In most cases we live where we are placed. Our families live in a town for generations and we stay. Or our parents move to a new place and we set our roots there. But in America over the last generation, roots are weak and life experiences takes us to new places: we go off to college and stay in that area, or a promising new job (or just having a job) requires us to move across the state or across the country.
But when you do have a choice, where would you move? And why? Where would you move your family and young children? What are the best places to live; what’s affordable, healthy and good for children?
Many groups and media outlets have taken a shot at answering these questions
Yahoo proposes the Best, Affordable Places to Raise Kids. Forbes suggests the Best Places to Live. Popsci offers the 50 Greenest Cities in America. Family Circle names the Best Towns for Families. Kiplinger lists best cities to raise kids. Treehugger loves cities with clean air and short commutes. A group called Small Towns Gems points to some wonderful spots.
Based on their research, here’s my list of Ten Great Places to Raise a Family
1. Niles, Illinois. Nearby city: Chicago; Population: 29,207. Median family income: $73,532. The Leaning Tower of Niles, a half-size replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, is among the landmarks in this Chicago suburb. The advantages of living in Niles include public transit (there’s free bus service within in the village), 20 park sites in the district, and several shopping centers, according to the Niles Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Niles has a number of public and private schools that perform above the state average
2. West Seneca, New York. Nearby city: Buffalo. Population: 43,575. Median family income:$69,188. Sure the winters may get cold, but the quality of life and affordability of this middle-class suburb of Buffalo, part of the “Southtowns” that include Orchard Park and Hamburg, more than make up for it. In addition to more than a dozen parks, a soccer complex, and a nature center, it boasts the highly rated West Seneca Central School District and several parochial and private schools. For raising kids, the area lives up to the town motto: Proud Past & Unlimited Future.
3. Suwanee, Georgia: Nearby city: Atlanta. Population: 11,200. Median family income: $87,825. Six years ago the residents of Suwanee voted to more than double their property taxes. The payoff: a boost from 28 acres of green space to more than 270, and a feeling of investment in their hometown. That’s abundantly clear at the newly developed Suwanee Town Center. Built on a heavily trafficked downtown corner, it meshes park space, retail and office properties and housing into one multi-use plaza–and residents have embraced it in a big way. Housing is reasonable, and schools are top notch. (I have the privilege of living in this nice town that is working hard to provide an enjoyable place to live and play).
4. Des Moines, Iowa: Population: 200,000. Median family income: $43,583. It tops some lists of the best cities to raise a family because its young population is more likely to graduate high school than in other cities, and life for most families is safe and affordable. Short average commute times save working parents precious minutes to spend with their families. This summer Des Moines competed for and won its 5th All-America City Award; joining only five other communities in the nation to receive the award five times. More than 4,000 communities have competed and over 500 have been named All-America Cities since the competition began in 1949. The All-America City Award recognizes and encourages civic excellence by honoring communities in which citizens, government, businesses and voluntary organizations work together to address critical local issues.
5. Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota: One of the nation’s greenest urban areas, the Twin Cities are lake filled. Despite the Twin moniker, the two cities are independent municipalities with defined borders and are quite distinct from each other. Minneapolis is somewhat newer, with modern skyscrapers and broad streets. Saint Paul has been likened to a European city with more quaint neighborhoods, and a vast collection of well preserved late-Victorian architecture. Also of some note is the differing cultural backgrounds of the two cities: Minneapolis was influenced by its early (and still influential) Scandinavian/Lutheran heritage, while St. Paul was influenced by its early French, Irish and German Catholic roots. In Money magazine’s 2010 ranking of small cities, Twin Cities have five communities in the top 20 on the 2010 list? No other state comes close to this showing.
6. Madison, Mississippi. Nearby city: Jackson. Population: 16,930. Median Income: $83,477. At the city’s only high school, 70 percent of seniors serve as mentors for elementary school children struggling with learning and family issues. A few years back high school students spearheaded a drive that convinced the city’s businesses to operate smoke free. And everyone pitches in to preserve the tranquil atmosphere in this old southern belle of a town. When a local contractor recently built two cell phone towers, he disguised one as a pine tree and concealed the other inside a church steeple. “Sure, they cost more,” he said, “but they’re beautiful to look at, which is what Madison is all about.”
7. Castle Rock, Colorado. Nearby city: Denver. Population: 42,241. Median Income: $78,403. Like many newer communities it is seeing dramatic change in just a few years. Nestled where the high plains meet the Rocky Mountain foothills Castle Rock offers a life like no other. Castle Rock, Colorado – where the small town character is combined with big city amenities. Castle Rock is the capital of Douglas County. Douglas County has been nationally recognized as a great place to live, to work and to raise a family. In a May 2004 study, by the American City Business Journals (ACBJ), Douglas County ranked fourth in the nation for Quality of Life. “People around here take care of one another,” one resident said. The town spent $2 million this year to buy land with a 6,785-foot butte; the reward for making the 20-minute hike is an awesome view.
8. Mansfield, Texas. Nearby city: Dallas/Ft. Worth, Population: 44,100. Median family income: $87,614. This little town near Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex is the definition of family-friendly. It hosts an annual art fair, music festival, and holiday parade; it’s also the home of the Hawaiian Falls water park and Big League Dreams ballpark. Most homes here are in new subdivisions, but several horse properties with white fences still exist on the outskirts of town. Because the city code demands a certain amount of masonry, most houses are traditional brick single-family dwellings.
9. Pocatello, Idaho. Nearby city: Population: 90,273. Mean family income: $60,620 Housing and utilities are unusually cheap here — Idaho’s cost of living is very low compared to the state average nationally. The city also has safe neighborhoods, solid public schools and robust employment growth, especially in nuclear research. Pocatello can’t offer the same range of cultural attractions as a larger city, but kids will enjoy the Pocatello Zoo, Idaho Museum of Natural History, and the Ross Park Aquatic Complex, as well as plenty of outdoor activities in the nearby Rocky Mountains. Salt Lake City and Yellowstone National Park are a day trip away by car. The city has an affordable small-city lifestyle, low overall crime rates, solid employment and wage growth, quality public schools, moderate four-season climate.
10. Groesbeck, Ohio. Population: 7,200. Nearby city: Cincinnati. Median family income: $49,235. Groesbeck is an unincorporated suburb that shares its government, law enforcement, and school system with the Colerain Township. Pay Groesbeck a visit and you’ll find one-floor ranch houses and multifamily condo units lining the streets, with the occasional patch of farmland dotted with cows, chickens, and bales of hay. Groesbeck’s public school system offers parents a choice among three elementary schools, two middle schools, and one high school in the area—Colerain High School, whose Colerain Cardinals football team is currently vying for a championship. The town also neighbors one of the top private elementary schools in the state. Groesbeck has traditionally seen very few incidents of crime. Perhaps the most attractive feature of the small Ohio town for young parents is its proximity to a wide variety of recreational and cultural activities. There are two parks within a five-minute drive of the area, where kids can kayak on the Great Miami River, play on soccer and baseball fields, or take to the hiking trails. There are new developments in and around Groesbeck, says local Realtor Tony Eckhardt of Huff Realty, a sign the town anticipates growth. But in a place where every face is familiar, he says, “People in Groesbeck tend to stay in Groesbeck.”