The Top 10 U.S. Cities to Raise a Family Right Now

By Jenny Powers

Whether you’re contemplating starting your own family or looking to relocate your existing one, making the decision to lay down your roots can leave you feeling confused, frustrated, and overwhelmed. In fact, according to a University Hospitals health study, moving is one of the top five most stressful life events and yet, the U.S Census Bureau estimates the average American will move 11 times during their life.

There are a host of factors that can affect the wellbeing and overall quality of one’s life when moving to a new city and these factors can increase when moving with a group. How is the public school system? Is the area safe? How does the cost of living compare to what you’re used to? Are there family-friendly activities nearby?

Our team at House Method has pulled together a comprehensive list of the 10 best cities to raise a family based on several common interests. We talked to several families and local experts on the ground in those cities to give you a more comprehensive picture of what living in each city will look like.

Overland Park, KS This city is known for their nationally ranked school systems, hospital offerings, and state-of-the-art soccer facility.

1. Overland Park, Kansas

Population: 192,536

Median household income: $78,217

Average single-family home cost: $248,100

Public education: 92.9% graduation rate

Crime rate: Safer than 35% of U.S. cities

A suburb of Kansas City, Overland Park is the second largest city in the state and was recently recognized by WalletHub as the best city for families to live in. This is in part thanks to their three nationally ranked school systems, five major hospitals and pediatric hospital, one of the best tax climates in the country, and the fact that a significant amount of homeowners spend less than 30% of their monthly income on mortgage payments and real estate taxes.

Residents can enjoy 83 park trails, a 300-acre botanical garden, plenty of farmers’ markets, the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, the Culinary Center of Kansas City (which teaches 600 cooking classes a year), and a state-of-the-art, $36 million soccer facility.

“Overland Park is truly a great place to raise a family. The key benefits are an excellent cost of living with really nice 3,000-square-foot houses with big lots and fenced-in backyards for kids and pets for under $400,000, low crime, nationally ranked public school districts, close proximity to many upscale shopping districts and restaurants, 20 minutes from downtown, amusement parks, The [Kansas City] Royals and Chiefs, museums, scores of good family activities, and Midwest charm with nice people and a comfortable pace of life. You can enjoy the seasons with a white Christmas, beautiful fall and spring, hot summers at the pool—perfect for kids. Plus, KC is centrally located with easy flights—or road trip if you’re brave—to see family or vacation in most areas of the country.” — Howard Fowler, married dad to two daughters

Austin, TX This city is home to hundreds of parks and offers plenty of outdoor activities for families to enjoy. Not to mention, it's known for its tasty BBQ and unique food truck offerings.

2. Austin, Texas

Population: 964,254

Median household income: $63,717 

Average single-family home cost: $285,900

Public education: 88.5% graduation rate

Crime rate: Safer than 11% of U.S. cities

Capital of the Lone Star State and the 11th largest city in the country, Austin is home to hundreds of parks, miles of biking and jogging paths, 50 public pools, the Austin Zoo, and plenty of minor league sports teams to root for. If you want to enjoy the outdoors, schedule a trip to Mount Bonnell or the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve, taking a dip in one of Austin’s 50 public pools, including town favorite Barton Springs in Zilker Metropolitan Park.

The city also boasts 20 public library branches along with its own Austin Opera and Austin Symphony Orchestra. And for the foodies: Austin features multiple food truck parks—they’re #2 in the nation for the number of food trucks per capita.

As an added bonus, Texas is one of only seven U.S. states with no personal income taxes.

“We moved to be closer to our grandchildren, to be able to retire comfortably, and to get away from all the craziness—politics, traffic, crime, etc. We found there’s not as much road rage, people are polite, and I love the fact that I can take walks in my neighborhood and feel safe. It’s honestly less expensive to live here—house prices, gas, and groceries are all less. There are lots of family-friendly activities here like concerts, rodeos, music, and parks, and the food here is fantastic.” — Jodi A., moved to Austin with her husband and their 11 year-old daughter this year

Denver, CO Families can stay busy by visiting the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, the Denver Art Museum, or the Denver Botanic Gardens.

3. Denver, Colorado

Population: 716,492

Median household income: $60,098

Average single-family home cost: $322,900

Public education: 86.7% graduation rate

Crime rate: Safer than 8% of U.S. cities

With an estimated 300 days of sun annually, Denver is home to seven professional sports teams and major hometown pride. Business is booming with hundreds of restaurants and breweries attracting more and more millennials and young families.

Families are sure to keep busy with visits to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, the Denver Firefighters Museum, the Denver Art Museum, and the Denver Botanic Gardens. Residents can also ski in the winter, hike in the fall, kayak in Confluence Park in the summer, and spend the autumn practicing ollies at the 50,000-square-foot Denver Skatepark.

“Denver is a wonderful place to raise a family because you have endless ways to explore the outdoors together while enjoying incredible weather year-round.” — Meredith Abrams Meegan, married mom of three, ages 15, 17, and 19

Madison, WI Routinely ranked as one of the country's greenest cities, Madison encapsulates a small town vibe and big city feel.

4. Madison, Wisconsin

Population: 258,054

Median household income: $59,387

Average single-family home cost: $223,300

Public education: 91.5% graduation rate

Crime rate: Safer than 16% of U.S. cities

Routinely ranked as one of the country’s greenest cities and one of the best college towns to live in, Madison successfully manages to encapsulate both a small town vibe and a big city feel thanks to its local shops, farmers’ markets, Broadway shows, and contemporary art museums. Families will never run out of things to do in this town—between going to Big Ten football games at Camp Randall Stadium, visiting Henry Vilas Zoo or the Chazen Museum of Art, and strolling through Olbrich Botanical Gardens, there’s something to do for every family.

Surrounded by five lakes and 200 miles of biking and hiking trails, the outdoorsy types will find plenty to do living here.

“Madison is such a happy, healthy, welcoming ,and beautiful place to live. We love the open-mindedness of the people who live here and their passion for the outdoors. There’s never a day, rain or shine, snow or frigid cold, that you won’t find people outdoors being active. [In the] spring, summer, and fall, you can find farmers’ markets everywhere you look. The cost of living is noticeable coming from Chicago. We would have never been able to afford the house we did if it was in a suburb of Chicago. And finally, we love being a part of such a thriving University town.” — Anja K Mueller, married mother of two who moved to Madison in 2017

Fayetteville, AR Pick from 37 parks, take a stroll through downtown, or immerse yourself in the local culture by visiting the various museums and art centers.

5. Fayetteville, Arkansas

Population: 86,751

Median household income: $41,158

Average single-family home cost: $193,000

Public education: 92.7% graduation rate

Crime rate: Safer than 3% of U.S. cities

Nestled in the Ozark Mountains and home to 37 parks, 110 miles of multi-use trails, three lakes, and one of the best-rated mountain bike trails in the country, Fayetteville offers plenty of outdoor fun for the whole family. Active types will enjoy the Razorback Regional Greenway, the longest system of interconnected trails in the state where you can run, hike, or bike.

Nature lovers will enjoy the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks, culture seekers can visit Walton Arts Center which hosts a variety of performances throughout the year, and those who are feeling nostalgic can watch a movie at the 112 Drive-In Theater, one of the nation’s last remaining drive-in movie theaters.

“I’ve lived in Fayetteville since I was three and always thought I would move, but I stayed here to have kids because there’s still a bit of a small-town feel even [though] there’s so much to do than when I was a kid. Talking Northwest Arkansas as a region, we now have a great children’s museum and Museum of American Art (both in Bentonville), but Fayetteville is still my favorite because of its wealth of parks and green spaces, great schools, dedication to the arts, and its world-class public library, among many other reasons. We have a love/hate relationship with getting on these lists because we’d rather keep the secret.” — Sarah E. White, mom to a 10-year-old daughter

Des Moines, IA The capital of Iowa boasts a low cost of living, strong job market, and popular attractions like Blank Park Zoo and the Science Center of Iowa.

6. Des Moines, Iowa

Population: 216,853

Median household income: $49,999

Average single-family home cost: $123,300

Public education:  82.5% graduation rate

Crime rate: Safer than 5% of U.S. cities

The low cost of living, strong job market, and entertainment options lure young families to Iowa’s capital. Popular attractions include the Blank Park Zoo, Gray’s Lake Park, Pappajohn Sculpture Park, and Science Center of Iowa. Catch a game at Principal Park and watch the Iowa Cubs play or visit the Wells Fargo Arena for other seasonal sporting events and concerts. And if you’re on the fence about moving, know that Iowans are known as some of the friendliest people around.

“Des Moines is an amazing place to raise kids. Our quality of living is high, as we have big city amenities (museums, sports teams, shopping, restaurants, parks, festivals), all while having a low cost of living and four beautiful seasons of weather. Our kids receive a top-notch education that prepares them for our complex and diverse world.” — Sarah Elizabeth Kautz, mom of three, ages 8, 14, and 16

Minneapolis, MN Good school systems? Check. Low crime ratings? All clear. Affordable cost of living? Absolutely.

7. Minneapolis, Minnesota

Population: 425,403

Median household income: $55,720

Average single-family home cost: $222,600

Public education: 69.1% graduation rate

Crime rate: Safer than 3% of U.S. cities

Minneapolis has something for everybody—from toddlers to teenagers—with attractions like The Mall of America, Como Park Zoo & Conservatory, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Children’s Museums, and more. Top-rated school systems, low crime ratings, and an affordable cost of living make this city a top choice for families.

“Growing up in the Twin Cities, I didn’t realize how much the city had to offer. It took moving away to really appreciate what we have up North here. I was thrilled to be able to move back and raise my four children here surrounded by family in an area where strong family values and traditions are passed down from generation to generation. Working in real estate has given me a broader perspective of what our city has to offer between the active and well-supported creative arts scene, the diversity, the many lakes and hiking trails and focus on a healthy, active lifestyle, the high level of culinary talent in the local restaurants, and the quality of education. The Twin Cities area has so much to give!” — Colleen Gonzalez, realtor at Keller Williams Integrity Lakes

San Jose, CA This city is in close proximity to the Sierra Nevada mountain range and is home to one of the most authentic Japantowns in the United States.

8. San Jose, California

Population: 1,030,119

Median household income: $96,662

Average single-family home cost: $714,200

Public education: 84% graduation rate

Crime rate: Safer than 18% of U.S. cities

Known as the capital of Silicon Valley, San Jose is home to more Fortune 500 companies than anywhere in the U.S., besides New York, making it yet another city that’s attracting young families into the mix. With an estimated 300 sunny days a year, families can take advantage of all the outdoors has to offer, including trips to the ocean and hiking in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

Indoor activities include the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose, the San Jose Museum of Art, and The Tech Interactive, a science and technology center in downtown San Jose. San Jose is also home to Japantown, a cultural hub of restaurants, galleries, theaters, and local shops—the region of this city is known as one of the most authentic Japantowns in the nation.

“The City itself is tailored toward families with things to do all around that promote family time. With museums, parks, and beaches just a short drive away, we get to take advantage of the amazing California weather. The schools are amazing with such a diverse culture—we are constantly sharing and learning from different families every day.” — Angela Woods, mother of four, ages 3, 5, 7, and 13

Seattle, WA Pike Place Market is the city's center for fresh, local produce and small, independent businesses—perfect for an outing with your family.

9. Seattle, Washington

Population: 744,945

Median household income: $79,565

Average single-family home cost: $537,800

Public education: 82% graduation rate

Crime rate: Safer than 3% of U.S. cities

Surrounded by mountains and shores, Seattle is home to 33 nationally recognized high schools, 16 colleges and universities, an international airport, and three professional sports teams. If you’re an active family, there are a variety of outdoor options, which should come as no surprise since the city was ranked as the second healthiest city in the U.S, after San Francisco.

Stroll through Discovery Park and get a glimpse of the breathtaking Puget Sound, visit the Washington Park Arboretum, eat your way through Pike Place Market, or go to the Woodland Park Zoo. Seattle is also home to the Museum of Pop Culture, Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum, and the Museum of Flight.

As an added bonus, there’s no state income tax in Washington. 

“Being a father of four kids, having been to 49 out of the 50 states, and a Seattle native, I truly believe it’s a great place to raise a family. Within two hours of Seattle, you can do nearly any outdoor activity you like and live in one if not the most beautiful part of the country.” — Darrin Stumpf, a residential broker in Seattle for the past 18 years at Darrin Stump Real Estate Services and father of three

Raleigh, NC Raleigh has an amazing restaurant scene, a plethora of museums in its downtown area, and plenty of parks for the children to play at.

10. Raleigh, North Carolina

Population: 469,298

Median household income: $61,505

Average single-family home cost: $278,400

Public education: 91.5% graduation rate

Crime rate: Safer than 11% of U.S. cities

Parents will be attracted to the low crime rates, top-rated schools, amazing restaurant scene, and vast selection of nearby community centers in the Greater Raleigh area. Some top family attractions include Pullen Park (the 16th oldest ride park in the country), the Raleigh Rose Garden, Dorothea Dix Park, and William B. Umstead State Park.

Not to mention, there are a variety of museums—for kids and parents alike—that include the North Carolina Museum of Art, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Marbles Kids Museum, and CAM Raleigh (the Contemporary Art Museum of Raleigh).

“As a Raleigh native who moved away for college and work early in my career, my husband and I are so grateful we returned 10 years ago to raise our family here. To me, Raleigh is the perfect mix of city life and neighborhood communities with excellent public schools, especially those within the magnet program. Raleigh’s economy is thriving for medical, higher education, and tech jobs, with many alumni from local universities settling here. The music and arts scene is thriving with lots of parks and greenways to enjoy all four seasons. We are driving distance from both the Blue Ridge Mountains and the beaches of NC and SC, so you can enjoy one this weekend and the other the next.” —Emily King, married mom of two boys, ages 6 and 11

Methodology

To determine the Top 10 U.S. Cities to Raise a Family Right Now, the House Method team analyzed cities based on 6 key factors: population, median household income, average single-family home cost, quality of public education, crime rate, and recreational activities.

Those variables were analyzed for each city using multiple data points and sources of information. The compiled analysis for each city was compared against other cities to determine the final ranking. 

Sources

U.S. Census Bureau

Neighborhoodscout.com


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