Destination: Omaha, Neb.

Edward Kearns

Edward Kearns

Omaha is closer than you might think and has more to do than you might imagine.

Topping the list of attractions in Omaha is the Henry Doorly Zoo. It was named “The Best Zoo in America” in the May 2004 edition of Reader’s Digest.

The large park features a wide variety of animals and exhibits. As a visitor you have the chance to walk through a life-like rainforest exhibit and the nation’s largest big-cat house.

Henry Doorly Zoo is also home to a free-flight aviary where visitors can walk on a suspended walkway among 500 exotic birds. The aviary is the second largest of its kind in the world.

Other popular exhibits are the Desert Dome and the 72,000 square foot Scott Aquarium. Currently under construction is a brand new home for the zoo’s gorillas.

Anyone visiting the zoo should wear a good pair of walking shoes. Hiking through the park and all its exhibits will take a full day.

Also on the grounds is the Lozier IMAX Theater. With a screen that measures 61 feet tall and 83 feet wide plus a 12,000 watt surround sound system, you’ll feel like you are right in the middle of the movie.

The theater is currently showing three different features: Alaska: Spirit of the Wild; Lewis and Clark: Great Journey West; and for a little extra money you can check out Bugs! 3D.

If you enjoy a good day shopping you can head downtown to The Old Market. Under the sidewalk canopies and shade of the trees, more than 100 merchants sell goods from all over the world.

But the Old Market is much more than shopping. Art galleries in the market show works from both regional and international artists. A number of restaurants offer everything from a mid-day snack to a fine dining experience. The coffee bars and pubs found in the market also provide a variety of musical entertainment.

For those who enjoy the fine arts, Orpheum Theater / Holland Performing Arts Center might be a good stop. The late Jonathan Larson’s award-winning musical RENT just closed and the Omaha Symphony Masterworks will play on Oct. 22 and 23.

Also in Omaha is the Joslyn Art Museum. As Nebraska’s largest art museum it features a large permanent collection ranging from ancient to 20th century works.

If you are up for a bit more adventure you can take a trip across the river to the Ameristar Casino and Hotel in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Even if you are not old enough to gamble, the Ameristar Hotel is worth checking out.

Three restaurants in Ameristar’s streetscape offer a wide range of meals that are nicely priced for any budget.

For those who like to gamble, the riverboat casino is the place to be. With three decks featuring Vegas style slots and table games there is plenty to keep you busy until the early morning hours. Even though the boat cannot head out on the river anymore, it is still worth visiting.

#1.885801:1059960008.jpg:Desert Dome.jpg:Visitors walk through the courtyard outside the Desert Dome at the Henry Doorly Zoo.: