Omaha: The other Gateway to the West. This city is famous for exactly two things, and those things are its incredible zoo and the fact that it is located in Nebraska.
While Nebraska’s neighbor to south Kansas gets most of the publicity when it comes to big tornado problems, Omaha is situated squarely in the descriptively named “Tornado Alley.” This means exactly what it sounds like it does, and Nebraska is always at risk of being hit by tornadoes, which can cause some serious devastation.
While Omaha isn’t hit by dangerous tornadoes very often, there is always a risk of it happening. If you’re an especially risk-averse person and want to avoid natural disasters, Omaha might not be for you. If you can handle a little bit of risk, then you should do fine here!
2: Cold Winters
Omaha winters are freezing cold. It isn’t uncommon for winters in this part of Nebraska to get below negative ten degrees, and the average snowfall is thirty-one inches per year. If this doesn’t sound appealing to you, then make sure you stock up on winter clothes before moving to Omaha.
Of course, if you come from someplace like Washington and you’re used to rainy winters, the snow might be a nice change of pace. At least you’ll see the sun in the summer, right?
3: Rainy Summers
The sun will be out for much of the summer, but this is also Nebraska’s thunderstorm season. August is when it really hits, and it stays pretty wet until fall. And that isn’t to say Omaha summers aren’t hot, no they are extremely hot and humid. They’re just also rainy and stormy.
Thunderstorms may be a serious con for dogs, babies, and people who don’t like rain, but they can also be really cool to watch from the safety of the inside of a nice, lightning-proofed home. There isn’t much like a Great Plains lightning storm in this world. It really is something that has to be experienced.
People who live in the snowy parts of the country know all about potholes and how much of a problem they can be. The wet cold weather erodes the streets extremely quickly, and without proper maintenance, the problems caused by this can get out of control.
People from other parts of the Midwest region are also aware of the extremely short building season that makes these potholes difficult to fill properly, and most municipal governments’ tendency to ignore road maintenance until it kills someone. This is a recipe for unpleasant roads, which Omaha has in spades.
The worst part is that when these potholes do get fixed, it takes time and the whole road needs to be blocked off until the project has been finished. An overall bad experience.
5: Limited Public Transportation
The potholes wouldn’t be so bad if people had a choice to not drive. Unfortunately, Omaha’s public transit is limited to a few buses, which while better than nothing means that there’s pretty much no alternative to driving. The only real option besides driving is the two bike-sharing locations in Downtown and by the convention center, and these are obviously a bad option during the winter. And to a large extent during the stormy summer as well.
The city does have a connection to the Amtrak system, but that hardly makes up for the lack of transportation inside the city.
6: Not Walkable
If the city were easier to walk through, then the lack of public transport wouldn’t be nearly as bad. However, Walkscore.com gives Omaha a walkability score of only 48, meaning that the vast majority of errands will require a car. This means that it’s pretty much impossible to get around Omaha without one.
Omaha’s poor walkability and public transport combined with its unwalkability make the next point especially difficult for people just moving in.
7: Awful Drivers
A lot of places claim to have terrible drivers. Utah, California, and New York, the claim that the worst drivers in the country are in one place or another is one that you will hear from all sorts of people. The problem is, that the only part of the country that has the worst drivers is Omaha, Nebraska.
Why is this the case? It’s hard to say, it may have to do with the heavy snowfall in the winter or the wet conditions in the summer. It may also be a cultural thing, as many Omaha drivers like to drive well below the speed limit. Whatever the reason is, driving anywhere in the city can feel like an absolute ordeal.
That being said, Omaha’s traffic isn’t nearly as bad as it is in other big cities. While the country people visiting Omaha to go to the museums or the zoo will often complain about the traffic, the fact of the matter is that anyone with a car can get anywhere in the city within about half an hour. That’s virtually nothing!
In summary, Omaha has terrible drivers but at least the traffic isn’t too bad.
As for the landscape in Omaha, there is no landscape in Omaha. The only impediments to your direct view of the sky are going to be cornstalks and buildings, which are nice the first couple of times you look at them, but it gets old fast.
This also means that there are very few places to go hiking in Omaha. There’s probably nature somewhere in the area, but with precious little variety in the landscape even if you can find a place it won’t be very much fun.
This also means that there are very few places where you can go to get a nice view of the city. This is something that is easy to take for granted if you live in a mountainy part of the country, but all those hills that are a pain usually offer beautiful vistas as well.
It’s the kind of thing that you don’t really miss until it’s gone, and in Omaha (and all of Nebraska in general) it is really and truly gone.
Like a soda that has been left on the counter for too long, Omaha is both flat and boring. Sure the museums and the zoo are good for a couple of afternoons, but after that, it isn’t like there’s anything else to do in town. It’s the kind of place where you really need to know how to make your own entertainment.
And if you can’t make that entertainment out of a snowdrift or a lightning bolt, you might be in trouble for a lot of the year. Luckily for you, Omaha has sports teams.
10: No Professional Sports
This isn’t entirely true. Omaha has the triple-A Baseball team The Omaha Storm Chasers and they are a fine baseball team, when it comes to other options the closest big league teams are all the way in Kansas City.
But that doesn’t mean that Omahans don’t like sports. No, all of that energy is channeled towards the Nebraska State Corn Huskers in Lincoln. The Corn Huskers are a fine football team, but in Omaha, it’s easy to forget that they are a college football team. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying them, but if you’re looking for pro sports you won’t find them here.
11: High Property Taxes
This is a mixed bag. Taxes in Omaha are actually pretty reasonable, with a sales tax of only about 7%. It’s just property taxes that are really high, meaning that car owners (e.g. everyone) and homeowners will be paying a bit of a larger share than most people.
The property taxes in Douglas County are 2.3094%, and just in case you think you can escape this by moving to the suburbs, the property taxes in the neighboring Sarpy County are 2.2809%. This will usually amount to a couple of thousand dollars every year if you own a home and a couple hundred for a vehicle.
Of course, income tax and sales tax in the state are hardly an issue, meaning that the taxes will usually balance out depending on how much you make.
12: Low Property Values
Again, this is something that is less true of Omaha than it is of other parts of the state, but homes aren’t very expensive in Nebraska. Even in Omaha, they aren’t worth a ton of money. Is this a problem? If you’re buying your home as a financial investment, yes. Homes will usually accrue value at least with inflation, but don’t expect much more out of homes in the Omaha area.
Of course, when the market inevitably crashes again, people in Omaha will lose significantly less than people in other parts of the country, but the likelihood is that in the end, a home in Omaha won’t be worth a ton when it comes time to sell.
However, the low property values do mitigate the problem of high property tax, since it isn’t like your property will be worth that much in the end anyways.
13: It’s in a Red State
Nebraska is a heavily entrenched red state. The last time the state went totally for a democrat was when they supported Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, and practically all of the state’s elected representatives are Republicans. Is this necessarily a bad thing? No, a lot of people will find this to be a perfectly fine arrangement.
However, for people who lean progressive, this can be incredibly frustrating. Fortunately, Nebraska currently uses a relatively equitable system for attributing electoral college votes, which means that the Omaha area does occasionally vote blue, separate from the rest of the state.
And Omaha is itself the most liberal part of the state. If the state’s political leanings are the thing holding you back from moving here, then at least there’s that.
14: Flyover Country
There is a strong perception that people from Nebraska are from nowhere. This may be true in a general sense, but it still isn’t fun to have people make fun of you for living in a state with a smaller number of hills in it than it has borders with other states.
There is also a stereotype of Nebraskans as country people, and you will get jokes from people outside of the state about cornfields all the time if you move here. It simply comes with the territory.
15: Nebraskans Call Themselves Cornhuskers
Is it because of the football team? Is it because of the corn? Do they really need a reason? Moving to Omaha will earn you one of the strangest demonyms in the United States, whether you want it or not. And the worst part is that you won’t hear the term cornhusker from non-Nebraskans. No, you will only hear it from fellow cornhuskers, and it will remind you of the path you have chosen every single time.
If you aren’t in the market for a weird new demonym, maybe consider moving somewhere else.
16: Omaha is Far Away From Anything
In a world with widespread air travel, it’s easy to forget how big of a deal it is to be really far away from something. Even by air, it will take several hours to get anywhere worth going from Omaha, and it will take even longer to drive or take a train. If you want to travel across the country, Omaha probably isn’t a great place to do that from.
17: Poor Public Schools
The Omaha area actually has some great universities, but unfortunately, its public schools are reportedly middling at best. While these reports are usually not quite as big of a deal as you might expect them to be, parents thinking of moving to Omaha will need to make sure that their kids are getting as much support in their education as they can afford to give them.
Of course, Omaha is really a lovely place to live. Sure it has its problems, but most people who live there come to appreciate it over time, even if the drivers there are terrible.
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