The Old Market has a reputation for being a touristy neighborhood near downtown Omaha, but there’s much more to this small district. Where else can you get a tattoo, attend an inclusive worship service and browse vinyl while sipping a scotch, all within a three-block radius?

It’s almost unthinkable now, but back in the fifties as Omaha expanded westward, this neighborhood was threatened with almost total demolition. It might have not existed today, but it survived intact thanks to many concerned locals.

Now, fine dining restaurants mixed with bars, art galleries, kitschy shops, all make this district a unique cultural center. The best advice you can take is to forget your car or park it somewhere free. This is a walkable neighborhood and not worth paying a parking meter. (Plus, do you really want to feel rushed?)

Keep on reading to find out what makes the Old Market the Old Market.

Best Restaurants and Bars

Le Bouillon, with Niki de Saint Phalle sculpture and Samuel Mercer paintings. Photo courtesy

Craving some affordable French food in a quaint, European atmosphere? Then La Buvette is the way to go. This restaurant features the best selection of classic French dining in Omaha, as well as an incredible range of international red and white wines, and even houses a specialty grocery. More importantly, this restaurant does not rush you. You’re allowed to enjoy your meal á la Française.

Another great French restaurant is Le Bouillon. Stop by this restaurant if you’re an art aficionado because this restaurant features a monumental sculpture by the late French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle and works by local Samuel Mercer.

Best Shops

Jackson Street Booksellers. Photo by Dana Damewood.

Thanks to large online, multi-national booksellers, many local mom and pop bookstores have closed down due to extreme competition. So it really comes as a welcome surprise that one such store is thriving in Omaha’s very own Old Market. Jackson Street Booksellers has been specializing in selling used, rare, and out-of-print books since 1993.

Cubby’s is probably the craziest convenience store you’ll ever visit in Omaha. It has all the essentials every gas station shop would have, but it’s also a grocery and a deli. That may not seem surprising at all, but there are some really interesting stark contrasts within the store. You’ll find sections of artisanal cheeses, gluten-free and vegan frozen meals and caviar next to Kool-Aid, all in the same place you can get an order of fried chicken. This store really epitomizes the Old Market with its stark trash-core aesthetic mixed with its quickly gentrifying high culture.

Best Architectural Features

Pop-Up Oasis Garden. Photo courtesy

The Pop-Up Oasis Garden is a small utopian garden on the outskirts of the Old Market. Though, unfortunately, it was heavily damaged during the recent flooding in Omaha, is still exists as a space to welcome community and to recognize the history of the land it sits on.

In 2017, an old building was razed, leaving an unused plot of land. Inspired locals and non-profits realized that it could be utilized for the public’s good and established a garden exclusively for crops that are indigenous to the area using traditional agricultural methods, like the Three Sisters gardening approach. It’s worth a visit during the summer, but you’ll likely have to wait until next year to see it flourishing again.

Nearby the Pop-Up Oasis is a small historical building constructed in 1887. It was originally a distribution complex in Omaha built in the Romanesque style. Now, the small building is the only thing that remains of the large complex and hosts a law firm.

One of two Art Deco jewels in Omaha is the Durham Museum, a former train station turned history museum. The exterior is a gorgeous pearl angular façade characteristic of the architectural movement and worth seeing even if you don’t want to go inside a pay an admission fee.

Best Art Galleries

Therman Statom in the Community exhibition. Photo courtesy KANEKO.

If you’re looking for art in the Old Market, there are many galleries around the area and are free to visit. One hidden jewel is the Garden of the Zodiac Gallery located within the Old Market Passageway. As the name suggests, it’s both a traditional gallery, and has an exterior garden based on the twelve Zodiac signs by artist Swiss artist Eva Aeppli. The other major institution in the area is KANEKO, a monumental gallery founded by world-renowned ceramicist Jun Kaneko.

Best Touristy Things

The Old Market Passageway. Photo courtesy
  • Old Market Passageway
  • 1020-1098 Howard Street

One fun landmark in the neighborhood is the Old Market Passageway, a multi-floor hallway with many restaurants, galleries, and clothing shops. It’s a very touristy destination, but worth it to walk around and visit the many shops in the space. On a plus side, if you visit during the evening, you might even get a chance to view a sidewalk performer right outside the entrance.

Want to relive you childhood candy fantasies? Then go to Hollywood Candy! It has a vast selection of candy and vintage antiques, all within in a retro-inspired interior. Ted and Wally’s also has an array of ice cream flavors made in an old fashioned way. They’ve even done experimental flavors, like Covfefe.

Best Outdoor Events

Old Market Pride Parade. Photo courtesy

The Old Market hosts many outdoor events on an annual basis. Currently, the local farmer’s market will gather every Saturday until October 9 from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. On Sunday October 2, the Farmers Market hosts an in-person event, Omaha Food Day 2021. This is a celebration of local producers, restaurants, retailers, and nonprofits that strengthen our food systems and keep Omahans healthy.

And though the Pride Parade and Blues Festival already happened, it’ll be here again next year. What better reason do you need to come back to the Old Market?!

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