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Omaha Magazine

Obviously Omaha: Royal to Wicked, Six History Tours in Omaha

Jun 24, 2020 02:00PM ● By Linda Persigehl
collage of tour images

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We are not makers of history. We are made by history.” One of the best ways to understand a city’s culture and arts scene is to study its history. Omaha offers several historical tours that lend insight into the people who founded and built this town nicknamed “the Gateway to the West” and the events that shaped it. 

Here are some of the offerings ideal for history lovers, those new to our fair town, and trivia buffs. (They’ll also provide you with interesting tidbits for table talk at your next dinner party!) In most cases, reservations are required, and can be made online. Please call ahead, as the ongoing pandemic means not all these tours are operating at this time.

Joslyn Castle
3902 Davenport St.

George and Sarah Joslyn, printing industry entrepreneurs and major philanthropists of Omaha in the early 20th century, lived in an actual castle. Guests can visit the first, second, and third floors of the 35-room, Scottish Baronial mansion built in 1903 in Midtown, as well as the garden and grounds on the five-acre estate. The castle is an Omaha Landmark Historic Structure and on the National Register of Historic Places.

Wicked Omaha Tours –
History Walks LLC
10th and Farnam streets

 This group provides intimate walking tours of downtown Omaha’s Central Park Mall and new Capitol District, once home to saloons, mediums telling fortunes, rowdy music halls, and brothels.  Notable civic leaders, including political boss and racketeer Tom Dennison, conducted many of their dirty deeds in these establishments  The group also leads walking tours of Omaha’s oldest cemetery, Prospect Hill.

River City History Tours –
The Durham Museum
801 S. 10th St.

 The Durham offers six historical tours year round, both private and public. Guests ride Ollie the Trolley through the streets of Omaha while knowledgeable guides narrate stories of Omaha’s unique and varied past. Tour titles include: Millionaires and Mansions; Last Call for Alcohol; From Expositions to Jazz Musicians; Parks and Boulevards; and its newest, the Remember the Ladies tour, which recounts the contributions of Omaha’s founding first ladies of business, including brothel owner Anna Wilson.

South Omaha Museum Tours
2314 M St.

 This museum, which held a grand reopening in March 2020, tells the unique cultural history of South Omaha, once dubbed the “Magic City.” It offers five tours: Taste of South O, South Omaha Walking Tour, Heritage Murals, Ethnic Neighborhoods, and Omaha & South Omaha History. Guides share tales of the immigrant food and culture brought to the area, the history of the Stockyards and meat-packing industry, the influence of baseball and Rosenblatt Stadium, and more.

Old Market District History Tour
10th and Farnam streets

A Nebraska Tour Co. guide escorts groups through the cobblestone streets of Omaha’s famous historic business and entertainment district, now home to trendy boutiques, fine eateries, breweries, art galleries, and more. Guests will learn about the history and architecture of the Jobber’s Canyon buildings (restored in the 1970s), as well as hidden passageways and secrets of the Old Market. The group also offers an Old Market Beer Tour and a food tour. Reservations are required and can be made online.

Boys Town Tour
13628 Flanagan Blvd.

Learn about the history of Father Flanagan’s village, founded a century ago with the mission of helping struggling young people grow into responsible, productive members of society. Today it is one of Omaha’s most recognized sites. Guided group tours take guests throughout the campus,  the Hall of History, Dowd Chapel, Garden of the Bible, and Chambers Chapel, where Flanagan is entombed. Private, custom tours are available.

This article was printed in the July/August 2020 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.