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Best coastal towns for raising a family in America

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    Best coastal towns for raising a family in America

    The archetype of the ideal American family home hasn't changed much in the last century: a pristine house with a bright green lawn, white picket fence, and a big front porch. The scene becomes even more appealing when you add in a cool sea breeze and sandy beach. For many Americans, the idea of raising a family near the water is ideal. Just think: You can take the kids out for a canoe paddle around the lake, or build sandcastles on the beach anytime you want.

    But not every beach town is great for kids. Atlantic City, N.J., is near the beach—but its proximity to casinos makes the area less than ideal for families. In order to calculate the best coastal towns for families, Stacker checked the locations on Wallethub’s list of the best beach towns against Niche’s list of the best places to raise a family. Towns and cities on both lists were ranked by their score on Niche’s list for this article. In the Wallethub list, beach towns refer to any city or town near either a lake or ocean. The criteria for family-friendly towns include quality of local schools, safety, affordability, and access to family amenities. Read on to see if any coastal towns in your state made the list.

    RELATED: Best and worst states to have a baby

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    #50. Brunswick

    Location: Town in Maine

    Best places to raise a family rank: #2,709

    Public schools grade: A-

    Good for families grade: A

    Population: 20,497

    This quaint town just north of Portland, Maine, scored well on economic health and public safety, making it attractive for parents. Brunswick is also the home to Bowdoin College, so kids who grow up here will always be exposed to higher education.

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    #49. Merritt Island

    Location: Town in Florida

    Best places to raise a family rank: #2,703

    Public schools grade: A+

    Good for families grade: A

    Population: 35,916

    This town on Florida’s largest island is home to NASA's Kennedy Space Center and a 140,000-acre wildlife sanctuary. Merritt Island is also an extremely affordable place to live—a win for all parents.

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    #48. Destin

    Location: Town in Florida

    Best places to raise a family rank: #2,689

    Public schools grade: A

    Good for families grade: A

    Population: 13,312

    Nicknamed the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village,” Destin boasts incredible angling thanks to limestone structures, artificial reefs, and the nearby DeSoto Canyon. Even if fishing isn’t your thing, you’ll still find plenty to like about this picturesque town, such as its healthy economy and affordability.

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    #47. Coral Gables

    Location: Suburb of Miami, FL

    Best places to raise a family rank: #2,677

    Public schools grade: B

    Good for families grade: A

    Population: 50,533

    This historic city in Miami-Dade County was one of the nation’s first planned communities. Coral Gables remains popular with tourists, who flock to the suburb for its gorgeous Mediterranean architecture, tree-lined avenues, and iconic landmarks such as the Biltmore Hotel.

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    #46. Boca Raton

    Location: Town in Florida

    Best places to raise a family rank: #2,670

    Public schools grade: A

    Good for families grade: A

    Population: 91,702

    Boca Raton is already a popular place to retire, but the town is also a great choice for families. The lovely Florida weather and top-notch public schools are hard to beat.

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    #45. Pacific Grove

    Location: Town in California

    Best places to raise a family rank: #2,613

    Public schools grade: A+

    Good for families grade: A

    Population: 15,546

    With one of the oldest continually operated lighthouses in the country and a classic golf course, Pacific Grove has plenty of old-fashioned charm. The town also has excellent public schools and an absolutely stunning location along the Monterey Coast.

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    #44. Oak Creek

    Location: Suburb of Milwaukee, WI

    Best places to raise a family rank: #2,599

    Public schools grade: A-

    Good for families grade: A

    Population: 35,218

    Oak Creek may be part of the Milwaukee metro area, but it's also just 85 miles outside of Chicago. The suburban atmosphere and convenient proximity to city amenities make this coastal spot along the western shore of Lake Michigan a great location for raising a family.

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    #43. Massapequa

    Location: Suburb of New York, NY

    Best places to raise a family rank: #2,553

    Public schools grade: A

    Good for families grade: A

    Population: 21,820

    This quaint hamlet is actually a subset of the town of Oyster Bay on Long Island's South Shore. Massapequa has plenty of local history and hosts an annual Apple Festival, among dozens of other family-friendly activities in the area throughout the year.

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    #42. Edmonds

    Location: Suburb of Seattle, WA

    Best places to raise a family rank: #2,522

    Public schools grade: A-

    Good for families grade: A

    Population: 41,020

    With 23 city parks and 1,000 feet of waterfront shoreline, Edmonds has plenty of places for kids to play outside. The Seattle suburb also boasts a lot of community diversity.  

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    #41. San Clemente

    Location: Suburb of Los Angeles, CA

    Best places to raise a family rank: #2,498

    Public schools grade: A+

    Good for families grade: A

    Population: 65,082

    The high-scoring public schools in this Los Angeles suburb make it an attractive place for families. Kids will also love all 11 of the city’s beaches.

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    #40. Shoreline

    Location: Suburb of Seattle, WA

    Best places to raise a family rank: #2,295

    Public schools grade: A

    Good for families grade: A

    Population: 55,021

    As the name implies, this Seattle suburb lies along the shores of the Puget Sound. Shoreline is home to 400 acres of parkland and open spaces, including a botanical garden, beaches, hiking trails, and playgrounds. Homes here date back to the early 1800s, but the suburb didn’t officially become a city until 1995.  

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    #39. Holland

    Location: Town in Michigan

    Best places to raise a family rank: #2,248

    Public schools grade: B+

    Good for families grade: A

    Population: 33,581

    White sandy beaches, an adorable downtown area, and a world-famous tulip festival make Holland an attractive place to visit and a great place to live. Known as one of America’s prettiest towns, Holland—as the name implies—also has rich Dutch heritage.  

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    #38. Wantagh

    Location: Suburb of New York, NY

    Best places to raise a family rank: #2,198

    Public schools grade: A

    Good for families grade: A

    Population: 18,490

    This Long Island town has great public schools, plenty of outdoor activities, and a relatively easy commute into nearby New York City. It doesn't hurt having Wantagh Park in your backyard, either; the 111-acre park features a marina, ballfields, dog runs, and endless recreational opportunities.

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    #37. Coronado

    Location: Suburb of San Diego, CA

    Best places to raise a family rank: #2,090

    Public schools grade: A+

    Good for families grade: A

    Population: 24,852

    This coastal city has all the beachy appeal of nearby San Diego but with a quieter pace. Plenty of parks, kid-friendly community activities, and high-performing public schools make it a wonderful place to raise a family.  

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    #36. Marina District

    Location: Neighborhood in San Francisco, CA

    Best places to raise a family rank: #2,074

    Public schools grade: A-

    Good for families grade: A

    Population: 16,783

    This Golden Gate City neighborhood borders Ghiradelli Square to the east and the Palace of Fine Arts to the west, placing it smack dab in the middle of the action. On top of all this, the Marina District also offers great public schools.

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    #35. Seal Beach

    Location: Suburb of Los Angeles, CA

    Best places to raise a family rank: #1,989

    Public schools grade: A+

    Good for families grade: A

    Population: 24,510

    This Orange County city has pristine beaches, community golf courses and tennis courts, and blessedly sunny weather. Add to that the area’s excellent public schools, and you can see why Seal Beach is so attractive to parents.

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    #34. Laguna Beach

    Location: Suburb of Los Angeles, CA

    Best places to raise a family rank: #1,963

    Public schools grade: A+

    Good for families grade: A

    Population: 23,204

    Known for the mid-aughts reality TV show of the same name, Laguna Beach has all the gorgeous beaches and great weather you see on the show with (thankfully) significantly less high school drama. The seaside resort city is home to seven miles of coastal coves and beaches, a thriving artist community, and in excess of 20,000 acres of protected wilderness

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    #33. Swampscott

    Location: Suburb of Boston, MA

    Best places to raise a family rank: #1,912

    Public schools grade: A

    Good for families grade: A

    Population: 14,250

    Swampscott is a safe place to live, affordable, and less than 15 miles north of Boston. Plenty of community activities and a good public school system make it exceedingly attractive to families.

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    #32. Key Biscayne

    Location: Suburb of Miami, FL

    Best places to raise a family rank: #1,799

    Public schools grade: B+

    Good for families grade: A

    Population: 12,935

    Key Biscayne is a gorgeous coastal town just a short drive over the Rickenbacker Causeway from Miami. The area boasts plenty of outdoor activities for active families, including Crandon Park and Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, a nearby coastal barrier reef, and an underwater archaeological trail.

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    #31. Ocean Springs

    Location: Town in Mississippi

    Best places to raise a family rank: #1,748

    Public schools grade: A

    Good for families grade: A

    Population: 17,547

    This Mississippi town on the Gulf Coast was first settled in 1699 by French explorers. Affordable housing, top healthcare facilities, and some of the best public schools in the state make Ocean Springs a perfect place to raise a family.

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    #30. Alameda

    Location: Suburb of San Francisco, CA

    Best places to raise a family rank: #1,744

    Public schools grade: A+

    Good for families grade: A

    Population: 77,409

    Alameda, nicknamed the “City of Homes and Beaches,” has historic buildings dating back to its settlement in 1853 and lovely nearby beaches. Amazing public schools, high levels of diversity, and awesome weather have made Alameda a popular place to raise a family.

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    #29. Gages Lake

    Location: Suburb of Chicago, IL

    Best places to raise a family rank: #1,678

    Public schools grade: A

    Good for families grade: A

    Population: 10,041

    This Chicago suburb is not only affordable, but also has a thriving economy. Its proximity to Chicago also means families can take advantage of all the city’s amenities and culture.

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    #28. Folsom

    Location: Town in California

    Best places to raise a family rank: #1,636

    Public schools grade: A

    Good for families grade: A

    Population: 74,960

    Backing up to Folsom Lake, Folsom has miles and miles of jogging, biking, and hiking trails along the lake and American River. Folsom's affordability, good economy, excellent weather, and great public schools give Folsom's residents a great quality of life.

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    #27. Carlsbad

    Location: City in California

    Best places to raise a family rank: #1,611

    Public schools grade: A+

    Good for families grade: A

    Population: 112,008

    Carlsbad has all kinds of family-friendly attractions, from Legoland to a skate park. It also boasts great public schools, a good economy, and sunny California weather.

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    #26. Satellite Beach

    Location: Town in Florida

    Best places to raise a family rank: #1,564

    Public schools grade: A+

    Good for families grade: A

    Population: 10,495

    This sunny Florida community has lots to be proud of, including excellent public schools, lots of outdoor activities, and an overall affordable lifestyle. Satellite Beach has great proximity to other Florida hotspots, too: Orlando is just an hour northwest and Miami a few hours south (with plenty of beach towns in between). 

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    #25. San Mateo

    Location: Suburb of San Francisco, CA

    Best places to raise a family rank: #1,562

    Public schools grade: A+

    Good for families grade: A

    Population: 102,224

    Though the ocean near San Mateo isn’t as warm as some of the other spots on this list, the coastal town still has tons of natural beauty and beachy appeal. The impressive public school education kids can get here also draws in plenty of families.

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    #24. Hermosa Beach

    Location: Suburb of Los Angeles, CA

    Best places to raise a family rank: #1,445

    Public schools grade: A

    Good for families grade: A

    Population: 19,726

    Surfer dudes and dudettes raising kids who can hang ten might want to settle here. Between the colorful downtown scene and chilled out local beaches, Hermosa Beach has plenty of appeal for visitors and residents.

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    #23. Newburyport

    Location: Suburb of Boston, MA

    Best places to raise a family rank: #1,343

    Public schools grade: A

    Good for families grade: A+

    Population: 17,837

    Not far from Boston, Newburyport offers an easy commute for parents who work in the city and access to great public education for children. Public health is also exceptional here.

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    #22. Newport Beach

    Location: Town in California

    Best places to raise a family rank: #1,316

    Public schools grade: A+

    Good for families grade: A+

    Population: 86,813

    This beachside community is incredibly picturesque—especially the residential community of Balboa Island, where residents can grab frozen bananas on a stick at the banana stand, or cruise the strip by kayak or stand-up paddleboard.

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    #21. Kirkland

    Location: Suburb of Seattle, WA

    Best places to raise a family rank: #1,037

    Public schools grade: A

    Good for families grade: A+

    Population: 85,812

    The cost of living in Kirkland is higher than some of the other locations on this list, but it’s still a great value when you consider that your family can easily access all the best Seattle has to offer. Kirkland's bustling economy also makes it an attractive location for working parents.

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    #20. Redondo Beach

    Location: Suburb of Los Angeles, CA

    Best places to raise a family rank: #1,002

    Public schools grade: A+

    Good for families grade: A+

    Population: 67,664

    Redondo Beach's perfect weather and access to outdoor space make it easy to stay in shape here. Parents looking to raise active kids might want to look into this beachside community that's just south of Los Angeles.

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    #19. Lee's Summit

    Location: Suburb of Kansas City, MO

    Best places to raise a family rank: #815

    Public schools grade: A+

    Good for families grade: A+

    Population: 94,257

    Lee’s Summit offers families a good bang for their buck. The suburb features affordable homes, a healthy economy, and excellent public schools.

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    #18. Santa Monica

    Location: Town in California

    Best places to raise a family rank: #775

    Public schools grade: A+

    Good for families grade: A+

    Population: 92,247

    Tourists flock to the Santa Monica Pier and Third Street Promenade year-round, and it's easy to see why. Both outdoor attractions exemplify the easy breezy California lifestyle that attracts millions of residents and tourists. If you don’t mind a constant barrage of visitors, Santa Monica would be an excellent place to raise a family because of the access to good public schools and nearby beaches and parks.

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    #17. Encinitas

    Location: Suburb of San Diego, CA

    Best places to raise a family rank: #760

    Public schools grade: A+

    Good for families grade: A+

    Population: 62,160

    Encinitas’ six miles of coastline is famous for its excellent surfing conditions, making it popular with beachgoers year round. Residents of this coastal community are also attracted to its charming shopping district, nearby golf course, good schools, and convenient proximity to San Diego.

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    #16. Stony Brook

    Location: Suburb of New York, NY

    Best places to raise a family rank: #755

    Public schools grade: A+

    Good for families grade: A+

    Population: 13,437

    Stony Brook is situated on the North Shore of Long Island, making it a popular community for families with one or both parents commuting into New York City. But more than its proximity to Manhattan, the suburb is beloved for its high-quality public schools.

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    #15. Mill Valley

    Location: Suburb of San Francisco, CA

    Best places to raise a family rank: #701

    Public schools grade: A+

    Good for families grade: A+

    Population: 14,318

    Make no doubt about it, Mill Valley is an expensive place to live. The median home price here is well over $1 million. Still, many families think it’s worth the high cost of living. That's because the suburb is extremely safe, right next to San Francisco, and brimming with top-performing public schools.

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    #14. Palos Verdes Estates

    Location: Suburb of Los Angeles, CA

    Best places to raise a family rank: #523

    Public schools grade: A+

    Good for families grade: A+

    Population: 13,582

    This planned community in Los Angeles County was designed by the famous Olmsted brothers, whose father Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr. designed Manhattan's Central Park. Gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean, beautiful homes, and great schools make Palos Verdes Estates an excellent place to raise a family.

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    #13. Great Neck

    Location: Suburb of New York, NY

    Best places to raise a family rank: #503

    Public schools grade: A+

    Good for families grade: A+

    Population: 10,183

    Long Island's proximity to all of New York City's five boroughs and gorgeous beaches make many of its neighborhoods and towns perfect for young families. Great Neck will cost a pretty penny to lay roots down; but its rich history, gorgeous houses, and great public schools still make it an irresistible option for many families.

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    #12. Mercer Island

    Location: Suburb of Seattle, WA

    Best places to raise a family rank: #500

    Public schools grade: A+

    Good for families grade: A+

    Population: 24,467

    Just over 24,000 people live on this two-mile-long, five-mile-wide Washington island between Seattle and Bellevue. Mercer Island is beloved for its mild climate, exceptional public schools, and excess of outdoor activities.

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    #11. Manhattan Beach

    Location: Suburb of Los Angeles, CA

    Best places to raise a family rank: #352

    Public schools grade: A+

    Good for families grade: A+

    Population: 35,573

    Visitors can't resist Manhattan Beach's laid-back vibe, sandy shores, and sunny skies. But for people raising kids, This South Bay community is more than a charming downtown and great surf: The suburb features a superior public school system, high level of safety, and overall healthy lifestyle for its residents.

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    #10. Westport

    Location: Suburb in Connecticut

    Best places to raise a family rank: #310

    Public schools grade: A+

    Good for families grade: A+

    Population: 27,511

    This pretty New England town has stately old-fashioned buildings and a charming, old-fashioned downtown. It’s one of the most affluent suburbs in the country, so it isn’t exactly affordable—but those who have fat wallets will find Westport to be a suburb featuring every amenity.

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    #9. Redmond

    Location: Town in Washington

    Best places to raise a family rank: #303

    Public schools grade: A+

    Good for families grade: A+

    Population: 59,268

    This community along the northern shore of Lake Sammamish boasts several large parks perfect for softball games, soccer matches, or family picnics. The public schools are something to brag about, too.

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    #8. Highland Park

    Location: Suburb of Chicago, IL

    Best places to raise a family rank: #300

    Public schools grade: A+

    Good for families grade: A+

    Population: 29,780

    This Chicago suburb along the banks of Lake Michigan is something of a tourist attraction thanks to the three Frank Lloyd Wright homes within its borders. Excellent public schools, job opportunities, and an easy commute into the city make it very popular with young families.

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    #7. Rocky River

    Location: Suburb of Cleveland, OH

    Best places to raise a family rank: #293

    Public schools grade: A+

    Good for families grade: A+

    Population: 20,211

    You’ll find this Cleveland suburb along the shores of Lake Erie. Rocky River has everything families need: a low cost of living, extremely safe neighborhoods, good housing, and excellent public schools.

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    #6. Brookfield

    Location: Suburb of Milwaukee, WI

    Best places to raise a family rank: #254

    Public schools grade: A+

    Good for families grade: A+

    Population: 37,991

    The only thing this Milwaukee suburb lacks is good, year-round weather. Families who enjoy all four seasons (with an emphasis on winter) adore Brookfield's affordable housing market, incredible schools, and safe neighborhoods.

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    #5. Mequon

    Location: Suburb of Milwaukee, WI

    Best places to raise a family rank: #234

    Public schools grade: A+

    Good for families grade: A+

    Population: 23,663

    Another Milwaukee suburb, Mequon is a bit smaller than Brookfield but shares the same but has the same reputation for great schooling, economical housing, and an affordable cost of living. A great feature of this suburb is its inclusion along the Ozaukee Interurban Trail, a paved trail connecting six communities in Ozaukee County that's perfect for walking, jogging, or bicycling.

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    #4. Shorewood

    Location: Suburb of Milwaukee, WI

    Best places to raise a family rank: #215

    Public schools grade: A+

    Good for families grade: A+

    Population: 13,300

    Sensing a pattern here? Yet another Milwaukee suburb, Shorewood, ranks as the fourth-best coastal town for families. The reasonable median home value and overall safety make this town especially attractive.

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    #3. Bay Village

    Location: Suburb of Cleveland, OH

    Best places to raise a family rank: #210

    Public schools grade: A+

    Good for families grade: A+

    Population: 15,414

    Affordability, safety, education, good quality of life: this Cleveland suburb has it all. Bay Village also offers a robust parks system and many recreation programs to get kids started on a healthy lifestyle (and keep grown-ups in shape).

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    #2. Rye

    Location: Suburb of New York, NY

    Best places to raise a family rank: #139

    Public schools grade: A+

    Good for families grade: A+

    Population: 15,949

    This New York City suburb on the Long Island Sound is the second-best coastal town for raising a family in the country. It is more expensive than many of the other cities and towns on this list, but Rye’s great public schools and local amenities more than compensate for the high price tag.

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    #1. Eden Prairie

    Location: Town in Minnesota

    Best places to raise a family rank: #41

    Public schools grade: A+

    Good for families grade: A+

    Population: 63,206

    Eden Prairie may not border a single, large body of water; but it is located near more than 10 small lakes. The affordable housing, low cost of living, high-ranked public schools, thriving economy, and public safety helped it earn the top spot on the list.

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