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.
Billionaire Warren Buffett’s decision to stay in Omaha—where he lives in a modest home he bought for $31,500 more than 60 years ago—has always been a source of curiosity. But the Berkshire Hathaway CEO’s hometown loyalty doesn’t surprise Omaha locals, who know that this city on the Missouri River is one of the best spots in the country to start a business, raise a family and let your hair down on a Saturday night.
Thanks in no small part to Buffett, Omaha earns our #1 ranking for Prosperity, with the most Fortune 500s (eight) of any city with less than a million people (earning it another #1 ranking for that category as well). But it’s not just stalwarts like Mutual of Omaha that keep this city bustling: a growing tech sector has earned Omaha the nickname “Silicon Prairie.”
But Omahans work to live, too, as evidenced by the #3 Nightlife and Top 5 Culinary rankings in the country. The fact that most of the city’s bars and famous steakhouses (don’t worry, vegans, there are plenty of options for you, too) are clustered in the Old Market District makes indulging convenient and helps keep things going long after dusk.
Despite Omaha’s prosperity, the cost of living remains low here (even if you’re not Warren Buffett). And while residents may be focused on business, the city hasn’t forgotten its prairie roots. With a respectable #23 ranking for Parks & Outdoors, Omaha takes pride in its natural areas and waterways, especially when viewed from the stunning $22-million Bob Kerrey Bridge, which connects Nebraska with Iowa across the river and, at 3,000 feet, is one of the longest pedestrian bridges in the world.
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.