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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.

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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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Join The Conversation
Kristina2508121 Kristina2508121 5 years
If Canada was an option, I would recommend my town! I am walking distance to everything. Shopping, schools and lots of green spaces and trails. We have access to 2 universities as well as 6 more within an hours drive. I'm an hour outside of Toronto, so we are far enough that we aren't a subburb but close enough we have all the great parts of Toronto. (Their zoo and their museums!)
betsyh betsyh 5 years
stay away from Florida! I'm trying to get my daughter and I out of here. My criteria are much like yours and I'm going to be happy in San Diego or San Francisco.
Cayce2266826 Cayce2266826 5 years
Definitely Madison, WI. We've got everything except the dinosaurs. But we do have a great children's museum, and UW-Madison has lots of great learning opportunities! And we've got a great (FREE) zoo. Chicago is only about a 2 1/2 hour drive away, for you to indulge your museum fetish. I grew up here, enjoying everything the city has to offer (don't miss the world-class farmer's market) and I can't wait until my 7-month-old son is old enough to start enjoying it all. Lakes. 
socaligal socaligal 5 years
SAN DIEGO!!! PROS: 1. Sunny Daygo weather all year round check! 2. SDSU, USD, UCSD,6 Community Colleges, Private Colleges, SDCOE check! 3. State parks, hills, mountains, beaches. Tons of neverending activities! check! check! 4. SD is very diverse i think due to the military communities, as well as its location. 5. Updated modern Libraries 6. Museums, childrens museums, aquarium parks, Sea World, world animal park, legoland, zoo check! 7. Can road trips to L.A. , disneyland, palm springs, las vegas. CONS: 1. Everyone wants to live here...It makes cost of living go up!
Chloe2499578 Chloe2499578 5 years
Snow Hill, MD. A small town on the Eastern Shore of MD! Half hour from the ocean, on a river, blue ribbon SMALL schools, amazing people and you can walk everywhere! We have a college town the next town over, 20 minutes away.  The only thing is no mountains :/ It's relatively flat. Tons of state parks and lots of woods!! It is my favorite place to be and where I grew up hehe
chicagojlo chicagojlo 5 years
I hear great things about Madison, WI. It's a little too far for my husband to commute to his north suburban Chicago job, but if you don't have to think about that then you're set.
trm5507 trm5507 5 years
Blacksburg, VA - fits at least 4 things on your list and it's the top of business week's list: and it's only about 4 1/2 to 5 hours for a weekend trip to DC for the Smithsonian natural history museum. Though I may be a bit biased as a I'm a Hokie ;-)
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