Antique enthusiasts from around the country love to explore the vintage markets in historic downtown Fremont, “Eastern Nebraska’s Antique Capital.” Seven stores within eight blocks create an entertaining antiques trail in a city of about 25,000 people. Located roughly 30 miles northwest of Omaha, Fremont’s downtown is home to excellent shopping opportunities as well as architecture dating back to the late 1800s.
The area also features outdoor fun, along with a little history. Having spent my youth in the area, I’ve seen Fremont grow, diversify, and develop attractions. With great dining options and other attributes, you can spend a day, or plan a weekend to explore this delightful town.
Here are my recommendations for an enjoyable visit to Fremont.
Historic Downtown Antique Shops
You’ll have fun exploring each store in Fremont’s Historic Downtown. From cast iron skillets to classic clothing chests, each store from R Antiques to Park Avenue Antiques offers something different from the others. At R Antiques, in addition to skillets, you’ll find items such as lanterns, canning jars, and old license plates. Junction Flea Market operates as a secondhand shop and antique market, so you’ll find a variety of goods, from toys to household wares.
Park Avenue Antiques offers a selection ranging from 80-year-old high school yearbooks to vintage furniture. You’ll even find a theater stage curtain showcasing businesses that called downtown Fremont home a century ago. Fia+Belle mixes contemporary boutique clothing with furniture from yesteryear.
Chestnut Market features home decor including candles, plants, and other accessories as well as antique housewares. Pickens Thrift and Consignment offers repurposed and vintage furniture and housewares. Yankee Peddler West, located in an 1880s building, is the place to go if you’re searching for classic books and maps. You’ll find magazines dating back to the mid-1900s. Also, be on the lookout for globes from a century ago.
Downtown Architecture Walking Tour
Enjoy a self-guided tour of historic buildings dating back to the 1800s and early 1900s. The Fremont Opera House hosts concerts and special events today, but it was once the site of the city’s well-to-do gatherings for musical performances, including operas. Built in 1918, the former Love Opera House, with its classic facade, was the first building in Fremont named to the National Register of Historic Places.
The May Brothers Building was once the headquarters for grocery store magnates in the 1800s, but today you’ll find MiLady Coffeehouse, named after a coffee brand prominently used by the Mays.
The Dodge County Courthouse was constructed more than 100 years ago by a local architect, who designed it in the Classical Revival style.
Built in 1915, the Empress Theater has hosted its fair share of vintage movies. It’s no wonder locals want to revive the film house on Main Street, with its classic design and vintage sign. Plans call for a 200-seat single-screen theater in addition to an events area.
Editor’s Note: MiLady Coffeehouse made Tim’s list of 9 Unique Coffee Houses To Try In The Midwest. See the rest here.
Gallery 92 West
As the home of the Fremont Area Art Association, Gallery 92 West makes use of its open space with a combination of pieces created by local artists. From pencil drawings and oil paintings to photography and sculptures, you’ll find an array of outstanding works in two rooms. The gallery also offers art classes, including pottery and fiber arts. Gallery 92 West also offers special exhibits showcasing national and regional artists.
Louis E. May Museum
Once the home of Theron Nye, Fremont’s first mayor, it seems appropriate that this former mansion holds a prominent position on Nye Avenue. Built in 1874 using the Italianate Revival style, Nye gave the mansion to his son in 1900. The younger Nye spent more than a decade renovating the property using the classical revival architecture style that we see today. The estate now serves as the Louis E. May Museum, spotlighting the history of Fremont and the surrounding area.
Inside the mansion, you’ll find exhibits showcasing relics and decor of the 19th and early 20th centuries, including furniture, paintings, and bedrooms. The grounds, named as a Nebraska Arboretum site, are immaculate, flush with flower gardens and a gazebo. Named to the National Register of Historic Places, the May Museum also has an 1868 log cabin on its grounds.
Fremont State Lakes Recreation Area
With 20 sandpit lakes, fishing and water enthusiasts have made the Fremont State Lakes Recreation Area a popular attraction in eastern Nebraska. Swimmers and sunbathers can enjoy beach time at lakes with designated swim areas. Boating enthusiasts can create waves at lakes 10 and 15. Other lakes are more suitable for kayaks or canoe, as well as electric-powered boats. Fishing is excellent from the shoreline or fishing piers. The state lakes are perfect for picnicking, with plenty of picnic tables located throughout the recreation area. It’s also a beautiful area for photographers.
Pro Tip: A state park entry permit is required when visiting the state lakes. You can purchase a day or yearlong permit at the recreation area entrance.
River Life Airboat Tours
Enjoy an up-close look at life on the Platte River during a 1- or 3-hour ride with River Life Airboat Tours of Cedar Bluffs, about 15 minutes southwest of Fremont. The Platte’s shallow depth is perfect for airboats, which skim across sand bars as they reach speeds up to 50 miles per hour. The open-air craft offers picturesque views of nature, including American bald eagles, herons, and other wildlife. You’ll see beautiful bluffs and densely wooded areas hugging the shoreline.
Pro Tip: River Life recommends making reservations at least two weeks before your visit. They also provide ear protectors for the ride.
The Old Poor Farm
Once home to hundreds of unemployed, homeless, and financially challenged people, the 246-acre Old Poor Farm operated north of Fremont, near Nickerson, for about 70 years, beginning in 1872. Having had about 400 residents during its heyday, the Old Poor Farm shut down following the Great Depression. Abandoned over the next several years, the farmhouse and surrounding buildings were destroyed. However, in 1989, the four acres where the homestead was located were sold, eventually leading to the start of the Old Poor Farm animal sanctuary.
Today, the Old Poor Farm offers a home for animals incapable of surviving on their own or considered “unadoptable.” They may have been rescued from owners unable to care for them or were abused. Among the lovable animals calling the farm home are cats, miniature donkeys, chickens, sheep, and horses. Tour the farm and learn about its history and visit the animals. Tours are free, but donations are appreciated.
Pro Tip: Call the Old Poor Farm to schedule a tour because it operates with volunteers. Tours last up to two hours. Wear comfortable walking shoes, as the tour covers farmland.
Historical Walking Tour Of Barnard Park District
With more than 30 houses, some dating back to the 1860s, the Historical Walking Tour of Barnard Park District offers a look at the early days of Fremont. Originally the site of the city’s cemetery, Barnard Park is a popular area for walking, enjoying a picnic, and children frolicking at the playground. The park celebrates its history by maintaining cast iron lamp posts, once common in the area. During your self-guided tour, the architectural styles you’ll notice include Queen Anne, American Four Squares, and bungalows. You’ll also find church buildings in the area that were constructed during the early 1900s.
Fremont Veterans Park
Located on East Military Avenue, Fremont honors veterans with a Veterans Memorial. The oval-shaped memorial features an American bald eagle atop the granite monument and lists each American war and conflict local residents have participated in. Monuments also honor each branch of the military, including the Merchant Marine, which played a major role during World War II. Another memorial honors locals who have died serving their country, featuring a soldier holding a folded American flag while kneeling before a battlefield cross (a helmet on top of a weapon, with boots on either side). The city’s long-serving eternal flame remains lit, with each service’s flag flying nearby. A couple of blocks east, murals showcase Fremonters who have served in the military.
Where To Eat In Fremont
Fremont is home to excellent restaurants, from burgers and fries to upscale steak and Italian eateries. For a taste of northern Italian cuisine, visit Osteria Kayla Restaurant in the historic Kollmeyer Passageway. With appetizers such as mussels, calamari, and bruschetta, you’ll be challenged to move on to the entree portion of the menu. However, when you do, the spaghetti and meatballs are amazing, coated with marinara and topped with a dollop of ricotta cheese. The restaurant also offers steak and salmon. For an authentic Mexican dish, Senor Tequila’s ranks among the best you’ll find in the area. Using fresh ingredients, dishes arrive hot and are delicious. The colorful decor adds to your dining experience, giving the impression you may be in a restaurant south of the border.
Where To Stay In Fremont
Fremont has several national hotel chains to choose from, including the Rodeway Inn, Holiday Inn Express, and Super 8 by Wyndham. The Fairfield Inn and Suites is an excellent choice for its location and contemporary style. Featuring a free breakfast, the hotel is located near the Fremont Mall, as well as several restaurants. The Baymont Inn and Suites, located on the east end of Fremont, is a pet-friendly hotel. It’s also located next to Penny’s Diner, which offers a discount for hotel guests.