The city was founded in 1856 as the village of Lancaster on the wild salt marshes of what was to become Lancaster County. In 1867, the village of Lancaster became Nebraska's state capital and was renamed Lincoln. The Bertram G. Goodhue designed state capitol building was completed in 1932 and is the second tallest capitol in the United States. As the city is the seat of government for the state of Nebraska, the state and the United States government are major employers. The University of Nebraska was founded in Lincoln in 1867. The university is the largest in Nebraska with 25,006 students enrolled and is the city's third-largest employer. Other primary employers fall within the service and manufacturing industries, including a growing high-tech sector. The region makes up a part of what is known as the greater Midwest Silicon Prairie.
Designated as a "refugee-friendly" city by the U.S. Department of State in the 1970s, the city was the twelfth-largest resettlement site per capita in the United States by 2000. Refugee Vietnamese, Karen (Burmese ethnic minority), Sudanese, and Yazidi (Iraqi ethnic minority) people have been resettled in the city. Lincoln Public Schools during the school year of 2016–17 provided support for approximately 3,200 students from 118 countries, who spoke 68 different languages.
Prior to the expansion westward of settlers, the prairie was covered with buffalo grass. Plains Indians, descendants of indigenous peoples who occupied the area for thousands of years, lived in and hunted along Salt Creek. The Pawnee, which included four tribes, lived in villages along the Platte River. The Great Sioux Nation, including the Ihanktowan-Ihanktowana and the Lakota located to the north and west, used Nebraska as a hunting and skirmish ground, although they did not have any long-term settlements in the state. An occasional buffalo could still be seen in the plat of Lincoln in the 1860s.
Lincoln was founded in 1856 as the village of Lancaster and became the county seat of the newly created Lancaster County in 1859. The village was sited on the east bank of Salt Creek. The first settlers were attracted to the area due to the abundance of salt. Once J. Sterling Morton developed his salt mines in Kansas, salt in the village was no longer a viable commodity. Captain W. T. Donovan, a former steamer captain, and his family settled on Salt Creek in 1856. In the fall of 1859, the village settlers met to form a county. A caucus was formed and the committee, which included Captain Donovan, selected the village of Lancaster to be the county seat. The county was named Lancaster. After the passage of the 1862 Homestead Act, homesteaders began to inhabit the area. The first plat was dated August 6, 1864.
By the close of 1868, Lancaster had a population of approximately 500 people. The township of Lancaster was renamed Lincoln with the incorporation of the city of Lincoln on April 1, 1869. In 1869, the University of Nebraska was established in Lincoln by the state with a land grant of about 130,000 acres. Construction of University Hall, the first building, began the same year.
Nebraska was granted statehood on March 1, 1867. The capital of the Nebraska Territory had been Omaha since the creation of the territory in 1854; however, most of the territory's population lived south of the Platte River. After much of the territory south of the Platte River considered annexation to Kansas, the territorial legislature voted to locate the capital city south of the river and as far west as possible. Prior to the vote to remove the capital city from Omaha, a last ditch effort by Omaha Senator J. N. H. Patrick attempted to derail the move by having the future capital city named after recently assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. Many of the people south of the Platte River had been sympathetic to the Confederate cause in the recently concluded Civil War. It was assumed that senators south of the river would not vote to pass the measure if the future capital was named after the former president. In the end, the motion to name the future capital city Lincoln was ineffective and the vote to change the capital's location south of the Platte River was successful with the passage of the Removal Act in 1867.
The Removal Act called for the formation of a Capital Commission to locate a site for the capital on state owned land. The Commission, composed of Governor David Butler, Secretary of State Thomas Kennard and Auditor John Gillespie, began to tour sites on July 18, 1867 for the new capital city. The village of Lancaster was chosen, in part due to the salt flats and marshes. Lancaster had approximately 30 residents. Disregarding the original plat of the village of Lancaster, Thomas Kennard platted Lincoln on a broader scale. The plat of the village of Lancaster was not dissolved nor abandoned; Lancaster became Lincoln when the Lincoln plat files were finished September 6, 1867. To raise money for the construction of a capital city, a successful auction of lots was held. Newcomers began to arrive and Lincoln's population grew. The Nebraska State Capitol was completed on December 1, 1868; a two-story building constructed with native limestone with a central cupola. The Kennard house, built in 1869, is the oldest remaining building in the original plat of Lincoln.
In 1888 a new capitol building was constructed on the site of the first capitol. The new building replaced the former structurally unsound capitol. The second capitol building was a classical design, designed by architect William H. Willcox. Construction began on a third capitol building in 1922. Bertram G. Goodhue was selected in a national competition as its architect. By 1924, the first phase of construction was completed and state offices moved into the new building. In 1925, the Willcox designed capitol building was razed. The Goodhue designed capitol was constructed in four phases, with the completion of the fourth phase in 1932. The capitol is the second tallest capitol building in the United States. The completion of the original Goodhue design will be finally realized with the completion of the capitol fountains within the four interior courtyards of the capitol building in 2017.
The worldwide economic depression of 1890 saw the reduction of Lincoln's population from 55,000 to 37,000 by 1900. Volga-German immigrants from Russia settled in the North Bottoms neighborhood and as Lincoln expanded with the growth in population, the city began to annex towns nearby. Bethany Heights, incorporated in 1890, was the first town annexed in 1922. In 1926, the town of University Place was annexed. College View, incorporated in 1892, was annexed in 1929. Union College, a Seventh Day Adventist institution, was founded in College View in 1891. In 1930, annexed the town of Havelock. Havelock actively opposed annexation to Lincoln and only relented due to a strike by the Burlington railroad shop workers which halted progress and growth for the city.
The Burlington and Missouri River Railroad's first train arrived in Lincoln on June 26, 1870, soon to be followed by the Midland Pacific in 1871 and the Atchison and Nebraska in 1872. The Union Pacific began service in 1877. The Chicago and North Western and Missouri Pacific began service in 1886. The Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific extended service to Lincoln in 1892. Lincoln became a rail center hub.
As automobile travel became more common in the U.S., the need for better roads in Nebraska and throughout the U.S. grew. The Omaha-Denver Trans-Continental Route Association in 1911, with support from the Good Roads Movement, established the Omaha-Lincoln-Denver Highway (O-L-D) through Lincoln. The goal was having the most efficient highway to travel on throughout Nebraska, from Omaha to Denver. In 1920, the Omaha-Denver Association merged with the Detroit-Lincoln-Denver Highway Association. As a result, the O-L-D was renamed the Detroit-Lincoln-Denver Highway (D-L-D) with the goal of having a continuous highway from Detroit to Denver. The goal was eventually realized by the mid 1920s; 1,700 mi (2,700 km) of constantly improved highway through six states. The auto route was a tourist magnet and traffic was heavy. Businesses were built and facilities were established in towns along the route in order to keep up with traveler demand. In 1924, the D-L-D was officially designated as Nebraska State Highway 6. In 1926, the highway became part of the Federal Highway System and was renumbered U.S. Route 38. In 1931, U.S. 38 was renumbered as a U.S. 6/U.S. 38 overlap and in 1933, the U.S. 38 route designation was dropped.
In the early years of air travel, Lincoln had three airports and one airfield. Union Airport, was established northeast of Lincoln in 1920. The Lincoln Flying School was founded by E.J. Sias in a building he built at 2145 O Street. Charles Lindbergh was a student at the flying school in 1922. The flying school closed in 1947. Some remnants of the Union Airport can still be seen in-between N. 56th and N. 70th Streets, north of Fletcher Avenue; mangled within a slowly developing industrial zone. Arrow Airport was established around 1925 as a manufacturing and test facility for Arrow Aircraft and Motors Corporation, primarily the Arrow Sport. The airfield was located near Havelock; or to the west of where the North 48th Street Small Vehicle Transfer Station is located today. Arrow Aircraft and Motors declared bankruptcy in 1939 and Arrow Airport closed roughly several decades later. An existing Arrow Sport can be seen on permanent display, hanging in the Lincoln Airport's main passenger terminal.
The city's small municipal airfield in 1930 was dedicated to Charles Lindbergh and named Lindbergh Field for a short period of time as another airfield was named Lindbergh in California. The airfield was north of Salt Lake, in an area known variously over the years as Huskerville, Arnold Heights and Air Park; and was located approximately within the western half of the West Lincoln Township. The air field was a stop for United Airlines in 1927 and a mail stop in 1928. As train, automobile, and air travel increased, business flourished, and the city prospered. The population of Lincoln increased 38.2% from 1920 to a population of 75,933 in 1930. In 1942 the Lincoln Army Airfield was established at the site. During World War II, over 25,000 aviation mechanics were trained with over 40,000 troopers being processed for combat. The Army closed the base in 1945. The Air Force reactivated the base during the Korean War in 1952. In 1966, the base was closed and Lincoln annexed the airfield, including the base's old housing units to the west. The base became the Lincoln Municipal Airport under ownership of the Lincoln Airport Authority. The airport was later renamed the Lincoln Airport. The two main airlines serving the airport were United Airlines and Frontier Airlines. The authority shared facilities with the Nebraska National Guard, who continued ownership over some portions of the old Air Force base. In 1966, Lincoln annexed the township of West Lincoln, incorporated in 1887. West Lincoln voters rejected annexation by Lincoln until the state legislature passed a bill in 1965 allowing cities to annex surrounding areas without a vote.
The downtown core retail district from 1959 to 1984 saw profound changes as retail shopping moved from downtown to the suburban Gateway Shopping Mall. In 1956, Bankers Life Insurance Company of Nebraska announced plans to build a $6 million shopping center next to their new campus on the east-side outskirts of Lincoln. Gateway Mall was completed and open for business at 60th and O streets in 1960. By 1984, 75% of Lincoln's revenue from retail sales tax came from within a one-mile radius of the Mall. With the exodus of retail and service businesses, the downtown core began to decline and deteriorate.
The Nebraska legislature in 1969 legislated laws for urban renewal and shortly thereafter Lincoln began a program of revitalization and beautification of the city. Most of the urban renewal projects focused on downtown and the near South areas. Many ideas were considered and not implemented. Successes included Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, designed by Philip Johnson; new branch libraries, new street lighting, the First National Bank Building and the National Bank of Commerce Building designed by I.M. Pei.
In 1971, an expansion of Gateway Mall was completed. Lincoln's first woman mayor, Helen Boosalis, was elected in 1975. Mayor Boosalis was a strong supporter of the revitalization of Lincoln with the downtown beautification project being completed in 1978. In 1979, the square-block downtown Centrum was opened and connected to buildings with a skywalk. The Centrum was a two-level shopping mall with a garage for 1,038 cars. With the beautification and urban renewal projects, many historic buildings were razed in the city. In 2007 and 2009, the city of Lincoln received beautification grants for improvements on O and West O Streets, west of the Harris Overpass, commemorating the history of the D-L-D.
Vietnamese refugees, from the fall of Saigon in 1975, established a significant ethnic community with businesses along the 27th Street corridor alongside Mexican eateries and African markets. Lincoln was designated as a "Refugee Friendly" city by the U.S. Department of State in the 1970s. In 2000, Lincoln was the twelfth-largest resettlement site per capita in the country. As of 2011, Lincoln had the largest Karen (Burmese ethnic minority) population in the United States, behind Omaha. As of the same year, Nebraska was one of the largest resettlement sites for the people of Sudan, mostly in Lincoln and Omaha. In recent years, Lincoln had the largest Yazidi (Iraqi ethnic minority) population in the U.S. In a three-year period, the immigrant and refugee student population at Lincoln Public Schools increased 52% - from 1,606 students in 2014, to 2,445 in 2017.
The decade from 1990 to 2000 saw a significant rise in population from 191,972 to 225,581. North 27th Street and Cornhusker Highway were redeveloped with new housing and businesses built. The boom housing market in south Lincoln created new housing developments including high end housing in areas like Cripple Creek, Willamsburg and The Ridge. The shopping center Southpointe Pavilions was completed in competition of Gateway Mall.
In 2001, Gateway Mall was purchased by Westfield America Trust. Westfield renamed the mall Westfield Shoppingtown Gateway; then in 2005, Westfield Gateway. Westfield made a $45 million makeover of the mall in 2005 including an expanded food court, a new west-side entrance and installation of an Italian carousel. In 2012, Westfield America Trust sold Westfield Gateway to Starwood Capital Group. Starwood reverted the mall's name from Westfield Gateway to Gateway Mall and has made incremental expansions and renovations.
In 2015, ALLO Communications announced that it would bring ultra-high speed fiber internet to the city. Speeds up to 1 Gigabit per second were planned for both business and household use by using the city's existing fiber network. Construction on the citywide network was to begin in March 2016 and was estimated to be complete by 2019. Telephone and cable TV service would also be included, making it the third company to compete for such services within Lincoln. In April 2016, Windstream Communications announced that 2,300 customers in Lincoln had 1 Gigabit per second internet with an expected expansion of services to 25,000 customers by 2017, making it the first company to have ultra-fast internet available within the city.
Lincoln has a total area of 93.46 square miles (242.06 km2), of which 92.11 square miles (238.56 km2) of it is land and 1.35 square miles (3.50 km2) is water, according to the United States Census Bureau in 2016.
Lincoln is one of the few large cities of Nebraska not located along either the Platte River or the Missouri River. The city was originally laid out near Salt Creek and among the nearly flat saline wetlands of northern Lancaster County. The city's growth over the years has led to development of the surrounding land, much of which is composed of gently rolling hills. In recent years, Lincoln's northward growth has encroached on the habitat of the endangered Salt Creek tiger beetle.
Lincoln is in two metropolitan statistical areas as defined by the United States Census Bureau. The Lincoln Metropolitan Statistical Area consists of Lancaster County and Seward County. Seward county was added to the metropolitan area in 2003. Lincoln is also in the Lincoln-Beatrice Combined Statistical Area which consists of the Lincoln metropolitan area and the micropolitan area of Beatrice. The city of Beatrice is the county seat of Gage County. The Lincoln-Beatrice metropolitan area is home to 326,921 people (2016 estimated) making it the 104th-largest combined statistical area in the United States.
Lincoln's neighborhoods include both old and new development. Some neighborhoods in Lincoln were formerly small towns that Lincoln later annexed, including University Place in 1926, Belmont, Bethany (Bethany Heights) in 1922, College View in 1929, Havelock in 1930, and West Lincoln in 1966. A number of Historic Districts are located near downtown Lincoln, while newer neighborhoods have appeared primarily in the south and east. As of December 2013, Lincoln had 45 registered neighborhood associations within the city limits.
One core neighborhood that has seen rapid residential growth in recent years is the downtown Lincoln area. In 2010, there were 1,200 downtown Lincoln residents; in 2016, there were 3,000 (an increase of 140%). Around the middle of the same decade, demand for housing and rent units began outpacing supply. With Lincoln's population expected to grow to more than 311,000 people by 2020, prices for homes and rent costs have risen. Home prices rose 10% from the first quarter of 2015 to the first quarter of 2016; rent prices rose 30% from 2007 to 2017 with a 5–8% increase in 2016 alone.
Located on the Great Plains far from the moderating influence of mountains or large bodies of water, Lincoln possesses a highly variable four-season humid continental climate (Köppen Dfa): winters are cold but relatively dry, summers are hot and occasionally humid. With little precipitation falling during winter, precipitation is concentrated in the warmer months, when thunderstorms frequently roll in, often producing tornadoes. Snow averages 25.9 inches (66 cm) per season but seasonal accumulation has ranged from 7.2 in (18 cm) in 1967–68 to 54.3 in (138 cm) in 1959–60. Snow tends to fall in light amounts, though blizzards are possible. There is an average of 39 days with a snow depth of 1 in (2.5 cm) or more. The average window for freezing temperatures is October 5 thru April 25, allowing a growing season of 162 days.
The monthly daily average temperature ranges from 24.6 °F (−4.1 °C) in January to 77.6 °F (25.3 °C) in July. However, the city is subject both to episodes of bitter cold in winter and heat waves during summer, with 11.4 nights of sub-0 °F (−18 °C) lows, 41 days of 90 °F (32 °C)+ highs, and 4.6 days of 100 °F (38 °C)+ highs. The city straddles the boundary of USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5b and 6a. Temperature extremes have ranged from −33 °F (−36 °C) on January 12, 1974 up to 115 °F (46 °C) on July 25, 1936. Readings as high as 105 °F (41 °C) or as low as −20 °F (−29 °C) occur somewhat rarely; the last occurrence of each was July 22, 2012 and February 3, 1996.
Based on 30-year averages obtained from NOAA's National Climatic Data Center for the months of December, January and February, Weather Channel ranked Lincoln the seventh-coldest major U.S. city as of 2014 In 2014, the Lincoln-Beatrice area was among the "Cleanest U.S. Cities for Ozone Air Pollution" in the American Lung Association's "State of the Air 2014" report.
Lincoln is the second-most-populous city in Nebraska. The U.S. Government designated Lincoln in the 1970s as a refugee-friendly city due to its stable economy, educational institutions, and size. Since then, refugees from Vietnam settled in Lincoln, and further waves came from other countries. In 2013, Lincoln was named one of the "Top Ten most Welcoming Cities in America" by Welcoming America.
As of the census of 2010, there were 258,379 people, 103,546 households, and 60,300 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,899.6 inhabitants per square mile (1,119.5/km2). There were 110,546 housing units at an average density of 1,240.6 per square mile (479.0/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 86.0% White, 3.8% African American, 0.8% Native American, 3.8% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 2.5% from other races, and 3.0% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 6.3% of the population.
There were 103,546 households of which 27.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.0% were married couples living together, 10.2% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.1% had a male householder with no wife present, and 41.8% were non-families. 31.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.36 and the average family size was 3.01.
The median age in the city was 31.8 years. 22.7% of residents were under the age of 18; 15.7% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 27.9% were from 25 to 44; 22.9% were from 45 to 64; and 10.7% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 50.0% male and 50.0% female.
Lincoln's economy is fairly typical of a mid-sized American city; most economic activity is derived from the service and manufacturing industries. Government and the University of Nebraska are both large contributors to the local economy. Other prominent industries in Lincoln include finance, insurance, publishing, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, telecommunications, railroads, high technology, information technology, medical, education and truck transport.
For May 2017, the Lincoln Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) preliminary unemployment rate was 2.6% (not seasonally adjusted). With a tight labor market, Lincoln has seen rapid wage growth. From the summer of 2014 to the summer of 2015, the average hourly pay for both public and private employees have increased by 11%. From October 2014 to October 2015, wages were also up by 8.4%.
One of the largest employers is Bryan Health, which consists of two major hospitals and several large outpatient facilities located across the city. Healthcare and medical jobs account for a substantial portion of Lincoln's employment: as of 2009, full-time healthcare employees in the city included 9,010 healthcare practitioners in technical occupations, 4,610 workers in healthcare support positions, 780 licensed and vocational nurses, and 150 medical and clinical laboratory technicians.
Several national business were originally established in Lincoln; these include student lender Nelnet, Ameritas, Assurity, Fort Western Stores and HobbyTown USA. Several regional restaurant chains began in Lincoln, including Amigos/Kings Classic, Runza Restaurants and Valentino's.
The Lincoln area makes up a part of what is known as the greater Midwest Silicon Prairie. The city is also a part of a rapidly growing craft brewing industry. In 2013, Lincoln ranked No. 4 on Forbes' list of the Best Places for Business and Careers and No. 1 on "NerdWallet"'s Best Cities for Job Seekers in 2015.
According to the City's 2016 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the principal employers of the city are:
The Nebraska Air and Army National Guard's Joint Force Headquarters are located in Lincoln along with other major units of the Nebraska National Guard. During the early years of the Cold War, the Lincoln Airport was the Lincoln Air Force Base; currently, the Nebraska Air National Guard, along with the Nebraska Army National Guard, have joint-use facilities with the Lincoln Airport.
Since the opening of Pinnacle Bank Arena in 2013, Lincoln's emerging music scene has grown to the point where it is sometimes referred to as a "Music City." Primary venues for live music include: Pinnacle Bank Arena, Bourbon Theatre, Duffy's Tavern, and the Zoo Bar. The Pla-Mor Ballroom is a classic Lincoln music and dance scene with its in-house Sandy Creek Band. Pinewood Bowl hosts a range of performances – from national music performances to local plays during the warm weather months.
The Lied Center is a venue for national tours of Broadway productions, concert music, guest lectures, and regularly features its resident orchestra Lincoln's Symphony Orchestra. Lincoln has several performing arts venues. Plays are staged by UNL students in the Temple Building; community theater productions are held at the Lincoln Community Playhouse, the Loft at The Mill, and the Haymarket Theater.
Lincoln's strong music community thrives with the help of Lincoln Public School music programs that provides children with the opportunity to begin strings in 4th grade and band in the 5th grade. The recent restart of UNL/ LPS String Project further enhances this opportunity, providing children in the 3rd grade with weekly instruction in the classical strings. These programs and others are supported by a large range of music retail stores including Dietze Music, Roots Music Shop, and The Violin Shop, a pillar in the music community since 1982.
Lincoln also boasts many noted visual arts venues and galleries including the Sheldon Museum of Art, Burkholder Projectand Noyes Art Gallery.
For movie viewing, Marcus Theatres owns 32 screens at four locations, and the University of Nebraska's Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center shows independent and foreign films. Standalone cinemas in Lincoln include the Joyo Theater and Rococo Theater. The Rococo Theater also hosts benefits and other engagements. The downtown section of O Street is Lincoln's primary bar and nightclub district.
Lincoln is the hometown of Zager and Evans, known for their international No. 1 hit record, "In the Year 2525" (1969). It is also the home town of several notable musical groups, such as Remedy Drive, VOTA, For Against, Lullaby for the Working Class, Matthew Sweet, Dirtfedd, The Show is the Rainbow and Straight. Lincoln is home to Maroon 5 guitarist James Valentine.
In 2012, the city was listed among the 10 best places to retire in the United States by U.S. News & World Report.
Annual events in Lincoln have come and gone throughout time, such as Band Day at the University of Nebraska's Lincoln campus and the Star City Holiday Parade. However, some events have never changed while new traditions have been created. Current annual cultural events in Lincoln include the Lincoln National Guard Marathon and Half-Marathon in May, Celebrate Lincoln in early June, the Uncle Sam Jam around July 3, and Boo at the Zoo in October. A locally popular event is the Haymarket Farmers' Market, running from May to October in the Historic Haymarket, one of several farmers markets throughout the city.
Tourist attractions and activities include the Sunken Gardens, basketball games at Pinnacle Bank Arena, the Lincoln Children's Zoo, the dairy store at UNL's East Campus, and Mueller Planetarium on the city campus. The Nebraska State Capitol, which is also the tallest building in Lincoln, offers tours. The Frank H. Woods Telephone Museum exhibits historical telephone technology. The Speedway Motors Museum of American Speed preserves, interprets and displays physical items significant in racing and automotive history. In late 2016, Lincoln was ranked #3 on Lonely Planet's "Best in the U.S.," destinations to see in 2017 list.
Lincoln is home to the University of Nebraska's football team, the Nebraska Cornhuskers. In total, the university fields 22 men's and women's teams in 14 NCAA Division I sports. Nebraska football began play in 1890. Among the 128 Division I-A teams, Nebraska is one of ten football programs to win 800 or more games. Notable coaches were Tom Osborne, and Bob Devaney. Osborne coached from 1973–1997. Devaney coached from 1962–1972 and the university's indoor arena, the Bob Devaney Sports Center, was named for him.
Other sports teams are the Nebraska Wesleyan Prairie Wolves, a GPAC and NCAA Division III independent University; the Lincoln Saltdogs, an American Association independent minor league baseball team; the Lincoln Stars, a USHL junior ice hockey team; and the No Coast Derby Girls, a member of the Women's Flat Track Derby Association.
Lincoln has an extensive park system, with over 125 individual parks. The parks are connected by a 133 mi (214 km) system of recreational trails. The MoPac Trail is a bicycling, equestrian and walking trail. The trail was built on an abandoned Missouri Pacific Railroad corridor which runs for 27 miles (43 km) from the University of Nebraska's Lincoln campus eastward to Wabash, Nebraska.
Regional parks include Antelope Park from S. 23rd and "N" Streets to S. 33rd Street and Sheridan Boulevard, Bicentennial Cascade Fountain, Hamann Rose Garden, Lincoln Children's Zoo, Veterans Memorial Garden, and Holmes Park at S. 70th Street and Normal Boulevard. Pioneers Park includes the Pioneers Park Nature Center at S. Coddington Avenue and W. Calvert Streets.
Community parks include Ballard Park, Bethany Park, Bowling Lake Park, Densmore Park, Erwin Peterson Park, Fleming Fields, Irvingdale Park, Mahoney Park, Max E. Roper Park, Oak Lake Park, Peter Pan Park, Pine Lake Park, Sawyer Snell Park, Seacrest Park, Tierra Briarhurst, University Place Park and Woods Park.
Other notable parks include Iron Horse Park, Lincoln Community Foundation Tower Square, Nine Mile Prairie owned by the University of Nebraska Foundation, Sunken Gardens, Union Plaza, and Wilderness Park. Smaller neighborhood parks are scattered throughout the city. Additionally, there are five public recreation centers, nine outdoor public pools and five public golf courses not including private facilities in Lincoln.
Lincoln has a mayor-council government. The mayor and a seven-member city council are selected in nonpartisan elections. Four members are elected from city council districts; the remaining three members are elected at-large. Lincoln's health, personnel, and planning departments are joint city/county agencies; most city and Lancaster County offices are located in the City/County Building.
Since Lincoln is the state capital, many Nebraska state and United States Government offices are located in Lincoln. The city lies within the Lincoln Public Schools school district; the primary law enforcement agency for the city is the Lincoln Police Department. The Lincoln Fire and Rescue Department shoulders the city's fire fighting and emergency ambulatory services while private companies provide non-emergency medical transport and outlying areas of the city are supported by volunteer fire fighting units.
The city's public library system is Lincoln City Libraries, which has seven branches. Lincoln City Libraries circulates more than three million items per year to the residents of Lincoln and Lancaster County. Lincoln City Libraries is also home to Polley Music Library and the Jane Pope Geske Heritage Room of Nebraska authors.
Lincoln Public Schools (LPS) is the sole public school district in the city. There are six traditional high schools in the district: Lincoln High, East, Northeast, North Star, Southeast, and Southwest. Additionally, LPS is home to special interest high school programs, including the Arts and Humanities Focus Program, the Science Focus Program (Zoo School), The Career Academy and the Bryan Community School. Other programs include the Don D. Sherrill Education Center, the Pathfinder Education Program and the Yankee Hill Program.
There are several private parochial elementary and middle schools located throughout the community. These schools, like Lincoln Public Schools, are broken into districts, but most will allow attendance outside of boundary lines. Private high schools located in Lincoln are College View Academy, Lincoln Christian, Lincoln Lutheran, Parkview Christian School and Pius X High School.
At Lincoln Public Schools, during the 2016–17 school year, the English Language Learners (ELL) program had 3,235 students from approximately 118 countries, who spoke approximately 68 different languages. Some of the most common first-languages spoken within the program are Arabic, Burmese, Farsi, Karen, Kurdish, Nuer, Russian, Spanish, Ukrainian and Vietnamese. The top two first-language groups, as of 2016–17 school year, are Arabic and Kurdish speakers (35.3%), and Spanish speakers (28.2%). From the 2010–11 to the 2016–17 school years, LPS saw Arabic and Kurdish ELL students increase by over 197%, from 321 Arabic and 63 Kurdish speaking students to 698 Arabic and 444 Kurdish speaking students. The continually increasing influx of refugees and immigrants to Lincoln over recent years, which has included refugees/immigrants from Iraq, Mexico, Burma and refugee camps in Thailand, has caused LPS to hire additional ELL teachers at an increasingly rapid pace.
Nine colleges and universities are located within the Lincoln boundaries. The University of Nebraska–Lincoln, the main campus of the University of Nebraska system, is the largest university in Nebraska, having 19,979 undergraduate, 4,517 postgraduate students and 510 professionals enrolled in 2014. Out of the 25,006 enrolled, 1,515 undergraduate and 970 postgraduate students/professionals were international.
Nebraska Wesleyan University, as of 2013, has 1,927 undergraduate and 222 postgraduate students. The school teaches in the tradition of a liberal arts college education. Nebraska Wesleyan was ranked the #1 liberal arts college in Nebraska by U.S. News and World Report in 2002. In 2009, Forbes ranked it 84th of America's Best Colleges. It remains affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Union College is a private Seventh-day Adventist four-year coeducational college with 911 students enrolled 2013–14.
Bryan College of Health Sciences offers undergraduate degrees in nursing and other health professions; a Masters in Nursing; a Doctoral degree in nurse anesthesia practice, as well as certificate programs for ancillary health professions. Universities with satellite locations in Lincoln are Bellevue University, Concordia University (Nebraska), Doane University and a yet-to-be-named satellite of Purdue University (formerly Kaplan University). Lincoln also hosts the College of Hair Design and Joseph's College of Cosmetology.
Southeast Community College is a community college system located in southeastern Nebraska, with three campuses in Lincoln and an enrollment of 9,751 students as of fall 2013. The two-year Academic Transfer program is popular among students wanting to get their general education requirements completed before moving to a four-year institution as a Junior. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is the most popular transfer location.
Lincoln has four licensed broadcast television stations:KLKN (Channel 8; 8.1 DT) – ABC; Grit affiliate 8.2; Escape affiliate 8.3
KOLN (Channel 10; 10.1 DT) – CBS affiliate; KSNB-TV/NBC 10.2
KUON (Channel 12; 12.1 DT) – PBS affiliate, NET Television flagship station; NET World 12.2, NET Create 12.3; NET PBS KIDS 12.4
KFXL (Channel 51; 51.1 DT) – Fox affiliate
The headquarters of Nebraska Educational Telecommunications (NET), which is affiliated with the Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio, are in Lincoln. Lincoln is one of the few cities without its own NBC affiliate; Omaha's WOWT historically served as the city's default NBC affiliate until 2014 when Hastings' affiliate KHAS-TV moved to KSNB-TV, making both available on cable (KSNB primarily serves central Nebraska). The city has an analog TV translator for 3ABN on channel 27, low power digital on channel 26; TBN low power digital on channel 29.
There are 15 radio stations licensed in Lincoln, not including radio stations licensed outside of the city that serve the Lincoln area. Most areas of Lincoln also receive radio signals from Omaha and other surrounding communities.
FM stations include:KLCV (88.5) – Religious talk
KZUM (89.3) – Independent Community Radio
KRNU (90.3) – Alternative / College radio UNL
KUCV (91.1) – National Public Radio
K220GT (91.9) – Contemporary Christian
K233AN (94.5) – Hot AC/Top 40
KNNA-LP (95.7) – Christian
K277CA (103.3) – News/Talk
KLNC (105.3) – Adult Hits
KFRX (106.3) – Top-40
KBBK (107.3) – Hot AC
KJFT-LP (107.9) – Chinese-language Christian
AM stations include:KFOR (1240) – News/Talk
KLIN (1400) – News/Talk
KLMS (1480) – Sports Talk
The Lincoln Journal Star is the city's major daily newspaper. The Daily Nebraskan is the official paper of the University of Nebraska's Lincoln campus and The DailyER Nebraskan is the university's biweekly satirical paper. Other university newspapers include the Reveille, the official periodical campus paper of Nebraska Wesleyan University and the Clocktower, the official weekly campus paper of Union College.
Lincoln is served by Interstate 80 via 7 interchanges, connecting the city to San Francisco and Teaneck, New Jersey in the New York City Metropolitan Area. Other Highways that serve the Lincoln area are Interstate 180, U.S. Highway 6, U.S. Highway 34, U.S. Highway 77 and nearby Nebraska Highway 79. The eastern segment of Nebraska Highway 2 is a primary trucking route that connects Kansas City (Interstate 29) to the I-80 corridor in Lincoln. A few additional minor State Highway segments reside within the city as well.
A public bus transit system, StarTran, operates in Lincoln. StarTran's fleet consists of 67 full-sized buses and 13 Handi-Vans. The transit system has 17 bus routes, with a circular bus route downtown. Annual ridership for the fiscal year 2014–15 was 2,415,096.
The Lincoln Airport (KLNK/LNK) provides passengers with daily non-stop service to United Airlines hubs Chicago O'Hare International Airport and Denver International Airport as well as Delta Air Lines hubs Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport and Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport. General aviation support is provided through several private aviation companies. The Lincoln Airport was among the emergency landing sites for the NASA Space Shuttle. The site was chosen chiefly because of a 12,901 feet (3,932 m) runway; the longest of three at the airport.
Lincoln is served by Black Hills Stage Lines for regional bus service between Omaha, Denver and points beyond. Megabus, in partnership with Windstar Lines, provides bus service between Lincoln and Chicago with stops in Omaha, Des Moines, Iowa City and Moline.
Amtrak provides service to Lincoln, operating its California Zephyr daily in each direction between Chicago and Emeryville, California, using BNSF's Lincoln – Denver route through Nebraska. The city is an Amtrak crew-change point.
Rail freight travels coast-to-coast, to and through Lincoln via BNSF Railway, the Union Pacific Railroad, Lincoln's own Omaha, Lincoln and Beatrice Railway Company and an Omaha Public Power District rail spur. Lincoln was once served by the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad (Rock Island), the Missouri Pacific Railroad (MoPac) and the Chicago and North Western Transportation Company (C&NW). The abandoned right-of-way of these former railroads have since been turned into bicycle trails.
Power in Lincoln is provided by the Lincoln Electric System (LES). The LES service area covers 200 square miles (520 km2), serving Lincoln and several other communities outside of the city. A public utility, LES's electric rates are the 16th lowest in the nation, according to a nationwide survey conducted by LES in 2017. Current LES power supply resources are 34% coal, 33% oil and gas and 33% renewable. Renewable resources have increased with partial help from the addition of an LES-owned five Megawatt solar energy farm put into service June, 2016. The solar farm produces enough energy to power 900 homes. LES also owns two wind turbines in the northeast part of the city.
Water in Lincoln is provided through the Lincoln Water System. In the 1920s, the city of Lincoln undertook the task of building the Lincoln Municipal Lighting and Warterworks Plant (designed by Fiske & Meginnis). The building worked as the main hub for water from nearby wells and power in Lincoln for decades until it was replaced and turned into an apartment building. Most of Lincoln's water originates from wells along the Platte River near Ashland, Nebraska. Wastewater is in turn collected by the Lincoln Wastewater System. Both systems are owned by the city of Lincoln.
Natural gas is provided by Black Hills Energy.
Landline telephone service has had a storied history within the Lincoln area. The Lincoln Telephone & Telegraph Company, founded in 1880, merged with Aliant Communications and shortly thereafter merged in 1998 with Alltel. In 2006, Windstream Communications was formed with the spinoff of Alltel and a merge with VALOR Communications Group. Windstream Communications provides telephone service both over VoIP and conventional telephone circuits to the Lincoln area. Spectrum offers telephone service over VoIP on their cable network. In addition, expected to be completed by 2019, ALLO Communications will provide telephone, television and internet service over their future fiber network to all parts of the city.
Lincoln has three major hospitals within two health care systems serving the city: Bryan Health and CHI Health St. Elizabeth. Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital is a geriatric facility and a physical medicine & rehabilitation center. Lincoln has two specialty hospitals: Lincoln Surgical Hospital and the Nebraska Heart Institute. A U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Community-Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) is located in Lincoln (Lincoln VA Clinic, part of the Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System). Urgent care clinics are located throughout the city.