Friday, August 7, 2009

Omaha and Nebraska Tourism Rocks!

Tourism professionals from across the state of Nebraska gathered in Omaha for the Nebraska Travel Association's annual meeting. The staff of the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau did a great job greeting the group and lining up a fantastic speaker and some great activities to showcase the wonderful area. 

These are the people responsible for making tourism happen in Nebraska. There are representatives from mom-and-pop tourist attractions, hoteliers and innkeepers, CVB staff and people from the Nebraska Division of Travel and Tourism. We create attractions and recreation for visitors (which means more for those of us who live here too), we market our areas to visitors (which means economic development - more money in the pockets of Nebraskans!), and most importantly, we help people have a good time!

It started out with a limo bus ride from the Omaha Hilton to the Henry Doorly Zoo. As you can see from the pictures, this was no ordinary bus!
While at the zoo, Bob Oliver with Legacy Tours spoke to the group about the attractiveness of Ag tours to international travelers. 

Bob made some very interesting points that may come as a surprise to some of my readers. PEOPLE FROM AROUND THE WORLD LOVE TO SEE WHAT WE HAVE!

I didn't mean to shout, but we here in Nebraska and other Great Plains states (yes, some would call us the midwest, but we're actually the Great Plains!) take for granted our wide open spaces, abundant wildlife, farm and ranch ways of life and the friendliness of our people. 

Get connected with the right tour operator, and visitors from the United Kingdom and Europe, and to a growing extent, Asia, will flock to our doors. They'll learn about us, we'll make new friends, they'll leave some money with us, and then they'll leave - the perfect guests!

So what is Nebraska's most unique asset, even more than those listed above?  It's our people! NEBRASKANS! You guys are so wonderful that visitors talk for years about the friendliness and generosity of Nebraskans (think North Platte Canteen!)

So Nebraska, you've got some great stuff going, we just need to develop some more first-rate attractions showcasing our agriculture and rural lifestyle, then get the word out.

So, the rest of this is going to be about the great stuff in Omaha, especially the world-class Henry Doorly Zoo! Unfortunately, after our luncheon speaker, we had about an hour and a half to take in what is easily a two-day visit, so I'll show you what I can.  Otherwise you're going to have to visit it yourself!

These guys have some great stuff going on. Recently opened this spring is their Skyfari, which gives visitors a birds-eye-view of some of the major attractions.

I didn't get to visit this area from the ground, but according to my map it's called the Garden of the Senses - doesn't it look like fun?
Then we pass over the lagoon with two colonies of monkeys, which you'll see more of in just a bit from the return trip.
See how close you get? Just look at these Rhinos just under the chair.
Lots and lots of Koi in the lagoon.
I think these monkeys may be scavenging in hopes that people dropped something from their chairs. Which, by the way IS A BIG NO-NO! If you ride it, don't drop anything to the animals below. Including your flip-flops, cameras, hats, sunglasses and such.
Looks to me like these monkeys are getting an afternoon snack.
Yes, that is a Cheetah, enjoying the shade right under our feet.
After our Skyfari ride we hurried through the butterfly pavilion, which is just wonderful. The following pictures, if you can't guess, were all taken from there.
There are even hummingbirds.






And just where do all of those beautiful butterflies come from? Why it's the chrysalis nursery!
Then a speedy trip through one of the premiere attractions at the zoo, the Lied Jungle.




See, we only got to see just a bit, we didn't make it to the Desert Dome and Kingdoms of the Night, the Cat Complex, Bear Canyon, or the Gorilla valley just to name a few! You'll all have to visit on your own to see those great things.

Back on the bus for a quick tour of Omaha, then dinner at the fantastic Upstream Brewery. Our guide from the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau then took us by the Nomad just for a look-see. What an amazing place. I'm not sure what it would be like on a packed Friday or Saturday night, but on a quiet Thursday it looked great. 

Some of us were really wanting to hear some live music, so the NETA president, who also is a music promoter as part of the Midwest Smooth Jazz Society, took us out to Ozone for Smooth Jazz Thursday.  

If you like jazz, be sure to take a look at the Smooth Jazz Society website, and join up to get info. They have regular events like the Smooth Jazz Thursdays, Saturday Smooth Jazz at Soaring Wings Vineyards, the Omaha Riverfront Jazz & Blues Festival and a lot more.

So, for only spending half a day in Omaha, did I do all right? For a country girl from the outback, what I did sure tired me out!

Thanks for stopping by. Coffee this morning will be in the lobby of the Omaha Hilton.

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