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Start Fresh in the Midwest - 20 Things to Know About Living in Omaha, Nebraska

Nebraska

by Matt Lyons Posted on December 5, 2023
Omaha may seem to be quaint, or even small, to out-of-state coastals looking from the outside. But as the largest city in Nebraska, it’s far from that. National and international giants like Mutual of Omaha and Berkshire Hathaway call it home here, as do 1.5 million people in its metro area. 

Perched on the Missouri River, Omaha offers its residents a lowkey metropolitan lifestyle with plenty of access to the outdoors. We’ll cover everything you need to know about living in Omaha, Nebraska, from the cost of living, the best places to live, and even the top restaurants in town.

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The Omaha skyline during the day

Omaha at a Glance

1. Big City Perks Meet an Affordable Lifestyle

Is it expensive to live in Omaha? With a cost of living index of 90.8, the cost of living is slightly above the rest of the state, but 9 percent lower than the national average. So, if you’re moving from a city like Minneapolis, you may find your dollar going further than before. 

Some of the main cost of living factors that go into Omaha’s affordable lifestyle include housing, utilities, and transportation, with housing and transportation in particular much lower than the U.S. average. 

For a family of four with at least one parent working in Omaha, the average required annual income after taxes is around $67,600 to live comfortably. For a single young professional or retiree, the annual income after taxes should be closer to $29,100 to live comfortably. The catch? Minimal. Omaha offers its residents all the modern amenities you would expect a major metro to have. Concert halls, restaurants and bars, manicured parks, and job opportunities are plenty, just as your would expect.

2. Pros and Cons of Living in Omaha, Nebraska

As is the case with every place on Earth, there are benefits and drawbacks to living in Omaha. Here are some of the big ones.

Pro: Friendly People

The people throughout the Midwest are known for their friendliness and hospitality, even to newcomers. Because of Omaha’s friendly and tight knit community in particular, it’s never a challenge to talk to new people and make some friends.

Con: Harsh Winter Weather 

The good thing for those living in Omaha is that the city gets to experience each of the four seasons. Temperatures may regularly drop below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, and the roads can get quite icy, and in fact, the Omaha World-Herald reported that Omaha was the fifth-coldest city in America in 2014

Pro: One of the Best Places to Raise a Family

According to several sites including WalletHub, the city of Omaha is one of the best places to raise a family in the U.S., due to the great local public school systems, affordable neighborhoods, and so many fun things to do nearby. 

Con: Limited Nightlife Scene

Omaha offers its own variety of entertainment, however those who enjoy the nightlife scene may feel like the city is lacking in that aspect. Theaters, local events, and music venues are some of the main entertainment options found throughout the city instead of clubs and dance halls.

Pro: Easy To Get Around 

You’ll need a car to get around, but is does have walkable areas in comparison to similarly sized cities. You can park the wagon downtown and enjoy walking from shop to shop, but getting groceries, commuting, and your daily errands will require a set a wheels. 

Con: Property Taxes

This may be surprising. Nebraska has some of the highest property taxes in the country, ranked 44th out of 51 (from lowest to highest).This is balanced by comparatively low home prices, but you may find yourself paying a similar amount with taxes and fees tacked on top.

Pro: There’s Always Something To Do

No matter if you are single, raising a family, or retired, there are so many fun things to do local to Omaha. The Henry Doorly Zoo is very popular among kids, while the Joslyn Art Museum and Omaha Fashion Week attract people of all ages.

Con: Crime Rate Is a Concern 

With around a one in thirty chance of being a victim to either property or violent crime, certain parts of Omaha are not always the safest such as Aksarben South and Florence. Violent crime rates are among the highest in the nation, with a roughly 1 in 172 chance of becoming a victim. Property crime rates are higher than violent, with roughly a 1 in 36 chance. 

Omaha suburbs seen from above

3. Omaha Housing Market

Housing prices are one of Omaha’s most affordable living perks, as the average home price in the city of $268,800 is much lower compared to the U.S. average of $346,700

Ever since Omaha was first founded in the mid 1800s, the area has evolved into a thriving midwestern city full of distinct neighborhoods with beautiful historic home styles. Georgian/Colonial, Tudor, American Craftsman, Ranch, and Queen Anne Revival are some of the city’s most unique yet gorgeous styles. 

Along with these classic styles, Cape Cod and Gothic Revival homes are some other styles that can be found in neighborhoods like Joslyn. 

And for those suburbanites out there, you have plenty of choices. Papillon, La Vista, and Gretna are all solid choices for people looking for four walls and a green lawn.

3. Omaha Housing Market

Housing prices are one of Omaha’s most affordable living perks, as the average home price in the city of $268,800 is much lower compared to the U.S. average of $346,700

Ever since Omaha was first founded in the mid 1800s, the area has evolved into a thriving midwestern city full of distinct neighborhoods with beautiful historic home styles. Georgian/Colonial, Tudor, American Craftsman, Ranch, and Queen Anne Revival are some of the city’s most unique yet gorgeous styles. 

Along with these classic styles, Cape Cod and Gothic Revival homes are some other styles that can be found in neighborhoods like Joslyn. 

And for those suburbanites out there, you have plenty of choices. Papillon, La Vista, and Gretna are all solid choices for people looking for four walls and a green lawn.

4. Apartments & Renting in Omaha

Studio and one-bedroom apartments are always one of the most affordable, and sensible options for young professionals moving to the city for work, and Omaha offers very affordable rates that might allow you to work a little extra space and additional comfort into your budget.  With an average apartment size of just over 900 square feet, the average rent in Omaha is close to $1,200 for one bedroom.

Once you’re settled and ready for an upgrade, or just need a little bit more elbow room, you won’t have to stretch the budget too much, as the average rent all size apartments is close to $1,400 a month.

5. Best Places to Live in Omaha

Studio and one-bedroom apartments are always one of the most affordable, and sensible options for young professionals moving to the city for work, and Omaha offers very affordable rates that might allow you to work a little extra space and additional comfort into your budget.  With an average apartment size of just over 900 square feet, the average rent in Omaha is close to $1,200 for one bedroom.

Papillion, NE

Located south of Omaha in Sarpy County, Papillon is one of the fastest growing suburbs in the city that’s linked via 72nd Street, 84th Street, and I-80. With an overall Niche grade of A, Papillon is home to a great public school system ideal for families.

Papillion has over 20 parks and recreation facilities within a ten-mile radius, which are known for their beautiful natural scenery full of lakes and forests. Big Elk Lake Recreation Area and the Halleck Park Arboretum are some of the local hotspots for outdoor enthusiasts, and there are also multiple trails that people can use for walking, running, or cycling.

The Papillion Landing and Sumtur Amphitheater are great for sports and music events all year round, and Papillion Days is a major family-friendly event in the area each year with a carnival to explore, so much food, and more!

Chalco, NE

As currently the best suburb in Nebraska to buy a house according to Niche, Chalco is ideal for young professionals who are new into their career and looking for an affordable place to settle down. Outdoor enthusiasts truly are spoiled when living in Chalco, as the local Chalco Hills Recreation Area is connected to Omaha’s trail system and features Wehrspann Lake, which measures close to 250 acres. 

Besides the great access to the beauty outdoors, Chalco is home to a variety of places to shop nearby such as the Shadow Lake Towne Center, Kajoma’s Fashion Boutique, and the Oak View Mall. 

Gretna, NE

Located in Sarpy County, Gretna is not only ideal for young professionals and families, but also offers a variety of great amenities that cater to the retired population in particular. Eugene T. Mahoney State Park is one of the most popular local attractions, which features recreational activities like fishing, swimming, hiking, and biking.

Golf lovers living in Gretna can head to the Tiburon Golf Course and play a couple holes during the warmer months, which features 27 holes of championship golf on 12 acres of lakes and other spectacular scenery. 

6. The MAT Is Omaha’s Primary Public Transportation

The primary mode of transportation within Omaha is the Metropolitan Area Transit System (MAT). The three different types of segments are buses, the ORBT, and MOBY.
 
Over 2,000 MAT stops can be found in Omaha. The typical start and end times of these lines vary. The earliest buses leave their stations at around 5:00 am, while the latest ones end around 11:00 pm.
In November 2020, the ORBT was established. This rapid transit system follows an 8-mile course that starts in downtown Omaha and ends at Westroads Mall.
MOBY is another type of public transportation system that's designed for people with disabilities. It provides a complementary service to those who can't use the regular bus system due to a disability or health condition.

Creighton University

(Source: Creighton University)

7. Residents of all Ages Get Quality Education While Living in Omaha 

As the city of Omaha is seen as one of the best places in the country to raise a family, you can expect to get access to a fantastic public school system along with other opportunities for higher education. As far as public school districts are concerned, Elkhorn Public Schools, Millard Public Schools, and Westside Community Schools are the best options to send your kids according to Niche. 

Along with the University of Nebraska Omaha and Creighton University, Omaha is home to other colleges offering a variety of educational opportunities which include:
  • Clarkson College
  • College of St. Mary
  • Metro Community College
  • Nebraska Methodist

8. Non-Traditional Sports Scene

Even though Omaha isn't famous for its professional sports teams, there are plenty of events that fans can attend that will satisfy even the most ardent sports fans. You can watch some NCAA basketball at the CHI Health Center and support the Creighton Men's Basketball team, catch a glimpse of future stars in the MLB at Werner Park, or go to a soccer match and support the Union Omaha. You can also watch a hockey game and get to see the UNO Mavericks at Baxter Arena.

And every year, Omaha hosts the baseball College World Series, where the best college baseball teams from around the country travel to the city and determine the national champion. Those two weeks in the early summer bring the city to life. 

Like getting out there, staying active, and playing sports rather than just sitting back and watching? The local Omaha Sports Complex is an indoor turf facility that hosts a plethora of sports for people of all ages. 

9. The Best (and Worst) of Omaha’s Four Seasons

Living in Omaha provides you with the opportunity to experience each of the four seasons, which you can’t always get in other parts of the country. Summer has the warmest weather, with temperatures that typically remain in the 80s during the day and drop to the 60s at night. 

In the springtime, the average temperature of 63 degrees is a bit lower than in the summertime, with an average low of around 40 degrees. Fall weather has high temperatures in the mid 30s and lows in the mid teens. Winters can be brutal, with temperatures dropping into the mid teens and approximately 28 inches of snowfall taking place from December to February. Definitely bring your winter tires.

10. Crime Rates are High

While Omaha is considered an ideal place to raise a family because of the great public schools, fun local attractions, and lovely neighborhoods, crime within the city has been a major issue. 

The crime rate in Omaha is among the highest in the country, with a rate of thirty four per one thousand residents. It's one of the highest crime rates in the nation among large cities and small towns, with a one in thirty chance that someone will become a victim of some type of crime.

11. Low Unemployment Rates Match Many Job Opportunities

Omaha has a very low unemployment rate of just 2.2%, primarily due to the high number of established companies offering  job opportunities in the area. Unemployed and looking for work? If you decide to relocate to Omaha, your unemployed status could change very quickly.

Fortune 500 and 1,000 companies like ConAgra Brands, Union Pacific, and Kiewit are always available options for employment in Omaha. Warren Buffet and his massive real estate conglomerate, Berkshire Hathaway, also call Omaha home. Along with several tech companies like Buildertrend and Hudl, Omaha is also home to the First National Bank of Omaha which is the largest privately owned bank in the U.S.

12. Standout Hospitals Home to Omaha

The city of Omaha is known for its top-notch healthcare facilities, as it is home to the headquarters of CHI Health, a leading provider of quality care throughout the state of Nebraska. Healthcare professionals preparing to work in Omaha can also enjoy a variety of great amenities, such as excellent medical education and top notch research facilities.

In addition to CHI Health, Omaha is home to other top medical facilities in the region, such as the Children's Hospital and Medical Center and the Boys Town National Research Hospital,  which have been dedicated to providing the best possible care for children. The Methodist Women's Hospital is also known for its standout services to women's health.

13. Foodies Are Spoiled Rotten

The restaurant scene in Omaha has been growing constantly over the past couple of years, and the city is now an underrated foodie destination. Begin your day with a variety of creative dishes like the Meathead Benny or Cinnamon Roll Pancakes at Early Bird, or if you're feeling lunch instead head to award winning burger joint Stella's Bar & Grill or Yoshitomo for sushi. 

One of the best places to eat dinner in Omaha is Dante, where you can enjoy a variety of classic Italian dishes such as the Spaghetti Carbonara or the Rigatoni Bolognese. For the whole family, try the Fat Tony or the Burrata Baller at Virtuoso Pizzeria. 

14. Omaha Is the Steak Capital of Nebraska

The state of Nebraska is known for its beef, and is even nicknamed the "Beef State." Omaha is Nebraska’s steak capital, as it’s home to one of the country's largest producers of beef, Omaha Steaks. Since 1917, this institution has been serving up ribeyes, porterhouses, and other cuts of meat to hungry locals.

Omaha's best steakhouses can prepare your favorite cuts of meat and do the cooking for you whenever you feel like going out to eat. You will have to try the famous Trail Boss Prime Rib or the Whiskey Filet at The Drover, and you can also enjoy a scrumptious bone-in ribeye at Spencer's for Steaks and Chops. 

The Joslyn Museum in Omaha

(Source: TripAdvisor.com)

15. Omaha’s Unique Arts/Culture Scene

Through its various museums, theaters, and music venues, Omaha is proud to show off its unique culture at every corner. Admire works of art from around the world at the Joslyn Art Museum, or visit the Durham Museum for a look at train cars from the 1930s and ’40s, as well as a replica grocery store that dates back to 1915.

Bluebarn Theatre is the favorite local hotspot to watch both national and local plays, and you can even catch a thrilling performance at the local Opera or the Omaha Symphony at the local Holland Performing Arts Center. 

16. Local Breweries Will Not Leave You Disappointed 

Although Omaha doesn't have a lot of history as a beer destination, it has recently become a great place to drink beer as there has been an influx of new breweries in recent years. Some of the most popular spots include:

  • Kros Strain Brewing: Enjoy a variety of activities such as cornhole, giant Yahtzee, and Chippo golf while sampling Kros Strain Brewing's rotating selection of beer.
  • Brickway Brewery & Distillery: The Brickway Brewery & Distillery patio is the ideal location to enjoy a beautiful day with a variety of beverages, such as Coffee Vanilla Stout.
  • Omaha Beer Week: Try different breweries' beers all at once during Omaha's Beer Week. This event is an annual winter festival that features food-pairing parties, bus tours, and festivals.

17. Old Market Has Everything You Need in One Place

Old Market is located in downtown Omaha, and is an exciting location to visit that features several historic buildings and a variety of local restaurants, bars, and other unique shops. For example, you can find retro candies and other sweets at places like Hollywood Candy, or try duck fries and Cassoulet at Le Bouillon for a taste of France.

The Old Market's Passageway Gallery features a variety of local art and jewelry. You can also visit Homer's Music & Gifts to find used DVDs, records, and CDs.

The Omaha Farmers Market is held here every weekend morning from June to October, which features various fruits and vegetables, dairy products, and pastries.

18. Omaha’s Zoo Experience Is Unlike any Other

The Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha features over thirty-five thousand animals, and it's one of the largest zoos in the world. It spans more than 160 acres, and it features the world's largest indoor desert and the Suzanne & Walter Scott Aquarium. Guests can also explore a tunnel that lets them swim with sharks, sea turtles, or fish.

You'll also have the opportunity to spot different species of birds and animals as you explore the Lied Jungle or get up close and personal with the massive primates in the Hubbard Valley. Henry Doorly Zoo is not only one of the best in the state but one of the best zoos in the entire world!

19. Fun Things To Do in Omaha, Nebraska

The fun events held throughout the year in Omaha are diverse with plenty of ways to keep people of all interests entertained. Check out the most fun local events that take place throughout the year:

  • Maha Festival: The Maha Festival is a four-day event that features music, comedy, and poetry readings
  • Taste of Omaha: Taste of Omaha is a local event that features samples from various restaurants, as well as live music. You can also watch some of the area's best chefs compete.
  • Omaha Fashion Week: One of the largest events in the country dedicated to fashion is the Omaha Fashion Week, which takes place every spring and fall.
  • Omaha River City Rodeo: The Omaha River City Rodeo is a fun and adventure-filled event that features barrel racing, bronco riding, and steer wrestling.
  • Oktoberfest: At Oktoberfest, enjoy live music, dancing, and cold beer in the Bier Garden.

20. Free Things To Do in Omaha, Nebraska

In addition to all of the fun events that can be found local to Omaha, there are a variety of other ways for people of all ages to have access to entertainment without a cost. Here are just a few fun and cost free activities:

  • RiverFront: Bridges Omaha’s Old Market and North Downtown, and features three parks encompassing over 70 acres that offer beautiful landscapes, city views, and fun recreational activities. 
  • Hot Shops Art Center: The galleries of the Hot Shops Art Center are free to the public, with over 70 artists working in hot shops like glass blowing, pottery, bronze casting, and blacksmithing. 
  • Live music: From July through September you can find jazz, soul/funk, latin, and other types of music when you visit Turner Park. 

A family loading their PODS container

Get to Omaha in the Most Efficient Way Possible with PODS

While it might be easy to find your dream Omaha home, actually getting there is the challenging part. With the help of a portable moving container from PODS, you can easily pack all of your belongings and get to your new home. They can deliver a container right to your driveway, and will even connect you with local packing and loading services if you need help with the heavy lifting. You can also keep your moving container in a PODS Storage Center until you're ready for the big move. 

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