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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
"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:
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.
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.