TG Guide to the Omaha Area

(as of May, 2007)


Omaha is a nice place to live. The standard of living is high, the cost of living is low.

Yes, some will say that Omaha is a well-kept secret, in that it's one of the most TG-friendly communities in the country. Others will say that Omaha is a very stodgy, staid, and closed-minded community. Both of these viewpoints can be said to be valid, depending on one's perspective.

The inner urban core and midtown districts tend to be very live-and-let-live, the areas north and south of the central business district are very blue-collar and ethnic. "Family Values" abound in the 'burbs.

The majority of the downtown-area nightlife is centered around the Old Market District. This is to the south and east of the central business district, spreading south and west from approximately the intersection of 10th and Harney Streets.

Most of the popular GLBT-friendly bars and clubs are on the fringe of the Old Market District.

The general rule of thumb is that almost anyplace in the Old Market District will welcome your business as long as you dress and act appropriately!

Bouncers, doormen, and city cops are known to regularly chase hookers and panhandlers out of the area, so do not even THINK of going to that area dressed in a manner that may be mistaken for a lady of the evening.

With very few exceptions, most mainstream businesses in most areas of the city, such as clothing shops, shoe shops, wig shops, etc. will welcome your business. Your money is just as green as anyone's.


Strong suggestions:

  1. Don't overdress!

    Omaha is a casual town. Casual attire is what is normally seen in public except for the most upscale restaurants and social events. Be sure your outfit is appropriate for your age, size, height, and weight, as well as the time, place, and circumstance of the activity at hand.

  2. Don't hang around in groups.

    Groups of TGs attract attention, a LOT of attention. If there are more than two of you in a mainstream public venue, split up.

  3. Be VERY careful of public restrooms!

    If you choose to use public restrooms, use them properly, discreetly, and individually. NEVER NEVER EVER use a public restroom in groups!

    Misusing a public restroom is a very easy way to get somebody else in trouble! Yes, those who have suffered the immediate and long-term consequences of restroom misuse are often not those who brought on the incidents.


Getting around:

Omaha, for the most part, is very easy to navigate. Numbered streets run north and south with very few exceptions, with Dodge Street being the line between North and South addresses. When numbered avenues appear, they usually do so immediately west of the corresponding numbered street, but occasionally immediately to the east.

Named streets and avenues generally run east and west with some exceptions. In the urban core, streets are mostly laid out in a grid, 12 blocks to the mile.

It is an understatement to say that public transportation is mediocre at best in Omaha. Metro Area Transit (MAT) busses are not recommended for TGs who are not familiar with the area.

Taxis are very "safe" and usually convenient. They will respond to a "hail" on the street, but it is usually best to phone if you need a taxi. Don't worry, drivers are not going to jeopardize their tip by making fun or you or giving you substandard service.

There may be a significant wait for a taxi at periods of peak demand, such as hotel check-out time and bar closing time.

Parking is almost always convenient, often free. Street parking in the Old Market District can be a challenge, but convenient pay lots are in the area.


Bars and clubs:

Almost all of the bars and clubs which are of interest to the GLBT community are located within an area generally to the west and southwest of the Old Market District. See the Big List for specifics on these. Bars which cater to the GLBT community have been known to open and go out of business frequently, but some have been operating continuously for decades.


Shopping:

The Omaha area has a wide variety of mainline shopping malls, national department stores, independent shops, and specialty boutiques.

The major shopping centers and districts include:

  • Crossroads Mall

    This spans a large tract northwest of the intersection of 72nd. St and Dodge Street. Since the 1950s, this has been expanded and remodeled several times and is now anchored by Target', Dillards, and Sears. This mall does have the repution as that of a hangout for kids, but security is very visible in the mall and parking areas. Unfortunately several of the smaller shops and food court booths are vacant. This is the only major mall in the area with covered indoor parking.

  • Westroads Mall

    Somewhat upscale from Crossroads, north of West Dodge Road at Interstate 680. A large 1970s vintage mall, anchored by JC Penney, Dillards, and Von Maur. This mall is generally regarded as being TG-friendly.

  • Oakview ("Oakroads"?) Mall

    If you fell asleep at Westroads and woke up at Oakroads, you might not notice the difference. :) Yet another mainline mall anchored by JC Penney, Dillards, and Sears. Vibration, almost like a mini-earthquake, has been observed in the food court area of this mall ever since it opened in the 1980s. Just southeast of the intersection of 144th and Center.

  • Mall Of The Bluffs

    I-80 at Madison Avenue on the east end of Council Bluffs. On the same scale as Crossroads, anchored by Target', JC Penney, and Dillards. If you're in the area, it's definitely worth stopping, but don't make a special trip of it, nothing there you won't find at the other malls.

  • Village Pointe

    A rather new outdoor shopping complex at 168th. and Dodge.

  • Nebraska Crossing

    The area's only outlet mall. Just off I-80 at SR-31 (216th St).

  • Regency Fashion Court

    Upscale shopping mall to the east of I-680 at the Dodge exit. About 1/2 mile south of Westroads.

  • Old Market district

    Boutiques and specialty shops galore, galleries, bookstores, trendy restaurants and clubs (and some not so trendy) in Omaha's answer to Chicago's Old Town.

You may see references to the Center Mall, Southroads, and Midlands Mall. These are all but dead and are now occupied mainly by offices. There is still a smaller operating Sears store at Southroads, however.


Entertainment:

Most entertainment of all types in the downtown and Old Market areas should be perfectly safe and nonthreatening providing you dress and act appropriately.

The smaller theatrical productions in the Old Market and midtown districts will, with very rare exception, value your patronage.

Events and productions at the large downtown facilities (QWest center, Civic Auditorium/Mancuso Center, Holland Center, etc.) have been attended with very few issues, but you might want to think twice about such things as tractor pulls and monster truck exhibitions. :)

Concerts and touring productions at the Orpheum, Holland Center, Civic Auditorium Music Hall, etc., are good choices for those expanding their public exposure.

About the casinos ...

Casino gambling, both floating and landlocked, is permitted on the Iowa side of the metro area and three full-service casinos exist within a 5 to 10 minute drive of the Downtown Omaha area.

Over the years, our members, as well as Fall Harvest attendees, have visited the casinos with very few reported issues. However, be aware that the casinos tend to be crowded with a mostly blue-collar clientele, many of whom will be under the influence and maybe even bordering on rowdy.

The casinos have their advantages and their disadvantages. Yes, they can be crowded and zooey, and can be just plain scary to those with little public exposure. They do, however, offer a good opportunity to blend in and get lost in the crowd, in an environment where women of all sizes and appearances will be present.

A few suggestions if you want to try the casinos:

  • DON'T OVERDRESS! Dress for the casinos is extremely casual, even those in "smart casual" or "business casual" attire may stand out as being overdressed. Typical casino dress might be described as "comfortable casual" or "blue collar casual", with seed caps, automobile logo t-shirts and such.

  • Don't even THINK of congregating or parading in groups. If there are more than two of you, split up. I might suggest that if there's more than ONE of you, split up.

  • Keep your voice down! If your voice is distinctly masculine, speak in a soft and low tone if at all possible. If you want to order a drink and you are concerned about your voice, grab an empty bottle of your brand of beer (they will be all over the place) and step up to the bar and point to it. You will most likely see others do this as well. Yes, the casinos can be very crowded, noisy, and chaotic, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights.

  • If you are fortunate enough to look under 30 years of age, prepare to be carded as you enter the casino. The casinos face very harsh penalties if they are caught admitting minors, so the guards take this very seriously and will almost always card anybody who appears like they may be under 30.

  • Be EXTREMELY careful if you choose to use public restrooms, and don't even THINK of using them in groups.! The other patrons in these places will not tend to be the open-minded types who will say "OH COOL!" if they realize that you are a TG in the ladies room. They are more likely to tell you off on the spot, or report you as a peeping tom! If you absolutely need to take a bio break, find facilities FAR away from where the others may be obvious. You will find that the facilities in the meeting room areas will be less busy than those in the main casino sections. Be prepared for a line, especially on Friday and Saturday evening.

Council Bluffs, Bellevue, etc.:

Council Bluffs, in Iowa, on the east side of the river, is older than Omaha, smaller, and almost all residential. There has been an attempt (several, actually, over the years) to turn the old Kanesville district into kind of a mini Old Market, but that has not been very successful.

The big attraction to Council Bluffs these days is gaming.

Other than casinos and possibly shopping, there's really not much of TG interest in Council Bluffs.

Bellevue is a smaller city to the immediate south of Omaha, surrounding Offutt Air Force Base, which is Bellevue's major industry. As with Council Bluffs, there have been attempts to turn the older downtown district (Old Towne) into an entertainment and arts district, but it really has not caught on to any degree.


Religious services:

"My God is not an abusive father, sorry about yours!"

In general, any church, temple, synagogue, etc. which states that they value "diversity" is inviting you!

Metropolitan Community Church (Protestant, Trinitarian, Interdenominational, nonjudgemental) has a congregation which is over 90% GLBT. This is probably the "safest" worship option for those with limited public exposure.

First United Methodist Church made national news and set a national precedent when one of its clergy allegedly performed a same-sex commitment ceremony in the late 1990s.

First Unitarian Church has had open and out GLBT members since the 1960s.

Some specific churches which have recently stated that they value diversity include:

  • Metropolitan Community Church
  • First Unitarian Church
  • First United Methodist Church
  • First Central Congregational United Church of Christ
  • Dietz Memorial United Methodist Church
  • All Saints Episcopal Church

Additional information on some of these may appear in the Big List. See link on this page.


Where to avoid:

The Omaha area, just as any other urban area, has its affluent areas, its poorer areas, its safe areas, and its high-crime areas.

The general suggestion here is that if you don't know an area, and don't have anything of particular interest in that area, don't go, particularly after dark. As with many urban areas, the atmosphere can change from perfectly safe to downright scary within a few blocks.

The eastern part of the central business district, the Old Market area, the major shopping malls, the major tourist attractions, and the casinos will be safe and well-guarded both daytime and after dark.

  • The area immediately to the southwest of the central business district is known as a higher than average crime area, with hookers, drug dealers and users, and vagrants not uncommonly seen in the area.

  • The Carter Lake district, geographically on the Nebraska side but politically in Iowa, has a particularly gritty air to it, with such things as go-go bars and dimly-lit streets. Yes, there are some very nice homes on the shore of the lake, but there's probably no real reason for visitors to wander into that area.

  • Incidents of gang activity (hey, we're not picking on anybody, this is all public record) appear to be concentrated in two areas, one being to the north of the central business district, and the other being to the west of the South Omaha business district.

  • The surrounding suburban and exurban towns, some annexed, some independent, are a bastion of God, Country, Mom's Apple Pie, and the Boy/Girl next door, assuming you are the Girl/Boy next door. Papillion (pronounced "pa-PILL-yun"), LaVista, Gretna, Elkhorn, Waterloo, Bennington, etc. These are formerly farming towns which have now become middle and upper middle class bedroom communities with very little shopping, night life, or entertainment. If you know somebody there, you can visit them safely day or night without packing a piece (which is legal here, btw, if you have a permit) but if you don't have a particular reason to go, don't.

So, where exactly in the Omaha area do TGs hang out?

Unfortunately, there is really no good answer to this question.

As of this writing, there are no regular and consistent gathering spots for the TG community.

Likewise, we know of no current recurring "night out" activities.

You may encounter TGs in the various GLBT-friendly bars and clubs, more likely on the weekends, but again you may not. Clubs that have drag shows may or may not have TGs present. Most TGs in the area report that they do go to the bars and clubs occasionally, but not regularly.

Some particular social events, such as Pride Weekend, the Groundhog Prom, and the Night Of 1000 Stars (sponsored by the Nebraska Aids Project) have been known to regularly have TGs in attendance.

At the risk of overgeneralizing, TGs in the area who are "out" tend to go mainstream and tend to go stealth. Those who are closeted tend to stay hidden.