College World Series Visitors Guide to Omaha

For 60 years, Omaha has been the home of the College World Series.  ESPN promotes the NCAA brackets as the "Road to Omaha" as Omaha has an unprecedented run as the home of an NCAA championship event.  Last year, the NCAA agreed a 25 year extension to keep the CWS in Omaha, meaning that the "Road to Omaha" will continue to be the culmination of the college baseball season.  Many fans of Texas and LSU are very familiar with Omaha, but CWS newbies Southern Miss and Virginia are making their first trips to Omaha.

First thing fans need to do is figure out where to stay in the Omaha area and how to get here.  With eight teams coming to town, flight arrangements and hotels are hard to come by.  Tickets to the games are somewhat easier to find.  Each school gets an allotment, and a few tickets are held for sale each morning.  The best deal is the books of general admission tickets that get you into the bleachers.  They are good for any session, and especially during the week, rarely does the fire marshall shut off admittance.  Weekend games are another matter entirely.  If you want to try the bleachers, grab a good hat and plenty of sunscreen and get in line early.  A book of 10 bleacher tickets will cost you $70 and can be used for any session; you won't get a better deal for an NCAA championship event.

Parking around the stadium is mostly horrible, as it's in a neighborhood area and the stadium parking is all reserved.  You'll probably spend $10 to $20 to park on somebody's lawn...and hope someone doesn't box you in.  Shuttle busses and taxis are available for "nominal charges", but typically don't give you much flexibility to come and go.

The College World Series runs about a week and a half, so if your team makes a run, you may be spending a lot of time in Omaha.  On the other hand, two teams will be eliminated by the end of day four.  So while it might be tempting to gorge yourself on baseball, you may want to do some other things around town between your teams games.

The Old Market district in downtown is a couple of miles north of the stadium, and is filled with shops, restaurants, and bars for a pleasant evening on the town.  It'll be bustling just about every night, and some establishments may even run shuttle busses down to the stadium.  In a couple of years, it'll be even more bustling as the CWS will be moving in 2011 to a new stadium just north of downtown, which will make it much more convenient to go from the game to some nightlife to a hotel.

You can't come to Omaha and not visit one of our steakhouses.  And no, I'm not talking Sizzler or even Outback.  I'm talking about local classics.  Johnny's Cafe is in the heart of South Omaha and is a local legend.  Warren Buffet's favorite is Gorat's.  If you have a car, my personal recommendation is to head to a little place called the Drover and try their Whiskey Steak.  I suppose if you have an expense account or money is no object, you could try Omaha Prime, Flemings, or Mahogany Prime...which are all supposed to be excellent...but you pay dearly for those.

Of course, a steakhouse trip needs to be reserved for an evening when your team isn't playing.  If you need to eat around the stadium, the area is filled with beer gardens and food stands.  The long standing tradition is Zesto's on 13th Street, just a couple of blocks south of the stadium.  They add a beer garden during the series and it's quite the hangout.  The ESPN broadcasters usually get Zesto's delivered to the booth during the game.

After the game, the ESPN crowd tends to hang out at Pauli's on Leavenworth Street.  It's a small neighborhood bar that becomes Omaha's Cub headquarters during the baseball season.

Omaha's not all eating and drinking.  We have our share of cultural institutions, such as the Joslyn Museum if that's your preference.  If there is no afternoon game or you are up early, check out the Henry Doorley Zoo across the street from the stadium.  Parking is a real issue for the zoo during the series, so get there at 9 am or earlier.  Across the river in Iowa, three casinos will gladly take your money, if you so choose.

Omaha is a fairly easy city to get around, but stadium traffic is horrific.  My expectation is that traffic issues will improve when the games move to the new stadium downtown, but for now, give yourself plenty of time (probably an hour and a half to two hours) before the game to find parking and get to the stadium.  Don't worry about having extra time on your hands around the stadium; there are plenty of diversions outside the stadium that it can be a blast even if you don't get inside the stadium.

Other fans from other teams and Omaha area residents:  chip in with the comments and add your own recommendations or feel free to contradict my opinions to help make this more useful to our visitors.

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