There is an independent film entitled Omaha, filmed in the city of Omaha. Perhaps you saw the film at the Sundance Film Festival, or on the Sundance Film Channel, but this movie has little to do with the city itself. Omaha is a city of contrast and paradox. It's a hilly bluff set in the flat state of Nebraska. It is a modern city, set in a conservative and rural stretch of the Midwest.
A Brief History
Originally inhabited by the Omaha and Ogualla Sioux Tribes, Omaha was a major centre of trade, and a gateway between the colonies and westward expansion. The name was a Native American term for 'River City'. The town consisted of two cities initially, Omaha and South Omaha which is the industrial side of town where the stockyards were built.
Were it not for a cheap hotel mattress, Omaha might be one of the largest cities in the world. For you see, Abraham Lincoln did not enjoy his stay in an Omaha hotel, and decided to route the young country's trade through Chicago, Illinois instead. Chicago consequently grew into the third largest city in the United States. The state capital was also yanked from Omaha when proof was discovered that the election to have the capital building in Omaha was rigged.
The historic Omaha stockyards still operate today, and arguably the finest beef in the world is produced within. The Union Pacific Railroad, famous for the 'Golden Spike' that united the country coast-to-coast, began in Omaha and operates out of the city to this day.
Omaha also hosts one of the world's finest zoos. The Henry Doorly Zoo has the world's largest indoor rain forest, and an Omnimax theatre. The Aksarben (Nebraska spelled backwards) Coliseum is a popular spot, however Omaha's most recognisable landmark is 'Boy's Town', and the statue located in front of 'Boy's Town'. Founded by Father Flannagan, and immortalised not only in stone, but in song and the film Boy's Town, the project has grown and now several of these centres for juvenile delinquents can be found across the country. And while it is not really a landmark, thousands flock to Omaha as summer draws to a close for the College World Series. However, if you were to ask an Omahan about their big landmark, they would all point downtown to the Old Market.
The Old Market
One can't properly pass through Omaha until you've stopped at the Old Market. It is simply a small section of town, filled with brick roads, horse-drawn carriages riding along the downtown traffic, restaurants and shopping. The park provides a wonderful view of the city, but the Old Market is more than the sum of the shops and restaurants contained within. It has become a Mecca for socialites yearning for a nightlife the Midwest seldom offers. You can buy old books, antiques, tobacco, music, coffee, vegetables, jewellery, and even vintage Playboy magazines. You can grab a slice of pizza, or partake in some of the Midwest's finest dining at the French Café, the Passport, and Omaha Prime.
If the stark changing seasons and low crime rate don't shock you at first glance, the attitude of Omahans will surely take you by surprise. While many are accustomed to avoiding eye contact, and pretty much any form of contact with strangers, it is not unusual for strangers to greet each other on the street . Nebraska football is a common topic of conversation, as is the rapidly changing weather. Almost equally frightening is the sudden realisation that public transportation in Omaha is relatively safe and graffiti free. A marvellous place to live, but since so few travel here, it remains a growing, yet unnoticed jewel in the midwest.