One of the best ways to travel is taking a trip to a new place to visit friends, and in June of 2019, I did just that, making the 5-and-a-half-hour drive down to Omaha, Nebraska, to visit my friend Molly. From Minnesota, it’s a breezy drive through a lot of straight, flat cornfields (thanks, Iowa) and glimpses of the farming communities and “simple” (but nevertheless intriguing) life of middle America.
Omaha’s Henry Doorley Zoo
Considered one of the best zoos in the entire world, the Omaha Zoo is undoubtedly worth a visit. I’m very lucky – Molly (and her boyfriend) both work at the zoo, so I had all the hookups for the insider info! Getting to tour around with her was the best, as she took me to all the highlights and I learned a lot. It’s a huge zoo, we didn’t see everything during our day here, but I loved the bits we did get to check out.
This was definitely the coolest experience I’ve ever had at a zoo, the Skyfari is a chairlift that will take you over the exhibits, transporting you from one side of the zoo to another. It was amazing to fly over the Rhino, Giraffe, Lions, and other animals, getting a bird’s eye view into their pens. It’s a pleasant ride, you can see a good portion of the property, and is a must if you’re visiting the Omaha Zoo. I’d recommend getting a one-way ticket, using it as a means to get across to the other side, then walk and explore more on foot.
Pet and feed stingrays? Yes, please! I love rays so much, they are probably my favorite thing to see while scuba diving. Here you can pet them and feed them, as they swim around in a shallow pool. Beware – you might get splashed!
Despite being partially under construction during our visit, the Aquarium was still one of my favorite parts of visiting the zoo. It has some amazing exhibits, with tons of different fish habitats, sharks, jellies, and more. Spend some time learning about these various marine ecosystems, watch a feeding with a diver, or just check out the cool octopus in his tank. Something about aquariums is really calming, and this one is no exception.
Restaurants in Omaha
No matter where you travel to in the world, whether it’s a bustling capital city or a small town, you can always find good restaurants. Omaha is no exception – for what it lacks in luster and culture, it makes up for it with some good food options and plenty of bars worth checking out. Here are a few that we made it to during my weekend visit.
Yum! I tried country fried steak here and I was not disappointed. The Twisted Fork is bustling joint is great for hipster fare and a lively atmosphere. We sat outside, it’s in a spot with lots of bars and restaurants, and during the College World Series on a Friday night, it was busy! The tater tots we split were also delicious – come hungry to this place, they have a lot of heavy southern/country dishes on the menu.
A local chain in Nebraska (although I discovered there are Minneapolis locations too) this was a nice stop for an iced tea. They have a variety of coffee drinks, many sugary, some not. Perfect for a cool-down or your morning caffeine run before the zoo!
This restaurant was a fantastic stop on a Saturday night. It was busy, and it’s easy to see why. Their craft cocktails were delicious, (try the spicy mule) the pizza, salad, and chicken wings we shared were all amazing. The wings were drowning in a delicious, tangy sauce, the pizza had arugula and prosciutto (one of my favorite pizzas, I’m discovering). Sharing a bunch of dishes is the best way to try bits and pieces of the menu, and we loved everything we had ordered.
There are two Pitch Pizzeria locations in Omaha and if you’re looking for a table on a Friday or Saturday night, I’d advise making a reservation.
For my final breakfast, we visited Leo’s Diner. This greasy spoon in the hip “Benson” neighborhood of Omaha is a gem. Counter-style diner with an extensive menu of breakfast favorites, many slathered in gravy. The staff was super sweet, and I loved how the drip-brew coffee was served in mugs that look like they were taken from someone’s house. It was definitely a “locals” joint – I’d go back if I’m ever in town again!
Virgo Nail Salon
A stop during my stay in Omaha was a trip to Virgo Nail Studio. I am not exaggerating when I say this is the best nail salon I’ve ever been to. It was huge – so clean and nice, with great polish options, a fantastic, friendly staff, and top-notch service at reasonable prices. I’m no nail guru, I’ve only really started to get my nails done in the past year, but it’s a self-care practice I really enjoy, especially as I’m working with my hands a lot, typing on my computer or serving at a restaurant.
While I’ll be honest and say that Omaha as a destination isn’t one I’m itching to get back to, it was so much fun to see my friend Molly, tour the zoo, and spend time in the corn belt of the United States.
Have you been to Omaha? What were the highlights?