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A metropolis at the edge of the great American West, Omaha offers open spaces, cozy neighborhoods, and true pioneer spirit. Between the spot where Lewis and Clark's expedition made its first landing and the station where the Union Pacific Railroad began its path to California, there's now a bustling collection of galleries, museums, pedestrian malls, and performance spaces in between the towers and convention centers. That combination makes for a variety of things to do in Omaha as you get to know how the city became known as the Gateway to the West.
A historic piece of Omaha's Downtown that still has its covered sidewalks and brick-paved roads from the horse-and-carriage days, the Old Market still feels like a frontier town in the middle of the city. Now frequented by artists and street performers, the neighborhood is home to lofts built in converted warehouses, along with restaurants and retailers in storefronts that date back to the 1870s.
Public parks, research centers, century-old buildings, and modern developments make Midtown one of the city's most dynamic districts. Fueled by its proximity to I-480 and some of Omaha's biggest employers, the area has collected its share of trendy outlets on tree-lined streets, which sit alongside grand churches and stately manors that hearken back to the olden days.
Walking and bicycle trails, a swimming pool, and an 18-hole golf course make Elmwood Park a prime outdoor destination. Framed by the University of Nebraska Omaha, the College of St. Mary, and one of the city's newest developments in Aksarben Village, the area has a modern college-town feel of pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods alongside the open fields and tree-lined streams.
A waystation for pioneers since the Oregon Trail, Omaha has a wealth of historic buildings. You can spot an array of styles, from the Spanish Renaissance Revival design of St. Cecilia's Cathedral and the Second Empire architecture of the Cornish House to the Scottish Baronal manor of Joslyn Castle. A few more landmarks stand as gardens and open spaces, including the birthplace of Gerald Ford in Hanscom Park and that of Malcolm X in North Omaha. And the Missouri boasts plenty of natural allure, from the monument of Lewis & Clark Landing to the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, where you can walk over the water to visit the vast riverside parks of Council Bluffs.
Omaha's favorite attraction is the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, which features wildlife in artificial biomes that include one of the biggest indoor deserts and rainforests in the world, not to mention sea creatures from jellyfish to sharks. You can take a look at the rise of the West at the Durham Museum, housed in the grand Union Station building, and relive the pioneer era at Florence Mill.
If you're after arts and culture, then the Joslyn Art Museum offers a collection of works that range from ancient Greek and European works to Western and Native American creations. You can find a showcase of Hispanic and Latin American culture at El Museo Latino, and Modern Arts Midtown features contemporary paintings and sculpture.
For some time outdoors, go water-skiing on Carter Lake, go tubing on the Elkhorn River, or ride a gondola along the downtown waterfront. If you're in Omaha in the winter months, try ice skating on Standing Bear Lake, take your snowshoes for a trek in Neale Woods nature preserve, or head out to Mahoney State Park for some ice fishing or cross-country skiing in the wilderness.