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These Are The 10 Most Exciting Places In Nebraska

The next time somebody says that Nebraska is dull, just show them this list of the 10 most exciting places in the state.

Natalie Grigson

Staff Writer

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Nebraska: The Cornhusker State, once called the “Great American Desert,” and the birthplace of the Reuben sandwich. Yes, all told, Nebraska doesn’t really seem like the most exciting of places (unless you really love sandwiches), but as the latest analysis here at the Movoto Real Estate Blog shows, that just depends on where you’re looking.

So where exactly should you be looking, if you’re looking for some excitement? Well, you’d probably do best to start out in Lincoln, the most thrilling place in the state. It has restaurants galore, a nightlife that can’t be beat, and not to mention one of the best red velvet cupcakes your mouth has ever encountered at Le Cupcake; but more on all of that in a moment. For now, here are the 10 most exciting places in Nebraska:

1. City of Lincoln
2. City of Omaha
3. City of Kearney
4. City of Columbus
5. City of Hastings
6. South Sioux City
7. City of North Platte
8. City of Scottsbluff (tie)
8. City of Beatrice (tie)
10. City of Grand Island (tie)
10. City of Norfolk (tie)

Lincoln more exciting than Omaha? And Kearney over Columbus? Andrew Jackson Higgins would roll over in his grave (Google it). To find out how we came up with this list, keep on reading. We’ll also go from place to place and discuss just what makes each so exciting.

How We Created This Ranking

Creating a Big Deal List here at Movoto is pretty exciting stuff. We start out with a list of the state’s largest places—in this case, all of the places in Nebraska with populations of 10,000 people or more, which left us with a total of 17  places. Then, we looked at each of these places according to the following nine criteria, using the U.S. Census and local business listings:

  • Nightlife per capita (bars, clubs, comedy, etc.)
  • Live music venues per capita
  • Active life options per capita (parks, outdoor activities, etc.)
  • Arts and Entertainment per capita (movie theaters, festivals, galleries, theaters, etc.)
  • Fast Food restaurants per capita (the fewer the better)
  • Percentage of restaurants that are not fast food (the higher the better)
  • Percentage of young residents ages 18 to 34 (the higher the better)
  • Population density (the higher the better)

Here’s where it gets exciting. Sort of. With this info, we ranked all of our 17 places with scores from 1 to 17, with the lowest score being the most exciting. Then, we averaged these scores for an overall Big Deal Score, where again, the lowest number was the most exciting place.

Okay, now that we’ve discussed how we got our rankings, we’ll move on to talk about each of our winners in more detail. And if you simply can’t handle the excitement, settle down, take a breath, and then head down to the bottom of the post to see a complete list of how all of the places in our analysis ranked. Otherwise, put on your party pants, because we’re heading to Lincoln, the most exciting place in Nebraska.

1. Lincoln

Lincoln, NE

Source: Flickr user Len “Doc” Radin

The capital city has certainly been the most exciting place in the state, politically, in recent months; but even if your interests lie not in the primaries, but primarily on entertainment, Lincoln has you covered. According to our analysis, Lincoln was home to some of the best arts options, nightlife, and music venues per capita, ranking second, fourth, and fourth again, respectively.

As the location of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln also gained points for its percent of people between the ages of 18 and 34—31.7 percent. Plus, if you’re not into the nightlife or live music scene, Lincoln also had plenty of options when it came to dining out. Lincoln ranked well in that category as well for its lack of fast food restaurants per capita.

2. Omaha

Omaha, NE

Source: Flickr user Ali Eminov

With over 408,000 residents, Omaha was easily the largest city in Nebraska, and also the most densely populated in our top 10, which certainly helped put it near the top. But Omaha was filled with more than just people; it ranked first in the categories of nightlife, music venues, and arts and entertainment per capita.

Pubs like Krug Park, venues like Slowdown, and the Joslyn Art Museum were just a few of the top attractions in these categories, but as locals know, there are plenty more where those came from. Way too many for us to list, anyway (so feel free to list your favorites in the comments section).

3. Kearney

Kearney, NE

Source: Flickr user Greg Younger

If you thought the population in Lincoln was young, you clearly haven’t been to Kearney yet. This college town, home to the University of Nebraska, is made up of almost 36 percent young folks; that is, people from 18 to 34.

Perhaps because of this, Kearney was also one of the most active places in our top 10, ranking third for its number of active life amenities. It also seemed to be one of the most artistically inclined, ranking fifth for its number of arts and entertainment options.

Like what, you ask? Well, for starters there was the Museum of Nebraska Art, the Kearney Community Theater, and there’s that whole art department at the university. It’s kind of a big deal.

4. Columbus

Columbus, NE

Source: Flickr user Eric Langhorst

Unlike Kearney, which ranked well for a young population, Columbus impressed us for far different reasons. Interestingly, Columbus had only 21 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 34; but even so, ranked second only to Omaha for its number of nightlife options per capita.

There were more sophisticated venues, like the adorable Traditions Cafe & Pub; then there are places like Avenue Bar, where you can claim the title of Pickled Egg Eating Champion.

If the nightlife isn’t your thing, never fear; Columbus also ranked well for its active life options and for its number of non-fast food restaurants per capita. Huskers, anyone?

5. Hastings

Hastings, NE

Source: Flickr user Visit Hastings

This city has been a place of excitement for decades, arguably getting its start in the world of cool when Edwin Perkins invented Kool-Aid here in the late 1920s. These days, this most marvellous of inventions is celebrated each summer in Hastings at the annual Kool-Aid Days festival.

As if that weren’t exciting enough, Hastings also had plenty of year-round excitement. For example, this city ranked third overall both for its number of music venues and arts options per capita. It also ranked well for its lack of fast food, placing sixth in this category. So if you’re looking for a meal to go with your Tropical Punch, you may just have to settle for an actual restaurant. Ohhh yeahhhhh.

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6. South Sioux City

South Sioux City, NE

Source: Flickr user Misty Cunningham

Home to several community colleges, South Sioux City is one of the last places in our top 10 that earned high marks for its percent of population between the ages of 18 and 34; 24.7 percent to be exact.

Now, if you ever had the idea that being young might mean eating cheap fast food, you clearly haven’t met the young population of South Sioux City. Apparently these guys are eating pretty well.

With places like Kahill’s Steak-Fish & Chophouse, Diamond Thai, and Rosie’s Pizza, just to name a few, South Sioux City came in first for its number of non-fast food restaurants, plus second for its lack of fast food joints per capita.

7. North Platte

North Platte, NE

Source: Flickr user NOAA Photo Library

If you’re into trains, this railroad town might just be the most thrilling place in Nebraska for you. On the off chance that you’re not, though, don’t worry, this railroad town will probably still thrill you.

Apart from being a railroad community, North Platte was also one of the more active communities in the state, with the fourth most active life options per capita. It also ranked seventh in our analysis for both its arts and entertainment options and non-fast food restaurants per capita.

Don’t know where to start? Try Canteen Grille. It may look like a complete dive from the outside, but as we know, it’s what is inside that counts. And what is inside is some of the best steaks in Nebraska.

8. Scottsbluff

Scottsbluff, NE

Source: Flickr user Curtis Cronn

The first of our tie for eighth went to Scottsbluff. While this Scottsbluff County city didn’t come in as the very highest in any one category, it did rank pretty well across the board. For example, with dance academies, galleries like the West Nebraska Arts Center, and, of course, movie theaters like the Midwest, Scottsbluff came in fourth for its number of arts options per capita.

Even though the nightlife may not be as buzzing as it is in, say, Omaha; Scottsbluff still ranked fifth overall for its nightlife options, when the city’s relatively small population was taken into account. Plus, it is the eighth most densely populated place in our analysis, so even if you have nothing to do, you have a much greater chance of bumping into someone and making a plan. (Probably heading to the 18th Street Bar and Grille.)

8. Beatrice

Beatrice, NE

Source: Flickr user Shannon Ramos

Tied with Scottsbluff for eighth place was Beatrice. With just 12,459 residents, Beatrice was easily the smallest place in our top 10; but as our numbers show, that certainly didn’t mean a lack in excitement. As a matter of fact, Beatrice ranked as the third best place for nightlife per capita, plus, with a variety of restaurants and a serious lack of fast food per capita, Beatrice seems to be a Nebraska foodie’s dream.

If you’re having trouble deciding where to start, try beginning with the Cuban sandwich at the Black Crow. Work your way through the menu, move on to the Back Alley Eatery, repeat, move on to next place, etc. Your tastebuds will be riveted.

10. Grand Island

Grand Island, NE

Source: Flickr user Visit Grand Island

With a population of nearly 50,000, Grand Island is certainly much larger than our previous city. And don’t worry, there is plenty of excitement to be had in Grand Island as well.

According to our analysis, Grand Island had the fifth most music venues per capita in the state. And with the sixth most non-fast food restaurants per capita, it was also an exciting, and surprisingly diverse, place for your tastebuds. There were places like Vientiane for Thai; Napoli’s for Italian; enough steakhouses to last you a lifetime, and of course, plenty of sugary treats for your sweet tooth at the annual Nebraska State Fair.

10. Norfolk

Norfolk, NE

Source: Flickr user Flickr user RLEVANS

If you’ve been counting, yes, there are now 11 spots in our top 10; but that’s because Norfolk and Grand Island came in neck and neck in this exciting race. So we couldn’t just leave one off. Luckily, the two 10s couldn’t be more different.

Where Grand Island earned points for food and music, Norfolk rocked it for its nightlife—places like Phoenix Room, Harbor Bar, and Club Hollywood. This city with a much larger young population (24.87 percent of its residents are between the ages of 18 and 34) also did well in our analysis when it came to arts and entertainment and active life options. So whether you’re into the nightlife, baby, or more interested in cruising the galleries, Norfolk is an exciting place to be.

Way More Exciting Than A Reuben Sandwich

The Cornhusker State may not have a reputation as being the most exciting of states, but as our analysis shows, it’s all about where you’re looking. From restaurants and live music to active life and art, the 11 places on our list are filled with all the excitement you could ask for in a place to live.

So next time someone complains that Nebraska is boring, just send them on to Lincoln. We’re sure they’ll find something amazing to do.

Featured Image Source: Flickr user Steve White

, NE

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posted on: June 16, 2014
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