The Omaha skyline at night from the vantage point of the riverfront park along the Missouri.
Though they had never been to Nebraska, they came home enthusiastically endorsing this “Gateway to the West.” Find tips below to help you book your trip and to assist you in convincing your family that a trip to Omaha for the World Cup is the best idea since sliced bread.
The CenturyLink Center Omaha is an entertainment complex consisting of an arena and convention center in the North Downtown neighborhood. The Center, which opened in 2003, will play host to the 2017 FEI World Cup Longines Show Jumping Finals and the FEI World Cup Dressage Finals March 29 – April 2.
Introduction to Omaha
Hello from Nebraska where next spring’s FEI World Cup Dressage and Show Jumping Finals will be held! Mark your calendars for March 29 – April 2, 2017, for a chance to see the world’s best horses and riders compete for one of the sport’s top prizes in America’s heartland.
I have to admit that I didn’t really know much about Omaha or Nebraska before we started planning the trip to cover The International Omaha show held earlier this month. I ordered a visitor’s guide from the Nebraska Tourism Commission and found the website for the Omaha Convention and Tourism Bureau where I downloaded an Omaha Visitor’s Guide entitled 100 Pages of Things to Do in Omaha.
“Really, is there that much to do there?” I thought. Boy, was I uninformed. Omaha is in a word, awesome! It’s the best city that I knew nothing about; a city rich in history, a center for the arts and an area full of culinary delights. And Omaha is a big sports town, hosting the College World Series of baseball each summer and this year’s U.S. Olympic Swim Team Trials.
The TD Ameritrade Ballpark is home to Creighton University Blue Jays baseball and is also the location for the College World Series of Baseball each summer.
The whole idea of going to Nebraska to do research started back in January when I was attending the United States Equestrian Federation Annual Meeting in Kentucky. There I met Lisa Roskens, the founder of the Omaha Equestrian Federation and the International Omaha show, who is responsible for the successful bid to host the World Cup Finals in Omaha next spring, and Mike West, the CEO of the International Omaha and the 2017 World Cup Finals.
Businesswoman, mom and equestrian Lisa Roskens is the driving force behind the Omaha Equestrian Federation and led a team from Omaha to the winning bid to host the 2017 World Cup Finals. She also founded the International Omaha show which has been held at the CenturyLink Center for the last five years.
A city of over 940,000 people, Omaha is made up of many neighborhoods that have grown together, giving Omaha a small-town feel. It’s an easy city to navigate, called a “30-minute city” by one resident because you can easily get from one end of city to the other in 30 minutes or less. It’s also a very affordable city to visit, named the number one “Best-Bang-For-Your-Buck” city by Forbes magazine in 2009.
About the World Cup Finals
The Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) stages annual World Cup Finals in dressage and show jumping each spring at a location that moves from year to year. For a number of years the two sports have had their finals held at the same location at the same time. The World Cup Finals are essentially the FEI winter indoor series finales for these two sports. Although the U.S. has hosted the finals several times, most recently in Las Vegas in 2015, next year will be the first time that a Midwestern city has been home to the finals.
Canada’s Karen Pavicic riding Don Daiquiri won the 2016 the International Omaha Dressage Invitational competition.
Danielle Urban from Canada riding VDL Byacinthe competed in the 2016 International Omaha FEI jumping classes.
The first tickets for the 2017 FEI World Cup Finals went on sale in early May. These are packages of tickets that include seats for all sessions of each discipline. Individual session tickets will go on sale at a later date.
VIP tables and VIP seating (both with access to hospitality lounge with food and drinks) go on sale in June. For more information about VIP tables or VIP seating or to purchase VIP hospitality packages please contact World Cup 2017 CEO Mike West at 402-930-3088.
Hotels & Transportation
You can find a list of hotels at VisitOmaha.com. The downtown hotels are within walking distance to the CenturyLink Center where the competition will take place and the airport hotels are only three miles away.
Most downtown hotels will offer complimentary airport transportation as well as transportation to nearby attractions. If you plan to drive to Omaha or rent a car in town, there are many other hotel choices within easy driving distance of the CenturyLink, but you will have to pay to park at the event. Several local taxi companies, Uber and Lyft are all available. B-Cycle also offers bicycle rentals with many pickup/return stations throughout the downtown area and around other parts of town.
Omaha Equestrian and Other Animal-Related Activities
The World Cup Finals will give you a chance to see Olympians and other top riders from around the world. The World Cup organizers also promise a large shopping area, a parade of breeds, educational activities for children, daily live entertainment and a food court adjacent to the warm-up area so you can dine and watch the action.
Local artists Lynne Reineke and Janna Harsch in their coop booth in the trade fair at 2016 the International Omaha show. They plan to be exhibitors in the shopping area at next spring’s FEI World Cup Finals.
The warm-up area in the CenturyLink Center is surrounded by shopping and dining. Daily live entertainment will be offered in the food court during the World Cup Finals.
Want to see the city in a leisurely way and get your horsey fix all at the same time? Take one of the five different horse-drawn tours offered by Magical Journey Carriage Service. Tour prices range $25 to $120 depending on the length of the tour and the carriage type that you choose.
Magical Journey Carriage Service offers five different tour options around downtown Omaha and several different carriage types including a Vis-à-vis 6-seat carriage, a Hansom Cab, a Limo carriage, Conestoga wagons and the Cinderella carriage shown here.
You can also pay homage to 1935 Triple Crown-winning Thoroughbred Omaha by visiting his grave marker in Aksarben (Nebraska spelled backward) Village where the Ak-Sar-Ben race course was located until it closed in 1995. It’s now an upscale shopping, dining and residential area with Stinson Park featuring the great horse’s memorial marker.
1935 Triple Crown-winning Thoroughbred Omaha (whose sire Gallant Fox was also a Triple Crown winner) is buried in the Ak-Sar-Ben neighborhood where a racetrack once stood. He stood at stud in Omaha for nine years.
If you want to visit some wild equids and other exotic animals, plan a trip to Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium which is consistently ranked among the top five zoos in the world. Weather permitting, the Lee G. Simmons Wildlife Safari Park outside the city offers a drive-through view of North American wildlife including bison, elk and waterfowl and a petting zoo for kids.
Lauritzen Gardens is located near the Missouri River and the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. The 100-acre botanical garden features the Marjorie K. Daugherty Conservatory shown here, a rose garden, a children’s garden, a model railroad garden and a Victorian garden.
Area Attractions To Suit Everyone in Your Family
When we visited we were very lucky to have a local FOX 42 television commentator, Tom Becka, escort us around Omaha for a quick tour. He gave us insight about the city and showed us some of his favorite places. A huge thank you to Tom for sharing his time and his take on the city with us! He said he used to do stand-up comedy and jokingly mentioned the local saying, “Omaha, where the East peters out and the West begins.”
Inside the Crescent Moon Ale House and Eats, our tour guide and local Fox 42 television personality Tom Becka speaks with the bartender.
Good food and libations are easily found in Omaha. The city is known for great steaks and their signature Reuben sandwiches, but you can find food from many nations including Asian, African, German, Irish and Italian cuisine. Around a dozen microbreweries call Omaha home including Infusion where we sampled a great Vanilla Bean Blonde Ale. Then for dessert pick a premium ice cream shop such as Ted and Wally’s in the Old Market District or e-Creamery in the Dundee neighborhood – we tried both and really enjoyed the ice cream and sorbet!
Omaha is full of really neat free things to do too. One of these activities that we enjoyed the most was walking on the riverfront and viewing the bronze statues along the way. Explorers Lewis and Clark landed here as they traveled on the Missouri River and you can visit the Lewis and Clark National Trail Headquarters. Another great walk downtown was to see the huge bronze sculptures depicting the homesteaders’ journey west in their Conestoga wagons in the First National Sculpture Park at the edge of the business district.
One-and-a-quarter-times life-size bronzes decorate several blocks on the edge of the business district in downtown Omaha in the First National Sculpture Park.
A quick pan of the “Pioneer Spirit” sculptures in First National Sculpture Park at the edge of the business district on the corner of 14th and Capital streets.
The Old Market District was the city’s produce warehouse area that has been refurbished into a beautiful shopping and dining district. Other Omaha attractions offer something for everyone in your family: Lauritzen Botanical Gardens; the Durham Museum housed in Omaha’s old art deco Union Station; Boy’s Town; the 3,000-foot Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge which goes from Omaha across the river to Council Bluffs (a.k.a. Bob the Bridge, see a great video about the bridge here); the Joslyn Art Museum; the Omaha Children’s Museum; the General Crook House; Joslyn Castle, and a whole host of other activities including golf, tennis, hiking in natural areas, river boat rides on the River City Star and lots of shopping options. Take a short five-minute drive across the river from downtown to Council Bluffs, Iowa, where you can also “Get Your Vegas On” at the casinos, shop the outlet malls or visit the Union Pacific Railroad Museum.
Talking bronze statues inside the beautiful art deco lobby of the Durham Museum located in the old Omaha Union Station converse as passengers from a bygone era.
The illuminated 3,000 foot span of the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge runs from the riverfront park on the Omaha side to Council Bluffs in Iowa. In the center of the bridge over the river you can be standing in two states at the same time.
Trip Planning Tips
Get your tickets and book your hotel soon as equestrian fans from around the world will be attending. Spend some time at VisitOmaha.com where you can find information on hotels, transportation, attractions, a craft brewery tour, and hotel package and dining deals, plus a list of free things to do around town. A stop at the Omaha Visitor’s Center is really worth your time as well. It is located on the edge of the Old Market District at 1001 Farnam St., Omaha, NE 68102, 1-866-937-6824.
Special thanks to the 2017 Omaha World Cup Finals Organizing Committee members and staff including Lisa Roskens, Mike West, Robyn Eden, Patty Lavelle, Sarah Weiss and press chief Marty Bauman of Classic Communications for their hospitality while we were in Omaha!