A recent renovation of the Haymarket district in Lincoln, Neb., makes having fun there awfully easy. And if it has been awhile since you strolled the area, you are in for quite a surprise. After a $346 million redevelopment of the district, there's ample opportunity to catch a show or a game, eat a top-notch meal and discover original art or that antique gem.
The area bordered by Q and R streets is considered Nebraska's first entertainment district. The Railyard Public Market, a year-round entertainment venue, crowns one corner and Pinnacle Bank Arena, home of the Cornhuskers — as well as a live-music venue — holds down the opposite corner. How big is this arena? Megastars Sir Paul McCartney, Katy Perry and Pearl Jam are booked in upcoming months.
Yet this walkable area retains all the charm of a historic district: eclectic antique shops and high-end restaurants, which land across the street from brewpubs and established art galleries. There's way too much to do in one day.
Where to go
One of the best antique shops I've found anywhere is adjacent to the Lincoln Station building. Burlington Antiques (www.burlingtonantiques.com; 1-402-475-7502) has a way of making everything old look shiny, new and appealing, and it also has an affable staff ready to help you find whatever you are looking for. I found way too much, it seems, by the look of my stuffed car trunk.
Nearby, make an effort to stop in at the Burkholder Project on P Street (www.burkholderproject.com; 1-402-477-3305). The building, which fueled the Haymarket district renewal, houses a lively collection of 36 art and design studios, with three levels of small to large galleries connected by a sun-filled atrium. This was the brainchild of Anne Burk- holder, who in 1987 bought the building in order to create a place where a community of artists could collaborate, exchange ideas and have space to do their crafts. Walk in the front door and turn left, and you might find Anne in front of a canvas, creating her next original oil.
If photos are more your thing, head over to wildlife photographer Michael Forsberg's gallery store (www.michaelforsberg.com) on 8th Street. An avid photographer of the sandhill cranes that migrate through Nebraska every year, Forsberg depicts their delicate but powerful force in the natural world. I also love his work documenting bison on the Midwest prairies.
The Railyard on Canopy Street (www.canopyst.com) hosts a seasonal farmers' market through Oct. 11 with standard market fare, arts and crafts, and produce from 8 a.m. to noon every Saturday, rain or shine. There are also plenty of bar/restaurant/nightclub choices within the Railyard zone, and fun purveyors such as Breezy Island Ice and the Doughnut Hole within the public market area.
Finally, swing by the intriguing brick relief train mural "Iron Horse Legacy" in the vicinity of 7th and Q streets, near the Historic Haymarket water tower. Created in 1990, the train appears to be chugging its way out of the wall and into the flower bed below it.
Where to eat
It was a beautiful Tuesday afternoon when my husband and I walked into JTK Cuisine & Cocktails in the Lincoln Station building (jtkrestaurant.com; 1-402-435-0161). The sign outside said it was only open for dinner, and we were the lone couple in the place for lunch. The food is delicious and priced very reasonably. If the Cubano sandwich with locally sourced and smoked pork is on offer, do not hesitate to order it.
Walk kitty-corner across the street and land at Lazlo's Brewery & Grill (lazlosbreweryandgrill.com; 1-402-434-5636). It's a sports bar, where the brews are cold and delicious and the atmosphere is great. It's the oldest brewery in Nebraska, with a patio where you can sit and watch the world go by.
Around dinnertime, my husband was craving a steak and a Manhattan. We googled and found Single Barrel (www.thesinglebarrel.com; 1-402-904-4631) on 10th Street, with a whiskey list as long as my arm and a Yelp review that said the food was great. Our reservation was at 8:30 p.m. and we walked in expecting a full restaurant. Again, the place was nearly empty. We got our food, fabulous and flavorful. But soon our server began to get edgy, and told us in a respectful way that we might want to clear out soon. "It gets weird here," is all he'd say.
That decided it: We'd stick around. Soon, a mechanical bull was situated in the middle of the restaurant. Odd birds begin to trickle in, wearing flip-flops, sports jerseys and cowboy hats. Glassware was pulled, and out came plastic cups. OK, time to leave, just as a smoky-voiced lead singer began to growl from the adjacent stage, and the bull began to swing. But that steak was perfectly done and delicious, and that whiskey list was impressive. Later, we looked at each other and said, "We should have stayed."
Where to stay
For lodging within the district, you have a couple of options: Hyatt Place Hotel will put you squarely in the entertainment sector on Q Street, across from the Railyard (lincolndowntownhaymarket.place.hyatt.com; 1-402-742-6007). It's a seven-story, smoke-free building (three levels are condominiums) offering exceptional views.
Another option is the Hilton Garden Inn on R Street (tinyurl.com/pvogpk5; 1-402-475-9000), or the Holiday Inn Downtown on North 9th Street (tinyurl.com/od8p6w6; 1-402-475-4011.
Kathleen Schedin Stoehr is a Twin Cities-based writer and editor.