Photo Credit: iStockphoto/kevinruss
Once you’ve decided you want kids, next is deciding where to raise them. Do you want to experience all four seasons every year, or are you searching for the sunniest place possible? Are you willing to move anyway, or does your job confine you to a certain region? Do you want to explore events in new areas, or can you not bear living more than hour from your Red Sox or Longhorns?
With your personal parameters in mind, take a look at our list of the five best cities in the country for families. We looked at crime rates, green space, parkland, schools and exhibits, attractions and specialties in each city. The five results cover virtually every region and requirement, so you’re sure to find one that will suit you and your future children perfectly.
With hundreds of parks – more than 300 city, mountain and community parks – good air quality and 4,000 acres of natural open space, Denver offers you ample opportunities to explore the outdoors with your kids. If you love to walk, hike or bike, you’ll especially love this Rocky Mountain locale, since 29 city parks and six mountain parks have trails. The city also has seven dog parks. Your and your children will also love the many family-friendly spaces, including Boondocks Fun Center, Gymboree Play and Music, Elitch Gardens and the Denver Art Museum. Additionally, Denver has an excellent children’s library system.
In addition to an 82 percent graduation rate, one of the highest per capita pediatrician rates and a low crime rate, Boston has an outstanding 8.3 acres of parkland for every 1,000 residents. In fact, more than 16 percent of the land area in the city is parkland. In the spring and summer, your family will love visiting the Franklin Park Zoo, the New England Aquarium and the Frog Pond in Boston Common, where the little ones can splash and play all afternoon. If you and your kids prefer indoor recreation, Boston offers ample entertainment inside too, with the New England Aquarium, Boston Children’s Theatre and the Boston Children’s Museum, which features life-size chess pieces, among other exhibits.
The Twin Cities offer new and growing families some of the best recreational activities in the country, with more than 300 parks, 52 miles of paths, the Water Park of America and the LEGO Imagination Center, located at the Mall of America. The cities offer 15.5 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents, and families love the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway, which features 52 miles of paths, the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory and the Nickelodeon Universe, which is the largest indoor amusement park in the U.S. Older kids will also fawn over Valleyfair, the largest amusement park in the state, with more than 30 rides covering seven acres.
With an extremely low crime rate (it consistently ranks as one of the lowest in the country), beaches, 250 days of sunshine and citywide extended elementary and middle school days to accommodate working parents, San Jose is a dreamland for many families. Almost 15 percent of the land area is parkland, and the city is home to Henry W. Coe State Park, the largest state park in California. Children and parents will enjoy Emma Prusch Farm Park, the Tech Museum of Innovation and the Children’s Discovery Museum. At the 28,000-square-foot discovery museum, kids can see and participate in the Living Space, Run! Jump! Fly!, Bubbalogna and Streets of Circles exhibits among others.
Although often considered a college and music town, Austin is also an excellent destination for families. Kids love the Austin Zoo, the Austin Nature and Science Center and the Austin Children’s Museum. Austin’s Park is another popular locale, with rock climbing, laser tag, a video arcade, go-karts, mini golf and bumper carts available. Families also love Zilker Park and the 351 acres available for exploration, as well as The Dinosaur Park, which is fun and educational, the RadiJazz Playnasium and Café Monet, a studio where you can paint your own pottery.