Omaha, NE vs Des Moines, IA: Which Is The Best City To Live In? (2023)

By Rick Gonzales| 7 months ago

Omaha, NE vs Des Moines, IA: Which Is The Best City To Live In? (1)

The Midwest seems to be getting more and more popular. People from both coasts are looking to escape the bigger cities and downsize to something more manageable. Two cities that may be worth your time would be Omaha, Nebraska and Des Moines, Iowa.

The cities are only separated by 170 miles. Omaha sits right on the Nebraska/Iowa border while Des Moines finds itself positioned right in the middle of the state. If you are looking for a less stressful way of life, either of these two cities is worth considering.

Although Lincoln is the capital of Nebraska, Omaha enjoys the title of the state’s largest population. Founded on Independence Day in 1854, the city had a rough start. Law enforcement was fairly non-existent at the time, so the city became the victim of vigilante law by the Omaha Claim Club. Their claim to fame early on was their land claim support of squatters. By 1857, the Omaha Claim Club was ruled unconstitutional and disbanded, their violent tactics finally going away.

Des Moines’ history is one of military need. Back in 1834, an agent from Fort Leavenworth recommended to the War Department to set up a military post where the Raccoon and Des Moines River’s met. It would take some time, ten years in fact, before Captain James Allen would arrive with troops on the recommended site. After scouting it out, Allen wanted to call the new area Fort Raccoon, but the War Department nixed that bad idea. Instead, they told him to name it Fort Des Moines and from there, the city was born.

Today, both cities have plenty to offer. Both cities also have much less to offer if you are looking to slow life down. We are going to take a closer look at each city and see if we can help determine which would be the best to call home – Omaha or Des Moines.


Omaha, NE vs Des Moines, IA: Which Is The Best City To Live In? (2)

It is always nice to know the makeup of a particular city before making such a commitment to it. Therefore, we are going to break down each cities population to see how things shake out.

As the largest city in Nebraska, Omaha still isn’t that large. Right now, they can claim a little over 486,000 as residents. This number represents a huge leap from ten years prior as they were barely hitting 409,000.

By comparison, the capital city of Des Moines is a much smaller city by over half. 214,133 call Des Moines home. This is also a nice increase from numbers seen a decade ago when 203,400 called Des Moines their place to live.

As we tend to do, we like to get a better peek into what makes up a city’s population. How diverse are they? In Omaha, you are going to find 77.5% Caucasian, 12.3% are African American, 3.8% are Asian, and 13.9% are Hispanic. Over in Des Moines, their population consists of 75.8% Caucasian, 11.4% African American, 6.2% Asian, and 13.6% Hispanic.

We also find it quite informative to break down each population’s number with rankings that include socioeconomic, cultural, economic, household, and religious diversity. We go to WalletHub for these figures as they have ranked the top 501 cities across the nation.

(Video) Top 10 Reasons NOT to Move to Des Moines, Iowa

Of the 501 cities ranked by WalletHub, Omaha comes in as the 109th Most Diverse City in America. Their individual rankings look like this: Socioeconomic diversity (89), Cultural diversity (217), Economic diversity (325), Household diversity (260), and Religious diversity (71).

Des Moines was ranked #165 overall. Their individual numbers looked this way: Socioeconomic diversity (259), Cultural diversity (205), Economic diversity (172), Household diversity (30), and Religious diversity (238).


Omaha, NE vs Des Moines, IA: Which Is The Best City To Live In? (3)

Weather plays an important role in helping decide if a city is worth the effort. In some cities, you will find that they can offer four seasons. Other cities may give you two seasons if you’re lucky. It all boils down to personal preference. Do you want a city that is all about the sun, or do you need a full mixture of sun, rain, and snow? If you are looking at Des Moines and Omaha, then you are definitely craving that mixture.

When you put these two cities next to each other, you aren’t going to get much difference. Four seasons with similar temperatures. In Omaha, you will see more sunny days. They average 214 throughout the year while Des Moines will see around 204 sunny days per year. The average across the United States is 205 sunny days annually.

As far as summer heat goes, both cities are fairly mild by Arizona standards. July is the typical hot month and in Omaha, they will average right around 86 degrees. Over in Des Moines, they are going to see just about the same July average as they come in at 85.6 degrees.

You are going to have to like cold weather if either city is your choice. The Midwest can hit some low temperatures and these cities feel them. January is the cool month and in Omaha, you will routinely see temperatures bottom out around 13 degrees. Des Moines will take it even lower as they average 12.5 degrees.

With the cold, you are also going to get your fair share of inclement weather. In Omaha, they will see around 31 inches of rain per year. Des Moines is the wetter city averaging 36 inches of rain.

With rain and cold temperatures, you are most definitely going to get some snow. Omaha will see roughly 30.5 inches of snow per year while Des Moines will get 33 inches of the white stuff.

A word of warning for those strongly considering one or the other city. Both sit in what’s known as Tornado Alley and both are not strangers to an occasional dust-up. In fact, both areas around the cities were hit hard recently by the string of tornadoes that ripped through the Midwest.


Omaha, NE vs Des Moines, IA: Which Is The Best City To Live In? (4)

Yes, weather can play a large part in factoring in where you want to live, but so does the job market. With our nation in such bad straights at the moment, the job market is actually quite welcoming. We just need people to start filling all the open slots. This means if Omaha or Des Moines is on your radar, finding a job shouldn’t be a difficult chore.

Omaha can boast of having four companies in the Fortune 500. They are Berkshire Hathaway, Union Pacific, Peter Kiewit Sons’ Inc., and Mutual of Omaha Insurance. Either one of these businesses would be a great start.

But those four aren’t the only big businesses that can get your career rolling. They also have C&A Industries, Home Instead Senior Care, Werner Enterprises, Farm Credit Services of America, Radisson Hotels, and HDR Engineering. As you can see, Omaha can offer employment in many different industries.

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Omaha, NE vs Des Moines, IA: Which Is The Best City To Live In? (6)

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With the size of Omaha, you can also expect the food and beverage industry to offer employment as well. You will also have your choice, if need be, with some of the usual suspects such as Amazon, Target, and Walmart.

Although Des Moines is the state capital of Iowa, size alone says they will have less to offer. They have one Fortune 500 company calling Des Moines home and that is the Principal Financial Group. They do, though, have plenty of other big businesses which include MercyOne, Ppw Holdings, Meredith, AMCO Insurance Company, MidAmerican Energy, and Kemin Industries.

Des Moines is also going to have the usual lineup of businesses with Amazon, Target, and Walmart. As they have stated in the Des Moines Register, they don’t have a job shortage, they have a people shortage. Work should be easy to come by.

Of course, if you are planning such a move, it would be smart to already have something lined up before you blew into town. The only reason Omaha would get the nod in that respect is for the simple fact they are a much larger city.


Omaha, NE vs Des Moines, IA: Which Is The Best City To Live In? (7)

Just how safe is the city you currently live in? Is your crime rate through the roof or are the numbers steady? Crime rate can easily be a tipping point for a city, especially if you are looking at a possible move.

The crime rate numbers we get come from the FBI’s National Incident-Based Reporting System via AreaVibes. The reported number percentages are based on city population and national averages.

In the big city of Omaha, they reported a total of 18,279 crimes. On the large scale, this is 62% higher than our nation’s average. Of those, 15,247 were property crimes. These include burglary and theft. This number is also 62% above average. The remaining 3,032 were violent crimes that included assault, rape, murder, and robbery. This was 63% higher than the national average.

Unfortunately, the smaller city of Des Moines’ numbers was not any better. They reported a total of 9,917 crimes. 8,400 were property crimes, a 99% rise over the national average. The 1,517 violent crimes represent an 82% higher average.

While nowhere on the level that we have seen in some of the cities we have compared in the past, they should be something worth considering. Would the raised numbers stop you from a possible city change?


Omaha, NE vs Des Moines, IA: Which Is The Best City To Live In? (8)

Along with the crime rate, the cost of living is another important factor in where you may want to live. If you have a solid job, then you may like the numbers from both cities.

As far as housing numbers are concerned, both cities look to be very affordable. What we have seen in numerous comparison cities is the same thing we see here. The rental market in one is better while the home purchase price is better in the other.

According to Nerdwallet, a 2-bedroom apartment in Omaha is going to cost you a little over $1,000 a month. But in Des Moines, you will pay $677. Now, if you are wanting to buy a house, the median price for a 3-bedroom, 2-bath in Omaha will set you back around $294,500. This same home in Des Moines will run around $319,560.

The housing costs aren’t the one costs that need to be considered. You also have food costs, healthcare, utilities, and even entertainment. Both cities run pretty much even in all categories. Seems if you are on a budget, your money can go a long way in either city.


Omaha, NE vs Des Moines, IA: Which Is The Best City To Live In? (9)

When you have a city that doubles in size over another, it stands to reason there would be more to do in the bigger city. This is true with Omaha and Des Moines.

As the bigger city, Omaha has plenty to offer families of all shapes and sizes. In downtown Omaha is the Old Market District. Here you will find a variety of historical buildings that are surrounded by cobblestone streets. You will see that the Old Market District is a great place to wander around and you will also find the city’s best cafés and restaurants in this area.

If you are looking for a little more about the city’s history, you can visit the Durham Museum or the Joslyn Art Museum. There is also the First National’s Spirit of Nebraska’s Wilderness and Pioneer Courage Park that is a wonderful outdoor attraction. For shows and concerts, there are the Orpheum Theater and the Holland Center for Performing Arts.

(Video) Top 10 reasons NOT to move to Omaha. You'll need good auto insurance and a weight loss plan.

There are also things to do for the little ones. You can let them run wild in the Omaha Children’s Museum. They can also check out the trains at Kenefick Park.

Omaha also has a wonderful nightlife. They offer over 190 venues that include indie music spots such as The Slowdown and The Waiting Room. They also have enough breweries, wineries, comedy clubs, and karaoke spots to keep you entertained.

Unfortunately, the one thing you will not find in Omaha is professional sports. What they are high on, though, is the yearly College World Series that the city has hosted since the 1950s.

What you won’t get in Des Moines is an overabundance of entertainment. What you will get is a nice small-town feel. For many, that is all they need.

Des Moines is considered one of the faster-growing cities in the Midwest and their downtown is starting to show. Their downtown Famer’s Market is ranked #2 in the country and has its sights on taking over the top spot.

If you are into food, Des Moines has eateries galore. They serve burgers zombie-style at Zombie Burger and ramp up the class factor at Steak De Burgo. If you are thirsty, their two biggest tap rooms combine to offer over 340 beers on tap.

If you prefer more outdoor entertainment, Des Moines has over 800 miles of biking trails. Kids will love the Adventure Park as well as the Science Center of Iowa and the Blank Park Zoo.

For those who need to get their shopping fix, Des Moines also has the Jordan Creek Town Center. Des Moines may not be big, but they do have plenty to offer.


Omaha, NE vs Des Moines, IA: Which Is The Best City To Live In? (10)

For what it’s worth, you can’t go wrong with either city. Omaha boasts a larger population, allowing for more entertainment options, but if you like your city with a small, hometown feel to it, Des Moines fits that description.

Each city’s cost of living scores major points. Nothing about them looks to break the bank, so if you have good employment, you can thrive. Although the crime rates are elevated to a point, they don’t appear to be unmanageable or something that might put you off.

The weather doesn’t even seem to be much of a factor, although the occasional tornado or two may cause some concern. But if you like four seasons, you will get all four in both Omaha and Des Moines.

The Midwest offers numerous great cities. You just can’t get much better than Omaha or Des Moines.

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Is Omaha worth moving to? ›

It is one of the top places to raise a family in the country. Forbes recently ranked Omaha as the seventh best city for raising a family in the US, due to its great schools, housing affordability, ease of commuting, and low crime rate. Plus, there are just so many family-friendly activities!

Which city is bigger Omaha vs Des Moines? ›

Omaha, NEDes Moines, IA
Land Area138.288.2
Water Area3.62.5
Est. Total Population By Age
57 more rows

Is Des Moines a good place to live? ›

Des Moines is the 11th best place to live in the U.S., according to the report. It was the top-ranked city in the Midwest.

Is Omaha in Iowa too? ›

The Omaha metropolitan area, officially known as the Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), is an urbanized region in Nebraska and Iowa in the American Midwest, centered on the city of Omaha, Nebraska.

Is Omaha in Tornado Alley? ›

Tornado Alley is a loosely defined area of the central United States where tornadoes are most frequent. The term was first used in 1952 as the title of a research project to study severe weather in areas of Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kansas, South Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska.

Where should I not live in Omaha NE? ›

North and South Omaha – The area with the worst reputation is North Omaha. There are a lot of boarded-up windows, bars over windows and decaying buildings. Crime is prominent in parts of this area and it has the highest concentration of violent crime, much of it associated with gang violence.

What is between Des Moines and Omaha? ›

Best stops along Omaha to Des Moines drive. The top stops along the way from Omaha to Des Moines (with short detours) are Horseshoe Council Bluffs, Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, and Pappajohn Sculpture Park. Other popular stops include The Old Market, John Wayne Birthplace Museum, and Blank Park Zoo.

What town is halfway between Des Moines and Omaha? ›

The city at the geographic halfway point from Des Moines, IA to Omaha, NE is Anita, Iowa.

Is Des Moines a big city? ›

Why are people moving to Des Moines Iowa? ›

Des Moines is a good city for anyone, but recent surveys indicate that Des Moines is one of the best cities for millennials. One source recently considered factors like job opportunities, home affordability and livability when it ranked Des Moines as the #2 city for young home buyers.

Should I move to Iowa? ›

If you'd like to live in a state with an abundance of fresh local produce, and where small towns meet city life, moving to Iowa is right for you. Iowa's natural scenic views, friendly people, low crime rates, affordable homes, and small-town atmosphere make it one of the most coveted places in the United States.

Why you should move to Des Moines? ›

Affordability and local amenities make this city a terrific pick. Affordability and local amenities make this city a terrific pick. Many people with higher salaries fall into a similar trap: They earn a decent living, but to command that income, they're forced to reside in an expensive city.

Is Omaha Nebraska a good place to live? ›

There's something for everyone in Nebraska's largest city, which has been recognized as a top destination for young professionals, families, and retirees. In fact, this fast-growing city is frequently named one of the best places to live in the Midwest and one of the top places to live in America.

What is Omaha best known for? ›

Omaha is still known for its breweries – Local breweries, such as Upstream, Lucky Bucket, Infusion and Beertopia may have something to do with Omaha being dubbed the “most hungover city in America” in 2013. You're in luck if you find yourself moving to Omaha and in search of a cold one. 7.

Where can you stand in Iowa and Nebraska? ›

Fun to stand in Iowa and Nebraska at... - Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge
  • United States.
  • Nebraska (NE)
  • Omaha.
  • Omaha - Things to Do.
  • Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge.

What part of Nebraska does not get tornadoes? ›

“It was notable that there was a really big lack of tornadoes last year.” Also notable, he said, was the fact that most of the state's tornadoes occurred in the central and western parts of the state, which meant Nebraska's major urban centers were spared.

Where in Nebraska has the most tornadoes? ›

Nebraska Tornado Index City Rank
RankTornado Index ▼City / Population
1.431.47Grand Island, NE / 50,059
2.410.79Phillips, NE / 235
3.382.95Alda, NE / 635
4.372.35Giltner, NE / 398
160 more rows

What is winter like in Omaha Nebraska? ›

The cold season lasts for 3.0 months, from November 26 to February 27, with an average daily high temperature below 44°F. The coldest month of the year in Omaha is January, with an average low of 17°F and high of 34°F.

Is Omaha a rough city? ›

According to crime statistics released by the FBI, Omaha's rate of violent crimes per 100,000 residents has been lower than the average rates of three dozen cities of similar size. Omaha's rate of violent crime was 601.1 in 2005, compared to 995.6 for cities with populations from 250,000 to 500,000.

Is Omaha a good place to live 2021? ›

Omaha, NE Ranked #13 Best Place to Live in 2021 | Livability.

Is Des Moines a poor city? ›

The Des Moines metro has a poverty rate of 8.5 percent. Iowa has a rate of 11.4 percent. Nationwide, poverty sits at 13.5 percent according to 2009 numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau, the most recent figures available.

Where is the best place to live in Des Moines Iowa? ›

Multiple DSM area cities made this list of Iowa's safest cities, including Johnston, Ankeny, Urbandale and West Des Moines. Overall, most residents report feeling safe in most areas of Des Moines and surrounding neighborhoods.

What percentage of Des Moines is black? ›

Des Moines Demographics

White: 73.32% Black or African American: 11.39% Asian: 6.49% Two or more races: 5.25%

Is Des Moines an up and coming city? ›

The city has built new momentum from the ground-up, with collaborations among public officials, corporations, investors, and entrepreneurs, with the deliberate aim to attract millennials. And it's working — new census data show Des Moines is now the fastest growing city in the Midwest.

Do you need a car to live in Des Moines? ›

The city and surrounding suburbs are sprawling, but going without a car in Des Moines is not entirely impossible. The Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority (DART) consists of 90 buses that drive approximately 15,000 miles every day to and from residential areas, major shopping malls, schools, and business centers.

Is Des Moines a walkable city? ›

Des Moines has an average Walk Score of 45 with 203,433 residents. Des Moines has some public transportation and does not have many bike lanes. The most walkable Des Moines neighborhoods are Carpenter, Drake Park and Downtown.

Is Nebraska good place to live? ›

Nebraska is one of the best states to live in because of its overall high quality of life, growing job market, and low real estate prices. It's ranked among the top states for most affordable cost of living and ranked 5th in terms of housing prices.

What is the best place to live in Iowa? ›

These three Iowa cities rank among the country's 100 best places to live, study says. Iowa City, Ames and Des Moines rank among some of the U.S.'s best small and mid-size American cities, according to a study conducted by in partnership with Ipsos.

Is West Des Moines a good place to live? ›

Good jobs just a short commute away, affordable home prices and great shopping are just some of the reasons Money magazine has included West Des Moines on their "Best Places to Live 2016" list.

What is Des Moines known for? ›

Des Moines is a major center of the US insurance industry and has a sizable financial services and publishing business base. The city was credited as the "number one spot for U.S. insurance companies" in a Business Wire article and named the third-largest "insurance capital" of the world.

What to know before moving to Nebraska? ›

1. Before you Arrive in Nebraska
  • Find a reliable moving company, truck rental or moving container.
  • Forward your mail.
  • Sell or donate the items you won't need in Nebraska.
  • Change your address.
  • Exchange your driver's license.
  • Register your vehicle.
  • Consider getting health insurance.
  • Consider getting home insurance.

Why Omaha is the best city? ›

"Omaha has bottom of the barrel unemployment, paired with a low cost of living (even when compared to its Midwestern neighbors), and safety that makes it an ideal location for young professionals and young families seeking city living- but at a price they can actually afford."

Is Omaha a cool city? ›

While you might think of Omaha as a fly-over city offering nothing but cornfields, our amazing city is actually a start-up hub, a destination for beer lovers, and has even been named one of the best places in the country for millennials to settle down.

How many millionaires live in Omaha Nebraska? ›

This is the City in Nebraska With the Most Billionaires
City with the most billionaires:Number of billionaires:Total billionaire net worth:
Missouri: St. Louis5$18.5 billion
Montana: Missoula2$8.3 billion
Nebraska: Omaha3$101 billion
Nevada: Las Vegas6$14.3 billion
46 more rows

Who is the richest man in Nebraska? ›

Richest billionaires in Nebraska
  • #3. Daniel Hirschfeld. - Net worth: $1.3 billion (#2,208 wealthiest in the world) ...
  • #2. Henry Davis. - Net worth: $2.3 billion (#1,329 wealthiest in the world) ...
  • #1. Warren Buffett. ...
  • You may also like: Where people in Nebraska are moving to most.
May 18, 2022

Where can you stand in 3 states at once Iowa? ›

Valley Springs, South Dakota: Stand on Three States: Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota. The true spot where three states meet is in a road; the marker is off to one side for safety. Roadside landmark for your tri-state intersection bucket list.

What are the tri-state of Iowa? ›

The Tri-State Development Summit region consists of 8 counties in Iowa (Davis, Des Moines, Henry, Jefferson, Lee, Louisa, Van Buren, Wapello), 14 counties in Illinois (Adams, Brown, Cass, Fulton, Hancock, Henderson, Knox, McDonough, Mercer, Morgan, Pike, Scott, Schuyler, Warren), and 13 counties in Missouri (Adair, ...

How long is the pedestrian bridge in Omaha? ›

The total length of the bridge is 3,000 feet and the towers carry a unique curved 506-foot main span and two 253-foot back spans. The bridge connects Omaha, Nebraska, and Council Bluffs, Iowa, by traversing the Missouri River It carries walkers and cyclists into 150 miles of trails in Iowa and Nebraska.

Is Omaha a good city to live in? ›

There's something for everyone in Nebraska's largest city, which has been recognized as a top destination for young professionals, families, and retirees. In fact, this fast-growing city is frequently named one of the best places to live in the Midwest and one of the top places to live in America.

Why are people moving Omaha? ›

With Omaha's growing tech community, low cost of living, increased entertainment options, and Midwest values, the city offers a great place for singles, couples, and families to move to and thrive.

What is the racial makeup of Omaha Nebraska? ›

White alone, percent 75.5%
Black or African American alone, percent(a) 12.1%
American Indian and Alaska Native alone, percent(a) 0.5%
Asian alone, percent(a) 4.0%
54 more rows

Is Omaha Nebraska a safe place to live? ›

Omaha is a safe city for travel and for living in. The crime rate here ranges from low to medium. The main problems are related to theft, assault, vandalism, and drug problems. Only using caution and avoiding any situation in which you are uncomfortable will keep you out of trouble.

Why should I move to Nebraska? ›

Nebraska is one of the best states to live in because of its overall high quality of life, growing job market, and low real estate prices. It's ranked among the top states for most affordable cost of living and ranked 5th in terms of housing prices.

Why Omaha is the best city? ›

"Omaha has bottom of the barrel unemployment, paired with a low cost of living (even when compared to its Midwestern neighbors), and safety that makes it an ideal location for young professionals and young families seeking city living- but at a price they can actually afford."

Is Nebraska a good place to retire 2021? ›

Is Lincoln Nebraska a good place to retire? The city's outdoor activities, strong economy, entertainment options and affordability make Lincoln one of the Best Places to Retire. Home to the University of Nebraska, Lincoln is full of youthful energy that attracts young professionals, entrepreneurs and retirees.


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