10 Great Places to Start a Family
Want a family-friendly place to live? Check out these picks for communities that offer good schools, pediatric care, safe neighborhoods, and decent work and housing opportunities. You may find one a great place to call home!
How We Chose These Great Places
With families in mind, we searched the United States for terrific schools, affordable housing*, availability of outstanding pediatric care, and better-than-average job opportunities. The great places we found share these features, and each has a little something extra that makes it a remarkable community.
*Home prices are based on sales figures of all properties from February to April 2009, available at Trulia.com. Please note that median sales prices are lower than median home values and average listing prices.
Photo Credit: wikimedia.org
Great Place: Wauwatosa, Wisconsin
Median home sale price: $182,000
Why We Like It: Located just west of Milwaukee, Wauwatosa is home to the Children’s Hospital of Milwaukee, exceptional schools, and miles of tree-lined residential streets. The Milwaukee County Zoo is within easy reach, as are the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum and Brewers baseball. Wauwatosa’s Hart Park, near the banks of the Menomonee River (shown here), is both a destination in itself and a stop on Wisconsin’s Oak Leaf hike and bike trail system. On top of all that, this town has a cute nickname: ‘Tosa.
The Caveat: In the short term, Wisconsin isn’t predicted to be a leader in economic growth, but when you do find that job, pack your parka: The average temperature in January hovers around 18 degrees Fahrenheit.
Photo Credit: Steve Hopson - wikimedia.org
Great Place: Austin, Texas
Median home sale price: $117,889, but you’ll pay more in popular family neighborhoods.
Why We Like It: Its unofficial slogan, Keep Austin Weird, pretty much captures the vibe of this funky, progressive big city. A diverse population supports a vibrant culture of ballet, theatre, museums (including the Austin Children’s Museum), and, of course, music. February’s Carnaval, spring’s South by Southwest Festival, and fall’s Austin City Limits Music Festival are just three of the annual events Austinites (and plenty of tourists) enjoy each year. The University of Texas-Austin is the city’s largest employer, and general job growth is promising. Residents cope with the subtropical climate by jumping into one of the city’s dozens of outdoor swimming pools, Barton Springs’ natural pool, or Lake Travis’ Hippie Hollow, the state’s only clothing-optional public park. If you’re thinking it might be weird to be a kid in Austin, you’re right—but it’s weird in a good way.
The Caveat: Like home pricing, the quality of the public schools varies widely by neighborhood.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock
Great Place: Abington Township, Pennsylvania
Median home sale price: $190,000
Why We Like It: The township dates back to the 17th century, but Abington provides all the modern amenities, including excellent public schools and daycare, convenient shopping, and ready transportation. Six train stations connect residents to Philadelphia, just 12 miles away, so there are lots of nearby employment and entertainment options, including theatres, restaurants, and museums. Still, Abington maintains a small-town feel, with everything from kids’ tennis at Alverthorpe Park to preschool art classes at the Alverthorpe Manor Art Museum. Abington has its own hospital, and one of the nation’s best pediatric hospitals, the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania, just down the road.
The Caveat: Abington Township is not funky fresh. Iconoclasts, please hit the “back” button and return to Austin.
Photo Credit: Jarrett Campbell-wikimedia
Great Place: Cary, North Carolina
Median home sale price: $250,000
Why We Like It: Cary’s location near the Research Triangle means outstanding access to jobs, universities, and hospitals, including the Duke Children’s Hospital. Although technology drives its growth, Cary maintains a friendly, family-centered vibe. Kids in UNC T-shirts ride their bikes to neighborhood swimming pools, and moms and dads push jogging strollers along the Greenways’ manicured trails. Cary provides excellent venues for any sport your child might want to pursue, including baseball, skating, hockey, soccer, year-round swimming, tennis, and golf. Or he can stick to the clarinet and join in Cary Band Day, a proud tradition since 1958.
The Caveat: The air quality is not great, and it won’t be helped by the fact that you’ll need to drive just about everywhere.
Photo Credit: Ryan Frazer - wikimedia.org
Great Place: Claremont, California
Median home sale price: $465,000
Why We Like It: It’s the City of Trees and PhDs: Despite its modest size, Claremont is home to more than 24,000 city trees and seven colleges. While we’re counting, let’s not neglect the 23 city parks as well as the 20 major peaks of the nearby San Gabriel Mountains. There’s a lot more to this diverse town than numbers, of course, including striking architecture, a pleasant climate, and the picturesque Claremont Village, which serves as the city’s entertainment center. Claremont’s Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden and the John R. Rodman Arboretum celebrate native plant life, just one of the ways the town stays true to its roots. But if residents need to branch out, commuter trains link Claremont to Los Angeles, 30 miles to the west, securing additional opportunities for employment and healthcare.
The Caveat: California dreamin’ doesn’t come cheap, and a few of the elementary schools in the Claremont Unified School District are less stellar than their high-achieving neighbors.
Photo Credit: Andrew Hitchcock - wikimedia.org
Great Place: Pepper Pike, Ohio
Population: Just under 6,000
Median home sale price: $247,000
Why We Like It: This lovely little town is ringed by the Cleveland Metroparks system and is located just a few minutes’ drive from the University Circle cultural center. A little further on, you’ll find Cleveland’s renowned Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, the Great Lakes Science Center, and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. What many Pepper Pike families value most, though, is the Orange City School System, consistently ranked among Ohio’s top districts.
The Caveat: The median household income in Pepper Pike is over $150,000, about three times Ohio’s average, so it’s not exactly a model of socioeconomic diversity.
Photo Credit: Traveler100 - wikimedia.org
Great Place: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Median home sale price: $220,000
Why We Like It: A young, remarkably diverse population supports and is supported by the University of Michigan, but Ann Arbor’s merits don’t end with the U of M and its top-notch Hospitals and Health Centers. Overall, the city’s schools are very good, some excellent, and the list of things to do seems endless. You might stroll through one of the city’s 157 parks (including two for dogs), find yourself at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, the Leslie Science Center, the Arb (Nichols Arboretum), the annual Book Festival, the four annual Art Fairs, or the Film Festival held in the historic Michigan Theate. The Ride, Ann Arbor’s public bus system, makes commuting a breeze in this green-minded, livable city.
The Caveat: Average property taxes are almost $4,800 per year; expect traffic congestion during the school year.
Photo Credit: Joe Mabel - wikimedia.com
Great Place: Shoreline, Washington
Median home sale price: $308,500
Why We Like It: Located on the gorgeous Puget Sound, the city of Shoreline is thriving. Want to attend the tuba concert? Enjoy the strawberry festival? Learn to brew your own biodiesel? Seattle, 15 miles to the south, is accessible by Metro Transit bus and rail, so the excellent Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center, the University of Washington, and lots of jobs in trade and biotech are just a short trip away. And if the January rain threatens to bring you down, just head for the city’s indoor playground for tots.
The Caveat: The average temperature in July is 54.8 degrees. Yes, that’s Fahrenheit, we double-checked.
Photo Credit: www.collierville.com
Great Place: Collierville, Tennessee
Median home sale price: $270,000
Why We Like It: Collierville’s historic town square, with its train museum and charming older buildings, lends Southern character to what might otherwise be just a nice suburb of Memphis. The town maintains 10.7 miles of trails in its Greenbelt system as well as the Harrell Performing Arts Theatre, home to community dance, music, and drama programs. Favorite annual events include the Tour de Collierville, a charity cycling event, and October’s Mulberry Fest. Kids, get ready for the Mulberry Monster Mash!
The Caveat: It’s not the heat; it’s the mind-poaching humidity.
Photo Credit: www.opkansas.org
Great Place: Overland Park, Kansas
Median home sale price: $239,400
Why We Like It: Although Overland Park is only 16 miles from Kansas City, Missouri, it has enough amenities to keep families happy in the neighborhood. The walking trails at the Arboretum and Botanical Gardens and the Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead are popular day trip destinations, and the active community centers sponsor a host of activities, including concerts and storytelling for little ones. The flat land has been put to excellent use in the form of a state-of-the art, 12-field soccer complex. Job opportunities are good, too, powered by tech companies such as Sprint Nextel.
The Caveat: Overland Park lacks much racial diversity and happens to be the world headquarters for Applebee’s, so Chili Cheese Nachos might be what your kids grow to think of as ethnic food.
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