Located on the western bank of the Missouri River, Omaha was founded in 1854 to outfit those traveling the Oregon and Mormon trails. It wasn't until 1863, when President Lincoln made Omaha the eastern terminus of the first transcontinental railroad, that the city began to grow. Today Nebraska's largest city, with a population approaching a half-million, comes as something of a surprise to first-time visitors or those returning after many years. While its zoo -- one of the nation's most unique -- has long been a top draw as Nebraska's number-one tourist attraction, Omaha boasts several other outstanding attractions, too, including a drive-through wildlife park, a museum devoted to U.S. military aircraft and missiles, and Boys Town, made famous in a 1938 film starring Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney.
In recent years, Omaha's riverfront has enjoyed a renaissance, with footpaths, parks, and pedestrian bridges linking it to Iowa across the Missouri River and to the downtown Old Market district, 12 square blocks of former warehouses now enjoying new life as restaurants and shops. Omaha is the Midwest at its best: friendly, casual, and unpretentious. Apparently, those traits are a perfect match for one of the world's richest men; the so-called "Oracle of Omaha," investor Warren Buffett, was raised in Omaha and continues to call it home.