PopulationMetro: 904,834
The midwestern business capital lives large while keeping it small.

Nebraska’s largest city has always worked overtime to carve out its place on the banks of the Missouri River in pretty much the middle of the (contiguous) country.

Forged by its millennia of human habitation—from its aboriginal crossroads inhabited by people known as “Those Against the Current” to its more recent cattle ranching industry, the area has always nurtured resiliency and independence.

That sense of community-building has slowly, over decades, built Omaha into an economic powerhouse that tops our Prosperity category and is the envy of small cities everywhere, despite its relative isolation or lack of a coastline.

It boasts the most Fortune 500 companies in the nation—eight—among cities with less than a million people. Berkshire Hathaway, Union Pacific Railroad, Peter Kiewit Son’s Inc. and (of course) The Mutual of Omaha Companies all call Omaha home. And since economic success of the past paves the way for the future, new companies steadily trickling into the city over the past decade have inspired the moniker of “Silicon Prairie.”

CITY PERFORMACE
Place
Place 55
Product
Product 83
Programming
Programming 60
People
People 46
Prosperity
Prosperity 100
Promotion
Promotion 59

But Omahans work to live, too, as evidenced by the #1 Nightlife and Top 5 Culinary rankings in the country. The fact that most of the city’s legendary steaks and midwestern hospitality-fueled bars are all tucked into the Old Market District makes indulging convenient.

Omaha prides itself on its outdoors, as well, and visionary placemaking initiatives in recent years are testament to its design swagger. Its riverfront now boasts the architecturally striking, S-curving Bob Kerrey Bridge. Costing $22 million and linking Nebraska with Iowa across the river, it is—at 3,000 feet—one of the longest pedestrian bridge projects ever constructed.

Perhaps most important, it is a place to stand, not just cross, and admire the ambition of a city in the heart of the country—and the big skies that have inspired people here for as long as anyone can remember.