Yes Omaha Has The Zoo and the College World Series, But It’s Has SO Much More!
I love Sioux Falls and all it has to offer and continue to get friends and family to come visit us here, but when we're looking for a weekend getaway, one of our favorite places to go is Omaha, Nebraska. It's less than a three hour drive straight south of Sioux Falls and has a ton of entertainment from the Century Link Center, to the 21st Saloon, Sokol Auditorium, The Hive and more.
We love staying at The Hilton located across the street from the Century Link because it's so convenient to get anywhere in the city and is only a few blocks from the Old Market area which has dozens of unique stores and restaurants that we love to visit when we're in town.
The Old Market is also home to two of the eight Omaha breweries on their new 'Brewery Tour' which you can get all the details on at Visit Omaha.com/craftbrew You can request the "Explorer's Journal" that we used to find out where all the breweries are located and a little more about each one.
One of our first stops was at the Upstream Brewing Company, right in the heart of the Old Market. The Upstream is built in a former fire station that ironically, suffered a fire in 1917 on its upper level. The station survived and prospered into the 40's. The building re-opened their doors in 1996 as the Upstream Brewing Company
The Upstream offers a dozen different brews on tap, plus the seasonal flavors and a full menu of American pub food. The fire damaged upper level has been turned into a rooftop beer garden overlooking the Old Market. I tried the American Wheat here which was light yet bold flavored with a hint of lemon and was an award winner at the American Beer Classic. I also tried the Essens Belgian Wit, which is brewed using 262 pounds of strawberries, but it's far from a 'fruity' beer as the wheat really shines with that sweet strawberry taste. We were there on Friday afternoon and with a waiting line to get seated after 5pm, the Upstream is a definite hot spot!
From there, we walked around the corner and down a block or two to the Borgata.
The Borgata takes their name from an old Italian word for 'family'. The Borgata is making a name for themselves by brewing a single malt whiskey not done anywhere else in American and their beer is brewed with all locally sourced ingredients. Their whiskey is already being recognized in competitions and the Kristalweis I sampled convinced me that they will be gaining awards for their beer as well in the not too distant future.
The Farnam House Brewing Company isn't too far from the Old Market, located in Midtown Omaha.
Farnam House Brewing Company was started by two home brewers who are bringing their experiments to the public! Plus they have just started offering up local farm fresh food as well. We tried some chicken wings with a homemade buttermilk ranch and paired it with theur Farnam House Gratzer, made with Polish smoked wheat. It was light, slightly tart and honestly, tasted a bit like bacon!
On Saturday afternoon, we took a drive out to probably our favorite stop of the weekend, to Soaring Wings Vineyard and Brewery in Springfield, Nebraska, about 25 minutes outside Omaha.
Built on ten acres overlooking the Platte River, Soaring Wings was founded by and still run by a husband and wife team who literally bought the hillside location and built it all up from scratch over the past decade. With the wine business going well (and winning multiple awards!) he wanted to bring his home beer brewing expertise into the family business. And after sampling several of the flavors on tap, it was a VERY good idea!
As they were just opening for the day, she was a very gracious hostess and let me try their Low Level Lager and Aviator English Ale which were both light but very flavorful. I tried a Raspberry Wheat which smelled just like you would imagine and tasted even better! And being the rock guy I am, I just HAD to sample the "Hop Zeppelin Double IPA" which had a bold backbone and lots of hop flavor. Bold!
Soaring Wings offers live music on Friday evenings and Sunday afternoons through the summer and the view is absolutely beautiful. Well worth the short drive and next time we're in the area, we're going out for an evening of music, beer, wine and cheeses!
With only a two day trip, we weren't able to hit all eight of the breweries but plan to go back soon so we can complete the 'tour'. I put tour in quotation marks because it's not really a formal 'tour' that you go on, though some of the breweries do offer tours. It's more a way of letting you know about the incredible craft brews going on in and around Omaha and built in cool places like the Benson Brewery, which is built in a 1910 neighborhood movie theatre! Also in the Benson neighborhood (which has a ton of great live music options!) is Infusion Brewing. Infusion is located in a 1917 meat market in the neighborhood and was renovated to recapture many of those elements.
Several friends have recommended the Lucky Bucket. It was named that because before cans and bottles, people would bring home beer from the barrels in a bucket. And also because the brewers loved that unique flavor that comes with a barreled beer. And the Nebraska Brewing Company, located in Papillion and offering a casual to upscale menu and handcrafted beer.
In addition to visiting a number of the fantastic craft breweries in the area, we hit the Farmer's Market in the Old Market on Saturday morning, shopped in a number of unique stores, sampled several restaurants that we don't have in Sioux Falls, listened to a number of talented street musicians (we heard a saxophone player absolutely nail Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street") and thought about taking a horse drawn carriage ride through the cobblestoned streets of the Old Market.
Omaha still has the Henry Doorly Zoo, the College World Series and everything else you've remembered, but there is SO much more to explore. Check out Visit Omaha for upcoming events and to plan your next Omaha getaway!