Although it is situated near the very center of the country, Nebraska tends to be overlooked in the national conversation of must-visit states and popular places to live. But after more than 165 years of living and working in this state, we are quite passionate about the many benefits and perks of Nebraska living. After all, we’ve more or less dedicated our lives to helping others find their home here.
The Cornhusker State has so much to offer, from stunning national and state parks to shops, restaurants and entertainment centers, to thriving metros and beautiful neighborhood enclaves. When making the move to Nebraska, there are plenty of cities and communities to consider, each offering its own distinct personality and set of amenities.
Let’s take a tour throughout the state to learn more about the best places to live in Nebraska, from our home right here in Omaha to some smaller towns hundreds of miles away!
We may be a bit biased (as many of us here at NP Dodge call this town home), but we think Omaha is the best place to live in the world! There is so much to love about living in the Omaha area, from its thriving food scene and live music to our vast parks and gardens. We have so many attractions in this city nestled along the Missouri River, including the Omaha Zoo, Lauritzen Gardens, the Omaha Children’s Museum, the Durham Museum, the Omaha Performing Arts Center, and much more. Plus, Omaha is home to some of the state’s best eateries, coffee shops, breweries, bars, shops, and other local establishments. Residents and visitors alike can step back in time at the Old Market, Omaha’s most historic and most entertaining neighborhood with cobblestone streets lined with historic properties housing a diverse mix of businesses.
Omaha truly enjoys the best of both worlds — the small-town feel with big city amenities, the nightlife and family-friendly feel, the shiny new buildings alongside gorgeous parks and green spaces. And it’s only growing! With a city population of 486,051 (in 2020), Omaha is the largest city in the state of Nebraska.
Omaha contains a mix of historic properties and new construction homes in a variety of styles and price points. Check out some of the city’s hottest neighborhoods to learn more about housing styles and amenities throughout Omaha.
The county seat of Sarpy County, Papillion, has grown from a small railroad village founded in 1870 to one of the top-rated suburbs of the metro Omaha area. It regularly appears on “best places” lists for Nebraska and ranks well for its livability, affordability, educational system, and environment for raising a family.
This mid-sized suburb of just over 25,000 has a quaint town center with plenty of restaurants, shops and small businesses, plus plenty of green space for the family to explore. Papillion is home to Werner Park, home of the Triple A Storm Chasers, and Halleck Park, a massive 70-acre green space in the heart of the city. The park contains trails, baseball fields, tennis and basketball courts, a large pavilion, playground areas, and a well-stocked fishing lake.
Homes in Papillion range from historic properties with traditional charm to newer houses, condominiums and apartments. With a median household income of $90,000, Papillion is one of the richest cities in Nebraska!
Not only is the capital city an excellent place to live compared to other cities in the state, it was also named one of the best places to buy a house in the entire country! Lincoln ranked well for a variety of reasons, including the relatively affordable housing prices, excellent schools, employment opportunities, and overall lifestyle.
Lincoln is also home to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, which is the flagship institution of the University of Nebraska system (and the oldest university in the state!). The university consistently ranks among the top research universities in the country, and in the top third of all universities, both public and private. Not to mention, the university is responsible for the thriving sports culture for the city, most prominent at Huskers games in the fall.
Containing old and new homes alike, Lincoln’s real estate market is both promising and stable. According to Niche, Lincoln has a relatively affordable median home value of $169,800, which is less than the national average of $217,500. This makes buying into the market reasonable and rational for a variety of different buyers.
Those in pursuit of a small-town feel with plenty of amenities and attractions should look no further than Kearney! Situated about 2 hours due west of Lincoln, Kearney is the fifth largest city in Nebraska as well as one of the most fast-growing, with a population of about 35,000.
Pronounced “CAR-knee,” Kearney is called the Sandhill Crane Capital of the World, due to the one million Sandhill Cranes that migrate on the Platte River Valley every year from mid/late-February to mid-April. There is plenty of green space to explore in and around Kearney, including Yanney Park, Fort Kearny State Historic Park, and Cottonmill Park.
Residents rave about the tight-knit community feel and family-friendly atmosphere that Kearney provides. They feel connected to their neighbors and enjoy getting involved in local activities and supporting the many small businesses in the city. There is plenty to do in Kearney, from watching Tri-City Storm hockey games to visiting the Museum of Nebraska Art, and taking the little ones to the Kearney Area Children’s Museum to taking a stroll through Yanney Heritage Park.
Incorporated in 1960, La Vista is a relatively young suburb of Omaha with a population of just over 17,000. Since its inception, the community has seen significant growth in home construction, educational and recreational facilities, as well as commerce and industry — much of it within the last two decades.
La Vista is part of the highly ranked Papillion La Vista Community Schools, has a recreation center for citizens of all ages, a modern city hall facility, and a beautiful 23,000-square-foot library, which also houses the Sarpy Center for Metropolitan Community College.
Residents may easily access Omaha attractions with a short 15-minute drive, but there’s plenty to do in town as well. La Vista has several breweries and a distillery, and a number of locally owned restaurants and cafes. Each Memorial Day weekend, the community gathers for the Salute to Summer Festival and Parade!
Situated about a half hour west of Lincoln, Seward is a small town with a lot of personality. This town of about 7,000 has been known as one of Nebraska’s safest communities, with a crime rate 60% below the national average. Seward is home to Concordia University, Nebraska, which brings an energized college-town feel to the city. Plus, GreatSchools gave Seward Public Schools high rankings of 8/10 for three of the four schools in the district.
Nicknamed “Nebraska’s 4th of July City,” Seward hosts an extravagant Fourth of July celebration each summer, attracting upwards of 50,000 people. As the county seat of Seward County, Seward contains a number of the region’s best attractions, including many local shops and eateries in the historic downtown area. Plus, this primarily residential community enjoys easy access to all that Lincoln has to offer just a short drive away.
Fun Fact: Seward is also home to the World’s Largest Time Capsule, which is set to be opened in 2025 — so mark your calendar!
Situated about 22 miles southwest of Omaha, Gretna is a small incorporated town with just over 5,000 residents. While the area has seen steady growth over the last several decades, Gretna has maintained its small town charm and friendliness while adding many amenities.
The core of the city is a main street surrounded by well maintained homes constructed since the late 1800s to present day. In 1886, a short line railroad was built between Ashland and Omaha. Lincoln Land Company saw the advantages of platting a village on the railroad line. Development quickly followed and the town was officially incorporated in 1889. A group of early settlers were Scottish immigrants and the town was named Gretna after the Scottish city of Gretna Green.
Today, with easy access to the interstate, many people live in Gretna and work in Omaha. They are attracted to Gretna’s highly-rated school system and many youth and community activities, such as soccer, baseball, football, swimming and kid-friendly library programs. Gretna is also home to Vala’s Pumpkin Patch and Apple Orchard, which is a popular you-pick pumpkin and apple destination during the fall! And located just south of Gretna, Schramm Park State Recreation Area offers plenty of trails and unbeatable views of the Platte River Valley.
With a growing employment base, a new high-end retail shopping center, plans for additional schools, and a proposal for a YMCA facility, Gretna citizens have much to look forward to.
Incorporated in 1855, Bellevue is Nebraska’s oldest continuous town. It was originally established in 1822 as a fur trading settlement for Native American tribes and French Canadian trappers, who called the area Belle Vue, or “beautiful view.” The name eventually was “Americanized” and adopted as the official name for the settlement.
Bellevue experienced significant growth in its population and economy during the 19th century, and in 1890, the town offered inexpensive land for development. This resulted in the establishment of Fort Crook, which was later redesigned and named Offutt Air Force Base.
Today, the air force base is home to the 55th Wing, United States Strategic Command and the Air Force Weather Agency. This military presence has multiplied Bellevue’s population many times over and has resulted in the construction of homes and the establishment of technical services, businesses, and retail outlets to serve the military. These businesses have been the basis for an expanding economy, which now serves the civilian population as well. Plus, the Kennedy Freeway, a limited access highway, provides direct access to employment and entertainment in all areas of Omaha and Council Bluffs.
Bellevue is now home to more than 50,000 people. The city has a variety of attractions and amenities, including Fontenelle Forest, the Sarpy County Museum, Bellevue Little Theatre, and more. It is home to Bellevue University, two growing public high schools, plus numerous public and parochial middle and elementary schools. You’ll find homes of all ages, styles and price points in Bellevue, as well as apartments and condominiums.
Norfolk is a relatively small city in Northeast Nebraska, located 112 miles northwest of Omaha and 121 miles north of Lincoln. The sense of community is alive and well in this town of around 25,000, as residents take time to get to know their neighbors and get involved with local activities.
Downtown Norfolk is home to several locally owned shops and restaurants of all kinds. Plus, the community calendar is packed with events all year long, from the weekly farmers’ market to live concerts, and yoga classes to wine tastings. Norfolk is the economic center for the six surrounding counties in the region, and some of the city’s major industries include manufacturing, farming (both livestock and grain), education, retailing, and wholesaling. Manufacturing alone employs more than 4,000 residents!
Fun Fact: Johnny Carson grew up in Norfolk — and you can see his boyhood home and visit other attractions around town, including the Johnny Carson mural, Elkhorn Valley Museum’s Johnny Carson Gallery, and more.
Established in 1869, Blair is a community just 25 miles north of Omaha nestled along the Missouri River. It was originally selected by the Sioux City and Pacific Railroad as the site for tracks to cross the river, and was platted to provide sites for industrial and residential development for railroad employees. The town quickly grew to include churches, a bank, a newspaper, a hotel, hardware stores, and more.
And today, Blair is home to nearly 8,000 people, and has a thriving main street. It is known for its community spirit and friendly small-town atmosphere. It is the site of several agricultural and service industries and is home for many Omaha commuters. With excellent schools and houses of all ages and price ranges, it is a popular residential option for many families.
We’re here to help! NP Dodge has agents working in most of the above-mentioned cities in Nebraska, including Omaha, Papillion, Lincoln, La Vista, Gretna, Bellevue and Blair. Contact us to be connected with one of our agents, who can tell you more about the area and help you through every step of the home buying process!
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