Vic Gutman has orchestrated some of Omaha’s most beloved annual events, including Omaha Farmers Market, Omaha Summer Arts Festival and City of Omaha Celebrates America. But it’s not all work and no play. For this Locals Know Best, Gutman shares insider tips about strolling historic Omaha neighborhoods, the delights of a little-known ice cream flavor, and the unique Omaha institution that bridges three Abrahamic faiths. 


Visit Omaha: The Omaha Summer Arts Festival is celebrating its 50th and final year in 2024.

Vic Gutman: We're very proud that we've been able to present this free festival for Omaha residents and out-of-town guests for 50 years. We have 135 artists from 19 states with all different artistic media.

Omaha Summer Arts FestivalThere is high-quality art at different price ranges, so there’s something for everyone. The art is the festival’s number one attraction, but OSAF also has the distinction of featuring performing arts – blues, jazz and indie music.

Omaha Summer Arts Festival Music

It's great entertainment, and the stage is near our food area, bringing us to another festival component. We have a wide variety of foods available. And of course, we have the Children’s Fair with all kinds of hands-on activities mostly organized by nonprofit organizations.

Omaha Summer Arts Festival Kids

We have a young artists exhibit, where metro-area students display and sell their work. We also have a tent filled with pieces donated by festival artists. We invite children to select a piece of artwork for only $5.

What would you like visitors to know about Aksarben Village where the festival is held?

Aksarben Village is a great location for us. It has terrific restaurants and shops. There is a playground and a stage in Stinson Park. There’s also a dog park nearby.

Aksarben Village Couple

What’s another neighborhood in Omaha that you recommend visitors see?

South Omaha is absolutely one of the most bustling, exciting districts in the city.

South OmahaThe history is that immigrants used to work in the stockyards, many of whom were from Eastern Europe and Poland—Jews and others. Now, the neighborhood is almost fully Latino. Many shops there are run by families of people who have immigrated to the United States.

If you like Mexican food, you'll find authentic Mexican food there. Walking down the main street—South 24th Street—you feel like you're in an even bigger city because there are so many people. You'll hear music, and you'll see vendors out on the sidewalk.

If you had a friend come to visit for 24 hours, what would you do with them?

I would start downtown. When the weather is nice, there’s so much going on. Thousands of people are outside enjoying The RiverFront (Gene Leahy Mall, Heartland of America Park, and Lewis and Clark Landing). Kids play on the playgrounds, musicians perform on the stage, people eat under the gazebo, play sand volleyball, or sit in a swing chair and look at the Missouri River.

Gene Leahy Mall at The RiverFront Kids Waterplay

We would see the Kiewit Luminarium and walk through the three parks to the Old Market. If it’s Saturday, I would take them to the Omaha Farmers Market.

A second thing I would do with visitors is take them to Tri-Faith Commons. It’s the only place of its kind in the world. It brings together the three Abrahamic faiths in one place with a synagogue, a church and a mosque (as well as a community space and garden) connected by a bridge.

Tri-Faith InitiativeIt’s a beautiful setting with native plants and grasses and a creek. Visitors are welcome to take a tour.

Lastly, I want to take a driving tour through some historic neighborhoods in Omaha. We’d get out of the car in midtown and walk through two great city parks. You can take a trail through Memorial Park and Elmwood Park.

Memorial Park Flag GreeneryWhere do you like to take visitors or your VGA staff out for dinner?

Spezia has great Italian food and a special dining room for groups. I also like to take out-of-towners to The Drover for steak.

The DroverIf you have family coming, you can treat them to Au Courant or The Boiler Room. Omaha has so many varieties of cuisine – from Ethiopian to Mexican. You may discover something unexpected as your favorite.

Where do you like to get something sweet?

One of my favorite treats is ice cream. And that's fortunate because there are so many great places to have small-batch, family-owned ice cream in Omaha. Coneflower Creamery is like farm-to-table ice cream. It’s great. And e-creamery is known throughout the country. They have a storefront in Dundee, but most of their sales are nationwide online orders. They can create flavors to your specifications and even name the flavor after a person or event.

eCreamery KidsBut there's something that I didn't know existed until about a year ago. One of my favorite restaurants is Greek Islands. I love the food. I’ve known the family for a long time. But I didn't know there was such a thing as baklava ice cream – and they make it there. It is amazing. I mean, it is so delicious. It has the consistency of ice cream, but also the texture of baklava. There's nothing else like it.

What’s your favorite Omaha season and why?

I have two favorite seasons: spring and fall. I love to see the trees bud and flowers bloom in the spring and walk through the parks. Spring brings the beginning of the Omaha Farmers Market, Omaha Summer Arts Festival, and Taste of Omaha. In the fall, Omaha’s older neighborhoods are ablaze with color. The farmers market is still going, and places close to Omaha, like Vala’s Pumpkin Patch and Bellevue Berry Farm, are fun to take your kids or grandkids to enjoy the season.

Vala's Pumpkin PatchTruly, the landscape in Omaha is lush green in the spring and filled with brilliant colors in the fall. Omaha will surprise you in so many ways.

No matter what time of year you visit, our Locals Know Best series provides an insider's look at beloved Omaha attractions and eateries. Click here for more seasonal activity ideas.