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Omaha, Nebraska

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City Guide

Omaha is the largest city in the state of Nebraska, United States, and is the county seat of Douglas County. It is located in the Midwestern United States on the Missouri River, about 20 miles (30 km) north of the mouth of the Platte River. Omaha is the anchor of the Omaha-Council Bluffs metropolitan area, with Council Bluffs, Iowa sitting adjacent to Omaha across the Missouri River. According to the 2008 estimate, Omaha's population was 432,921. The city and its suburbs formed the 60th-largest metropolitan area in the United States in 2000, with an estimated population of 829,890 residing in eight counties or about 1.2 million within a 50 mile (80 km) radius.

The city grew on the Missouri River, with the first settlement extending from the Lone Tree Ferry crossing from Kanesville, Iowa in the early 1850s. Omaha earned its nickname, the "Gateway to the West", because of its central location as a transportation hub for the United States in the mid-1800s. Along with transportation and jobbing, early industries that were important to the city were its railroads, breweries, and stockyards.

Today the economy of Omaha is diverse. The city is the home to five Fortune 500 companies: ConAgra Foods; Union Pacific Corporation; Peter Kiewit and Sons, Inc.; Mutual of Omaha Companies; and Berkshire Hathaway, the investment vehicle of legendary investor and so-called "Oracle of Omaha" Warren Buffett. In 2001 Newsweek identified Omaha as one of the Top 10 high-tech havens in the nation. Six national fiber optic networks converge in Omaha. The Gallup Organization, TD Ameritrade, PayPal and LinkedIn all have major operations or headquarters in Omaha. The city also is the home to three of the top 30 architectural and engineering firms in the world: Leo A. Daly Co., HDR, Inc. and DLR Group. Tourism in Omaha benefits the city's economy greatly, with the annual College World Series providing important revenue and the city's Henry Doorly Zoo serving as the top attraction in Nebraska.

The rich cultural background of Omaha includes the Joslyn Art Museum, the Durham Museum, the Holland Performing Arts Center, and the Omaha Community Playhouse, the country's largest. The city's historical and cultural attractions have been lauded by numerous national newspapers, including the Boston Globe and The New York Times. Music in Omaha has always been important to the city, with North Omaha's music scene being historically significant and in modern times, the "Omaha Sound", defining an important trend across the nation. In 2008 Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine ranked Omaha the No. 3 best city in the United States to "live, work and play."


Since the 1600s, the Omaha, Pawnee, Otoe, the Missouri, the Ponca and Ioway all variously occupied the land that became Omaha. The word "Omaha" (actually UmoNhoN or UmaNhaN) means "Dwellers on the bluff".

The Lewis and Clark Expedition passed by the riverbanks that would later become the city of Omaha in 1804, and met on Council Bluff at a point about 20 miles (30 km) north of present-day Omaha, at which point they met with the Otoe. Immediately south of that area several outposts were built in succeeding years, including Fort Lisa in 1806; Fort Atkinson in 1819; and Cabanne's Trading Post, built in 1822. The Mormons built a town called Cutler's Park in the area in 1846.

Pioneer Omaha

Before it was legal to claim land in Indian Country, William D. Brown was operating the Lone Tree Ferry to bring settlers from Council Bluffs to the area that became Omaha. Brown is generally credited as having the first vision for a city where Omaha now sits. The passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 was presaged by the staking out of claims around the area that was to become Omaha by residents from neighboring Council Bluffs, Iowa. The city was founded at a picnic on July 4, 1854. Soon after the Omaha Claim Club was formed to provide vigilante justice for claim jumpers and others who infringed on the land of many of the city's founding fathers. Some of this land was later used to entice Nebraska Territory legislators in an area called Scriptown. The U.S. Supreme Court later ruled against numerous landowners whose violent actions were condemned in Baker v. Morton.

Many of Omaha's founding figures stayed at the Douglas House or the Cozzens House Hotel. Dodge Street was important early in the city's history; soon after North 24th Street and South 24th Street followed in importance. Most early pioneers were buried in Prospect Hill Cemetery, next to soldiers from Fort Omaha, early European immigrants and African Americans. There are several other historical cemeteries in Omaha, as well as historical Jewish synagogues and Christian churches, as well.

19th century

The economy of Omaha boomed and busted through its early years. First the jobbing and wholesaling district brought new jobs; followed by the railroads and the stockyards, these industries were the most important in the city's early years. Immigrants soon created ethnic enclaves throughout the city, including Little Italy, Near North Side, Sheelytown, and Little Bohemia. Within twenty years of the founding of the Stockyards in South Omaha, four of the five major meatpacking companies in the United States were located in Omaha.

Beginning in the late 1800s Omaha's upper class lived in posh suburbs throughout the city, including the south and north Gold Coast neighborhoods, Bemis Park, Kountze Place, Field Club and throughout Midtown Omaha. They traveled the city's sprawling park system on boulevards designed by renowned landscape architect Horace Cleveland. The Omaha Horse Railway first carried passengers throughout the city, as did the later Omaha Cable Tramway Company and several similar companies. The Omaha and Council Bluffs Railway and Bridge Company built the Douglas Street Bridge, the first pedestrian and wagon bridge between Omaha and Council Bluffs, in 1888.

Gambling, drinking and prostitution were widespread in the 19th century. Controlled by Omaha's political boss Tom Dennison by 1890, criminal elements enjoyed support from Omaha's "perpetual" mayor, "Cowboy Jim" Dahlman, nicknamed for his eight terms as mayor. Prostitution was rampant in the city's Burnt District and later in the Sporting District. In 1891 a mob hanged an African American porter named Joe Coe after he was accused of raping a white girl.

In 1898 Omaha's leaders, under the guidance of Gurdon Wattles, held the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition, touted as a celebration of agricultural and industrial growth throughout the Midwest. The Indian Congress, which drew more than 500 American Indians from across the country, was held simultaneously. More than 2,000,000 visitors attended the event, held in Kountze Park and the Omaha Driving Park.

20th century

In 1900 Omaha was the center of a national uproar over the kidnapping of Edward Cudahy, Jr., the son of a local meatpacking magnate. The 20th century introduced major civil unrest in Omaha, as the city's labor and management clashed, racial tension escalated, and ethnic strife lingered. A major riot in South Omaha destroyed the city's Greek Town in 1909, completely disbanding the Greek population in Omaha.The civil rights movement in Omaha has roots that extend back to 1912, when the first chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People west of the Mississippi River was founded in the city.In 1919 the city was caught up in the Red Summer when 10,000 people gathered downtown to lynch Willy Brown. In addition to dismembering him and burning his body, the crowd caused more than $1,000,000 damage to the Douglas County Courthouse. The culture of North Omaha thrived throughout the 1920s, with several creative figures, including Tillie Olsen, Wallace Thurman, Lloyd Hunter, and Anna Mae Winburn emerging from the vibrant Near North Side.

After the tumultuous Great Depression during the 1930s, Omaha rebounded with the development of Offutt Air Force Base just south of the city. The Glenn L. Martin Company operated a factory there in the 1940s that produced 521 B-29 Superfortresses, including the Enola Gay and Bockscar. The construction of Interstates 80, 480 and 680, along with the North Omaha Freeway, spurred development but caused controversy, particularly in North Omaha, which was bisected by new routes. Creighton University hosted the DePorres Club, an early civil rights group whose strategies predated the national movement, starting in 1947. In 1969, Woodmen Tower was completed and became Omahas tallest building and first major skyscraper of Omaha at 478 ft (146 m). There were three major race riots along North 24th Street in the 1960s which destroyed the Near North Side's economic base for many years after.

Since the 1970s Omaha has continued expanding and growing. West Omaha has become home to the majority of the city's population, while North and South Omaha's populations are acknowledged for their economic and racial diversity. Downtown Omaha has been rejuvenated in numerous ways, primarily featuring the development of the Old Market, the demolition of Jobber's Canyon, and the development of several downtown skyscrapers and cultural institutions. One First National Center was completed in 2002, replacing the Woodmen Tower as the tallest building in Omaha at 638 ft (194 m). The creation of NoDo included the construction of the Qwest Center and the Slowdown/Film Streams development at North 14th and Webster Streets. New construction has occurred throughout the city, with important developments throughout West Omaha and on the site of the former Ak-Sar-Ben arena.

Major events

Major events in Omaha's history include:

  • The settlement of Winter Quarters in 1846
  • A founder's day picnic held on July 4, 1854
  • Groundbreaking for the First Transcontinental Railroad in 1863
  • Founding of the Union Pacific Railroad in 1867
  • Founding of the Omaha Stockyards in 1883
  • Great Flood of 1881
  • Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition in 1898
  • Omaha Easter Sunday Tornado of 1913
  • The Omaha Race Riot of 1919
  • The relocation of Strategic Air Command to Omaha in 1948
  • Omaha Tornado of 1975
  • Great Storm of 1975
  • Demolition of Jobber's Canyon for the redevelopment of Downtown Omaha in 1989
  • Hosting the 2008 Olympic Team Trials for swimming


Metropolitan area

The Omaha-Council Bluffs metropolitan area consists of eight counties; five in Nebraska and three in Iowa. In descending order of population, they are:

  • Douglas County, Nebraska
  • Sarpy County, Nebraska
  • Pottawattamie County, Iowa
  • Cass County, Nebraska
  • Saunders County, Nebraska
  • Washington County, Nebraska
  • Harrison County, Iowa
  • Mills County, Iowa

The Omaha-Council Bluffs Combined Statistical Area comprises the Omaha-Council Bluffs Metropolitan Statistical Area and the Fremont Micropolitan Statistical Area; the CSA has a population of 858,720 (2005 Census Bureau estimate). Omaha ranks as the 42nd-largest city in the United States, and is the core city of its 60th-largest metropolitan area.


Omaha is generally divided into five geographic areas: Downtown, Midtown, North Omaha, South Omaha and West Omaha. There is also small community in East Omaha.

The city has a wide range of historical and new neighborhoods and suburbs that reflect its socioeconomic diversity. Early neighborhood development of ethnic enclaves, including Little Italy, Little Bohemia and Greek Town, have given way to gated communities. Recently, Omahans have made strides to revitalize a healthy and vibrant downtown area, including the redevelopment of the Old Market and the designation of the Omaha Rail and Commerce Historic District. At the turn of the century the City of Omaha annexed several surrounding communities, including Florence, Dundee and Benson. At the same time, the city annexed all of South Omaha, including its historic neighborhoods such as Dahlman and Burlington Road. From its first annexation in 1857 (of East Omaha) to its recent and controversial annexation of Elkhorn, Omaha has constantly had an eye towards growth.

Landmark preservation

Omaha is home to dozens of nationally, regionally and locally significant landmarks. The city has more than a dozen historic districts, including Fort Omaha Historic District, Gold Coast Historic District, Omaha Quartermaster Depot Historic District, Field Club Historic District, Bemis Park Historic District, and the South Omaha Main Street Historic District. Omaha is notorious for its 1989 demolition of 24 buildings in the Jobbers Canyon Historic District, which represented the largest loss of buildings on the National Register ever lost to date. The only original building still standing is the Nash Block.

Omaha has almost one hundred individual properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Bank of Florence, Holy Family Church, the Christian Specht Building and the Joslyn Castle. There are also three properties designated as highly-selective National Historic Landmarks. Locally designated landmarks including residential, commercial, religious, educational, agricultural and socially significant locations across the city accentuate Omaha's cultural legacy and important history. The City of Omaha Landmarks Heritage Preservation Commission is the government body that works with the mayor of Omaha and the Omaha City Council to protect historic places. Important history organizations in the community include the Douglas County Historical Society and Landmarks, Inc.


Omaha is home to the Omaha Community Playhouse, the largest community theater in the United States. The Omaha Symphony Orchestra and its modern Holland Performing Arts Center, the Opera Omaha at the Orpheum theater, the Blue Barn Theatre, and The Rose Theater form the backbone of Omaha's performing arts community.

Opened in 1931, the Joslyn Art Museum has significant art collections. Since its inception in 1976, Omaha Children's Museum has been a place where children can challenge themselves, discover how the world works and learn through play. The largest urban artists' colony in the world, the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, was founded in Omaha in 1981, and the Durham Western Heritage Museum is accredited with the Smithsonian Institution for traveling exhibits from the Smithsonian. The annual Omaha Blues, Jazz, & Gospel Festival celebrates local music along with the Omaha Black Music Hall of Fame.

In 1955 Omaha's Union Stockyards overtook Chicago's stockyards as the United States' meat packing center, and this legacy is reflected in Omaha's renowned steakhouses like Gorat's and the recently closed Mister C's, as well as through the retail chain Omaha Steaks.

The Henry Doorly Zoo is widely considered one of the premier zoos in the world. It houses the world's largest indoor rainforest exhibit, indoor desert exhibit, and nocturnal animal exhibit, the largest cat complex in North America, and one of the country's best aquariums outside of SeaWorld.

Omaha's historic downtown area known as the Old Market boasts an incredible history of its own. The entire twelve city blocks that it rests on are recognized by the National Register of Historical Places. Today its warehouses and other buildings house shops, restaurants, bars, and art galleries.

The Omaha Botanical Gardens features 100 acres (40 hectares), while the new Kenefick Park recognizes Union Pacific's long history in Omaha.

North Omaha is the home to several historical cultural attractions, including the Dreamland Historical Project, Love’s Jazz & Art Center, and the John Beasley Theater. The annual River City Roundup is celebrated at Fort Omaha; Florence Days celebrate Florence history, and; Native Omaha Days is a biennial event celebrating Near North Side heritage.

There is a long history of religious influence throughout the Omaha area. The city's Christian community includes several historical churches dating from the founding of the city, as well as small, medium and megachurches. Omaha hosts the only LDS temple in Nebraska, along with a significant Jewish community. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Omaha includes 152 parishes, while there are several Orthodox Christian congregations throughout the city, as well.


Omaha's Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium is home to the Omaha Royals minor-league baseball team (the AAA affiliate of the Kansas City Royals). Since 1950, it has hosted the annual NCAA College World Series men's baseball tournament in mid-June. However there are plans to move the CWS downtown to a new stadium.

A tribute to Omaha's meatpacking past, the Omaha Beef indoor football team plays at the Omaha Civic Auditorium.

The Creighton University Bluejays compete in a number of NCAA Division I sports. In addition to baseball they play soccer at Morrison Stadium and basketball at the Qwest Center.

Ice hockey is a popular spectator sport in Omaha. The two Omaha-area teams are the Omaha Lancers, a USHL team that plays in the neighboring city of Council Bluffs at the Mid-America Center[59] and the University of Nebraska at Omaha Mavericks, an NCAA Division I team that plays at the Qwest Center.

Omaha has a thriving running community and many miles of paved running and biking trails throughout the city and surrounding communities. Chief among these is the Keystone Trail. The Omaha Marathon, which also includes a Half Marathon and 10K race, takes place annually in September.

Omaha is the birthplace of numerous important historical and modern sports figures, including 1960 Summer Olympics Gold Medalist and NBA star Bob Boozer; Baseball Hall of Famer Bob Gibson; 1989 American League Rookie of the Year Gregg Olson; NFL Running back Ahman Green; Heisman Trophy winners Johnny Rodgers, and Eric Crouch; Pro Football Hall of Famer Gale Sayers; and champion tennis player Andy Roddick.


Omaha has a rich history in rhythm & blues and jazz as the home ground for a number of influential bands, including Anna Mae Winburn's Cotton Club Boys and Lloyd Hunter's Seranaders. Homegrown talent includes rock and roll pioneer Wynonie Harris, jazz great Preston Love, drummer Buddy Miles, Luigi Waites, and many others. Doug Ingle from the late 60's band Iron Butterfly is also from Omaha.

Contemporary music groups either located in or originally from Omaha include Mannheim Steamroller, Bright Eyes, The Faint, Cursive, Azure Ray, Tilly and the Wall, A Moment Lost and 311. The late indie-folk singer/songwriter Elliott Smith was also from Omaha. During the late 1990s, Omaha became nationally known as the birthplace of Saddle Creek Records, and the subsequent "Omaha Sound" was borne from their bands' collective style. Omaha also has a fledgling hip hop scene that includes Pigeon John, Mars Black and long-time bastion Houston Alexander, a one-time graffiti artist, professional Mixed Martial Arts competitor, and current local hip-hop radio show host. Cerone Thomas, known as Scrybe, has had a number one single on college radio stations across the United States.

A long heritage of ethic and cultural bands have come from Omaha. While the Omaha Black Music Hall of Fame celebrates the city's long history of African American music, the Strathdon Caledonia Pipe Band carries on a Scottish legacy in Omaha. Internationally renowned classical conductor Antonín Dvořák wrote his 9th Symphony: From The New World after visiting Omaha's robust Czech communitiy in 1893 based on his impressions of the region. In the period surrounding World War I Valentin J. Peter encouraged Germans in Omaha to celebrate their rich musical heritage, too, with Frederick Metz, Gottlieb Storz and Frederick Krug were all influential brewers in the city whose beer gardens kept many German bands active throughout the city.


In 1939, the world premiere of the film Union Pacific was held in Omaha, Nebraska and the accompanying three-day celebration drew 250,000 people. A special train from Hollywood to Omaha carried director Cecil B. DeMille and stars Barbara Stanwyck and Joel McCrea. Omaha's Girls and Boys Town was made famous by the Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney movie "Boys Town".

Omaha has been showcased in recent years by a handful of relatively big budget motion pictures. The city's most extensive exposure can be accredited to Omaha native Alexander Payne, the Oscar-nominated director who shot parts of About Schmidt, Citizen Ruth and Election in the city and suburbs of Papillion and LaVista.

The demolition of the Cinerama Indian Hills Theater by Nebraska Methodist Hospital represented a real loss to American cinematic history. The Dundee Theatre is the lone surviving single-screen movie theater in Omaha and still shows films.

A recent development to the Omaha film scene was the addition of the Ruth Sokolof Theater in NoDo. The two-screen theater features new American independents, foreign films, and documentaries, as well as classics, themed series, and director retrospectives.


The Omaha metropolitan area is served by the Omaha World-Herald, the city's major newspaper and the largest employee-owned newspaper in the United States, as well as The Reader, and Omaha Magazine. The Omaha Star, founded in 1938 in North Omaha, is Nebraska's only African American newspaper.[66] The city also has 4 television news stations.


Population by decade
1860 1,883
1870 16,083
1880 30,518
1890 140,452
1900 102,555
1910 124,096
1920 191,061
1930 214,006
1940 223,844
1950 251,117
1960 301,598
1970 346,929
1980 313,939
1990 335,795
2000 390,007
2006 427,872 (est.)

As of the census of 2000, there are 390,007 people, 156,738 households, and 94,983 families residing within city limits. The population density is 3,370.7 people per square mile (1,301.5/km²). There are 165,731 housing units at an average density of 1,432.4/sq mi (553.1/km²). The racial makeup of the city is 78.39% White, 13.31% African American, 0.67% Native American, 1.74% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 3.91% from other races, and 1.92% from two or more races. 7.54% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 156,738 households out of which 30.0% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.8% are married couples living together, 13.0% have a female householder with no husband present, and 39.4% are non-families. 31.9% of all households are made up of individuals and 9.4% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.42 and the average family size is 3.10.

In the city the average age of the population is diverse with 25.6% under the age of 18, 11.0% from 18 to 24, 30.8% from 25 to 44, 20.7% from 45 to 64, and 11.8% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 34 years. For every 100 females there are 95.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 92.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $40,006, and the median income for a family is $50,821. Males have a median income of $34,301 versus $26,652 for females. The per capita income for the city is $21,756. 11.3% of the population and 7.8% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 15.6% of those under the age of 18 and 7.4% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.


Omaha was founded by white Anglo-Saxon Protestants from neighboring Council Bluffs. Over the next 100 years countless ethnic groups have enriched the city, including Mexicans, Jews, African Americans, Scandinavians, Irish, Poles, Native Americans, Czechs, Asians, Germans, Greeks and many others. Today the city is growing with new immigrants from Sudan, Central and South American countries.

Racial and ethnic tension

Omaha has been racially and ethnically diverse since its founding. At times rapid population change, overcrowded housing and job competition have aroused racial and ethnic tensions. The Greek Town Riot in 1909 flared after increased Greek immigration raised fears. Postwar tensions and job uncertainty contributed to the lynching of Willy Brown and the Omaha Race Riot of 1919, in a summer marked by riots in other major cities. In the 1960s there were several race-related riots in North Omaha, including one at the Logan Fontenelle Housing Project in the Near North Side community. The Black Panther Party was involved in tensions in the late 1960s, which culminated in the cause célèbre known as the Rice/Poindexter Case.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, gang violence and incidents between the Omaha Police Department and members of the African American community further aggravated relations between groups in north and South Omaha.

Notable residents

Omaha is the historic and modern birthplace and home of many notable politicians, actors, musicians, business leaders and cultural leaders. Activist and son of a Baptist minister, Malcolm X, first known as Malcolm Little, was born in Omaha in 1925. The Gerald Ford birthplace site memorializes the 38th President. Numerous actors, including Gabrielle Union, Fred Astaire and Adele Astaire, Dorothy McGuire, Marlon Brando and Nick Nolte, were born in Omaha. Academy Award winner Henry Fonda also grew up in Omaha. Marlon Brando's mother encouraged Henry Fonda to pursue acting at the Omaha Community Playhouse. Mrs. Brando had helped found the playhouse. Montgomery Clift came from Omaha as well. His family's home still stands on South 33rd Street, a few blocks from that of Gerald Ford.

Omaha's rich musical heritage includes legends such as Wynonie Harris, Preston Love, Buddy Miles, Calvin Keys, Eugene McDaniels and others. The modern music scene includes the members of 311 and Bright Eyes. Warren Buffett, the richest person in the world, lives in Omaha.


Education in Omaha is provided by many private and public institutions. Omaha Public Schools runs the city's largest public school district and is the largest school district in Nebraska with more than 47,750 students in more than 75 schools. After a contentious period of uncertainty, in 2007 the Nebraska Legislature approved a plan to create a learning community for Omaha-area school districts with a central administrative board. Millard Public schools in west Omaha has some of the highest ACT scores in Nebraska. The Archdiocese of Omaha maintains a strong district of private Catholic schools with 21,500 students in 32 elementary schools and 9 high schools. St. Cecilia Grade School in Midtown Omaha earned national distinction with the U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon School.

Creighton University, ranked the top non-doctoral regional college in the Midwestern United States by U.S. News and World Report. Creighton maintains a 108-acre (0.4 km²) campus just outside of Downtown Omaha in the new NoDo district, and the Jesuit-run institution has an enrollment of around 6,700 in its undergraduate, graduate, medical, and law schools. There are more than 10 other colleges and universities in Omaha in the Omaha metro area.


According to USA Today, Omaha ranks eighth among the nation's 50 largest cities in both per-capita billionaires and Fortune 500 companies. Major employers in the area include Alegent Health, Omaha Public Schools, First Data Corporation, Methodist Health System, Mutual of Omaha, ConAgra Foods, Nebraska Health System, Offutt Air Force Base,and the West Corporation.

With diversification in several industries, including banking, insurance, telecommunications, architecture/construction, and transportation, Omaha's economy has grown dramatically since the early 1990s. Omaha's most prominent businessman is Warren Buffett, nicknamed the "Oracle of Omaha", who is regularly ranked one of the richest people in the world. Omaha has five companies listed on the Fortune 500 list, including Berkshire Hathaway, ConAgra Foods, Union Pacific Railroad, Mutual of Omaha, and Kiewit Corporation.

Omaha is home to the headquarters of several other major corporations, including The Gallup Organization, TD Ameritrade, infoUSA Werner Enterprises and First National Bank. Many large technology firms have major operations or operational headquarters in Omaha, including Bank of the West,First Data, PayPal and LinkedIn. The city is also home to three of the 30 largest architecture firms in the United States, including HDR, Inc., DLR Group, Inc., and Leo A. Daly Co.

As of October of 2007, the city of Omaha, the 42nd largest in the country, has the fifth highest percentage of low-income African Americans in the country.


Omaha offers visitors history, sports, outdoors and cultural experiences. Its principal tourist attractions are the Henry Doorly Zoo and the College World Series. The city has been a tourist destination for many years. Famous early visitors included as Rudyard Kipling and General George Crook, and in 1883 Omaha hosted the first official performance of the Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show for eight thousand attendees. In 1898 the city hosted more than 1,000,000 visitors from across the United States at the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition, a world's fair that lasted for more than half the year.

Research on leisure and hospitality situates Omaha in the same tier for tourists as the neighboring cities of Topeka, Kansas, Kansas City, Missouri, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and Denver, Colorado. A recent study found that $1 million in cultural tourism specifically creates approximately $83,000 in state and local taxes as well as supporting 32 jobs for the metropolitan area, which in turn leads to additional tax revenue for government.


Omaha is located at 41°15′38″N, 96°0′47″W. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 118.9 square miles (307.9 km²). 115.7 square miles (299.7 km²) of it is land and 3.2 square miles (8.2 km²) of it is water. The total area is 2.67% water.


Though located at approximately the same latitude as Rome, Omaha, by virtue of its location near the center of the North America far from large bodies of water or mountain ranges, has a humid continental climate (Koppen climate classification Dfa), with hot summers and cold winters. Average July maximum and minimum temperatures are 88 °F (31 °C) and 66 °F (19 °C) respectively, with moderate humidity and relatively frequent thunderstorms; the January counterparts are 31 °F (-1 °C) and 11 °F (-12 °C). The maximum temperature recorded in the city is 114 °F (46 °C), the minimum -32 °F (-36 °C). Average yearly precipitation is 30 in (76 cm), falling mostly in the warmer months. What precipitation does fall in winter usually takes the form of snow, with average yearly snowfall being around 30 in (76 cm).


Omaha's growth has required the constant development of new urban infrastructures that influence, allow and encourage the constant expansion of the city.


Omaha has a strong mayor form of government, along with a city council that is elected from seven districts across the city. The current mayor is Michael Fahey, who was elected in 2001 and reelected in 2005. The elected city clerk is Buster Brown. The City of Omaha administers twelve departments, including finance, police, human rights, libraries and planning.


The City of Omaha administers a parks and recreation department that oversees six regional parks, including Dodge Park and Gene Leahy Mall, and 13 community parks, including Miller Park and Hanscom Park. Part of Omaha's riverfront area is now the Heartland of America Park, including a marina, Miller's Landing, and the soon-to-open Missouri River Pedestrian Bridge, a 3,000 foot-long footbridge crossing into Council Bluffs.

The city's historic boulevards were originally designed by Horace Cleveland in 1889 to work with the parks to create a seamless flow of trees, grass and flowers throughout the city. Florence Boulevard and Fontenelle Boulevard are among the remnants of this system.

Omaha boasts more than 80 miles (129 km) of trails for pedestrians, bicyclists and hikers. They include the American Discovery Trail, which traverses the entire United States, as well as the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, which runs westward from Omaha across 3,700 miles (5,950 km) in 11 western states. Trails throughout the area are included in comprehensive plans for the city of Omaha, the Omaha metro area, Douglas County, and long-distance coordinated plans between the municipalities of southeast Nebraska.


The gas and water public utilities in Omaha are provided by the Metropolitan Utilities District. Nebraska is the only public power state in the nation. All electric utilities are non-profit and customer-owned. Electricity in the city is provided by the Omaha Public Power District. Public housing is governed by the Omaha Housing Authority, and public transportation is provided by Metro Area Transit. Qwest and Cox provide local telephone services. The City of Omaha maintains two modern sewage treatment plants.

Portions of the Enron corporation began as Northern Natural Gas Company in Omaha. Northern provides three natural gas lines to Omaha currently. Peoples Natural Gas, a division of UtiliCorp United, serves several surrounding communities in the Omaha metro. Cox Communications provides cable television services.

Tallest buildings

Omaha's tallest building is the 45-story First National Bank Tower. As of December 2007, Construction has begun on the WallStreet Tower Omaha in place of the old union pacific building. It will be the third tallest upon completion at 373 feet (114 m).

Tallest buildings
Name Stories Height
One First National Center 45 634 ft (193 m)
Woodmen Tower 30 478 ft (146 m)
Masonic Manor 22 320 ft (98 m)
Union Pacific Center 19 317 ft (97 m)
First National Center 22 295 ft (90 m)
Mutual of Omaha Building 14 285 ft (87 m)
AT&T Building 16 265 ft (81 m)
Northern Natural Gas Building 19 260 ft (79 m)
1200 Landmark Center 15 255 ft (78 m)
Omaha World Herald Building 16 250 ft (76 m)

Health and medicine

Omaha is the smallest city in the United States to have three major research hospitals. They include the Boys Town National Research Hospital, the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the Creighton University Medical Center. The Boys Town facility is well-known for world-class researchers in hearing-related research and high quality treatment. The University of Nebraska Medical Center hosts the Eppley Institute for Research in Cancer and Allied Diseases, a world-renowned cancer treatment facility named in honor of Omahan Eugene Eppley.


Omaha's central role in the history of transportation across America earned it the nickname "Gate City of the West". Although Council Bluffs was chosen as the starting point for the Union Pacific Railroad, construction began from Omaha on the eastern portion of the first transcontinental railroad in the United States. By the middle of the 20th century, Omaha was served by almost every major railroad. Today, the Omaha Rail and Commerce Historic District celebrates this connection, along with the listing of the Burlington Train Station and the Union Station on the National Register of Historic Places. Omaha has been the location of Union Pacific Railroad's corporate headquarters since the company began. Located downtown, Union Pacific Center is the largest building by square feet in the state of Nebraska, and the 4th tallest in Omaha. Amtrak, the national passenger rail system, provides service through Omaha.

Omaha's position as a transportation center was finalized with the 1872 opening of the Union Pacific Missouri River Bridge linking the transcontinental railroad to the railroads terminating in Council Bluffs. In 1888 the first road bridge the Ak-Sar-Ben Bridge opened. In the 1890s, the Illinois Central drawbridge opened as the largest bridge of its type in the world at that time. Omaha's Missouri River road bridges are now entering their second generation, including the WPA financed South Omaha Bridge (now Veteran's Memorial) which was added to the National Register of Historic Places and is currently scheduled to be demolished. In 2006 Omaha and Council Bluffs announced plans to build the Missouri River Pedestrian Bridge which should become a city landmark on its scheduled opening in November 2008.

The primary mode of transportation in Omaha is by car, with I-80, I-480, I-680, I-29, and U.S. Route 75 (JFK Freeway and North Freeway) providing freeway service across the metropolitan area. The expressway along West Dodge Road (U.S. Route 6 and Nebraska Link 28B) and U.S. Route 275 has been upgraded to freeway standards from I-680 to Fremont. Metro Area Transit runs a number of bus routes throughout the city. Omaha is laid out on a grid plan, with 12 blocks to the mile (east - west). Omaha is the location of a historic boulevard system that sought to combine the beauty of parks with the pleasure of driving cars. This system includes everything from the historic Florence and Fontenelle Boulevards to the modern Sorenson Expressway.

Eppley Airfield, Omaha's airport, serves the region with over 4.2 million passengers enplaning or deplaning in 2006. United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, US Airways, Continental Airlines, Northwest Airlines, Delta Airlines, Midwest Airlines, American Airlines, Frontier Airlines, ExpressJet Airlines, and Mesa Airlines serve the airport with direct and connecting service. General aviation airports serving the area are the Millard Municipal Airport, North Omaha Airport and the Council Bluffs Airport. Offutt Air Force Base is a military base. Eppley is situated in East Omaha, with many users driving through Carter Lake, Iowa and getting a view of Carter Lake before getting there.

Sister cities

Omaha has six sister cities, which are:

  • Shizuoka, Japan
  • Braunschweig, Germany
  • Šiauliai, Lithuania
  • Naas, Ireland
  • Xalapa, Mexico
  • Artemivsk, Ukraine

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