The 100 best cities to raise a family
Raising children in a family-centric city is all about location, with the most ideal spots providing safety, education, recreation, and affordability. However, finding the right one with nearly 20,000 incorporated cities, towns, and villages across America can be daunting, which is why Stacker collected data from national review and ranking site Niche to compile a list of the top 100 locations to raise a family.
Some criteria considered in ranking the best 100 cities included crime, public schools, college graduation rates, cost of living, family amenities, outdoor recreation, transportation, diversity, walkability. While Niche primarily sourced data from the U.S. Census Bureau data, other city details came from the U.S. Department of Education, the FBI, and other specific amenities, programs, and demographics links.
In the list of cities, Stacker also included the population, median home value, median rent, and median household income for each of the top 100 best cities. While Texas and California boast four cities each in the top 20, an Illinois city 33 miles west of Chicago claims the top spot.
Six of the 10 cities in the U.S. with populations over 1,000,000 made the list, showing that big cities are a great place to raise a family, offering a wealth of historic sites, museums, top schools, and parks to entertain parents and children alike. High walkability scores, rapidly improving school systems, and falling crime rates have cities like Dallas and New York and their vibrant culture among the nation’s best for families. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Columbia, Maryland earns the title of the smallest city on the list, with just over 103,000 residents centrally located between Baltimore, Annapolis, and Washington D.C.
Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia are represented, while New Jersey was the most populous state without a city in the top 100. If you're hunting for the perfect place to lay down roots, be sure to keep reading to discover the most 100 highly rated cities for raising a family.
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#100. Colorado Springs, Colorado
- Population: 450,000
- Median home value: $233,100 (59% own)
- Median rent: $1,013 (41% rent)
- Median household income: $58,158
Families with youngsters in kindergarten through fifth grade might consider neighborhoods served by the Woodmen-Roberts Elementary School in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The school in 2019 ranked better than 89.5% of elementary schools in the state. Clans of all ages can enjoy the city’s Garden of the Gods, which features towering red rock formations, or they can immerse themselves in history and nature through the city's cultural services.
#99. Fort Wayne, Indiana
- Population: 262,450
- Median home value: $106,500 (62% own)
- Median rent: $708 (38% rent)
- Median household income: $45,853
The Northeast Indiana community of Fort Wayne is rated the city with the lowest cost of living in America. Families have numerous options for entertainment and attractions in Fort Wayne, including the city’s namesake 40-acre children’s zoo. Combat Ops Arena is Fort Wayne’s newest family entertainment center. Fort Wayne Community Schools offers early childhood educational opportunities.
#98. Tulsa, Oklahoma
- Population: 401,352
- Median home value: $129,000 (51% own)
- Median rent: $784 (49% rent)
- Median household income: $44,577
Tulsa’s family-friendly arts and recreation comprises an area zoo, museum, a performing arts center, and a library, which hosted up to 176 community-wide events in 2019. With up to 135 parks and trails throughout the city, located along the Arkansas River, families have acres of land for year-round exercise and recreation. The former oil capital, renowned for its churches and architecture, comprises midtown neighborhoods, popular among young couples and families who seek city life with a suburban feel.
#97. Green Bay, Wisconsin
- Population: 104,796
- Median home value: $127,300 (56% own)
- Median rent: $682 (44% rent)
- Median household income: $45,473
This Wisconsin city, named for its location at the southern end of an arm of Lake Michigan, is home to the Green Bay Packers football team and nearby National Railroad Museum. Crime rates in Green Bay are close to the national average, and the city's cost-of-living index is 91.6—less than the U.S. average of 100. Serving the community, nearby West De Pere High School gets the area's highest ranking for high schools.
#96. San Jose, California
- Population: 1,023,031
- Median home value: $714,200 (57% own)
- Median rent: $1,822 (43% rent)
- Median household income: $96,662
The Bay Area California City of San Jose is considered one of the most diverse communities in the nation. Considered the hub of the region's Silicon Valley, San Jose also has one of the highest costs of living in the country, with median household incomes approaching $123,000—80% higher than the national average. With more than 31,000 students, San Jose’s school district is home to many highly regarded elementary and high schools.
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#95. Clarksville, Tennessee
- Population: 147,771
- Median home value: $143,400 (53% own)
- Median rent: $930 (47% rent)
- Median household income: $51,164
The north Tennessee city of Clarksville in Montgomery County garners high grades for its public education, with Hazelwood Elementary School leading the pack. Families can share interactive experiences at the Custom House Museum and Cultural Center, home to one of the largest model railroad layouts in the region.
#94. Reno, Nevada
- Population: 239,732
- Median home value: $265,600 (47% own)
- Median rent: $906 (53% rent)
- Median household income: $52,106
Packed with plenty of family events and attractions like the Animal Ark, and with the beautiful Lake Tahoe less than 40 miles from its doorstep, Reno is much more than a gambler's paradise. Its schools get high marks as well: Ranked the #1 school in Nevada, the Davidson Academy in Reno is structured to serve profoundly gifted middle and high school students, while Reno High School made the #4 rank for public high schools in the state.
#93. Atlanta, Georgia
- Population: 465,230
- Median home value: $238,700 (43% own)
- Median rent: $1,037 (57% rent)
- Median household income: $51,701
Georgia’s capital and most populated city has more than 3,000 acres of parkland accompanied by up to 33 recreational centers filled with family-friendly opportunities. Niche rates Atlanta’s top three school districts, Buford City, Forsyth County, and Decatur City, with an overall grade of A+. USA Today reports how “history and art take center stage” in Atlanta’s museums, while great fun and education are found at the Georgia Aquarium, the second largest marine exhibit in the world. Add in the affordable cost of living, and Atlanta gets more appealing.
#92. Denver, Colorado
- Population: 678,467
- Median home value: $322,900 (50% own)
- Median rent: $1,131 (50% rent)
- Median household income: $60,098
While the consolidated city-county of Denver, Colorado, at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, ranks as one of the 100 best cities to raise a family, it also rates #24 out of 228 by Niche for the healthiest cities in America. Aside from its many ski slopes, the Mile High City also offers kid-centric zoos, museums, and parks, teen action with amusement parks, shopping malls, and pro-sport teams, and adult-fun including the Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre, featuring a vibrant concert and nightlife scene.
#91. Columbus, Ohio
- Population: 852,144
- Median home value: $136,500 (45% own)
- Median rent: $889 (55% rent)
- Median household income: $49,478
The capital city of Ohio offers family-friendly adventures on both sides of the Scioto River. The Scioto Mile is an urban oasis with 175 acres of parkland in the downtown area, complete with a 15,000 square-foot interactive fountain and the country's largest free outdoor climbing wall. Columbus is ranked #52 of 228 cities with the lowest cost of living in America. Nearby Dublin Coffman High School ranks #6 of the best public high schools in the state.
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