Family-friendly and Affordable
No matter how hard you try, raising a family is complicated, not to mention expensive. For parents juggling concerns about their children’s safety, schools, expenses, and after school activities—and who also need to go to work on top of all this—living in the right place won’t solve all problems, but it can offer their children more opportunities and enhance the family’s lifestyle. In our fifth annual ranking of best places to raise kids, Bloomberg and Businessweek.com shifted our focus from large, urbanized places to smaller towns and cities.
Using 2010 data from Onboard Informatics
, a real estate information and technology company in New York, we evaluated a total of 5,418 locations nationwide with populations larger than the state median but no larger than 50,000. We considered only locations where the median income is within 20 percent of the state’s median. The rankings put the most weight on school performance and the number of schools, crime statistics, and cost of living. Other factors included job growth, air quality, ethnic diversity, and access to recreational amenities (within the county), such as parks, zoos, theaters, and museums.
The following places we selected are neither rich suburbs nor havens for luxury living—so don’t expect to find mansions and elite country clubs (although some areas will have them). Rather, these are communities inhabited mostly by middle-income earners that have good public schools, low crime, and resources to keep the family entertained on weekends.
Click here to see the best place in each state to raise a family.
Jennifer Prince, rankings analyst for Bloomberg, helped to compile this ranking.
Note: All data are 2010 estimates provided by Onboard Informatics
, the premier data company in the residential real estate market and a leading innovator of lifestyle search. Data sources include the U.S. Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the IRS, the FBI, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Best place to raise kids in Alabama: Theodore Nearby city: Mobile
Median family income: $45,664
Theodore, a suburb some 15 miles from downtown Mobile, provides access to the waterfront and is about a 40-minute drive from Dauphin Island, where boating and fishing are available. The area also is home to the Theodore Industrial Park, a shipping and manufacturing area where chemical maker Evonik Degussa and other companies have operations.
Best place to raise kids in Alaska: Kodiak Nearby city: Homer
Median family income: $80,464
Kodiak, the main city on Kodiak Island, is the main gateway to the island and has an airport and ferry terminal. About a one-hour flight from Anchorage, the city is home to four public elementary schools, one middle school, one high school, and Kodiak College, a branch of the University of Alaska Anchorage. In addition to access to outdoor recreation, the city also offers cultural amenities, such as museums, and annual community events.
Best place to raise kids in Arizona: Vail Nearby city: Tucson
Median family income: $68,764
Runner-up: Picture Rocks
A growing community 22 miles southeast of Tucson, Vail overlooks the Rincon Mountains and is a quick drive from Colossal Cave Mountain Park and other parks. It is also home to the Del Lago Gold Club, an 18-hole golf course. The Vail School District, which ranks highly on greatschools.org, has seven elementary schools, four middle schools, two comprehensive high schools, an alternative high school, and two charter schools, according to the district website.
Best place to raise kids in Arkansas: Judsonia Nearby city: Searcy
Median family income: $42,364
A small city along Little Red River, Judsonia is known as a quiet community with a low crime rate. The largest employer in the town is American Bronze Craft, a maker of bronze plaques and memorials, which has 17 employees, according to the company. Many residents commute to other areas for work. Judsonia Elementary School serves prekindergarten to sixth-grade students, and high school students can attend Riverview High School in nearby Searcy, according to the White County government. In addition to Judsonia’s parks and community center, Searcy offers such recreational sites as a skating rink and rock climbing gym.
Best place to raise kids in California: Rowland Heights Nearby city: Los Angeles
Median family income: $72,985
Runner-up: Temple City
In San Gabriel Valley about 25 miles from downtown Los Angeles, Rowland Heights is home to a large Asian community. According to data from Onboard Informatics, nearly half the population is Asian and 33.2 percent is Hispanic. The area has several highly regarded schools, including the John A. Rowland High School and Killian Elementary School. "Rowland Heights is … close enough to Los Angeles and all the excitement of big-city life, but [Rowland Heights] benefits from an influx of residents looking for a subdued setting," states the website of real estate agent Vincent Gottuso.
Best place to raise kids in Colorado: Littleton Nearby city:
Median family income:
For families, one of the draws of Littleton is its school system, which was recently recognized as one of the best in Colorado, according to 9news.com
. Littleton residents also have access to public transportation to Denver, about 10 miles away, via light rail. Littleton has a historic district and museums and is home to South Platte Park, one of the largest suburban parks, at 659 acres, in the U.S., according to Littleton's website.
Note: Columbine High School shares a Zip Code with Littleton but is in nearby Columbine, which is a separate Census designated place.
Best place to raise kids in Connecticut: Kensington Nearby city: Hartford
Median family income: $90,189
Kensington, a city about 14 miles south of Hartford, belongs to the Berlin School District, which has two public elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school. Several parks, golf courses, and country clubs are in the area. Kensington residents can commute via Amtrak, which has a station in the town. (For rush hour commuters to midtown Manhattan, Penn Station can be reached via shuttle, which takes just over 30 minutes.)
Best place to raise kids in Delaware: Bear Nearby city:
Median family income:
Bear is an affordable suburb about 12 miles from Wilmington, with parks and shopping and dining facilities. It is home to Lums Pond State Park, which was built around Delaware’s largest freshwater pond and offers boating, fishing, trails, and sports fields, according to the Delaware State Parks website
. Bear is part of the Colonial, Christina, and Appoquinimink school districts, and data from Onboard Informatics show that Bear schools perform better than the state average. The area is ethnically diverse: 26 percent of its population is black, and more than 7 percent is Hispanic.
Best place to raise kids in Florida: Venice Gardens Nearby city: Bradenton
Median family income: $57,652
Runner-up: Willow Oak
Affordable homes in Venice Gardens make the community a popular destination for first-time home buyers and active older adults. Home values in Venice Gardens, which has a voluntary homeowners association with a community pool and clubhouse, averaged about $114,300 in August, according to Zillow.com. The area is removed from the more bustling shopping and business districts in Venice but provides easy access to them, according to the website of real estate broker Michael Saunders & Co.
Best place to raise kids in Georgia: Varnell Nearby city: Chattanooga, Tenn.
Median family income: $69,404
While Varnell is only 2.5 square miles, it offers parks and trails and is minutes from the Nob North Golf Course. It is part of the Whitfield County School District, which includes Varnell Elementary School, New Hope Elementary School, New Hope Middle School, and Northwest Whitfield High School, according to the town's website. Varnell’s Prater's Mill Country Fair draws many visitors in the fall.
Best place to raise kids in Hawaii: Pearl City Nearby city: Honolulu
Median family income: $88,696
Runner-up: Ewa Beach
Pearl City, on the north side of Pearl Harbor, comprises several residential subdivisions and offers residents access to parks and playgrounds. It has public bus service and is close to strip malls and the Pearlridge Shopping Center. The Pearl City complex of schools includes eight elementary schools, Highlands Intermediate School, and Pearl City High School, which has a noted music program, according to real estate website prudentiallocations.com.
Best place to raise kids in Idaho: Moscow Nearby city: Lewiston
Median family income: $57,745
Runner-up: Sugar City
Moscow, a city in northern Idaho, is home to the University of Idaho—the largest employer in the area. This college town belongs to Moscow School District #281, which has four elementary schools, one junior high, one high school, an alternative high school, and one charter school. The area’s schools, as measured by Onboard Informatics, perform better than the state average. Outdoor activities such as camping, mountain biking, snowmobiling, fishing, and skiing are popular in the area, according to moscowchamber.com.
Best place to raise kids in Illinois: Niles Nearby city: Chicago
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. According to data from Onboard Informatics, 14 percent of Nile residents are Asian.
Best place to raise kids in Indiana: Centerville Nearby city: Indianapolis
Median family income: $55,092
Antique shopping is one of the attractions in Centerville, a quiet community 65 miles from Indianapolis on Indiana’s Antique Alley. The area is served by the Centerville-Abington Community School Corp., which has two elementary schools, one junior high school, and a high school. "The population represents an average to above-average socio-economic status with a family-oriented value system," reads the administration’s website. Nearby colleges include Earlham College and Indiana University East.
Best place to raise kids in Iowa: Dallas Center Nearby city: Des Moines
Median family income: $74,518
Runner-up: De Soto
The motto of this growing city, which is 25 miles from Des Moines: Quietly Progressive. "We love and respect our past and are gently moving forward with plans to keep our city sound, fun, and utilize new ideas," the county website states about Dallas Center. Many seasonal events are held in the community throughout the year. The Dallas Center-Grimes Community School District has one high school, one middle school, and three elementary schools.
Best place to raise kids in Kansas: Wilson Nearby city: Salina
Median family income: $59,411
Wilson, in the Smoky Hills region of Central Kansas, is five miles from Wilson Lake and offers museums, historical sites, parks, ballfields, and youth recreational facilities. The city, about 55 miles from Salina, became home to many Czech Bohemians in the 1800s, according to smithsonianmag.com, and is today known as the Czech Capital of Kansas. Wilson holds an annual Czech Festival with a parade, music, crafts, and food, according to wilsonks.com.
Best place to raise kids in Kentucky: Elsmere Nearby city: Cincinnati, Ohio
Median family income: $61,496
This northern Kentucky town, established in 1896, is located about 15 miles from Cincinnati. Elsmere and the nearby town Erlanger share a school district, which has four elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school. Elsmere’s median household income is higher than the state median of $53,061, and according to Zillow.com, home values averaged about $100,000 in October 2010.
Best place to raise kids in Louisiana: Ball Nearby city: Alexandria
Median family income: $47,077
Runner-up: Lake Arthur
Ball, an affordable middle-class town incorporated in 1972, is about eight miles north of Alexandria, near the Kisatchie National Forest. It is part of the Rapides Parish School District, which includes Paradise Elementary School, Tioga Elementary School, and Ball Elementary School. The median home list price in Ball in November was $135,000, according to Zillow.com.
Best place to raise kids in Maine: North Windham Nearby city: Portland
Median family income: $65,028
A village in the town of Windham near Sebago Lake, North Windham has low crime and above-average schools. It is part of the Windham Raymond School District. In addition to outdoor recreation, several museums, theaters, and recreational centers are in Cumberland County.
Best place to raise kids in Maryland: College Park Nearby city: Washington, D.C.
Median family income: $83,749
Runner-up: Bel Air
Home to the University of Maryland, College Park was developed starting the late 1800s. Part of the city is part of the Calvert Hills Historic District, and a number of historic sites are in the area, including College Park Airport, the oldest continuously operated airport in the world. According to longandfoster.com, many families move to College Park for its good schools (four elementary schools, three middle schools, and four high schools) and its proximity to Washington, D.C., about 10 miles away and accessible by metro. The area's population is 37.7 percent black and 12.2 percent Hispanic, according to data from Onboard Informatics.
Best place to raise kids in Massachusetts: Marlborough Nearby city: Worcester
Median family income: $93,613
For those in Boston, Marlborough may as well be "the West," since it is closer to Worcester than to Beantown. Marlborough was incorporated 350 years ago and lays claim to the oldest operating inn in the U.S. Also home to offices for Raytheon, Compaq, and Fidelity Investments, the town has good employment opportunities as well as recreation, such as swimming and boating, in Fort Meadow Reservoir.
Best place to raise kids in Michigan: Spring Arbor Nearby city: Jackson
Median family income: $71,249
A tiny university town in the midst of Michigan farmland, it is home to the main campus of Spring Arbor University, a liberal arts school with more than 2,000 students. The town maintains a rural feel and plenty of parks to play in, such as Lime Lake, where residents swim and fish in the summer. For golfers, there is the public Arbor Hills Golf Club, a formerly private course designed in 1925.
Best place to raise kids in Minnesota: Cokato Nearby city: Minneapolis
Median family income: $66,473
With a country club, library, and award-winning schools, Cokato stands a step above most small towns. More than an hour from Minneapolis, Cokato shares many amenities with nearby (and runner-up) Dassel, including schools and a performing arts center. Cokato also boasts a museum and photography studio built in 1905 that is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Best place to raise kids in Missouri: Farmington Nearby city: St. Louis
Median family income: $48,852
The town, which is 72 miles south of St. Louis, holds numerous annual events perfect for family time: the Wiggle Giggle Fishing Derby, Winter Wonderland, and Country Days. Forests and state parks, such as the Pickle Springs Natural Area, abound in the area. The public schools are excellent, according to greatschools.org,, as are two local parochial schools, St. Paul Lutheran School and St. Joseph Catholic School.
Best place to raise kids in Montana: Bozeman Nearby city: Helena
Median family income: $53,024
A small city in Big Sky country, Bozeman is a mix of ranchers and artists, skiers and hunters. Bozeman has amazing outdoor recreation opportunities within spitting distance, from mountain biking to hiking to soaking in Bozeman Hot Springs. With quality schools and the campus of Montana State University in town, Bozeman has become a destination for tourism and a great place to settle down and raise a family.
Best place to raise kids in Nebraska: Tilden Nearby city: Norfolk
Median family income: $51,841
A sleepy community in the northeastern section of Nebraska, Tilden is a classic American small town. The Tilden Community Park has soccer and baseball fields. There are a library and a 20-bed hospital. And just one mile north of town is the Elkhorn River, with excellent fishing for catfish and views of the river from the scenic Yellowbanks Wildlife Area.
Best place to raise kids in Nevada: Moapa Valley Nearby city: Las Vegas
Median family income: $59,866
Runner-up: Boulder City
Settled by Mormon farmers on a fertile finger of what is now the edge of Lake Mead, the Moapa Valley contains the communities of Overton, Logandale, Glendale, and Moapa. The Clark County Fairgrounds are in Logandale and host a Bluegrass Music Festival in October, Pomegranate Festival in November, and a fair and rodeo in April. Many of the home sites are built in desert, though the farming heritage and rural feel continue today.
Best place to raise kids in New Hampshire: East Merrimack Nearby city: Manchester
Median family income: $70,173
With rolling hills, ponds, and plenty of open space, East Merrimack has a rural feel just 20 minutes from Manchester and 70 minutes from Boston. A land of cul-de-sacs amid forests and country clubs, East Merrimack is a catch-all for the part of Merrimack that is east of the Central New Hampshire Turnpike.
Best place to raise kids in New Jersey: Ridgefield Park Nearby city: New York
Median family income: $84,544
Across the Hudson and a few towns west of the northern reaches of Manhattan, the Village of Ridgefield Park is a suburb with good schools and one of the longest-running Fourth of July parades in the country. The community also pulls together around a true Main Street with such events as the annual holiday display contest. Houses have yards, and kids have plenty to do with a town pool and numerous parks.
Best place to raise kids in New Mexico: South Valley Nearby city: Albuquerque
Median family income: $43,806
Runner-up: North Valley
A commuter suburb of Albuquerque, South Valley runs south along the banks of the Rio Grande River. That means the Rio Grande Valley State Park runs through the center of South Valley, with great views on trails that run along the river. Most of the houses in the area are affordable, with yards, and many sport the southwest look and adobe construction.
Best place to raise kids in New York: West Seneca Nearby city: Buffalo
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." Now if only they could do something about the Buffalo Bills football team ….
Best place to raise kids in North Carolina: Rural Hall Nearby city: Winston-Salem
Median family income: $61,537
Although roots of the town date back to a trapper’s cabin in the mid-18th century, the town was incorporated in 1974. This suburb of Winston-Salem has a few dozen businesses and a post office along the main commercial avenue of Broad Street. Kids are a vital part of events in town: At the 2010 Christmas Tree Lighting on Dec. 2, the Rural Hall Elementary School Chorus sang Christmas carols. Santa and his elves buoyed the Christmas spirit.
Best place to raise kids in North Dakota: Minot Nearby city: Bismarck (two-hour drive)
Median family income: $54,688
A small city with a hefty history, Minot sprang from nothing when a cross-country railroad stopped work for the winter in 1886. Called the Magic City, Minot is home to a zoo, an art museum, the Scandinavian Heritage Park, multiple golf courses, and a nearby Air Force base that is a significant driver of the economy. The long winters, however, are not for the faint of heart. Average temperatures in January approach zero degrees Fahrenheit.
Best place to raise kids in Ohio: North College Hill Nearby city: Cincinnati
Median family income: $57,399
Runner-up: St. Henry
Carved out of Clovernook Farm, three subdivisions—Clovernook, Meyerville, and Sunshine—combined in 1916 to form the village of North College Hill. Incorprated as a town in 1980, North College Hill is now a suburb 10 miles north of Cincinnati and known as "The Center of It All."
Best place to raise kids in Oklahoma: Glenpool Nearby city: Tulsa
Median family income: $59,374
Runner-up: Fort Gibson
The motto of Glenpool, "Creating Opportunity," doesn't lie. The city reported that its retail sales grew from $91 million in 2008 to $125 million in 2009 as development pushed south from Tulsa toward Glenpool. Hence, the city has done far better than most during the recession. For recreation, the city boasts great schools, a skate park, and golf courses.
Best place to raise kids in Oregon: Pendleton Nearby city: Hermiston
Median family income: $61,701
Runner-up: King City
A classic Western town in the Oregon plains, Pendleton is home to the mill that creates the famous wool blankets and clothing of that name. Outdoor opportunities include the Columbia River Gorge, with world-class wind-surfing and miles upon miles of national forests.
Best place to raise kids in Pennsylvania: Crafton Nearby city: Pittsburgh
Median family income: $67,890
Runner-up: State College
A tree-filled suburb of Pittsburgh, with classic Victorian homes and good schools, Crafton is a good neighborhood for kids. Shelters for picnics at Crafton Park are available for rental by residents only. The town also boasts a pool, a nine-hole golf course, summer concerts in the park, and an annual Rib and Chicken Fest put on by the local Rotary Club in the summer.
Best place to raise kids in Rhode Island: Wakefield-Peacedale Nearby city: Providence
Median family income: $80,330
Part of the Town of South Kingston, Wakefield-Peacedale encompasses two villages in southern Rhode Island just 45 minutes from Providence. Surrounded by lakes and ponds, connected by the South County Bike Path, and only minutes to numerous sandy beaches, Wakefield and Peace Dale retain that classic northeast, small-town feel.
Best place to raise kids in South Carolina: Goose Creek Nearby city: Charleston
Median family income: $66,405
The City of Goose Creek is a sleepy, upscale suburb of Charleston established in 1961. The history of the town, however, dates back to the 1600s. Today the town has a growing bike and trail system through safe, tree-lined streets and curling cul-de-sacs. For kids, recreation includes everything from gymnastics to piano lessons to belly dancing at local community centers.
Best place to raise kids in South Dakota: Lennox Nearby city: Sioux Falls
Median family income: $60,644
About half an hour south of Sioux Falls, Lennox was founded in 1879. It is a classic small town with one-story buildings lining Main Street, snug houses, open spaces, and plenty of blue sky. The median income of Lennox is about 6 percent higher than the rest of the state, and in 2008 it was recognized by the Governor’s Economic Development Conference as one of two "small communities of the year." Every year its July Fourth celebration draws visitors from all over the state.
Best place to raise kids in Tennessee: Clinton <strong>Nearby city:</strong> Knoxville<br>
<strong>Median family income:</strong> $55,421<br>
Clinton is the county seat of Anderson County and is part of the Knoxville Metropolitan Statistical Area. It is located on the Clinch River, where plans are in place to develop the waterfront into recreational space, with hiking and bike trails. At Anderson County High School, one of three in the area, 54 percent of the students posted advanced scores in CRT results, beating the state average of 41 percent.<br>
Best place to raise kids in Texas: Gatesville Nearby city: Waco
Median family income: $49,145
Runner-up: Prairie View
Home to the Gatesville Hornets, the 2000 Texas State 3A High School Football Champions (in case you weren’t aware, high school football is a BIG deal in Texas), and what may be the largest collection of spurs in the world, Gatesville is about 45 minutes due west of Waco. Job growth in the area is steady, as two of the major employers are the U.S. military in nearby Fort Hood and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, which operates four prisons and one jail in the town, including the state’s death row for women. In 2005—the latest year for which records exist—33.3 percent of all students at Gatesville High School scored at or above criterion on the SAT, beating the state average of 21 percent.
Best place to raise kids in Utah: Delta Nearby city: Filmore
Median family income: $54,592
Runner-up: North Logan
A former student at Delta High School left this comment on the GreatSchools.org website: "Delta High is a pretty standard small-town school. Lots of great teachers, students eager to learn, plenty of extracurricular activities to dive into. Now that I’m a public (high school) teacher I realize how efficiently Delta High ran." Among the area’s biggest employers are Brush Wellman, a New Jersey mining company that operates a beryllium mine in the area near the Topaz-Spor Mountains, and the Intermountain Power Project, which operates one of the world’s largest coal-fired power plants supplying power to much of Los Angeles county in California.
Best place to raise kids in Vermont: White River Junction Nearby city: Lebanon, N.H.
Median family income: $53,949
Runner-up: North Bennington
This historic railroad town is an unincorporated village within Hartford, Vt., and boasts a wide variety of architectural styles, from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, from Victorian to Greek Revival. The village has a rich cultural community, thanks to a regional theater, a writer’s center, the Main Street Museum, and a strong local music scene. Nearby colleges in the area include Bennington, Middlebury, and Dartmouth. Nestled at the confluence of the White and Connecticut rivers, the area is ideal for lovers of outdoor sports, with skiing and snowboarding during the winter and golf and hiking trails during the summer.
Best Place to raise kids in Virginia: Ashland Nearby city: Richmond
Median family income: $57,832
Ashland was founded in 1858 in Hanover County, about 15 miles north of Richmond. It is home to Randolph-Macon College, one of the highest-ranked small liberal arts colleges in the South, which offers residents many cultural experiences, such as concerts, theater, and lectures. The town's historic district is a fine example of Victorian architecture, and every June is the Ashland Strawberry Festival.
Best place to raise kids in Washington: Pullman Nearby city: Moscow, Idaho
Median family income: $57,474
Runner-up: West Richland
Pullman is in the southeastern part of Washington state on the Idaho border, a farming community in an area known as the Palouse. The Palouse wheat fields stretch for miles, broken up only by such geographic marvels as the Snake River, Hells Canyon, and the Cascade mountain range. In addition to its natural beauty, Pullman is a seat of learning and home to Washington State University. Pullman High School is highly regarded, and its WASL scores average among the highest in the state.
Best place to raise kids in West Virginia: Harrisville Nearby city: Parkersburg
Median family income: $48,709
Runner-up: New Haven
The seat of Ritchie County, Harrisville is a former oil-and-gas boomtown that flourished around the turn of the 19th century. Like much of the rest of the state, hard times followed, but today the town is a quiet, safe, and affordable place with an average household income well above that of the rest of the state—along with a well-regarded elementary school, state parks, and Berdine’s Five & Dime, one of the oldest such stores in the U.S.
Best place to raise kids in Wisconsin: Sheboygan Nearby city: Milwaukee
Median family income: $62,168
Sheboygan, on the western shore of Lake Michigan, was one of the earliest jumping-off points for pioneers and settlers. River traffic, and later rail, helped the city become a substantial trading and manufacturing center. Today this thriving Midwest community is the county seat and enjoys the nickname of the Bratwurst Capital of the World, a tip of the hat to the largely German immigrants who were among the city's earliest inhabitants.
Best place to raise kids in Wyoming: Cokeville Nearby city: Kemmerer
Median family income: $50,356
For families looking for majestic outdoor spaces and plenty of local history, Cokeville is the place. At the confluence of the Bear River and Smith's Fork, Cokeville offers good schools, a great quality of living—including fishing in the summer and skiing in the winter at nearby Pine Creek Ski Resort—and one of the lowest unemployment rates in the U.S., according to the BLS.