Great Places to Live for Young Families

By Jill Mead , last updated July 13, 2011

Great places to live for young families tend to have some traits in common, such as good schools, low crime, plenty of cultural activities, and ample green space. Every year, magazines like Forbes, Business Week, and Kiplinger crunch numbers to come up with their lists of the best cities for families, generating debate about what's most important for kids and parents alike.

For example, some parents aren't content with parks and large yards, and want their children to grow up close to nature where they can ski, hike, mountain bike, camp, and swim in the great outdoors. Fortunately, there are some great cities for the outdoorsy family. Backpacker.com lists the top 25 cities to raise an outdoor kid on their website, with heavy representation from Colorado. Boulder tops the list, and Durango, Colorado Springs, and Fort Collins also make the top 10. Three West Coast cities make the list, which are Seattle, Washington, Hood River, Oregon, and Eureka-Arcata-Fortuna, California. Different cities up and down the Appalachian Mountains, including Portland, Maine, Manchester and Lebanon, New Hampshire, Burlington, Vermont, Wheeling, West Virginia, Harrisonburg, Virginia, Sevierville, Tennessee, and Brevard and Ashville, North Carolina also made the list.
Meanwhile, the minds over at CNN/Money Magazine have compiled a top-ten family-friendly cities list that is heavy on satellite or suburban communities outside of larger cities. Number one on their list is the small town of Middleton, Wisconsin with a population 17,400. It is located 15 minutes outside of Madison. The largest city on their top-ten, Claremont, California comes in with a population of 35,900. The cities that make their list are small, picturesque, low-crime, full of green space, and located close to major cities and industry hubs.
A more urban list can be found at Kiplinger, which takes into account a low crime rate, a low cost of living, a low student-to-teacher rate in the schools, and plenty of “wholesome” activities for families to enjoy together when creating their top five. Atlanta tops their list, drawing in families with their diverse economy and wooded neighborhoods around the city’s center. Minneapolis-St. Paul comes second, Des Moines third, Provo, Utah, fourth, and Green Bay, fifth.
Des Moines places at number one on Forbes' top ten “America's Best Places To Raise A Family” list, earning points for its schools, low cost of living and low crime. Four medium-sized New York cities make this particular list, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany-Schenectady-Troy, and Buffalo-Niagara Falls, while Provo, Utah reappears joined by Ogden-Clearfield, Utah. In Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg-Carlisle make the list as well.
As you can see, although all of these lists rank great places to live for young families, there is very little overlap between different lists. Depending on your particular criteria, there are dozens of cities that fit the bill. Just like every city is different, every family has different needs. It is important to think long and hard about matters such as proximity to urban areas, transportation concerns, climate, and local economy. In the conclusion, there is no single “best place” for all families, but there are a lot of great places out there for your family!
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