While we often talk about how much we love the small towns in Nebraska, we’ve got some pretty great larger locales as well. They’re somewhere between the small towns and the big cities population-wise, and they share some of the best qualities of both. These are some of our favorite cities with fewer than 10,000 residents – they are listed alphabetically and not ranked in any way.
1. Aurora, Hamilton County
Aurora received a livability score of 80 from AreaVibes.com, making it "extremely livable." It received "A" ratings in amenities, crime, and education, and an "A+" for cost of living. We can thank Aurora for everyone's favorite party accessory, the strobe light. Its inventor, Harold "Doc" Edgerton, is from here.
2. Chadron, Dawes County
Chadron is home to Chadron State College, which was ranked in the top 10 public colleges in the Midwest in 2011. There are ample opportunities for learning aside from the college, however. The Museum of the Fur Trade is a fascinating look at the history of the fur trade in Nebraska. The Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center features exhibits on Ms. Sandoz - a beloved Nebraska author - and the history of the state.
3. Holdrege, Phelps County
A lot of people overlook Holdrege in south-central Nebraska, but this little city deserves much more credit. It achieved a livability score of 79 (out of 100) from AreaVibes.com, with its most positive attribute being its reasonable cost of living.
4. McCook, Red Willow County
McCook is the largest city (by population) on this list, but it retains a small-town vibe thanks to a close-knit community of people. The annual Buffalo Commons Storytelling Festival is held in McCook, and the town is home to the only Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building in the state.
5. Nebraska City, Otoe County
Come for the apples, stay for the ambience. Nebraska City (and the surrounding area) is full of friendly people and more fruit orchards than you can shake a stick at. The cost of living is a bit higher here than in nearby towns, but you get what you pay for.
6. Ogallala, Keith County
This former Wild West town was once full of rough saloons and hard-bitten cowboys. Today, it boasts a fun historic Front Street, where visitors can watch a mock gun fight in the street and sit down in the Crystal Palace Saloon for an old-style revue in the summer months. The town's proximity to Lake McConaughy is a huge bonus.
7. O'Neill, Holt County
O'Neill is affectionately known as "Nebraska's Irish Capital." It's home to the world's largest shamrock, which is a permanent fixture on the street at 4th and Douglas. AreaVibes.com gives O'Neill a livability score of 79, with "A+" rankings in cost of living and crime, and "B+" rankings in amenities and education.
8. Plattsmouth, Cass County
The revitalized historic commercial district of Plattsmouth is so charming that you can't help but be drawn in. In fact, the entire main street is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
9. Sidney, Cheyenne County
This Panhandle town is home to Cabela's world headquarters as well as the historic Fort Sidney. Quality of life here is excellent, with very low rates of both crime and unemployment.
10. Seward, Seward County
If you're a fan of summer parties, you'll probably already be familiar with Seward's legendary Fourth of July celebration. The city has earned a livability rating of 81 from AreaVibes.com, with high scores in cost of living, crime, education, and amenities. Real estate blog Movoto called Seward the best city in Nebraska.
11. Valentine, Cherry County
Valentine is located in the heart (get it?) of one of the most scenic areas of Nebraska. From here you have easy access to the Niobrara River, the Cowboy Trail, the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge, Smith Falls, Snake Falls...we could go on and on. We even put together a
guide for a weekend away in the Heart City.
12. Wayne, Wayne County
Wayne is the home of Wayne State College, which has been named as the #2 public college in Nebraska by U.S. News. If you're nearby in July, you won't want to miss the annual Chicken Show, a seriously fun festival full of everything you love about small-town celebrations.
The method used to choose these cities was an unscientific soup of online rankings, reader suggestions, and first-hand research. Any list of “greatest” places is going to be somewhat subjective. So tell us: which cities would you put on your own list? Let us know in the comments.