World Facts Index > United States > Omaha

When the first settlers set up camp on the western banks of the Missouri River, the city of Omaha was born. What was once the site of these early dirt roads and crude, makeshift buildings is now the bustling, urban area known as Downtown. Just minutes from Eppley Airport, the popular .Old Market area is a multi-block conglomeration of renovated brick warehouses occupied by restaurants, shops, bars, apartments, condos and art galleries. Quaint old-style lampposts, uneven brick streets, horse-drawn carriages and street-side musicians make the area a favorite with locals and tourists alike. Enjoy an intimate dinner at V. Mertz, down a cold brew at Mr. Toad, shop for the latest fashions at Nouvelle Eve or stop by Homer's Records and Tapes to browse through the largest collection of CDs in the area. Downtown is also a haven for the arts -- visitors will find the Joslyn Art Museum, Orpheum Theater, Durham Western Heritage Museum, the Rose Blumkin Performing Arts Center, the Jackson Art Works, the Civic Auditorium and more, all located in a 15 block area.

Central Omaha has many distinct personalities. Omaha's older, established neighborhoods include the Bemis, Gold Coast and Blackstone areas, all listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Dundee area, a charming neighborhood with tree-lined streets, quaint homes and a small shopping district, is experiencing a resurgence in popularity. Dine on contemporary Jamaican cuisine at Bomba Dia, stroll down to the Dundee Dell for fish and chips, or, if you're feeling 'a little Italian,' stop by Trovato's/a> for a hot plate of pasta. The University of Nebraska at Omaha, Elmwood Park, Memorial Park, the Omaha Community Playhouse and Crossroads Mall make Central Omaha a cornucopia overflowing with exciting things to do.

West Central
Known for big, expensive homes and abundant shopping centers, West Central Omaha is 'home' to many of the city's well-to-do families. Shopping malls are everywhere: One Pacific Place, Regency Court, Westroads Shopping Center, Countryside Village and Rockbrook Village are located in this well-traveled area. Sightseers shouldn't miss visiting Boys Town, the world-renowned residential facility founded by Father Flannigan, which provides family homes for over 500 troubled and disadvantaged youth from across the nation. Excellent restaurants are everywhere: enjoy a leisurely brunch at the Market Basket, master the art of the chopstick at the Imperial Palace or relish the Tex-Mex food and ambiance at Stokes Grill and Bar.

North Omaha
Take a trip back in time in historic North Omaha. The Mormon Cemetery and Visitors Center is located on the actual site where the group camped during its cross-country trek in the mid-1800s. Fort Omaha, originally built as a military post in 1878, is currently used as the main campus for Metropolitan Community College. Straddling North Omaha and Downtown is Creighton University, a well-respected Jesuit university with medical, dental, law and liberal arts programs. Located along the river is Freedom Park, a naval/military museum with an impressive outdoor display of W.W.II ships, submarines and military artifacts. NP Dodge Park offers picnicking, various sports fields, and a large marina on the Missouri River. Travel a bit west to the North Hills area and you'll find wide-open spaces, grazing horses and frolicking deer. American Gramaphone Records, the recording label of Grammy Award-winning musician and composer Chip Davis of Mannheim Steamroller is located in this area. Lake Cunningham is a favorite boating and fishing spot. If all this fresh air whets your appetite, swing by OJ's Cafe for some tasty tacos, or journey to the Surfside Club where diners feast on fried chicken and catfish with a scenic river view. And no trip to North Omaha would be complete without a stop at Mr. C's Steakhouse where it's Christmas all year round.

Northwest Omaha
Welcome to the fastest growing area in the city: the land of swing-sets and mini-vans. Housing developments are springing up on every corner, and shopping malls and business parks are keeping up the pace. The area in and around 132nd and Maple Street is fast becoming the heart of the Northwest area with many shopping, dining, recreational and residential options. Catch the latest flick at the 20 Grand Theatre, linger over dinner at Vincenzo's, or, if Thai food is your passion, try the Thai Spice. Golfers will find The Champions Club, Eagle Run Golf Course, Benson Golf Course and Indian Creek Golf Course in this area. Tranquility Park, where the term 'soccer mom' surely originated, boasts a spectacular soccer complex and indoor ice skating rinks. For a day in the sun, try Standing Bear Lake, a beautiful park with fishing, boating and hiking trails.

South Omaha/Bellevue
If Omaha has a melting pot of ethnicity and culture, this is it! The city's Polish, Italian, Hispanic and Czech populations have thrived here for generations. Considered its own city until the early 1900s, many South Omaha residents settled in the area because of its proximity to the main source of business' meat-packing plants. Most of these plants are now gone, replaced by bustling shopping centers and business parks. Some of Omaha's most popular attractions are located here: the Henry Doorly Zoo, Rosenblatt Stadium (home of the NCAA College World Series and the Omaha Spikes baseball team), Sokol Auditorium and a Park and Ice Arena. If Mexican food is what you're looking for, be sure to try the enchiladas and Margaritas at El Alamo. Bellevue, Omaha's third largest 'city,' is located just south of South Omaha. Originally a riverside fur trading post, today Bellevue is a thriving residential community and business district. The U. S. Strategic Air Command located at Offutt Air Force Base brings military families from all over the world to live in the area. Tucked in the rolling hills is Fontenelle Forest, a lush area filled with hiking and nature trails.

Homes, homes and more homes...that's what Southwest Omaha is all about. Housing developments, shopping centers, mega movie theaters, restaurants and every other imaginable convenience are found around every corner. Businesses thrive in the area, as well, with many major corporations including Lucent Technologies, Oriental Trading Company, Omaha Steaks operating here. Shoppers will find Oak View Mall, the city's newest shopping attraction, irresistible. For some much needed R and R, try Zorinsky Lake where hiking, biking, fishing and boating are at their best. If you love seafood but aren't interested in catching it yourself, try Charlie's on the Lake, a stylish eatery with an outstanding menu, beautiful outdoor patio and a special Martini menu featuring over 100 yummy concoctions.

History of Omaha

What was once a vast expanse of prairie land, home to the native Omaha, Otoe, Pawnee and Ponca tribes, is now considered one of the fastest growing urban areas in the Midwest. One of the first documented explorers to discover the area was Sieur de La Salle, a Frenchman who traveled the area in the late 1600s. He named the area Louisiana and claimed the entire region, including Nebraska, in the name of France. Possession of the area shuffled between France and Spain with ownership eventually granted to France by the Treaty of San Ildefonso in 1800.

Three years later, the United States purchased the Louisiana Territory under the Treaty of Paris for $15,000,000. This acquisition opened the area for exploration and eventual colonization. Two of the first Americans to see the beauty of this vast prairie wilderness were Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Their legendary expedition along the Missouri River in 1804 brought them and their party of explorers to Omaha's front door when, in the area now known as Fort Calhoun, they held a council with the Otoe and Missouri Indians.

When reports of Lewis and Clark's journey reached the already-tamed East Coast, adventurous men and women alike packed up their homes and families and began the treacherous trek westward. The abundance of wide open land, endless supplies of food and furs, and the possibility of striking gold were attractive to these dream seekers and fortune hunters. Becoming known as the 'Gateway to the West,' Omaha's proximity to the Missouri River made it the perfect stopping off point during the long journey to the wilds of the West. The Oregon Trail crossed through town bringing millions of travelers through the area. Evidence of the deep ruts carved by the covered wagons are still visible today. Mormons heading westward toward Utah set up Winter Quarters just north of town in what is now known as Florence. Here, the harsh winter of 1846-1847 claimed over 600 lives. The Mormon Cemetery still stands on the site.

In 1854, the Omaha Indians relinquished their hold on the land, and with the assistance of Congress's Kansas-Nebraska bill, opened the Nebraska Territory for settlement.. With this, the city of Omaha was founded. Omaha, meaning 'above all others upon a stream,' was named for the outcast Indian tribe. At the outset, housing lots were free to those who would make improvements on them. Within three years, these same lots were sold for $4000 each. As more and more people streamed into the Omaha area, stores, hotels, saloons and restaurants began springing up around the area now known as downtown.

Omaha drew national attention when Edward Creighton, for whom Creighton University is named, strung the first telegraph wires west in 1860, completing the Omaha to San Francisco line two years later. In 1863, President Lincoln chose Omaha as the eastern terminus for the first transcontinental railroad. These historic developments would impact Omaha for years to come: Omaha currently boasts over two dozen telecommunications centers and is considered the '800-number capital of the nation.' It is also home to the Union Pacific Railroad, one of the biggest railroad organizations in the country.

Nebraska was granted statehood in 1867. At this time, Omaha's population had grown to over 30,000. The city's astonishing growth boomed with the opening of the area's first meat packing plant in 1871; the founding of Creighton University, named for Edward Creighton, in 1878; the formation of a warehouse district and a downtown shopping district; and the establishment of the Union Stock Yards in the 1880s.

1888 saw the opening of Fort Crook, a military establishment that would later become part of
Offutt Air Force Base, home to the Strategic Air Command. Located within the Fort Crook facility was Martin Aircraft Corp. Built here were the legendary B-29 bombers the 'Enola Gay,' which dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in, 1945, and 'Bock's Car,' used to drop the atomic bomb on Nagasaki three days later.

The Trans-Mississippi Exposition, held in Omaha in 1898, brought worldwide attention to Omaha and is considered to be the beginning of the 'Golden Age' for the Nebraska farmer. In 1917, Father Edward Flannigan founded Boys Town, 'a city within a city' for disadvantaged and troubled youth.

Omaha continued to experience tremendous growth during the '20s, '30s and '40s. By 1948, Omaha was the #1 supplier of meat in the nation, generating over $5 billion dollars for Omaha's thriving economy. Modern-day Omaha is the best of both worlds: it offers the benefits of big city life with the warmth and friendliness of a small town. With over 700,000 citizens, the city is a cosmopolitan urban center with scores of excellent restaurants, a world-class zoo, a regional medical center, 11 colleges, and an active entertainment community. Builders recently broke ground on a new multi-million dollar arena/convention center to be located in downtown, a testament to the exciting future that awaits those visiting and living in Omaha.

Omaha's Midwestern atmosphere and 'down-home friendly' feeling stems back to the early days of the pioneers. The city has come a long way -- from a rootin' tootin' wilderness town to a booming, modern metropolis -- and it remains a city that truly stands 'above all others.'

The Weather

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg. High 31 37 48 64 74 84 87 85 76 65 48 34
Avg. Low 10 16 27 38 50 60 65 62 54 41 28 15
Mean 21 27 38 52 62 72 77 74 65 54 38 25
Avg. Precip. 0.7 in 0.8 in 2.0 in 2.7 in 4.5 in 3.9 in 3.5 in 3.2 in 3.7 in 2.3 in 1.5 in 1.0 in


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