What makes a city a great place to raise kids? Education is certainly important, as are safety and cultural opportunities. Families also need convenient shopping, easy commutes, affordable housing, and job opportunities.
Here are some of the best places in the country to consider if you have little ones to raise.
This city of 30,000 is far enough outside Chicago to enjoy a small city vibe, yet near enough to afford easy opportunities for all the culture, food, entertainment, and shopping of the big city. It boasts a half-size replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and offers an abundance of parks, libraries, and shopping of its own.
Niles also provides affordable housing, and the public transit system is completely free. Schools here perform well and crime rates are low. Businessweek ranked it fifth on its list of “The Best Affordable Places to Raise a Family.” Niles is also near a number of colleges and universities, including Chicago State and Judson University.
With fewer than 10,000 residents, Clinton enjoys a low sales tax, above average school performance, and three local colleges and universities. With low crime rates and a short average daily commute, Clinton also offers a mild climate and lots of leisure activities. Near the Great Smoky Mountains, Clinton offers some of the most spectacular fall scenery in the country, and it’s close enough to Knoxville to afford cultural and entertainment opportunities beyond what a town this size normally provides.
Tennessee is ideal for families who enjoy four seasons, but don’t want to deal with the extreme heat and humidity of the Deep South nor the heavy snows of the northern regions.
Rowland Heights, Calif.
On the other side of the country, Rowland Heights is snuggled just outside Los Angeles yet has an unbloated population of about 50,000. Considering its location, residents enjoy relatively low tax burdens and more affordable housing than much of L.A. Job growth here is strong. There are 53 colleges and universities nearby, offering both job opportunities and educational access. Public school students here boast high test scores, the crime rate is low, and the weather is the essence of sunny southern California. Rowland Heights is ideal for families who want to escape the inner cities or avoid cold weather.
Business Insider lists Houston as the best place to live in America, citing its rich job opportunities, low cost of living, diverse population, and stellar restaurants. Houston also provides many cultural opportunities, low unemployment rates, and affordable housing in thriving communities such as Churchill Farms in West Houston. More Fortune 500 companies are headquartered here than anywhere outside Manhattan. Houston offers abundant jobs, especially in the industries of energy, oil, and finance.
Ridgefield Park, N.J.
Consistently ranking among the top public school systems in the country, Ridgefield Park was named the “Best Place in New Jersey to Raise Kids” by Businessweek. It also has excellent recreational opportunities and a real sense of community. During the holidays, residents hold home decorating contests, and Ridgefield Park hosts the longest running Fourth of July parade in the nation. Ridgefield Park is a small town with a true community spirit.
If you’re looking for an extremely small town, consider Tilden. Located near Norfolk, the town offers recreational opportunities including the quaint Tilden Community Park and nearby Elkhorn River, where locals enjoy fishing (catfish is a big favorite) and boating. Overlooking the river is the Yellowbanks Wildlife Area, where families enjoy camping, hiking, cooking out, and other outdoor activities. Tilden is perfect for families who enjoy spending time in the great outdoors.
Richland has a population fewer than 45,000 and is based on a high-tech industry born of the atomic bomb era. Jobs are plentiful and growing continually. The area offers reasonable housing prices considering the relatively high income levels of the area, along with low crime rates and a mild climate. Waterways like the Yakima, Snake, and Columbia rivers give residents wonderful opportunities for fishing, boating, and water sports. The area also features excellent golfing venues.
When moving to a new area, look for clubs, churches, or charity organizations to become involved with. This is a great way to get to know the people and to find out where the best places for eating, shopping, finding jobs, and entertaining the kids are.