First off, let me say that I am a native Omahan. I was born and raised there. I left when I went to college and have come back a few times. Omaha has grown and changed a lot since I was a youngin', but the fact of the matter is it is still a smaller-medium sized city in the middle of America.
Omaha is an average city. What I mean by that is you get what you get in a city. Restaurants, shops, parks, etc. The crime is so-so, the place is pretty consistent. Nothing to really blow your mind or anything like that.
Omaha isn't a tourist stop. Most of the people that are in Omaha are there because their families live there or they are on a business trip. Omaha doesn't have enough to do to keep you there for a long period of time. For one or two days, you can be entertained, but after that, you'll start getting bored.
The tourist spots include the Henry Doorley Zoo. It's a nice zoo with an amazing indoor jungle and aquarium. Definitely stop at the zoo if you are in the city.
The Old Market is a section of restaurants, bars and shops. However, it is small and easily explored in about an hour. The Qwest Center features concerts and events, but they are priced exuberantly high. Besides big name concerts there or emo bands at other places, it's hard to find concerts in between in the city.
West Omaha is cookie cutter houses, commercialized strip malls and chain restaurants. In other words, things you can see in any other city. The Space Museum about 20 miles away is good if you have kids. Otherwise, that's about all there is.
The good things about Omaha is the size. The traffic is never a problem and it's easy to get around. Most of the city is relatively safe. It is very inexpensive to live in Omaha. In fact, Omaha is a wonderful place to raise a family, as I was raised there.
However, Omaha has a lot of negative things as well. For starters, the weather sucks. Sucks badly. The winters are full of cold, snowy days. The summers are hot, humid and sticky. Spring brings severe thunderstorms and tornados. There really isn't a good season in Omaha, except possibly fall. The other thing is the lack of scenary. No mountains, no oceans, not many lakes. Only the ugly Missouri river and a few parks with little ponds or lakes. The architecture around the city is pretty standard. There are little variety of trees or flowers or anything else. It just looks pretty bland and dreary. Omaha natives are friendly yes, but very small minded and conservative. The ignorance of the people in the city is downright sickening. People who have lived in Nebraska and no where else think Nebraska can do no wrong. Most of the people only talk about weather, football, Warren Buffett and how big the city is growing. Truth is, yes, the city is growing, but so is EVERYWHERE else in the United States. To most people, Nebraska can do you no wrong. Get used to white, middle class conservative Christians, that's what predominates this place. Omaha lacks the culture and the excitement of a bigger city. The nightlife is pretty standard. C-rated clubs, a few pedestrian bars, movie theaters, bowling alleys, typical museums and a few plays. The party ends at 1 a.m. unless you cross over to Iowa. There is also a lack of public transportation.
All in all, if you want to raise your family, do it here. If you are young and want to experience a culture shock or challenging environment, I highly recommend looking elsewhere. The buzz and excitement of the big city is extremely lacking. It just doesn't compare to L.A., Chicago, New York, D.C., or even places like Dallas, Minneapolis, Cleveland or Denver.
Here are some places to check out, though, if you are in the area.
Restaurants: For a great steak, go to Gorats, on 50th and Center. The restaurant has an old feel to it and the ambiance isn't the greatest, but the steak more than makes up for it. Warren Buffett likes to frequent this restaurant, so you might just see him on any given night. Ask for your filet center cut. La Casas near 42nd and Leavenworth has potentially the best pizza in the city. It takes some warming up to, but it is unbelievable once you do get used to it. Upstream has some great microbrews, but the food is so-so. There are also chains of wide variety to check out as well. AVOID: Rick's Boatyard. Omaha's attempt at a seafood restaurant is overpriced and not overly satisfying, plus the Missouri river is just ugly. Check out Surf Side on 30th near Hummel Park if you need a seafood fix, which is almost impossible to find here. Spaghetti Works is subpar Italian food in the Old Market. Some of the chain restaurants were heralded when they arrived, but now just are overrated. They include Biaggis, Cheesecake Factory (great dessert, but too long of a wait for what you get), and many of the restaurants out west. Unless you love steak, it's hard to find a wide variety of excellent cuisine here.
Attractions: The zoo is a must. It's about the best thing in the city. The Lied Jungle, the indoor jungle, is on the top ten list for the best zoo attractions, though. The Old Market is small and the variety is limited, but it does have some decent places like the Dubliner and Upstream. The Heartland fountain is pretty and a decent place to take a date, though it can get sketchy late at night. Kids will love the Space Museum about 20 miles away, and adults might as well. AVOID: Fun Plex, a dinky "amusement park" that gets boring very quickly. If you want a theme park, plan a three hour drive to either Adventureland in Des Monies or Worlds of Fun in Kansas City.
Shopping: Omaha has four indoor malls, but two of them (Southroads and Crossroads) are on the decline and should just be AVOIDED. Westroads is a decent above-average mall, but also seems to attract a certain riff raff, though it has good dining around the outside of it. Regency has an upscale aura to it, and is fun to check out for it's novelty stores and sophistication. AVOID: Village Pointe out west. The planning of this place was just horrible. Only one way in and out. Generic stores and overpriced and below par restaurants.
Nightlife: Not much, but Funnybone is an above-average comedy club. Upstream downtown is pretty good for college-aged people. Dubliner is a great bar downtown as well. Red Lounge at 144th and Maple is pretty decent for a more relaxed atmosphere. Paulis is great during the College World Series, but dead the rest of the year. Cross the river and check out the casinos for gambeling, dancing and dinner. AVOID: The bars near 114th and Dodge. Terrible environment and ambiance at all of them.
Outdoors: The choices are limited, but Memorial Park is a good place to fly a kite. Elmwood is pretty in the fall to walk around, just avoid it at night as it attracts a scary crowd. Zorinsky out west isn't a bad place to walk with a date, but it feels way out of the way. Mahoney and Fontelle are good for those who like to hike. AVOID: Lanoma Beach. It's very dirty.
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Best Suited For: Families
Best Time to Travel Here: Never