My son is on his first-ever extended trip out of the state – a band trip to Ohio. Being the sentimental type, I drove to work thinking about the two places I have lived with my kids – Florida and Georgia. As I was mentally comparing the two, I wondered: where is the best place to raise a family?
Even if you don’t have kids now, the places that rank high as family-friendly make them desirable for singles, as well – low unemployment, low cost of living, affordable housing, fun things to do, better education, pedestrian-friendly, low crime rate, and so on. So, where are these magical, family-friendly places? As it turns out, my former home (Orlando, Florida) did turn up a few times as a good place to raise a family. And it is, after all, home to the ultimate family-friendly locations Disney World, Sea World, and Epcot.
The top state, however, was Minnesota. Minnesota had a whopping six cities in the top 25 of CNN Money’s Best Places to Live 2010 – including the number one city, Eden Prairie. Eden Prairie has been on the list for the past five years due to its consistently strong economy, low unemployment rate, and endless natural beauty.
Other Minnesota cities to top the list include Plymouth, Woodbury, Eagan, and Apple Valley. Plymouth is a gorgeous city with over 120 miles of trails and more than 1,000 acres of park land. One of the prettiest parks by far is Millennium Garden, a lush green park with brick-accented walkways, fountains, gardens, and a labyrinth. Clifton E. French Regional Park, located on Medicine Lake, features a playground, trails, a swimming beach, and a fishing pier. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are also popular pastimes in Plymouth. Woodbury has over 3,000 acres of park land and about 100 miles of trails. There are several lakes, ball fields, and two golf courses as well. Amazingly, less than 1 percent of families live below the poverty line in Woodbury.
Economically speaking, Forbes.com ranked San Jose, California high on the list, due to higher income levels. Kansas City, Missouri was also on the list. Beautiful Kansas City contains a superfluity of fountains, adorning the city like an overabundance of sparkling gems on a runway model. Add in the rodeos, barbecue, jazz, and hometown feel, and Kansas City’s charms are endless.
The most educated cities in the country are Seattle, Washington and San Francisco, California. The best public schools in the nation can be found in number-one-ranked Maryland and runner-up Massachusetts. US News and World Report just released their National Universities Rankings for 2011 and (no surprise) Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts is number one. Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey is second, and Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut is third. Moving just a little farther down the list, the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia came in fifth, Emory University in Atlanta came in at number 20, and the University of California—Berkeley ranked 22nd.
Whether you are looking for the best job opportunities, outdoor activities, the best health care, or just the place where you have plenty of family and friends, finding the perfect place for you and your kids can be a little daunting – decide what is important to you and take it from there. Once you’ve narrowed it down to two or three family-friendly locations, do a side-by-side comparison on the things you care about most — such as job growth, education, economic stability, availability and affordability of housing and apartments, walkability, parks, and community activities — to help you make your decision.