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Best Cities to Raise a Family

Is There a Perfect Place to Raise a Family?

Here's a post from our partners at BabyCenter! Every week, we bring you the best parenting and lifestyle stories from the experts at BabyCenter, including this post from Dr. Gwen Dewar about ideal places to live.


Where should I live? I've known this question was coming for a long time, but couldn't do anything about it. I spent the last 18 months fighting my mother's cancer. Now she's gone, our family is irrevocably changed, and I want to find a new place to live.

Part of me wants adventure. I am finally free. But I'm still a mother. My children's well-being comes before anything else.

Related: Are Gender Reveal Parties Narcissistic?

In an ideal world, I'd live next door to a parenting ally: A like-minded friend or relative who also has young children. The kids would play together. We would help each other in a crisis. We would watch out for each other's kids.

It sounds like utopia to some people. But it should be the norm. For most of human history, families lived in precisely this way.

People lived in small bands or villages. It wasn't perfect. There were personal conflicts and soap operas. But parents weren't isolated, and kids had more autonomy to play and explore.

Now I'm finding it difficult to recreate my own village. In the modern economy, my friends and family are dispersed all over the place. So I'm taking a step back, and thinking first about the locations themselves.

What are the most family-friendly places to live? Like everybody else, I want a place where the cost of living is low, the schools are good, the job market isn't terrible, good health care is available, and the neighborhoods are relatively safe.

I've also got these personal criteria:

  • I'd like a university town, or at least a place where research is happening and science-minded people can be found.
  • I want a little rugged natural beauty. If there are no hills or mountains of any kind, I may go bughouse. Ditto for trees. If the winters are cold, there had better be some evergreens, too.
  • I want some ethnic diversity. It doesn't have to be a dazzling Mecca of international culture, and what really matters most is that people be open-minded. But I'd like there to be more than one important cultural influence in town.
  • There should be wildlife. Of the non-human variety.
  • I need a good public library.
  • There must be places to walk, and I'd like to walk to school without getting hit by a car.
  • Please let the gods arrange things so that school doesn't start before 8am. At this point, my family would regard an 8:30 starting time as heaven on earth.
  • I want a natural science museum. A real natural science museum. With dinosaurs. Or at least some extinct mammals.

I know the last demand is iffy. There aren't many museums like that world-wide. But bizarre as it may seem, I pine for a museum. It doesn't have to be next door. I'd probably settle for two hours away. And if there were a really good zoo nearby – or wildlife park – or aquarium — I might be able to make do.

So help me out, please. Does any place fit the bill? Have you struggled with your own criteria? And have you succeeded in finding your own, family-friendly place to live?

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