Benson & The Old Market: Omaha’s crown jewels

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Jeff Turner
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR

A lot is said about Seattle, a lot about New York, a lot about Denver, Portland, LA, Oakland, Boston, but nothing about Omaha. As someone coming to Omaha for college, I can’t imagine one wouldn’t feel underwhelmed based solely on reputation. I know when my dad was working here in the 80’s, coming off college in New Orleans, he couldn’t help but feel underwhelmed. Regardless, there is magnificence to be found in Omaha, especially recently. It’s really been growing over the past few decades, and this is most personified in Benson and the Old Market.

Benson is a former town in Nebraska and now encapsulates a pocket of North Omaha. Of the two, students on campus are closer here to Benson than to the Old Market. Most of the stuff that attracts all the people is in Eastside Benson. East Benson has a really cool vibe to it, like visitors spending time in a part of town that none of the normies have caught wind of, making them a trailblazer.

Walking through Benson, it’s hard to not feel like one of the cool kids. It reminds me of Broad Ripple, which was the part of town I frequented in High School, back in my hometown of Indianapolis. Heather Tedesco, one of the Bartenders at the Sydney describes the vibe of Benson most nights as: “A fun, funky neighborhood rock bar with a colorful crowd and always a party. It’s kinda like your favorite cult B movie… low budget, bad acting, but you can’t help but watch it over and over and over.”

There are a lot of bars, but visitors are by no means limited to just coming up here to drink. For example, going on right now is the Benson days, where there are various bands that play, and various nonprofits raising money, and there’s just, in general, a lot going on. Even when there isn’t an event like Benson Days, you’d be hard pressed to find a quiet night in this neck of the woods.

Coming up soon will be First Friday, where you can go look at and purchase local art from various venues. There’s plenty to marvel at on other days, though. The Sydney, for example, has a dance party called Sore Lips every period of about six weeks to two months.

The Old Market is closer to downtown Omaha, it is a bit more of a trek for students living on campus. The good news is Uber is affordable, credible, and if you’re going out to drink, the safe alternative anyway. Regardless, the aesthetic is remarkable, gorgeous brick roads, and the lively streets! Almost every store you pass has a patio. There are a plethora of art galleries, not at all unlike in East Benson, only there’s more in number since the Old Market’s a little bigger.

The Old Market feels like a place lost out of time, and that’s because a lot of the architecture was built in the late 1800’s-early 1900’s. Walking there often feels surreal.

These places are representative of a growing and prospering culture that, ironically enough, is likely continuing to succeed because people are ignoring it. Omaha is a jewel in the rough, and is a city capable of many great things. Benson & The Old Market are places that, on their greatest day prove this point abundantly.

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