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10 Best Cities for Raising Children

By Madeline Holler |

arlington, cities

Last year's best city for raising kids, Arlington, Va., tumbled to No. 70.

What makes a good place to raise a family? It all depends, right? Good schools are a must, obviously. A low unemployment rate means plentiful jobs. An abundance of pediatricians, low crime rates and decent air quality are all great reasons for picking your child’s hometown. Accommodating to hipster parents, maybe? So who’s the best of the best?

(Or, for that matter, the worst of the best?)

Parenting magazine recently released its annual list of the 100 most family friendly cities in the U.S. They based their rankings on 8,000 bits of data in 84 categories to come up with this grand and glorious list. But if your awesome hometown didn’t even break the top 25, consider this: the 2001 No. 1 city was ranked 71st last year. Last year’s No. 1, Arlington, Va., is now No. 70. Parenting editors explained they added a “charm and culture index,” (think: free museums and kid-friendly restaurants), which is likely responsible for the massive reshuffling.

Parenting magazines 10 Most Family Friendly U.S. Cities for 2011

And the 10 Worst Cities for Raising Families of 2011.

Photo: wikipedia

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10 Best Cities for Raising Children

Washington, D.C.

The Metro, government jobs, all those free Smithsonian Museums! This family city benefited from Parenting's new "culture index". Photo: Ben Shuman via wikipedia

 

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About Madeline Holler

madeline-holler

Madeline Holler

Madeline Holler is a writer, journalist, and blogger. She has written for Babble since the site launched in 2006. Her writing has appeared in various other publications both online and in print, including Salon and True/Slant (now Forbes). A native of the Midwest, Madeline lives, writes, and parents in Southern California, where she's raising two daughters and a son. Read bio and latest posts → Read Madeline's latest posts →

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17 thoughts on “10 Best Cities for Raising Children

  1. Micky says:

    This is totally crazy. Clearly the “culture index” gave DC a totally undeserved bump. Washington is only a good family city if you live in the really affluent areas. The city is more racially segregated than it was in 1968, and fully half the city is completely devoid of grocery stores (let alone nice family-friendly restaurants), has rampant (around 35%) unemployment, terrible schools, and a huge violent crime problem. I cannot walk more than two blocks from my house without my toddler trying to pick up a condom or a broken beer bottle–and I live in a “decent” neighborhood (Brookland/Catholic U)! This rating only applies if you are wealthy or white in D.C.

    Also, it might look good on paper, but the city government is corrupt and its resources are overtaxed by the MD and VA residents that commute into the city every day and use its resources but pay no taxes. For example, there’s free preschool, but good luck getting your kid into a good program through the lottery. There are great summer programs at the rec centers, but they fill up with kids whose parents drop them off when they commute in from VA and MD.

  2. calicopie says:

    Really, no CA cities in the top 50? I know Los Angeles will never make the top 10, or probably even the top 50, there are too many areas with bad schools and pollution. However, there are also many very family friendly neighborhoods here. We’ve got great weather, lots of museums, parks, beaches, etc. We’ve got farmer’s markets every day of the week, more activities than we have time for (many of them free) and have found a great community of like minded parents.

  3. Madeline Holler says:

    Oh, Calicopie, here’s some sad news for you. Check out the 10 worst cities.
    http://blogs.babble.com/strollerderby/2011/06/22/10-worst-u-s-cities-for-raising-children/

  4. michelle says:

    How could Chicago not make the list? This is an amazing place to raise kids, especially if you are priced out of NYC.

  5. calicopie says:

    @Madeline – no skin off my back, I am used to being the sole defender of LA. And when the rest of the country is frozen or flooded or in the midst of a heat wave I just sit back and enjoy 70 my sunny and degrees :) But I think that article is mis-named– being in the bottom 10 of the top 100 is not the same as being one of the 10 worst.

  6. stephk says:

    this writer is a little confused. DC is supposed to have a horrible public school system. How could they be #1? Also, I live in KC and I know that St. Louis is a crime capital and Wichita, KS has rampant crime as well. I’m surprised there aren’t more CO cities listed. Lots of outdoorsy activities and great schools, where I would love to be in a few years when we can sell our home.

  7. student says:

    @Micky- I have to agree that the rating is right on, but only if you are at least middle income. As a NW DC resident, i have to say that the area you live in is what my hubby and i consider off limits for even day trips. On the other hand, we are far from affluent, (I am stay-at-home mom and college student), but are able to live in a modest size condo. in a great, safe, beautiful neighborhood. We have a number of parks, playgrounds, grocery stores, boutiques, farmers markets and other children’s activities that we can walk to on a daily basis. There is also the free national zoo, free weekly activities at museums and parks, and yearly festivals and block parties organized by various organizations. For those who can afford it, it is possible to enroll a child in a number of excellent private preschools and schools that are within walking distance of one’s home. Our son is currently in a private school which is two minutes walk from our home, but the public schools in our area have improved so much over the past few years that we know of several families who are considering leaving private schools to enroll in the public schools instead. If we had a car, we would also be able to take advantage of the many parks and recreation activities (such as farms and beaches), that are available in the suburbs.
    I think that quality of life is dependent on income anywhere in the US, so singling DC out in that sense is unfair. If one is lower income, or must have a large house to feel comfortable, then yes, DC is not an affordable city to raise a child. However, I know of many people who have modest incomes and choose to raise their families in an affordable condo. and can take full advantage of all DC has to offer (without the high crime in poverty-stricken areas).

  8. Jordan Harper says:

    This is completely insane. you have two cities in the top 10 that have the highest suicide rates in America. (Seattle and Wash D.C.) Plus the rest look like they were just put on the list for affordable housing…I would rather spend more money on a house to know that my kids are in a safe neighborhood and attending a great school. And I know from many different polls and statistics that Castle Rock, CO (I know not too well known by most) has always made the top 10 places to live due to their great schools, family-friendly neighborhoolds, fun activities, and semi-affordable housing. That’s where I live now. So I think instead of putting all the well known cities and capitals on the top 10 lets try to actually find great rural cities to raise a family.

  9. Daniel says:

    WOW, I am shocked to see DC on this list. Apparently who ever came up with this bogus list has never been to DC. Sure it may be great to live in if your from Compton, other wise it is ghetto.

  10. Mama Wrench says:

    I grew up in NoVa, and much as I love DC I would NOT call it child-friendly. I can’t even take this list seriously if Raleigh, NC isn’t on it — tons of doctors and hospitals, low crime, great schools (public and private), very permissive home schooling laws, low unemployment, government and technical jobs, low cost of living and lots of affordable housing. It’s been named the best city to live in for several years now and it doesn’t even make the top ten?

  11. Mama Wrench says:

    Student, I understand that “middle class” in DC often means high-5 figures, but when I lived in Arlington, apartments in the NW were easily $2,000 a month. That may seem normal to you but it’s expensive to the rest of the country; the mortgage on my 3-bedroom house in southern Virginia is almost half what it would cost us to get a 1-bedroom apartment in a nice neighborhood in DC. Sorry, but either your concept of “middle class” is different from the rest of us, or you make a LOT more money than you’re making out. We’re moving back up to DC soon so, yes, I’ve been looking at apartments and condos up there and the cost of living is WAY more than many American cities.

  12. Violeta Gill says:

    I have been a Californian all my life and I love having the beach and the mountains with snow. However we are planning to buy a house in Seattle WA area. California has terrible schools and prices are not worth it.

  13. Micky says:

    Student, you made my point for me. It is a great city if you are lucky enough to afford to live in NW. The other three quadrants of the city are, according to most NW residents, basically “off limits for even day trips” and still extremely expensive to live in. Does that sound like a family friendly city? Rent for a 1BR apartment in my neighborhood, which you would never even visit, averages about $1200 per month and there is not even a public school in my neighborhood. My “neighborhood school” is a charter school with 46% reading proficiency and 43% math proficiency. I used to live in Trinidad NE, where the police actually set up checkpoints to try to control the gang shootings a few summers ago (and a 1BR is still $900).

  14. Bill says:

    Why would you say Omaha is “not an obvious choice for most of us?” Omaha consistently turns up as one of the most family-friendly cities in the country, with excellent cultural offerings, one of the best zoos in the country, etc. What a snide, and I might add totally undeserved comment to make. Quit the stereotyping.

  15. angeli johnson says:

    Born and raised and educated in L.A. CA. Best city in the world! Best weather! Wonderful diversity of everything, people, food, museums, theaters, music, beaches, mountains, desert, best sunsets and sunrises ever, the list goes on and on!! We have lived in Ore. for almost 6 years! No diversity (unless you live in a college town), little towns are behind the times, restaurants are few and far between, guess I’ll be glad when I return to So. CA L.A. has wonderful hidden neighborhoods in the middle of the city! I know folks that are actually afraid of going into L.A., they don’t know what they are missing! Maybe that’s good! Less people finding the gems in the city!

  16. Caradoc says:

    I almost fell out of my chair at the honolulu comment. Lowest obesity? LMAO. Hawaii is horrifically obese. Honolulu is basically the entire island of oahu, not a city in and of itself. These rankings are ridiculous.

  17. Steve Fogarty - Vegas Wedding Photographer says:

    We find it ironic that Salt Lake City, or anywhere in Utah, ranks so much higher than Las Vegas / Henderson, NV for raising families.

    We lived in Utah for 16 years.

    For all of Las Vegas’ obvious failings (high unemployment, high unionization [see high unemployment], too much brown dirt and not enough green or water, lousy public schools, loose morals publicly displayed, etc.) Vegas is a vastly superior place to raise a family and build a life than is Utah because:

    - Nobody here ever quizzed me (in a sneaky way) on which church I attend.
    - Nobody here looks upon my cup of coffee as a cultural, political or religious statement.
    - No one has yet told my children to get off their property because we’re not members of The Church.
    - No one has boycotted my wedding photography services because I’m not a member of The Church. In five years of trying I booked zero Mormon brides in Utah. In Vegas I get inquiries every day and bookings every week.
    - There is no terrible, thick, constant, everywhere *tension* between Mormons and non-Mormons, as there is in nearly every encounter in Utah.
    - We’ve been invited to more BBQs, boating outings, parties, hikes, poker games, dinners etc. in the last 6 months than in 16 years of living in Utah.
    - Our children are always being invited for sleepovers and vice versa with their friends. This never happened in Utah.

    Regardless of the church we attend, people in Vegas take us for who we are, people give us a fair shake, people judge us as individuals, people do not automatically and widely discriminate against us because we’re not members of a certain church.

    I’d like to suggest to the editors of Parenting Magazine that Utah may be the very best place to raise a family in America *if you are a Mormon*.

    And if you are not a Mormon, Utah is a terrible place to raise a family and should be near the very bottom of the list of The Worst Places To Raise A Family.

    Utah is for Mormons.

    For the editors of Parenting Magazine to suggest to a general audience that Utah is one of the Top 20 places in the nation to raise a family tells me that either they’ve never lived there nor interviewed real people from the general population (i.e. non-Mormons) who live there; or they’re Mormon.

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