Omaha has been called “America's best-kept secret," because you may not know a lot about the city before coming here, but once you've been to Omaha, you don't want to leave. With a world-class zoo, impressive museums and a culinary scene that rivals any city, living in Omaha ranks among the best places in the country.
Plus, when one of the richest people in the world — Warren Buffett — calls Omaha home, you know it must be a good place to be. Here are the top 10 things you need to know about the Big O.
Omaha continually ranks as one of the best cities to love economically. While it's the 40th largest city in the United States, its economy is among the best in the country. The cost of living is about 7 percent less than the national average, which means groceries, utilities, transportation, healthcare, housing and miscellaneous goods will be more affordable.
Living in Omaha also offers a major rent advantage over other cities. With the national average for a one-bedroom apartment at $1,621, renting an apartment of similar size in Omaha will cost about $945 per month.
With several outstanding neighborhoods to choose from, it may come down to interests or drive time when deciding where to live.
Living in Omaha offers a slew of impressive attractions. The Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium annually ranks among the best zoos in the world, including being named the top zoo in the world at least once. With about 130 acres of indoor and outdoor attractions to explore, including the world's largest indoor desert and the largest indoor rainforest in North America, you can easily spend the day roaming the African Grasslands, with elephants, giraffes and lions, as well as the Asian Highlands, home to animals you'd find in Asia's jungles and mountains, such as the red panda.
The zoo brings a taste of the Pacific Northwest to Omaha with its Sea Lion Shores, a one-acre exhibit with a 275,000-gallon pool and an underground viewing area, where you can watch sea lions swim and dance in the water.
Peek into Omaha's history with a visit to Durham Museum, once Omaha's main train depot with 10,000 visitors passing through during its heyday. Today, the museum features permanent exhibits, such as railroad displays, pioneer and Native American exhibits, as well as special exhibits, such as Pulitzer Prize-winning photos.
Art enthusiasts enjoy visiting Joslyn Museum, with works highlighting the classics, as well as pop culture. With free admission, the museum is a fun way to spend a few hours. An outdoor sculpture garden highlights Midwest history. Kaneko Gallery and Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts feature contemporary art exhibits with a tinge of social commentary.
Nature lovers enjoy the city's parks, including Zorinsky and Standing Bear, where you can kayak, canoe, hike, run and enjoy fresh air and open spaces. Fontenelle Forest in Bellevue is home to more than 17 miles of hiking trails in what's considered Omaha's urban forest. The forest also features Tree Rush, with about a half-dozen ziplines, along with rope obstacle courses.
Who needs professional sports when you have a top-level college basketball team and attract major events? The Creighton Bluejays have long been a popular college team in Omaha, selling out the CHI Health Center Arena Omaha since moving to the 18,000-seat stadium in the early 2000s.
As a member of the Big East, some of the nation's best teams – including Villanova – take on the Bluejays each season. Creighton annually challenges for the Big East title, winning it during the 2019-20 season, and competes in the NCAA basketball tournament on a regular basis.
Speaking of the NCAA, March Madness often finds its way to Omaha. From opening-round games, featuring powers such as Oregon, to the Midwest Regional featuring Kansas and Duke, Omaha supports college basketball's championship tournament.
As the home for the College World Series for more than 50 years, Omaha is the destination for all Division 1 baseball teams. The June classic brings the nation's final eight teams to town for an 11-day event that attracts more than 300,000 fans and millions of TV viewers. The CWS includes fan activities, such as games and attractions, as well as beer gardens and concerts.
American swimmers have competed at the U.S. Swim Trials in Omaha since 2008 for a spot on the United States summer Olympics team. The nationally-televised competition attracts thousands of fans to the CHI Health Center Arena over eight days.
Featuring several James Beard Foundation-nominated chefs, including Omaha's only female nominee, the city's culinary scene challenges the best across the country. From multi-nominee Clayton Chapman's Grey Plume farm-to-table concept to David Utterbeck's sushi bar Yoshitomo, Omaha's chefs challenge your palate.
Au Courant Regional Kitchen in Benson, home to another James Beard nominee, Benjamin Maides, features a “New European" cuisine based on regional ingredients. Jenny Coco, a self-taught chef and James Beard nominee, creates original dishes at J. Coco.
Not to be forgotten are Omaha's traditional favorites, such as classic steakhouses Cascio's, Gorat's and Johnny's Café. Italian fans will enjoy dinner at Lo Sole Mio, Roma and Malara's. For a fun dinner, try one of Omaha's best burgers at Stella's or Dinker's.
With major acts, such as Pink, Taylor Swift, Garth Brooks and Elton John, packing the CHI Health Center Arena, Omaha's music scene is enjoying a run like it's never had before. Performers, such as Sir Paul McCartney, have signed up to perform before nearly 20,000 fans.
Indie and small venue fans also enjoy catching acts in Omaha. With bands like 311 calling Omaha home, indie musical acts routinely take the stage at the Slowdown, Sokol Auditorium and Waiting Room. Omaha's recording studios, including Saddle Creek Records, are also known for producing award-winning albums for indie and pop music icons.
With more than a dozen craft breweries in the Metro area, Omaha's beer scene picks up from where it left off when the classics — Storz, Metz and Krug — faded into memory. Kros Strain, Pint Nine, Lucky Bucket Brewing Co., Farnam House Brewing and Nebraska Brewing Company turn out amazing beer.
The Old Market's Brickway adds whiskey, bourbon and rum to its craft beer. Some of the breweries, including Lucky Bucket and Nebraska Brewing, offer tours of their operations before you enjoy a brew in their taprooms.
Soaring Wings Vineyard and Brewing has been growing a variety of grapes in Sarpy County for nearly 20 years, producing award-winning wines since 2004. The winery features local musical acts during the summer, allowing for an enjoyable evening of wine and song. Soaring Wings started its own craft brewery in 2001, adding nine beers to 20 varieties of wine.
Omaha's crime rate is similar to other cities its size. Living in Omaha you can expect pockets of high crime and areas where crime is nearly non-existent. From a high of 50 homicides in 2015, Omaha police have worked to reduce that number by nearly half each year since.
Other violent crimes have dropped about 10 percent since 2017. While most people believe north Omaha has the highest crime rate, it's not considerably higher than in other areas.
There's a reason Omaha is nicknamed the "15-minute city." Truth be known, it's actually more like 20 minutes. As the city grows and expands its boundaries, commuting becomes more of a challenge, thus resulting in increased traffic times.
With two major interstates running through the Metro, I-29 and I-80, traffic becomes congested during rush hour, which is considered 7-9 a.m. and 4-6 p.m. weekdays. Traffic on the major thoroughfares, both interstate and primary streets – Dodge, Pacific, Maple, and Center – can become parking lots at times when traffic overloads the roadways.
Otherwise, getting around Omaha is easy, with all the main streets running in east-west and north-south grids.
There are six major school districts making up the Omaha Metro area, and each is highly regarded. The Omaha Public School district is the largest, and the most-challenged physically and financially.
Serving a wide range of students, from poorer sections of the city to the wealthier neighborhoods, OPS faces challenges, such as getting more students to graduate. The district's seven high schools have a graduation rate ranging from 71 to 84 percent.
With that, the district has been recognized for outstanding academic programs, such as its magnet high schools, which focus on specific courses of study, including Omaha North's science curriculum.
Suburban districts Elkhorn, Westside and Millard Public Schools rank high in national standings. With graduation rates from 87 to 98 percent, these school systems are considered among the best in the state. Papillion-LaVista and Bellevue school districts each enjoy graduation rates in the mid-90 percent.
Summer is a great time to live in Omaha due to all of the festivals held each year.
Taste of Omaha celebrates the city's culinary scene over a three-day period on Memorial Day weekend. Normally held along the riverfront in Heartland of America Park, Taste of Omaha includes musical acts, games and vendors hawking all kinds of wares.
The following week, the Omaha Summer Arts Festival takes over a six-block area of downtown, hosting artists and bands from around the country. The festival season spans the area and runs through mid-July with suburban city celebrations, concerts, food and more.
Living in Omaha will exceed your expectations and you'll soon be talking Omahan and celebrating Nebraska Cornhusker and Creighton wins. You'll head over to Baxter Arena for an Omaha Mavericks college hockey game.
Dining out, theater and concerts are at your fingertips when living in Omaha. Area apple orchards and pumpkin patches will embrace you in the fall. As you decide where to call home, you can find the neighborhood of your choice here.