing on Leavenworth Street
Leavenworth Street between 15th and 50th Street is home to a good concentration of the city’s antique shops. McMillan’s Antiques, A Fine Mess, Junk N Treasure, and Imaginarium are just a few shops worth a stop.
7. Have drinks on a patio
One of my personal favorites is the Old Market staple La Buvette, where you can pick a bottle of wine from their inside wall and enjoy it at your own pace. Some other great patios downtown are Roja, Mr. Toad’s, and J’s on Jackson.
8. Go for a run (or walk) in Heartland of America Park
Nestled between the Old Market and the Missouri River is Heartland of America Park. Take a walk around the 15-acre lake, watch the fountains, or hire a gondola ride if you’re really feeling adventurous!
9. Have a picnic at Jazz on the Green
It wouldn’t be summer in Omaha without a visit to Jazz on the Green! For six Thursdays every summer, crowds descend on Turner Park at Midtown Crossing for music and al fresco drinking and dining (there’s that drinking outside thing again).
We like to make a fun night out of it by packing our own little picnic (in a pinch, you can always pick up some wine, cheese and charcuterie from nearby Wohlner’s). Also important – go early! The lawn is packed end to end with lawn chairs and blankets before the first performer even goes on at 7:30.
10. Get your junk on at Junkstock
From its humble beginnings with a few vendors on a local farm, Junkstock has grown to become one of Omaha’s most anticipated events of the season.
This year they’ll be moving a little farther west to accommodate the massive number of vendors and huge crowds, but will still be within an easy reach of the Omaha metro. The 3-day event is a great chance to snag a one-of-a-kind piece, or just take in some good music and food in a fun family-friendly setting.
11. Take a cooking class at Provisions
James Beard Award winner Clayton Chapman is undoubtedly Omaha’s most famous chef, and while his restaurant the Grey Plume is great for a special night out, you can get in the action yourself at the restaurant’s shop across the street, Provisions. Cooking classes start at $80 per person, and upcoming offerings include Perfect Pasta, Pho Soup, and Cookie Making.
12. Stroll the Lauritzen Gardens
On a beautiful summer day, there’s nothing more relaxing than strolling through the botanical Lauritzen Gardens. The entire garden covers over 100 acres, but you can take a guided tram tour for $3 if you’re not up for the walk.
13. Float down the Elkhorn River
One of our old summer traditions (that we unfortunately missed last year thanks to the babies) was a lazy trip down the Elkhorn River courtesy of Tubing & Adventures. Groups can be as big or small as you like, but spots fill up early in the season, so it’s best to book your trip right away to guarantee a spot!
14. Go on a taco crawl down 24th Street
South Omaha is home to Omaha’s Latin community, which guarantees you’ll be able to find some delicious food in the area. Explore the neighborhood with a taco crawl down the main street; Taqueria Tijuana, Taqueria El Rey, and La Choza are all solid choices. And don’t forget to end the day with some Mexican pastries from Jacobo’s or International Bakery.
15. Go hiking in the Fontenelle Forest
This one’s admittedly still on my bucket list and hoping to be checked off this summer! The Fontenelle Forest is pretty huge, and offers some of Omaha’s best hiking trails (ok, it’s technically located in the city of Bellevue). I’m hoping to tackle the riverfront boardwalk first, which their website assures me is stroller friendly. 🙂[Update: Evelyn and I did make it to the forest this summer! Read all about our adventure here.]
Go get out there this summer, because this list only scratches the surface of what Omaha has to offer. What are some of your favorite summer spots?
Read Next: Frolicking in the Fontenelle Forest
Liked this Post? Pin It!