Omaha, Neb. – Just 450 miles north of Oklahoma City you’ll find Omaha, with a population of approximately 500,000, Omaha is the 42nd largest city in the United States. According to USA Today, “Omaha ranks eighth among the nation’s 50 largest cities in both per capita billionaires and Fortune 500 companies.”
Omaha Steaks, a family business established in 1817, was instrumental in branding the city as one of the best places to eat steak, but Omaha has much more to offer.
In preparation for a one day visit and a quick tour of the riverfront, I checked in at the Marriott at Regency Park. The property is close to the Regency Court shopping center. I resisted the temptation to shop at Borsheims, the largest independent jewelry store in the country and part of Omaha billionaire, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate.
Instead, I drove to the heart of Omaha in the Old Market District, located downtown between Harney and Leavenworth Streets from 10th Street to 13th Street. In the 1880s, it was a warehouse and manufacturing area but by the 1950s, the market was in decline until businessman Sam Mercer repurposed his old buildings and started a trend.
Today the market is bustling with boutiques, pubs, galleries and multiethnic restaurants. The cobblestone streets and old architecture paired with horse-drawn carriage rides and outdoor cafes enhance the experience.
My first stop was Nebraska at the Market. The shelves were stocked with merchandise and culinary items such as Norm’s Gourmet Sauces & Blends, with flavors like Sweety Que and Carolina Gold. Shop owner Jim Laguzza said, “My top seller is Big Red Popcorn—it’s Nebraska’s kid friendly firecracker. Just put the corncob in the microwave and it pops right off the cob. ”
My next stop was Yi’s Handcraft Jewelry in the Old Market Passageway on 10th and Howard Street. Shopkeeper Yi’ Fang Popp, creates unusual pieces with natural stones and intricate designs. When I asked how she got started in the business Popp said, “It was kind of a hobby for me as a child in Thailand, but after I married and moved to the states I started repairing jewelry for people and then I made jewelry on consignment for 10 years. “
For lunch I ate at Trini’s Mexican Restaurant in the Old Market Passage Way. I ordered the puffy chicken tacos and sampled a cheese enchilada, which was delicious. For dessert I grabbed a coconut cupcake from Cupcake Omaha.
I ended the day at the Omaha Riverfront watching folks cross the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, from Omaha to Council Bluffs, Iowa. Afterwards, I walked to the historic 1804, Lewis and Clark Landing site and then on to the Monument of Labor statute commemorating those who helped build the city of Omaha. A few blocks from the riverfront is the Heartland of America Park and it’s a show-stopper with a 300-foot water jet light show.
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