Here's what you need to know about living, working and enjoying life in this charming Nebraska city.
Ryo Suzuki came from Tokyo to Kearney to study business. When he got off the plane the night he arrived, he found cornfields. He remembers lots of cornfields and a vibrant life he never expected.
A University of Nebraska at Kearney graduate, with an MBA from its business school, today Suzuki is UNK’s international recruitment specialist and an enthusiastic advocate for his adopted hometown.
“Everybody in this community shares a commitment to make Kearney the best place to live and raise a family,” says Suzuki, 29. “You don’t find communities like this very often, where being nice to other people means something.”
While nice is an admittedly large part of its appeal, there’s a lot more to Kearney, which resident Michole Yaw describes as “a small city tucked into a big town.” Here are seven reasons why a move to Kearney might be right for you.
“Everybody in this community shares a commitment to make Kearney the best place to live and raise a family.”
Ryo Suzuki, international recruitment specialist at UNK
1. Kearney’s a Great Place to Find Community
Moving to Kearney or looking to broaden your adventures? There are plenty of things to do here. Dive right in and start meeting people. They’ve got a bunch of good ones here, so get out there and shake hands.
The Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce hosts a lively Young Professionals Network for expanding your business contacts while having a lot of fun.
And at McCue’s Nebraska Taproom, Guitar in a Bar lets you toast new friends while learning how to play guitar like Springsteen. Yes, really.
2. There’s So Much to Explore
Back in the early days of the 20th century, city fathers decided to pave the city’s main street with economical bricks. Today, those same pavers give downtown Kearney a distinctive look – and feel. The historic downtown area is full of boutique shops, dining and drinking establishments, home goods and more.
“One of my favorite things to do in Kearney is just walking around on our Bricks, browsing downtown,” Yaw says. “I like to go to our local places and support local stores where you can find things unique to right here.”
Michole and her husband, Brandon, are so committed to downtown Kearney that they are planning to open the 22-room boutique Hensley Hotel there in a historic building. When you’re planning your future, keep Kearney’s past in mind. This place has a remarkable story to tell.
Be sure to visit the iconic Archway, where you can learn about the state’s role in the settlement of the country. The Museum of Nebraska Art and the Trails & Rails Museum are also must-see collections for a view of the region’s past.
3. A Perfect Spot for Sports and Outdoors
University of Nebraska at Kearney offers nine women’s sports and five men’s sports. Its Lopers (as in antelopers), not only have an avid fan base – they also win big. The wrestling team, with eight All-Americans, captured the 2022 NCAA Division II championships; the track team won a national title and produced three All-Americans; and the football and volleyball teams made it to their playoffs.
The 2.3-mile Water Trail winds around Kearney, liquid joy for kayakers and canoers. A whitewater park is taking shape, and two new whitewater features were added to the trail in spring 2022.
“Kayaking down the canal is a great family activity, especially with the new whitewater,” says Ryan Lukas, director of ancillary services at Kearney Regional Medical Center, whose four kids, ages 10-21, have been active in many sports and Park and Rec activities. “There’s so much to do here, for kids and adults, too.”
Kearney’s botanical garden is taking shape in Yanney Heritage Park, with native Nebraska flora, pollinator gardens, lilac and hydrangea gardens, annuals, roses, edibles and more. A reflecting pool, events pavilion, trails and public art will complete this ambitious project.
Did You Know?
Kearney is known internationally as the place to observe the spectacular sandhill cranes. Multiple options for public viewing of these stunning waterfowl are available in Kearney, including pull-offs, viewing platforms and the Fort Kearny Bridge over the Platte River.
4. A Vibrant Arts and Culture Scene Beckons
Kearney enjoys a lively cultural scene, whether you are looking for music – of all genres – theater or visual arts. The Kearney Concert Association presents a seven-concert series from October to May at the Merryman Performing Arts Center, encompassing everything from pop to Americana to classical performances.
Crane River Theater’s season features polished professional stage plays and musicals at Merryman, the World Theatre and the amphitheater in Yanney Heritage Park in the summer. Try your own hand at performing with the Kearney Community Theatre, which presents five shows a year.
5. Enjoy Plenty of Festivities and Events
If you can’t find anything fun to do in Kearney, you aren’t looking very hard. The city hosts numerous family-friendly activities, including the annual Freedom Fest in early July for residents to enjoy music, free food, carnival games, trampolines, inflatables and a fireworks show.
Other yearly festivals include Taste Kearney-Restaurant Week, Midway Professional Bull Riders Challenge, Heritage Day, Art in the Park, Nebraska Shrine Bowl, Nebraska Cattlemen’s Classic, Cruise Nite Week and the Buffalo County Fair.
6. Stay Fit and Healthy in Kearney
Residents have access to a multitude of wellness and health options, including abundant recreation opportunities at 18 parks, 30+ miles of hiking and biking trails, three city lakes, two marinas, two public swimming pools, five splash pads, 28 athletic fields, indoor rock climbing and a dog park. And if you ever have a medical issue, Kearney has excellent health care choices thanks to facilities like CHI Health Good Samaritan and Kearney Regional Medical Center.
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7. A Diverse Menu of Divine Dining Options
Tempt your palate with an assortment of good places to eat in Kearney, including quaint cafes, independent restaurants, national franchises, ethnic eateries, bakeries, pubs and microbreweries. Here is just a sampler platter of must-try Kearney restaurants:
- Cunningham’s Journal: There are two locations – Cunningham’s on the Lake and Cunningham’s on the Bricks. Both offer extensive menus with popular choices like steak, beef skewers and shrimp tacos. They also have large craft beer selections.
- Joy’s Table Pasta & Steak: Enjoy a newly designed dining room, menu and drinks, all with a focus on using the freshest locally produced ingredients. The bar menu has a wide selection of wine, beer and signature cocktails.
- Angus Burgers & Shakes: Serving prime beef raised by the restaurant’s owners, Angus Burgers & Shakes has unique items such as a spicy relleno burger with hot peppers. And like their name says, a variety of custom shakes are ready to delight.
- The Alley Rose: With ambiance that includes a fireplace, The Alley Rose offers a casual dining environment and an excellent wine selection, along with several Nebraska-brewed beers. A large salad buffet is a restaurant signature.
- The Crafty Dog: Billed as a sports junkie’s haven, The Crafty Dog serves craft beer and cocktails. The menu includes favorites like burgers, wings, nachos, chicken and 12 different mac and cheeses.
Staff writer Kevin Litwin contributed to this article.
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