Omaha, Nebraska, is an uncomplicated yet unusual blend of history, financial acumen, community engagement and all-American, Midwestern sensibilities. Born on the banks of the Missouri River with a visit by Lewis and Clark in 1804, Omaha is now quietly recognized as one of America's richest cities, thanks to its famous resident, Warren Buffett. Enjoy a steak, play at the zoo, explore the riverfront, and ride a train — and don't underestimate Omaha.
Must see in Omaha
The Henry Doorly Zoo is world-renowned as a leading zoological facility. Don't miss the rainforest and cafe, the gorilla exhibit and the Desert Dome. Families will also enjoy the Omaha Children's Museum, recognized for its creative space and technology labs for children. Fans of art and American history appreciate the Joslyn Art Museum for its extensive collection of works from the American West, including Karl Bodmer watercolors.
Where to stay in Omaha
Downtown Omaha is pleasantly walkable and good for families or business travelers who want to explore the Missouri riverfront while in town. After a walk across the river into Iowa via the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, take time to explore the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail Visitors Center.
The Old Market area, adjacent to downtown, is where younger travelers will find energetic bars and independent live music venues, such as Slowdown.
The least expensive and best bargains in lodging can be found just across the river from downtown in Council Bluffs, IA.
Best and worst time go to Omaha
The best time to visit Omaha is early fall, from mid-September through October. The heat and humidity have abated, but it's warm enough to enjoy exploring the outdoor activities of the city. It can become brutally cold in January and February with heavy ice and snow on occasion. The city is quite crowded in mid-June during the College World Series at the TD Ameritrade Park.
Where to get lost in Omaha
The Hot Shops Art Center is technically in downtown, but it is a neighborhood within itself of 80 studio artists and four galleries. Watching the artists at work, shopping or just admiring the finished pieces is a pleasant afternoon or evening, especially during the frequent special events at the center.
The best deal in Omaha
The Gene Leahy Pedestrian Mall is a ten-acre park that connects downtown and the Old Market with walking paths, gardens, sculptures and lots of green space. The holiday Festival Of Lights and other public celebrations take place here.
Transportation in Omaha
Although the Metro Transit bus system is reliable and affordable, most visitors will find no trouble exploring Omaha by private automobile. Many of the most popular sites are several miles from one another. But don't worry — streets are laid out in a grid and parking is abundant, often free.
Getting In from Eppley Airfield
Eppley Airfield, located on the north side of the city, is a convenient four miles from downtown Omaha. Almost every hotel offers a free shuttle and the Metro Transit runs every half hour. Otherwise a cab is a quick, inexpensive option in Omaha.
Local tip for visitors to Omaha
The Omaha Community Playhouse is the nation's largest community theater, where, as an infant, Marlon Brando waited backstage while his mother starred in the opening show. Later Henry Fonda, Peter Fonda and Jane Fonda all appeared in OCP productions. Take in a show while in town.
Author's bio: Diana Lambdin Meyer is a travel writer based just down the river from Omaha, in Kansas City, MO. Follow her on Twitter @mojotraveler.