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Omaha or Minneapolis: what to do, what to see?
March 22, 2014 5:01 PM   Subscribe

For the first time ever, my partner and I will be taking a vacation together, and we're looking at either Omaha or Minneapolis. Looking for things we should see-- all suggestions welcome!

We're planning to spend about a week, are planning for the first half of June, and are living in western Missouri (planning to drive, so on-the-way-to suggestions are also welcome).

We like: zoos, animal exhibits, science exhibits, history (military for him, 1900-1930s American pop culture for me), and geek stuff (ranging from D&D to MST3K to video games).
posted by ElaineMc to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Omaha has a few nice charms. The Henry Doorly Zoo is world renowned and has some really immersive indoor exhibits. There's also the Durham Museum, which is a repurposed classic art deco train station. On the way up from Lincoln you have the Strategic Air and Space Museum, which has a lot of cool planes and exhibits. The Old Market strip downtown has some trendy restaurants, pubs, coffee shops, etc and is really the only thing remotely funky about Omaha, at least in public. The downtown area also has lots of bronze sculptures depicting buffalo and prairie settlers (though I'm not fond of the implied narrative of them all). There's also a park area by the riverfront, with a pedestrian bridge over to Iowa. Be sure to catch a meal at McFoster's in midtown. You can also visit the birthplace of Malcom X up in the north side.
posted by planetesimal at 5:41 PM on March 22 [2 favorites]


Oh, also check out Little Italy. Historical connections to the Mafia!
posted by planetesimal at 5:44 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]


If you decide on Omaha, make a stop in Lincoln. You can visit one of the many museums on UNL's campus (art, quilts, regional art, geology/fossil mammoths/dinosaurs). The State Capitol Building is pretty cool, the Haymarket area and downtown areas have good restaurants and coffee shops plus some galleries and little artist's studios. There's a cute small children's zoo next to a little rose garden and both of them are across from the Sunken Garden, and there's also a large park and nature reserve at Pioneer's Park.
posted by PussKillian at 6:01 PM on March 22


Omaha: exactly what planetesimal said! Henry Doorly is a big institution and much better than the Minnesota Zoo IMO. The Joslyn Art Museum is also nice and if you like art deco stuff, the historic building itself is spectacular example of that era of design.
Areas to explore: Midtown: "revitalized" centrally located neighborhood with new restaurants, shops, etc. Dundee: older neighborhood near UNO, also shops, restaurants and the Dundee Theater is a longstanding art house cinema and cult midnight movie purveyor. North of Downtown: another "revitalized" area adjacent to downtown/near Old Market and the convention center. Notably home to the Slowdown, Film Streams and the Hot Shops.

In between Omaha and Twin Cities:

LeMars, Iowa. "Ice Cream Capitol of the World" and Blue Bunny headquarters. Nothing major but the scoop shop is cute, there are souvenirs and it makes a good pit stop.

West Bend, Iowa. The Grotto of the Redemption The spectacular life's work of a Father Paul Dobberstein, an elaborate and strange series of grottoes, statues and gardens is "frequently considered an 8th Wonder of the World" according to their website. Great place for a picnic if it's not too hot.

Austin, MN. SPAM museum and Hormel headquarters. This is actually a decent sized museum with exhibits of surprising quality but all playing on the fun and quirky history and "cultural impact" of SPAM, including the Monty Python sketch: a great walk-through.

Here's a map of a nice scenic route that hits these sites. (Although I realized I put the Spam museum on there, but Austin is easy to find east of I-35)

Minneapolis/St. Paul:
Fort Snelling (St. Paul)
There are great parks throughout the cities many of which connected via bike paths: Lake Harriet and Minnehaha Falls are favorites.
Science Museum of Minnesota (in St. Paul)
The Mill City Ruins Park, Stone Arch Bridge and Mill City Museum are all near each other and St. Anthony Falls. Great for strolling outside and the museum is a really interesting historic flour mill.

(In general, I would consider the Twin Cities much more interesting with more outdoor greenspaces and neighborhoods and diverse cultural happenings than Omaha, more walkable/bikable, but Omaha has come a ways in this regard recently, too. The drive between is easily doable in one day.)
posted by dahliachewswell at 6:20 PM on March 22 [2 favorites]


Also, if you like baseball the college world series is in Omaha every June.
posted by planetesimal at 6:42 PM on March 22


I have been to them both in the past year and I have to say if you go to either consider a MeFi meetup because there is a great crowd of MeFites in both places (smaller crowd in Omaha). My take was that there was more hip stuff and outdoorsy stuff in Minneapolis and more funky midwestern niftiness in Omaha. I also agree with the suggestion of going to Lincoln, the state capitol is really amazing in a way you don't at all expect.
posted by jessamyn at 8:15 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]


Minneapolis: Fort Snelling, fur trade and Native American history, Como Zoo (smaller but right in the city and close to a beautiful conservatory, golfing and lake), Minnesota Zoo and Imax (bigger and more expensive, but worth it). Lagoon Theatres have great films. Science Museum, Bell Museum of Natural History, MeetUps to meet the nerds, Chatterbox Cafe and Insert Coin, possible film festivals, tons of great outdoor activities. The weather will be all right and definitely better than later in the summer!
posted by ramenopres at 6:25 AM on March 23


I don't live in Omaha but I've been told McFoster's has closed. Sadly.
posted by fritley at 10:22 AM on March 23


McFoster's is open under new management; the new people were trained by the original owners. I'm going to add to this list the labyrinth at Congregational Church (open 24 hours), the great view from the Lewis & Clark Monument in Council Bluffs (Council Bluffs also has this crazy Squirrel Cage Jail shaped like a Lazy Susan as well as a Union Pacific museum in a former Carnegie Library) and the Western Trails Heritage Center, just for the fun architecture. I'd also add the Mormon Trail Center in Florence (Omaha). They will try and convert you, but the history is interesting.
posted by intrepid_simpleton at 6:53 PM on March 23


In addition to the Minneapolis suggestions above, you might also consider a visit to the Bakken Museum.
posted by Area Man at 7:13 AM on March 24


The Minnesota Zoo is good, but so is the smaller Como Zoo (and they have Polar Bears). There is also the newer Reptile and Amphibian Discovery Zoo in Owatonna (south of the Twin Cities on I-35).
posted by soelo at 11:08 AM on March 24


If you are near Omaha, you MUST go to the squirrel cage jail that I learned about here on the Blue.

This museum is so weird and the idea of the jail so bizarre that it is worth a tour.

And if MN, detour for the Spam museum.
posted by Sheppagus at 11:21 AM on March 24


Omaha it is! We'll be hitting the Zoo, the museums, the Appollon, the Shakespeare showing, and everything else we can squoosh in! Thanks so much for all the advice!
posted by ElaineMc at 2:04 AM on April 1


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