What Are The 10 Biggest Cities In Nebraska?

HK Sloan
by HK Sloan

When it comes to Nebraska, there’s plenty to love! This midwestern state is situated smack dab in the middle of the United States– which means plains, plains, and more plains! And not only does Nebraska boast the gently rolling hills of our dreams, but it’s also renowned for beautiful sand dunes and rock formations.

Nebraska is famous for farming, agricultural manufacturing, and agricultural production, in addition to its natural attractions. Nebraska’s main exports are soybeans, wheat, hay, and corn. Nebraska produces so much corn that it became known as the “Cornhusker State.” Thanks to all this farmland, Nebraska has become the 16th largest state in America and currently has the 37th largest population.

Nebraska has a population of nearly 2 million people and is still expanding. The largest city in Nebraska is Omaha, aided by trade on the Missouri River. The second-largest city in Nebraska is the capital of Lincoln. Then, we see a steep drop-off before the third-largest city of Bellevue, closely followed by Grand Island, Kearney, and Fremont. Hasting, Norfolk, Columbus, and North Platt round out the ten biggest cities in Nebraska.

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The Ten Biggest Cities in Nebraska

We’ve compiled a list of the ten biggest cities in Nebraska according to population. We’ve also included the total square mileage (land and water) of each major Nebraska city for context and comparison. Following the state motto “Equality before the law,” each city is equally stunning in its own way. Good luck finding your happy place!

1. Omaha

  • Population: 479,978
  • Square Mileage: 144.59 total square miles

The largest city in Nebraska is Omaha, with a population that is nearing half a million. Omaha is also the 40th largest city in the United States and the seventh-largest in the Midwest. And with all those numbers, you can imagine it’s all business! The city of Omaha was initially founded in 1854 by those adventuring West, and its location on the Missouri River soon made the city a bustling transportation hub.

Omaha was originally known for its breweries, stockyards, and railroads. The Omaha Stockyards was once the largest livestock market and meatpacking center in the entire United States. What’s more, the city is also home to Fortune 500 companies such as Union Pacific Railroad and Berkshire Hathaway, and one of the largest construction companies in the world.

When it comes to creativity, Omaha is in abundance. Not only is Omaha the home of the Reuben sandwich and Raisin Bran, but it’s also the birthplace of the TV dinner and boxed cake mix– thanks, Duncan Hines! Omaha also has the largest community theater in the nation, Opera, and an influential hip hop scene. And baseball fans, don’t forget that the College World Series is held each year in Omaha!

2. Lincoln

  • Population: 293,446
  • Square Mileage: 97.59 total square miles

Lincoln is the second-largest city in Nebraska and the 70th-largest city in the United States. Lincoln also serves as the capital of Nebraska. Since it’s a college town, there’s plenty of attractions like the Sunken Gardens or the historic Haymarket District. The city was ranked as one of the safest cities in Nebraska.

Lincoln has a growing high-tech sector, with some referring to the region like the Midwest Silicon Prairie. The other major employers include the U.S. government, the University of Nebraska, and local manufacturers (BNSF Railway, Duncan Aviation, and Bryan Health).

3. Bellevue

  • Population: 53,644
  • Square Mileage: 16.73 total square miles

Bellevue is the third-largest city in Nebraska, despite being only a fraction of the size of Lincoln. The city of Bellevue is credited as the oldest town in Nebraska and the oldest town west of the Missouri River. It is home to US Strategic Command, formerly Strategic Air Command.

4. Grand Island

  • Population: 51,363
  • Square Mileage: 29.89 total square miles

Grand Island is the fourth largest city in Nebraska. Grand Island’s primary industries are food processing and meatpacking, but the city’s success in agricultural production and trade made it a natural commercial center for the area. In 1890, sugar beets were introduced into the United States, and Grand Island became home to the very first sugar beet processing factory.

5. Kearney

  • Population: 34,411
  • Square Mileage: 14.73 total square miles

Although Kearney is only the fifth-largest city in Nebraska, it is the nucleus of a seven-state region that is home to 20 million people. Birthed by the railroad’s westward expansion, settlers chose the city for its strategic relation to surrounding hubs like Denver, Kansas City, and Des Moines. The largest employers are the Good Samaritan Hospital, Baldwin Filters, and the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Retail clothing brand The Buckle is also headquartered in Kearney.

Kearney may be an industrial city, but don’t write off the natural beauty. Kearney is said to be the best place to view the sandhill crane migration each year. Viewers can spot the birds along the Platte River from February to April, and you can admire them at the annual Crane Festival.

6. Fremont

  • Population: 26,207
  • Square Mileage: 10.73 total square miles

Fremont, also known as “F-Town” or “The Mont,” is the sixth-largest city in Nebraska. The city is full of historic charm, with Victorian houses and a quaint downtown area. Historic downtown Fremont is known for its impressive antique stores and nationally recognized historic buildings. There’s even a restored Opera House!

Fremont’s largest employer is Hormel Foods, and the city is arguably the nation’s largest producer of Spam. Fremont has one liberal arts college, Midland University, and one community college, both of which contribute to the local arts scene.

7. Hastings

  • Population:24,428
  • Square Mileage: 14.77 total square miles

Hastings is the seventh-largest city in Nebraska, and it’s bursting with history. Before the city was founded along the railroad, the Donner party passed through on their journey to California, noting in a journal that the land was “beautiful beyond compare.” Hastings is also the birthplace of Kool-Aid, invented by Edwin Perkins in 1927. The city celebrates with a festival every year.

Hastings saw immense growth during WWII due to the Naval Ammunition Depot, the largest U.S. naval munitions plant. The city was reportedly chosen for its central location, which is now accessible through its twenty parks. The Fisher Fountain, once a symbol of hope during the Depression and Dust Bowl, is currently the largest water foundation between Chicago and Denver.

8. Norfolk

  • Population: 24,323
  • Square Mileage: 11.68 total square miles

Norfolk is the eighth-largest city in Nebraska and is the major retail trade center for all of Northeast Nebraska. Some locally manufactured products include steel products, syringes, high-pressure hoses, steel products, and soft drinks. The railroad also played an important part in the city’s growth in the late 1800s.

Norfolk is situated in the heart of the Elkhorn Valley, with farmland on one side and rolling hills on the other. Ta-Ha-Zouka Park and Cowboy Trail are favorite recreation destinations for families, with Cowboy Trail being one of the longest “rail-trails” in the country at nearly 200 miles long. The Elkhorn Valley Museum offers both historical tributes and temporary exhibitions.

9. Columbus

  • Population: 23,792
  • Square Mileage: 10.80 total square miles

Columbus is the ninth-largest city in Nebraska, and it is all about the money! Columbus’ economy is concentrated in agriculture and manufacturing, namely hydroelectric power. Major manufacturing exports include grain bins, hydraulic cylinders for construction and agriculture, and even steel buildings. And they’re doing something right: Columbus is the most industrial city per capita in the state of Nebraska, with manufacturing plants employing nearly 6,000 residents.

10. North Platte

  • Population: 23,303
  • Square Mileage: 13.42 total square miles

Although it rounds out the list as Nebraska’s tenth largest city, North Platte happens to be home to the largest rail yard in the world. You can find Union Pacific Railroad’s famed Bailey Yard within city limits, and its history plays a prominent role in the making of this “railroad town.” North Platte is currently only served by freight trains, but during World War II, the city was recognized for its canteen, where thousands of locals would meet the passing troops to offer the servicemen hot food and fresh coffee.

North Platte is also home to the Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park, honoring the soldier who gave the “Wild West” its name. It should be no surprise that the largest employer in the city is the railroad, with Walmart close behind. North Platte is the heart of Nebraska farm country, and the North Platte River was an essential part of westward expansion.

Related Questions

What is the safest city in Nebraska?

The safest city in Nebraska is Seward, with a crime rate of  60% of the national average. Seward is conveniently located West of Lincoln so that you can escape the dangers of the city.

Is it expensive to live in Nebraska?

The cost of living is cheaper in Nebraska than the national average. To buy a home, you’ll need a salary of just over 50,000 a year.

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Wrapping It Up

Omaha is the biggest city in Nebraska and is home to some major corporations like Union Pacific and PayPal. Lincoln is the second biggest city in Nebraska and serves as the state capital. Bellevue, Grand Island, and Kearney are the next largest cities by population. The smaller cities, such as Fremont, Hastings, Norfolk, Columbus, and North Platte, are equally crucial in Nebraska’s history of westward expansion and agricultural success.

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HK Sloan
HK Sloan

HK Sloan is a freelance writer currently covering DIY Home Improvement, Health, and Lifestyle. Sloan is passionate about improving situations for less, whether it be working on mind, body, or home.

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