As the largest city in Nebraska, Omaha is a patchwork of ideas, values, history, cultures, and personalities. While the city is on the brink of becoming a large metropolis, it still embodies small-town charm. Omaha is a wonderful location for raising a family, as its great schools and Midwestern values of friendliness and neighborliness are in high regard. Varied job opportunities, easy commutes, and a wide variety of housing options make this city a truly pleasant place to live.
Omaha encompasses a diverse arts and culture environment with multiple museums, performing arts venues, and unique festivals. The city is extremely welcoming to new businesses, and if you’re looking to change or broaden your career path, employment opportunities are plentiful and varied. The multiple choices of universities and higher learning options attract students from around the country.
After you settle into your new Omaha home, be sure to venture out and try the local cuisine. Coffee and brewery cultures are hopping. Farm-to fork and dive-restaurants serve up delicious food for every taste. And legendary steakhouses still serve up world-famous Omaha beef and burgers. Whatever your tastes, from a hip indie music scene, authentic rodeo, or the sophisticated Opera Omaha, ‘The Gateway to the West’ has a little something for everyone.
Living in Omaha, NE: What to Know Before Moving to Omaha
Omaha sits along the banks of the Missouri River and has an estimated population of 466,000, making it the largest city in Nebraska and the 40th largest city in the United States. The historical title “Gateway to the West,” put Omaha on the map as a stopping off point for pioneers, traders, and those who decided to stay. Although Omaha has grown into a big city, it still provides residents with “the good life” – a laid back, friendly atmosphere with diversity and a quality lifestyle.
Pros and Cons of Living in Omaha
Analyzing the benefits and drawbacks of a new city is a great way to improve your insight when you’re making a major relocation decision.
- Great place to work/start a business: Omaha has a low unemployment rate of 3.0%, which is lower than the national average and is home to several Fortune 500/1000 companies. The city is also known as “Silicon Prairie.”
- Relaxed and slow-paced atmosphere: Even though almost half a million people live in Omaha, it’s steeped in warm hospitality and life there isn’t about the rush.
- U.S. News gives Omaha high rankings: U.S. News ranked the city #32 for ‘Best Places to Live’ and #81 for ‘Best Places to Retire.’
- Food: Chefs from around the world are venturing to Omaha to open new businesses and create exciting cuisines. And the reputation of Omaha steaks and burgers speaks for itself.
- Low cost of living: Living expenses in Omaha will be about 5% lower than the national average.
- Weather: Brisk, bitterly cold winters and hot, humid summers are not the only extreme weather conditions. Nebraska is located in tornado alley and can experience severe twisters.
- Flat: Omaha is mainly prairie land. The distance from major mountain ranges or significant water features creates a lack of landscape variation.
- Cattle, cattle, and more cattle: Cattle outnumber people 3 to 1 in Nebraska. Odds are you’ll be aware of the resident cattle population.
- Downtown after dark: Overall, Omaha is a very safe community, but after dark, it does have its fair share of panhandlers and a large homeless population.
- Property Tax: Douglas County property tax is 2.093%, which is quite a bit higher than the national average of 1.19%
- Sales Tax: The combined sales tax rate for Omaha is 7.0%, a total of the Nebraska rate of 5.5% and the city tax of 1.5%.
- State Income Tax: According to TaxFoundation.org, Nebraska’s income tax rate of 6.84% is quite moderate compared to other states.
The majority of Omaha residents are homeowners, with approximately 38.6% being renters. The median home price, as of August 2019, was $178,200. The market is very hot right now, with a predicted rise of 2.6% within the next 12 months. If you’re thinking about renting, the average rental price was $1,337 as of March 2019. This rate is very close to the national average of $1,391.
According to niche.com, some of the suburbs with lower housing costs include Chalco, Plattsmouth, Council Bluffs, and Carter Lake. While housing cost is certainly important, there’re other factors to consider when choosing a neighborhood such as crime rates, quality of schools, and commuting times.
Cost of Living
According to bestplaces.net, the overall cost of living index for Omaha is 94.9/100, 5.1 points lower than the US average of 100. Less costly Omaha expenses are housing, food and groceries, and transportation. Utilities are close to the national average, while health-related costs are a bit more expensive with an index of 125.2/100.
The median household income for Omaha residents is $63.062, which is higher than the US average of $59,039. According to the family budget calculator, a family of four would need to earn $7,219 a month or $86,633 annually to live comfortably in the city. These figures show that a family of four needs to be a two-income household.
Weather and Natural Disasters
Omaha has four very distinct seasons with extreme variations. The summers are hot and humid with frequent thunderstorms while winters can be harsh with snowy conditions, including ice storms or blizzards. If you enjoy the snow, you’ll relish the 26 inches on average that fall during the winter months. The area averages almost the same amount of rain, 30.25 inches, during the warmer months.
The two hottest months of the year are July and August, with the average high temperatures of 87 and 85 degrees respectively and lows in the mid-60s. December and January are the coldest months with average highs of 35 in December and 33 in January. Freezing lows in December and January average 14 to 17 degrees.
Extreme weather conditions aren’t uncommon since Nebraska is in Tornado Alley. This significant stretch of land, with an average of 45 twisters a year, runs from Texas north through Nebraska and up to North Dakota. Residents of Omaha can consult the Douglas County Emergency Management Agency for information on severe weather, precautions, preparedness, and up to date alerts.
Economy and Job Market
The Omaha job market is strong. The city’s unemployment rate is 2.9%, which is lower than the national average of 3.7%. As a major Midwest commercial hub, Omaha is commonly known as the telecommunications capital of the country.
Thriving industries include banking, insurance, transportation, telecommunications, agriculture, food processing, trade, utilities, education, and healthcare. Major employers are Offutt Air Force Base, the area’s largest employer; Alegent Health; Omaha Public Schools; First Data Corporation; Methodist Health System; Mutual of Omaha; ConAgra Foods; and Nebraska Health System.
If you’re looking for work in telecommunications, you’ll appreciate the opportunities in Omaha. As one of the first cities to develop a fiber-optic network, Omaha led the way for this technology across the country, and over the last 30 years, the field has grown substantially.
Maybe you’ll be seeking employment in other fields. If so, Omaha Career Networking, a locally based networking group for the underemployed, unemployed, and other individuals looking to change careers, is a great place to start.
Traffic and Transportation
No one enjoys being stuck in traffic or dealing with transportation delays. Omaha has some of the lightest traffic conditions in the country. You can travel across the entire metro area within 20 to 30 minutes, and experience just a bit of congestion around rush hour.
I-80 runs east-west through the center of Omaha, then turns southwest to Lincoln, and then east to Des Moines. I-29 runs north to Sioux City and south to Kansas City. I-680 runs north-south through Omaha and also connects southeast to Lincoln.
The city is ranked the 26th most walkable large city in the United States with a walk score of 45. Walkscore.com gives Omaha a low transit score of 27 and a low bike score of 40. Public transportation options are limited to the Metro Transit, a public bus service. They make only a few runs each day so you can see that Omaha is mainly a car-dependent city.
What To Do
Omaha has a very eclectic atmosphere. The variety of entertainment, restaurants, green space, festivals, arts, and culture activities makes the city a fun place to live in and explore.
Several parks highlight the area with beautiful landscaping and unique features. The Pioneer Courage Park has amazing, life-size bronze sculptures depicting the early days of pioneer life. The Heartland of America Park is located downtown and boasts 31 acres of gorgeous scenery along the Missouri River.
One of the most impressive attractions is the Henry Doorly Zoo, known as one of the world’s best zoos. It’s composed of 160 acres of animals, plants, and habitats which make for a jam-packed day of exploring. The zoo includes the world’s largest indoor rainforest, indoor desert, and largest aquarium within a zoo.
If you’re a sports fan, you can watch the Omaha Storm Chasers, a minor league baseball team, at Werner Park. In March 2020, the United Soccer League is adding a professional team.
Other popular activities include visits to the Joslyn Art Museum and the Omaha Children’s Museum. The Durham Museum, one of the city’s most extraordinary treasures, was originally the station for Union Pacific Railroad. The building houses some of the country’s rarest documents and artifacts.
With a diverse history that includes Native Americans, pioneers, stockyards, and industrial life, Omaha is home to significant landmarks and over a dozen historic districts. Investigating these historical features will help you understand the roots of your new home. One of the first you’ll want to explore is the Old Market, one of the major historic districts. Its warehouses now house shops, cafes, restaurants, bars, and art galleries. The annual Intertribal Powwow features traditional dance, storytelling, and foods of Nebraska’s Native Americans.
If you’re a jazz aficionado, you probably know about Omaha’s jazz and rhythm and blues history. The jazz scene in North Omaha is exciting and thriving. Enjoy the Jazz on the Green where national and local musicians play every Thursday during the summer on the Turner Park lawn at Midtown Crossing. The Summer Arts Festival features two stages of continuous musical performances. Lots of ethnic and cultural music happenings color the Omaha music scene.
Schools and Universities
The school system serving your new address is extremely important if you have children. You’ll want to research the reviews, rankings, and other important school-related information. A good place to start is greatschools.org. Eight school districts serve Omaha, including Omaha Public Schools, Millard Public Schools, Elkhorn Public Schools, Westside Community Schools, Gretna Public Schools, Ralston Public Schools, South Sarpy District 46, and UTA Halee Girls Village School District. The largest of these is the Omaha Public Schools which serves over 51,000 students in 113 schools.
Compared to other schools in the state, Omaha schools are highly ranked, while Nebraska ranks #6 overall in education in the US. Some of the best schools are Hillrise Elementary, which ranks 10/10 on greatschools.org, and Elkhorn South High School, with a ranking of 10/10.
There’s a healthy selection of eleven colleges and universities in the area if you’re looking for higher education options. One of the most recognizable is The University of Nebraska at Omaha. The city also has a wide variety of community colleges and technical schools, which vary in fields of study. These include Kaplan University-Omaha Campus and Alegent Creighton Health School of Radiologic Technology.
Crime rates are divided into two categories, property and violent. Property crimes are those that revolve around taking items without being forceful or threatening. Violent crimes include things like murder, manslaughter, and physical assaults. The property crime rate in Omaha is 56.5%, which is higher than the national average of 35.4%. The violent crime rate, 33.9%, is also higher than the national average of 22.7%. Every city has areas of higher crime rates, and Omaha is no different. The crime map shows higher rates near the border with Council Bluffs as well as in Boys Town and Carter Lake.
One of the most time-consuming aspects of moving can be researching, locating, and contacting your new utility providers. To save you some valuable time, here’s a convenient list of providers who service Omaha:
- Gas and Water: Metropolitan Utilities District or MUD is the 5th largest public national gas company in the United States. They serve more than 216,000 customers an average of 90 million gallons of water daily. Visit their website to begin these services.
- Electric: The Omaha Public Electric Power District, also known as OPPD, is the largest publicly run electric company in the US. They not only serve the greater Omaha area but 13 surrounding counties in Eastern Nebraska. You can sign up and begin service by clicking here.
- Trash Pickup/Recycling Services: Wasteline is Omaha’s solid waste program that offers recycling services, trash pickup, neighborhood cleanup projects, and more. To become a customer, visit their website.
- Internet/Cable Service: There are several options for internet and cable service in Omaha. Your selection will depend on the exact location, services you desire, internet speed capabilities, and budget. Some choices include CenturyLink, Cox Communications, and Spectrum. You can visit any of these sites to compare packages and choose your provider.
Best Neighborhoods in Omaha, NE
Choosing a specific neighborhood should be contingent on several factors such as population, school system, housing information, and nearby activities. We hope to help in your search by providing information on the eight best neighborhoods in Omaha.
Benson is a vibrant community, full of energy and personality. It’s in the pocket of Northern Omaha and encompasses the highly visited stretch of Maple Street which includes hip restaurants and trendy shops. Foodies, musicians, and hipsters make up the eclectic group that calls this area home.
The Hardy Coffee Company is a popular destination known for its artisanal roasted coffee and yummy baked goods. Krug Park is also highly frequented by locals and serves a variety of beer and spirits.
- Population: 8,646
- Average Home Price: $138,000
- Average Rental Price: $739
- Schools: Benson West Elementary and Benson Magnet High School (both rank below average according to greatschools.org)
The community of Leavenworth is in the heart of Omaha and includes lovely parks, fabulous schools, and affordable homes. Here, you’re close to shopping and city nightlife. This neighborhood has one of the highest walk scores for the city.
A unique attraction for residents is the Spielbound Board Game Café, a venue that engages the community and encourages fun through board games. They also serve coffee, beer, and snacks. Midtown Crossing at Turner Park is a local hub complete with restaurants, retail shops, and community events.
- Population: 20,795
- Average Home Price: $177,300
- Average Rental Price: $947
- Schools: Westside Community District-Sunset Hills Elementary (7/10), Westside Middle School (5/10), Westside High School (6/10)
Dundee-Memorial Park is another neighborhood located in the heart of Omaha. Here you’ll find gorgeous homes along tree-lined streets, an above-average school district, and a robust retail center. Dundee is a tight-knit residential area and hosts community events like the Dundee Days Festival.
The local pub, Dundee Dell, has been serving locals for over 80 years. It’s famous for its Wall of Scotch and Fish n’ Chips. It even received 1st place in the 2019 Omaha Choice Awards for Best Happy Hour. If spending time in nature is more your style, you can stroll through Memorial or Elmwood Park.
- Population: 6,298
- Average Home Price: $280,000
- Average Rental Price: $933
- Schools: Omaha Public School District- Dundee Elementary (7/10), Lewis & Clark Middle School (7/10), Central High School (above average)
Nebraska spelled backward is Aksarben! This community is on the western side of Omaha and boasts a thriving real estate market. The neighborhood has a sense of excitement and provides an entertaining atmosphere. Complete with parks, restaurants, a retail center, and regular outdoor concerts, there’s sure to be enough stimulation for everyone.
The Aksarben Cinema is a state-of-the-art movie theater that provides the latest in picture, sound and even comfort. Kick back in their lazy-type recliners while enjoying the show. Stinson Park is an outdoor venue for exercising, live music, farmers market, or just relaxing.
- Population: 5,421
- Average Home Price: $192,000
- Average Rental Price: $947
- Schools: (Many below-average rankings) Beals Elementary (2/10), Bryan Middle School (1/10)
Downtown is the energetic, electrifying center of the city. Enjoy the fabulous skyline, farm-to-fork restaurants, interesting shops, booming businesses, and vibrant nightlife. Many amenities are within walking distance.
While there’s plenty to see and do, art lovers will especially enjoy the Passageway Gallery. Original works of art and handcrafted seasonal items fill this ornate building. The CHI Health Center Omaha, both an arena and convention center that hosts many events, is also downtown.
- Population: 9,121
- Average Home Price: $175,000
- Average Rental Price: $975
- Schools: Omaha Public District – your child will attend one of 113 schools based on your address. Includes Picotte Elementary (9/10) and Alice Buffet Magnet Middle (5/10).
Located at the southern end of Omaha is Papillion, one of the most highly coveted communities. What began as simply a railroad town has now transformed into a thriving suburban neighborhood. You’ll find that most homes are in planned community areas, and some even offer golf course living.
One of the biggest draws to Papillion is Halleck Park which includes a fully stocked lake, tennis and basketball courts, walking trails, playgrounds, and more. Also located nearby is Papio Fun Park, a facility for indoor family fun.
- Population: 20,530
- Average Home Price: $249,600
- Average Rental Price: $919
- Schools: Papillion Vista Community District serves over 11,700 students with almost all schools above average in ranking, such as Platteview Central High (10/10)
Founded in 1870, the community of Millard has grown exponentially as Omaha has expanded, but it still maintains its small-town atmosphere. The neighborhood is family-oriented, has low crime rates, and includes historic homes as well as new developments.
The Zorinsky Lake Trail is a 7.8-mile loop that runs along the lake and is dog-friendly. It’s a great place for residents to take in nature. BounceU, an indoor trampoline park that provides endless amounts of fun, is also close.
- Population: 2,831
- Average Home Price: $222,500
- Average Rental Price: $900
- Schools: Reeder Elementary (8/10), Gretna Middle (8/10), Millard North High (7/10)
This neighborhood has become a buzzing, happening community since its recent redevelopment. Now residents can enjoy the huge retail area, refurbished park, coffee shops, and restaurants. This area gets its name from the historic Blackstone Hotel, where some claim the original Reuben sandwich originated (though others argue NYC’s Reuben’s Delicatessen was the inventor). The community consists of century-old buildings, traditional houses, and trendy new condos and apartments.
You can sit down to a juicy Reuben at the Crescent Moon, a local restaurant, or visit the quirky, cocktail bar known as the Night Owl. Bob’s Donuts is a local favorite for some sweet treats.
- Population: 3,329
- Average Home Price: $286,800
- Average Rental Price $927
- Schools: 6 schools serve the community including Field Club Elementary (3/10), Norris Middle (1/10), and Central High (3/10)
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