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Welcome to Omaha


Omaha has long been saddled with a reputation as a flyover city, that is, a place those living in more happening areas are content to see merely from the air when hopping from one coast to the other. But over the past 20 years, the city has slowly been transforming itself, edging out middle American blandness while retaining the friendly, down-to-earth manner of the Midwest.

The heart of the city, from which this new pulse emanates, is its arts and entertainment district, the Old Market. The area is made up of block after block of renovated industrial and warehouse buildings from the 1800s, which now house a variety of unique shops, boutiques, bookstores, galleries and some of Omaha's finest restaurants. Homer's Music is an Old Market institution and, in addition to hosting live events itself, can provide the latest information on Omaha's thriving indie rock scene. Not one to ignore any form of artistic expression, the city also has a burgeoning film industry, with Omaha native Alexander Payne having chosen it as the setting for Electionand About Schmidt(depicting, perhaps, that less vibey side of Omaha).

When pounding Old Market's charmingly uneven pavements becomes tiring, the Heartland of America Park next door is perfect for leisurely strolls along the mighty Missouri. Work on a pedestrian bridge spanning the river is currently underway; when completed in 2008, it will be one of the world's longest. But Omaha, some may be surprised to hear, already has experience with world renown. Here visitors can explore the largest indoor rain forest in the world at the famous Henry Doorly Zoo; historic aircraft and missiles at the Strategic Air and Space Command, the foremost museum of its kind; and perhaps catch a glimpse of America's second-richest man and lifelong Omaha resident, Warren Buffett, dining at Gorat's, his favourite local steakhouse.

Information & Facts


Omaha's seasonal weather variations can be drastic at times. As in many other areas of the Midwest, summer can bring severe thunderstorms, hailstorms and tornadoes. When not stormy, summer days are hot and humid. Winters are cold, and the city gets snow, although very heavy snowfall is uncommon. Spring and autumn are pleasant times to visit.

Getting Around

Omaha is a midwestern city and is therefore no stranger to sprawl. A rental car is the most convenient option for getting around, although a bus service is provided through Metro Area Transit. In the central downtown area, walking is a pleasant option when shopping and dining in the Old Market area; attractions like the riverfront and the Qwest Convention Center and Arena can also be reached on foot. However, taxi availability can be erratic, and for sightseeing outside this immediate area, a car is best.

English is the most common language but Spanish is often spoken in south-western states.

The US Dollar (USD) is the unit of currency and is divided into 100 cents. Only major banks exchange foreign currency. ATMs are widespread and credit cards and travellers cheques are widely accepted. Travellers cheques should be taken in US Dollars to avoid hassles. Banking hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm.

The Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, just south of the Old Market district, was founded on the principle that exceptional talent deserves to be supported. Artists from around the world apply to participate in the centre's residency program, in which they are given studios and accommodation, freeing them to focus on creative growth and experimentation. The centre presents over 20 exhibitions annually in its three main galleries, featuring emerging and established artists and spanning all visual media.

The famous Spencer Tracey film, for which he won an Academy Award, was based on the true story of Father Flanagan and his creation of a haven for abused and abandoned boys. Today, the program has evolved into the Girls and Boys Town organization, with over 20 sites nationwide. The original Village of Boys Town in Omaha is still thriving. Visitors can wander the Hall of History (home to Tracey's Oscar), the Father Flanagan House, the Dowd Memorial Chapel and other sites in this idyllic spot.

In carrying out its mission of conservation, research, education and recreation, Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo has created Lied Jungle, the world's largest indoor rainforest. Visitors can also explore the Scott Aquarium, Desert Dome, Cat Complex and Hubbard Gorilla Valley and Orangutan Forest, or catch a film at the Lozier IMAX Theater. The zoo also offers train and tram rides, the TreeTops Restaurant overlooking the rainforest and a variety of other concessions.

This fun-filled and award-winning interactive museum is designed as a learning and exploration space for young people. The various exhibits and activities are exciting and engaging, with the Imagination Playground and Sandy's Splish-Splash Garden proving especially popular. The Charlie Campbell Science and Technology Center features the Inventor's Workshop, the amazing whirligig station and live science presentations like Whiz Bang Super Science and The Amazing Bubble Show. At the Creative Arts Center children can release their inner artist and create their own masterpieces in whatever medium takes their fancy. The Omaha Children's Museum really does guarantee a great day out for kids and adults alike.

The Strategic Air and Space Museum, regarded as the nation's foremost facility of its kind, showcases WWII and Cold War era aircraft and artefacts to illustrate the historical role of strategic air command in securing peace. Its exhibits, multimedia displays and educational programs are forward-looking as well, generating excitement among the next generation about the future of aviation, aerospace and engineering.

This family entertainment center combines games, rides, activities and an all-you-can-eat buffet under one enormous roof. The centre has won many awards, including title of a "Top Family Entertainment Center of the World". The entrance fee is the price of the buffet, while individual games and rides, of which there are over 200, are priced on a ticket system. Parents report that the only drawback is getting children to leave at the end of the day.

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