Brace yourselves for the awesomeness that is Omaha.

You may have preconceived notions about the midwest (as I did) however, my husband and I were in shock and awe of what the city of Omaha had to offer in terms of food, entertainment, hospitality and cleanliness. And, of course, there was steak.

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From the moment we arrived at the airport, I felt welcomed into the midwestern city of Omaha. I have traveled all over the world competing in races and I have never seen such hospitality toward athletes as I did in Nebraska.

Think about it, we come into your city with all of our gear and elitist attitudes, are up at ungodly hours demanding to be fed and caffeinated, we close off your streets so we can bike and run on them, litter the roads with discarded GU packets, water bottles and snot rockets and, most likely destroy part of a park with the collective footprint from our event. I mean, who wants guests like that? Apparently, Omaha does.

These screens were all over the airport and the information booth. I could have felt more welcomed.

These screens were all over the airport and the information booth. I could have felt more welcomed.

FOOD

This topic is my obvious starting point since food is always at the top of my priority list. Prior to leaving I Googled “best restaurants in Omaha” and found two that looked reasonable. I knew I wanted an Omaha steak after my race but was up for anything the night before.

The Grey Plume

What a find! If you are into the trend of farm to table, you should fly to Omaha right now and eat here. It was one of the best meals I have had, the presentation was lovely and the service was outstanding. I only wish I could have sampled the wine but I don’t drink the night before a big race. #Nerd

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The one thing I ate in all of Omaha that I wish I could have one more time, came from this restaurant. Do you see “Duck Fat Fries” on the menu? They were to die for! I didn’t take any more photos of my food, lest my husband kill me with his eyes, but just know that if you ever see “duck fat” anything, you should eat it!

After dinner, we wandered into the small bar area so my husband could finish his wine, while I just stared at it longingly, and we got quite a show from the exposed kitchen.

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Those guys were working harder and faster than some of the athletes I saw at the race the next day. No joke.

If I could only eat at one restaurant while in Omaha, this would be it. The concept of The Grey Plume is simple. All of the food they serve comes from within a certain radius from the property, except for some of the fish selections, for obvious reasons.

The waitress also rattled off something that sounded super impressive and superior about them being the first Green Restaurant Association 4-Star Sustainabuild. Basically everything they do and are is sustainable, recyclable and green. Even the furniture in the place was made from an old barn. Seriously.

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801 Chophouse at The Paxton

When people on the east coast think of Omaha, they either think of Peyton Manning screaming it out just before a hike or, they think of Omaha Steaks. I think of both. Unfortunately, I would only have the pleasure of one of these during my stay.

I selected the 801 Chophouse at The Paxton hotel purely from a Google search. I figured we could not really go wrong and, I was so right.

I started my post-race food fest with the burrata and yellow tomato salad with a balsamic vinaigrette. It was divine. I was also sipping on a lovely pinot noir and was in heaven.

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When my 8 ounces of pure Omaha grass fed cow presented itself in filet form on my plate, my mouth instantly watered. Besides Jean Gorges at Aria in Las Vegas, this was the best filet I have ever had. We also ordered side dishes of mashed potatoes and mushrooms, that we desperately wanted to finish but, literally could not take one more bite. Perfection.

Other great local food and beer were found at Upstream Brewing Company, Le Bouillon (where I had a great lemon tart dessert) and The Twisted Fork where I highly recommend the Cucumber Mules and chicken with parmesan risotto. There was also a market called Cubby’s where I found most of my breakfast food for race morning. Sadly but not surprisingly, they were cleaned out of bananas.

Old Market District

The market district is made up a series of cobblestone streets lined with restaurants, bars and local businesses. It was about a 10 minute walk from our hotel, which was the perfect distance for an after dinner (or cocktails or both) digestion jaunt.

Being able to walk to anywhere besides a farm is a big deal for me and my husband. We absolutely loved the ease of walking out of the hotel, feeling safe and surrounded by a clean and beautiful city of friendly people and families. Of course we were leery of everyone’s friendliness until it dawned on us that, outside of the northeast, people are genuinely nice and don’t even want anything from you. There was an adjustment period.

The view on our daily walks.

The view on our daily walks.

Imagine my surprise when, on our very first trip to the market district, I found my people…

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My dad would have been in absolute heaven in this Cuban cigar bar! My husband and I checked it out for the live music and atmosphere and loved it for as long as we could tolerate the cigar smoke. This is one spot I would love to revisit with my Dad!

I was also happy to see that KUHL Clothing is being well represented in Omaha, with lots of great pieces on display at the local Overland store.

My husband picked out this shirt saying “Hey, don’t you have some sort of deal with these guys?” Yes I do so put it down and I’ll order it when I get home. This is my reminder…

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HOSPITALITY

I really cannot say enough about how welcoming to the athletes the city of Omaha was. From the staff at our hotel to the local businesses and even the Uber drivers. You would think a city that just hosted the Olympic swim trials would be tired of an athlete invasion but it was quite the opposite.

We stayed at the host hotel which was the Hilton on Cass and 10th Street. This is what greeted us at the main entrance:

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When I came down into the lobby at 5:15am on race day there was complimentary coffee and bagels for the athletes. This is practically unheard of, and I did not experience this even when running the Boston or New York City marathons.

Omaha, you are a class act and I thank you for putting up with all of us as we descended onto your lovely space in the country. I sincerely cannot wait to come back next year. Please have my duck fries waiting…

[Tweet “Shock and awe of visiting #Omaha! Where to go and what to #eat! @visitomaha @usatriathlon”]

Have you ever been to Omaha?

Have you ever been pleasantly surprised with a destination?