Musician and Festival Organizer Shares His Favorite Spots to Feel Omaha’s Heartbeat

Musician and Festival Organizer Shares His Favorite Spots to Feel Omaha’s Heartbeat

Locals Know Best – Marcos Eduardo Mora Barrientos

Marcos Eduardo Mora Barrientos might be one of Omaha’s busiest people. You can find him playing guitar on stage with one of three bands when he’s not working on developing festivals and special events, facilitating historic preservation projects, or creating scholarships and writing grants. Still, as busy as Mora Barrientos is, he finds time for leisure in Omaha. He shares his visitor-friendly tips for the city’s dining, arts and festivals in this Locals Know Best.

Visit Omaha: You’ve led efforts to grow Cinco de Mayo Omaha, which attracts as many as 200,000 visitors annually. Why should people travel from out of town to experience this festival?

Marcos Eduardo Mora Barrientos: Cinco de Mayo Omaha is an incredible festival. There are just tons of things to do all day long. It’s a family event. And it’s for everyone.


If you love food, there are blocks and blocks of food. There’s stuff for the kids to do. There’s a big parade on Saturday. We have about 2 miles of production.

There are rides. If you like live music, we have two stages from Friday to Sunday.

There are exhibitors, where you’ll find a lot of cultural ambiance. South 24th Street is an area with a lot of immigrant history. You can see the fabric of that history in the shops, food and culture.

VO: What are some of your favorite places to grab a bite, drink, relax, and have fun in South Omaha?

Mora Barrientos: Check out historic South 24th Street from L to Q. It’s a really dynamic business district.

South Omaha

Then you also have to visit the Vinton Street area, where there are a lot of different shops and food. For specific places, Howard’s Charro Café is one of our longest-standing Mexican restaurants. On Fridays, they have live mariachi groups. It’s great if you love that party atmosphere with a margarita.

Howard's Charro Cafe

Another place I love is Isla Del Mar, which translates to “the island of the sea.” It has one of the biggest seafood selections in Omaha, with anything from octopus to marlin tacos—and they’re big plates. They also have live music on the weekends, so it’s a great atmosphere to check out.

A casual place at 24th and Q is called Taqueria Tijuana. The food is tasty and fast. They specialize in tacos and burritos. Try the guacamole and a side of cooked jalapenos.

VO: Cinco de Mayo is a huge event for Omaha, but many other events attract visitors. What are some of your favorites?

Mora Barrientos: I like Afro Fest. You can see Omaha’s cultural diversity. There are costumes and dances. You can try some delicious food.

Afro Fest

Taste of Omaha is another classic event. You can discover a variety of foods from different vendors and listen to live music. They even have some rides. It’s a cool vibe.

VO: What other neighborhoods or spots should visitors be sure to see? What insider tips can you share?

One of Omaha’s cool new spots is The Stuffed Olive. They have a wide selection of martinis and small bites for a great price.

The Stuffed Olive

During warmer months, I enjoy Inner Rail at Aksarben Village. They have a bunch of different food shops and an indoor-outdoor setup where you can grab what you like inside and then sit outside, where there are tables and a bar.

Inner Rail

VO: You’re a gifted musician playing at venues around Omaha. Tell us about the Omaha music scene and why visitors should check it out.

Mora Barrientos: Music is the heartbeat of Omaha.

As a musician, one of my favorite spots is The B. Bar. You won’t really know it’s there unless you know it’s there. These guys fixed up this space that only holds about 150 people, but you get some wonderful talent – all kinds of amazing musicians – in there.

Marcos Eduardo Mora Barrientos

For families, Gene Leahy Mall at The RiverFront has all kinds of free concerts.

Gene Leahy Mall at The RiverFront

Another thing you should definitely check out is Jazz on the Green. Bring your picnic, a blanket, and some drinks. They have great groups all summer long.

Omaha Performing Arts at the Orpheum Theater and Holland Center for Performing Arts offer many events. (Visit Omaha’s Events Calendar for more information.)

VO: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Mora Barrientos: If you can’t make it to Cinco de Mayo Omaha, consider coming for Fiestas Patrias Omaha in September. This kicks off National Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrating all Latino cultures—Guatemalan, Mexican, Salvadorean, and more.

No matter when you make it, South Omaha–with its cultural ambiance, shops and restaurants–is a great place to visit and is ready to welcome you.

For more South Omaha exploration, visit, or discover more entertaining Omaha neighborhoods here.

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