Nebraska-Part 1 (Omaha)
Our September trip to Omaha was the first vacation we have taken since the Covid-19 shut down in March. As you can imagine I was a little hesitant however, we came for the Omaha Half Marathon and since it was still on, so were we. For any runners out there you can check out my blog review on the race here.
We spent 3 nights in Omaha and upon landing at the airport we went straight to our first brewery of the trip, The Benson Brewery Located in the "Benson" neighborhood an up-and-coming retro area of Omaha where they partner with local business and farms to create their menu. This is where I was first introduced to Poutine, fries and cheese curds covered in brown gravy, Yummmm. You can see it below at the top of the picture. We were able to socially distance ourselves by sitting outside and enjoying the beautiful Nebraska weather.
Now that we were nice and full we headed to our hotel, The Cambria Suites. Our room faced the TD Ameritrade Stadium which was only one block away. Opened in 2011 the TD Ameritrade Stadium is home to the College World Series. In fact Omaha has been home to the Series since 1950. Although there was no baseball being played while we were there our Half Marathon Expo, Start and Finish line were located at the stadium. Another very important landmark located close by, in fact it was just across the street from our hotel was the Zipline Brewery. Originally out of Lincoln, NE they conveniently expanded to Omaha.
After a quick nap we headed to The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge. Bob's Bridge, as locals call it is a .9 kilometer pedestrian bridge. It crosses the Missouri River and connects Omaha to Council Bluffs, Iowa. Around the bridge there is a 3 acre green plaza that is surrounded by private condo residences. While we were there a wedding party was taking pictures and there was live music being played while the residents dined outside on their porches. They also had some venders selling snacks. As you walk over the bridge you can "bob" between two states. After a few pictures and then it was off to the Old Market in downtown Omaha.
The Old Market is the place to go for shopping and dining. We decided to eat at Plank Seafood and Provisions. This is a hip restaurant specializing in fresh seafood and oysters. We sat at the bar which was labeled as "sanitized" and I started with a Bloody Mary Martini. Since we had a pretty filling and late lunch we only ordered some appetizers but then we finished it off with the most delicious Banana Foster Bread Pudding, amazing.
If you're ever in or around Omaha you must visit the Holy Family Shrine . It's located right off Interstate 80 in the town of Gretna, NE approximately a half hour drive from Omaha. The Holy Family Shrine is a Catholic Church that holds mass on Saturdays however, due to Covid-19 the services have been cancelled until further notice. No weddings or professional photography is allowed because they want to stay true to their mission to provide opportunity for all people to discover and develop their faith without distraction. The Holy Family Shrine is spectacular! It consists of a visitor's center, chapel and the Stations of the Cross which is located along the perimeter of the property. The chapel was designed after a similar one located in Arkansas named the Cooper Chapel. During construction of the Nebraska chapel in 2000 a terrible windstorm took place collapsing the structure. The chapel was eventually completed in 2002. It is surrounded by open space and a beautiful garden of wildflowers. Inside the visitor's center there is a suspended water fountain that drips down into a small pond. The pond then connects to a stream separating the floor that leads outside of the building. Follow the stream outside as it makes it way into the chapel. While in the chapel it is divided into to two smaller streams running along the side of the pews. The water is then deposited into another small pond just under the alter. I was mesmerized watching this process. While inside the visitor's center there was a basket filled with tiny Medals of St. Benedict, the patron saint of contagious disease for visitors to take.
Public art is a big deal in Omaha. The Spirit of Nebraska Wilderness display consists of over 100 individual bronze statues covering approximately 6 city blocks. It tracks the Oregon Trail with the arrival of the wagon train through what later would become downtown Omaha. It then displays the result of these pioneer's arrival on the wildlife, specifically the bison and geese as they flee through the city.
This is a beautiful sculpture and the largest of it's kind in the United States. It's pretty neat to see all of the statues being surrounded by the buildings of the city. It makes you think about the land before modernization. Another great display is in front of the Convention Center. It's named ILLUMINA. This exhibit includes numerous statues of circus acts and entertainment. It is located in the front of the building by the entrances. In the middle of the display is a large working clock (you can see it in the background of the picture). The exhibit also includes a stilt walker, juggler and musicians among others.
You can't go to Nebraska without having a steak and boy did we have some awesome ones on our trip. While in Omaha we visited Brother Sebastian's Steak House. In 2015 it was named one of the top 50 American steakhouses. Located just a few miles outside of downtown this steakhouse is placed in a small strip mall however, when you go inside you are transformed into a California monastery. It was dark yet inviting. We were sat in a private booth with a statue of a monk overlooking us. The monk was wearing a facemask in compliance with Covid-19 protocols. In fact all of the statues were wearing facemasks, a pretty funny touch. Our dinner included bread and a salad bar. We both ordered the lobster bisque I had the Filet Oskar while Dave ordered the Porterhouse Steak. Both cooked to perfection. Unfortunately we were too full for dessert this time.
One thing that Omaha does not have a shortage of is Breweries. It is our tradition that after completing our half marathons we go barhopping. Lately those bars have been breweries. Our favorite one was actually in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Full Fledged Brewing Company. It is only about 4 miles from Omaha, just over the state line. We shared a flight of very cold beer which included Chili Buzz a jalapeno infused beer which was my favorite. One of the elements included in rating breweries in addition to the taste and temperature of the beer is the availability of t-shirts, specifically men's shirts. Dave always buys a t-shirt from the breweries that we visit and we've visited quite a lot. Full Fledged provided a nice variety for purchase. Then it was off to Omaha where we visited:
Below is our selfie brewery collage.
Well, that was our 3 day tour of Omaha. We visited and saw a lot but I'm sure we also missed many great attractions. Due to Covid-19 many sites were closed or had adjusted hours or days which prevented us from seeing them. It was nice to get away from the South Florida heat and get back to traveling even if it was with restrictions. After Omaha we headed North and then West on our tour of Nebraska. Stay tuned!