15 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Omaha, Nebraska, Because No, We Don't All Live On Farms
It’s fine, I'll admit it — I am in love with my city, Omaha, Nebraska. Many people on the coasts may picture me as a stereotypical farm girl with my own horse-drawn carriage; they may also think of Omaha, the cosmopolitan city that supposedly bleeds red, as a turn-of-the-century farming community. Well, let me tell you: I do love horses, but if you think people in Omaha are living out a Little House on the Prairie episode, you could not be more mistaken.
That above statement might be a bit dramatic, but it hits on a truth: few people outside Nebraska truly understand what it is like to live in Nebraska. Sure, we get the occasional cultural shout-out in the form of black-and-white movies by Alexander Payne, or when Peyton Manning uses the city's name as a signal to do a quick change on the stadium turf. Every so often, we also get a well-deserved thumbs up for being the site of the invention of Kool-Aid. But to everyone else, Omaha is mostly a big question mark in the middle of the country.
For that reason, I am here to tell you 15 things about Omaha that aren’t well-known; facts that aren't taught in social studies classes or plastered all over the internet. I'm here to tell you about 15 things that make Omaha a great place to live, and a city worth obsessing over. Here we go!
1. Most Of Us Have Never Set Foot On A Farm
Surprising, I know! That’s what happens when the media stereotypes a geographic area. Show enough cornfields labeled “Nebraska”, and everyone outside of the state starts thinking that everyone in the state are hicks and farm folks. But Omaha is America's 42nd largest city, with a population of 427,872. Not room for too many cornfields in there.
2. We're Fond Of Our Lucky Bucket (And Other Beers)
In 2013, Business Insider voted Omaha the "most hungover city in America," and what can I say: we earned it. Nightlife districts like Benson, Midtown, Dundee, Downtown, and Old Market offer tons of options for drinks, and there are so many dive bars in between these neighborhoods, you can hardly keep track. You can’t go two miles in this town without seeing a university bars, dive bar, or local brewery, like Upstream, Lucky Bucket, Infusion, and Beertopia.
3. Our Fashion Week Is Major
Omaha Fashion Week is a thing. No, really! Not only is it real — it is the 5th largest fashion event in the country! Twice a year, Omaha Fashion Week spotlights local models, designers, and charities. You can even be a sponsor!
4. Our Indie Rock Scene Is World-Famous
Ever heard of Bright Eyes? Saddle Creek Records, the leading record label in the city, has produced a number of wildly influential indie rock acts, including the aforementioned Bright Eyes (Bright Eyes leader Conor Oberst actually owns a bar in Dundee), Cursive, Azure Ray, Tokyo Police Club, Cursive, and many more.
5. Our Jazz And Blues Scene Is Massive
North Omaha has a long history with the blues. Our Dreamland Ballroom has hosted performers from the original Nat King Cole Trio to Louis Armstrong. We hold a Jazz on the Green festival every summer in honor of the greats.
6. Our Art Scene Is Massive, Too
Besides the public art you can spot throughout the city, we have several art galleries, museums, shows, and warehouses dedicated to supporting both old and new local art. Hot Shops showcases blown glass, sculptures, and architecture, while the Bemis Center attracts modern art designers.
7. We Are The Perfect Place To Go Antiquing
Being the “center” of the United States, we have all the advantages of being a railroad town. Meaning, many travelers far and wide passed through our historic Union Station and left things — things that now form the backbone of our amazing antiquing culture. My cousin once found a sculpture made by a Mexican artist in 1884, on a totally ordinary shopping expedition at one of our many antique stores.
8. We're A Hotbed For Film
For a small city, we have a large population of independent filmmakers, most famously Alexander Payne, the director of Election, Sideways, and, of course, Nebraska. We also have the annual Omaha Film Festival, which showcases feature-length films, shorts, and documentaries. Omaha was also the birthplace of a number of famous actors, among them Marlon Brando, Jorge Garcia (Hurley from Lost, The Wedding Ringer), Adam DeVine (Workaholics, Pitch Perfect, Modern Family), and Nicholas D'Agosto (Fired Up!, Gotham).
9. We Can Grow Grapes As Well As We Grow Corn
Back off, Wine Country. We know exactly how to squash the grapes, and we have an annual wine festival to prove it.
10. We're Home to Five Fortune 500 Companies
Mutual of Omaha, ConAgra Foods, Union Pacific, Kiewit, and Berkshire Hathaway all call Omaha home. And I know you've heard of Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway CEO, the most successful investor of the 20th century, and the man sometimes called "The Wizard of Omaha." I've seen his house. Pretty. Classy.
11. We Have Beautiful Prairies In The City
The state of Nebraska was once a peaceful, calm prairie wilderness. Then pioneers, farmers, cattle ranchers, and trains came through and ruined most of the natural beauty. But Glacier Creek Preserve made it their goal to maintain 320 acres of pure prairie land (Oregon Trail style) for educational and public use. So even if you stay in Omaha your entire time in Nebraska, you can still see some of those wide open spaces your friends back home will ask you about.
12. We Also Have An Ebola Containment Center In The City
Remember Ebola? it is thankfully not in the media right now, but should it become a threat again, it's good to know that we have one of the leading high level containment centers in the nation at the University Nebraska Medical Center. We've hosted most of the nation's Ebola patients within it, in fact
13. We Are An Epicenter For Men and Women in Speedos
Omaha is a sports hotbed. We host the annual College World Series, as well as baseball, championship ice skating, and a national swim trial competition. But not just any swim trial competition — we host the Olympic Swim Trials.
14. We Have More Than Just Farm Animals
The Henry Doorly Zoo is one of the top 10 zoos in the nation AND the world. You should check out the famous Desert Dome.
15. We Have Long Been A City Of New Opportunities
Back in the early days of the United States, people went west to get rich. To head towards the plains or prairie was to start a new adventure in your life. This seems a little far fetched nowadays, but it remains a little true: I firmly believe that if you ( and your business) can make it in Omaha, you can make it anywhere. We are a prime place to start a company, pioneer a new food, or test out a new idea.
My love for Omaha can't be conveyed via a specific number of bullet points, of course. What really makes Omaha amazing is the diverse, mixed culture that formed over the course of a century. Nebraska might be seen by many as a massive conservative state that seems to perpetually live in the '60s, but the people I encounter on a daily basis don't. They live a life filled with college students and young families, fashion, shops, and music scenes, the old market and spontaneous underground clubs. We have older families juxtaposed with fast-paced, bohemian college students. We live in a melting pot of cultures, at an amazing intersection of urbanity and nature. The diversity of the wonderful, interesting people I encounter every single day never make me question our state motto: "The Good Life".
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