Downtown Grand Rapids Michigan view from the Grand River.

Best Places To Raise A Family

Lauren Nowacki9-minute read
February 05, 2022

Raising a family is as incredibly rewarding as it is challenging. There’s no doubt that heads of households want to ensure they’re giving their children every chance to thrive academically, mentally and physically, while also providing a safe space for the family unit to strengthen.

The burden doesn’t solely rest on a parent or caregiver’s shoulders. The place they choose to put down roots should also provide support and opportunity. The best cities for families to live will excel in providing safety, affordable care, open spaces to roam and quality learning, whether kids are starting kindergarten or wrapping up their high school years.

Taking those factors into consideration, Rocket HomesSM teamed up with BestPlaces.net to find some of the best locations to raise a family. This diverse list includes college towns, suburban spots, urban locales and several areas of the Midwest, meeting the needs of the country’s many different kinds of families – from those who wish to watch their kids grow up in the hustle and bustle of a big city to those who dream of the white-picket fences and treelined streets of the suburbs.

Finding The Best Places For Families

The researchers at BestPlaces.net used the following metrics to determine the rankings for the best places for families to live in the U.S.:

 

  • School ratings
  • Crime rate
  • Average cost of child care
  • Amenities for kids
  • Percent of households with children
  • Parks, playgrounds and greenspaces
  • Increase in households with children

1. Grand Rapids, Michigan

Grand Rapids Michigan Skyline

Population: 1,074,223

Percent of households with children: 47.9%

Average cost of child care: $9,420

Located just 30 miles from the beaches of Lake Michigan, Grand Rapids has an abundance of opportunities for kids to engage in culture, history, art and nature at more than 20 museums and the world-renown Frederick Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. Residents can also be sure their children will receive a good education. Grand Rapids ranks in the top 5% in the country for school system ratings, which can be attributed, in part, to the quality of life of its educators, as the city also ranks as one of the best places to be a teacher.

2. Bridgeport Metro Area, Connecticut

Father and daughter walking along dock in Connecticut.

Population: 943,332

Percent of households with children: 49.7%

Average cost of child care: $17,910

Bridgeport, also known as “Park City,” has more than 25 parks that offer a variety of surroundings, including woods, green spaces and beaches. Featuring an aquarium, planetarium, multiple lighthouses and biking trails, the metro area, which includes Norwalk and Stamford, ranks in the top 1% of the country for the number of kid-friendly amenities it offers. And its proximity to other family-friendly destinations, like New York City and Boston, means families won’t easily run out of things to do.

3. Raleigh, North Carolina

Raleigh North Carolina Skyline view from open park space.

Population: 1,390,785

Percent of households with children: 53.6%

Average cost of child care: $10,560

Raleigh isn’t just a great place to raise a family; it’s also one of the most promising cities of 2022, earning both titles, in part, because of its low crime rates. North Carolina’s capital has a lower property and violent crime rate than 95% of the country, so local families can feel more secure enjoying the family-friendly benefits of the area. The college town is also a draw for young professionals, with three premier universities within its metro area offering job opportunities in research and education.

4. Cincinnati, Ohio

Smale Riverfront Park in Cincinnati, Ohio next to the John A Roebling Suspension Bridge

Population: 2,198,450

Percent of households with children: 48.1%

Average cost of child care: $10,320

Families looking for an affordable place to grow can find it in Cincinnati, where the cost of living is 15% lower than the national average and the median home price is $200,000 – almost $100,000 lower than the national average. Along with lower living costs, there’s a bounty of inexpensive ways to have some family fun, from waterparks, zoos and scenic trails to nature centers, a dinosaur hall or a baseball hall of fame. The city is also less than 30 minutes from Kings Island Amusement Park, which features Planet Snoopy, voted one of the “Best Kids’ Area in the World” by Amusement Today.

5. Fayetteville, Arkansas

Row of colorful garden homes with two stories and white pillars in suburban neighborhood of Fayetteville, Arkansas

Population: 557,741

Percent of households with children: 51.9%

Average cost of child care: $7,700

Fayetteville’s average cost of child care is lower than 90% of U.S. cities – and the lowest average cost on our list. Affordable child care doesn’t affect the quality of education Fayetteville kids receive, either. The city’s school ratings rank in the top 1% of the country. The school districts and affordability are just some of the reasons the city has been one of U.S. News & World Report’s top 10 Best Places To Live since 2016. Other factors include the abundance of parks and the friendliness of its residents that give the area a small-town, homey vibe.

6. Atlanta, Georgia

View of Atlanta from Olympic Centennial Park

Population: 6,020,364

Percent of households with children: 52.5%

Average cost of child care: $9,600

Home to the Georgia Aquarium, the largest aquarium in the U.S., and the World of Coca Cola Museum, Atlanta has many opportunities for family outings that are unique, educational and entertaining. And there’s something for everyone in the family. History buffs can visit the Fernbank Museum of Natural History or National Center for Civil and Human Rights while hands-on learners can build at the Legoland Discovery Center or learn through play at the Children’s Museum of Atlanta. Meanwhile, sports fanatics can catch a game at one of the cities stadiums to watch one of its five major league sports teams.

7. Dallas, Texas

Downtown Dallas Texas View

Population: 7,643,907

Percent of households with children: 54.7%

Average cost of child care: $10,220

Dallas ranks in the top 10% of the country for the percentage of households with children, which means there’s a good chance kids will have other kids to play with in the neighborhood and at the various family-friendly spaces in the metro area. With year-round warm temperatures, kids and their friends can hang out and burn off energy doing such outdoor activities as playing at the park, horseback riding, visiting the zoo, traversing obstacle courses or zooming down zip lines.

8. New York City, New York

New York City Park Views

Population: 19,895,340

Percent of households with children: 48.2%

Average cost of child care: $14,340

Raising kids in a big city can be intimidating for some, but for others, it can be ideal for their lifestyle and the offerings they desire. To meet the needs of such a large, diverse population, New York City offers something for everyone, and families can find more amenities for kids than 95% of metro areas across the country. And though it may be known as a concrete jungle, NYC has of plenty spaces for kids to play – so much so that city ranks in the top 5% for available playgrounds, parks and green spaces. It shouldn’t be too much of a hassle to get to one of these spaces, either. NYC is known for its walkability and efficient public transportation system that’s one of the largest in the world.

9. Madison, Wisconsin

Aerial View of Madison Wisconsin.

Population: 664,865

Percent of households with children: 46.5%

Average cost of child care: $13,940

The Madison metro area has some of the best school districts in Wisconsin, with higher school ratings than 95% of metropolitan areas in the country. Two schools of note are Shorewood Hills Elementary and Van Hise Elementary School, which have been awarded the National Blue Ribbon, a program that recognizes outstanding public schools. Both schools have implemented the “Welcoming Schools” curriculum program, which focuses on embracing family diversity and being more LGBTQ- and gender-inclusive. 

10. Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts Downtown Skyline

Population: 4,873,019

Percent of households with children: 46.8%

Average cost of child care: $17,640

 

Kids who reside in the Boston metro area will grow up immersed in American history. The city maintained some of its historic features, like cobblestone streets lined with gas-lit street lamps and buildings dating back to the 1600s. The city also features the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile walking trail that takes visitors to 16 sites that are historically significant to the nation. These include the sites of the Boston Massacre and Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere’s Home and the site that signaled his famous ride and launched the American Revolution. Along with national heroes, kids will also have some of the brightest minds to admire as the Boston area is home to 35 universities and colleges, including the prestigious Harvard University.

11. Honolulu, Hawaii

Aerial view of Hawaiian beachfront property.

Population: 974,563

Percent of households with children: 47%

Average cost of child care: $11,860

Whether it’s Honolulu’s stunning scenery, historic landmarks, bustling downtown or the fact that it ranks in the top 1% of the country for available parks, playgrounds and green spaces, families are taking notice. In fact, Hawaii’s capital saw a 17.4% increase in the percentage of households with children, the highest increase of all metropolitan areas reviewed for this study.

12. Portland, Maine

Portland Maine harbor view from Ocean

Population: 538,500

Percent of households with children: 41.8%

Average cost of child care: $10,900

 

Portland is one of Maine’s largest cities, but with its cobblestone streets, boutiques and piers, it still feels like a small town. Its crime rate isn’t like many large metro areas, either. The coastal city ranks in the top 1% of the country for low crime. That means families can enjoy the many waterfront and outdoor activities, like the popular Back Cove biking trail, with peace of mind.

13. Arlington, Virginia

Fountains and modern buildings in Crystal City, Arlington Virginia

Population: 6,267,226

Percent of households with children: 52.4%

Average cost of child care: $15,450

With 27 playgrounds, parks and green spaces per 100 square miles, Arlington’s metro area, which includes Washington D.C., has more of these outdoor spaces than 90% of the country. Wherever families reside in the metro areas, they’ll have more than 1,700 open-air spaces to explore. In just the city of Arlington, there are more than 100 different places to run around, including playgrounds, dog parks, multiuse athletic fields, urban parks and skate parks.

14. Lexington, Kentucky

Clear Bright Late Summer Day Aerial View Lexington Kentucky

Population: 517,056

Percent of households with children: 48.7%

Average cost of child care: $8,090

With a cost of living that’s 11% below the national average, Lexington residents can expect to spend less on many things, including healthcare, housing costs, transportation and child care costs. The city ranks in the top 15% of the country for affordable child care, with families spending an average of around $8,000 annually. Those moving into the area may also pay less for their home than other areas in the U.S. The median home price in Lexington is $238,800.  

15. Des Moines, Iowa

Des Moines Iowa skyline view.

Population: 662,107

Percent of households with children: 52.4%

Average cost of child care: $11,960

Des Moines families looking to fill their fridge and pantry with healthy, locally sourced foods can visit one of several neighborhood farmer’s markets, including the Greater Des Moines Farmer’s Market. One of the top farmer’s markets in the U.S., it features live entertainment, handcrafted art and goods from more than 100 area vendors. Located in the Historic Court District, it’s open every Saturday from May through October and hosts a Winter Market in November and December. A popular family outing, these places will certainly have many young visitors, especially since Des Moines has more households with children than 85% of the country.

Methodology: Finding The Best Cities For Families

In this study, we uncover the metro areas that have a special combination of factors when it comes to raising a family. The places analyzed in our study are the 150 largest metropolitan areas in the United States. These 150 metro areas are home to nearly 3/4 (74%) of all U.S. residents. Metropolitan areas are particularly useful for our rankings because they include not only each area's major cities but also the surrounding counties which include the suburbs.

The team at BestPlaces.net collected and analyzed statistics in seven key measures which give insights into resources available for raising a family. We chose metrics, which are as current and as detailed as possible, to provide the most relevant insight.

Each data metric is normalized and transformed to a common range of 0-100 points for scoring and comparison. Weights are applied to each metric, which reflects its importance in the study. The weighted scores for each metric are summed to create the overall Best Places to Raise a Family score for each place. The final scores are sorted to produce the final rankings.

Metric

Weight

Level

Source

School ratings

22.4%

Metro

Pct of schools rated an 8, 9 or 10, based on state achievement tests and educational expenditures

Crime Rate

22.4%

Metro

FBI Uniform Crime Reports, 2019

Cost of child care

16.3%

Metro

BestPlaces analysis of data from Child Care Aware and Center for American Progress

Amenities for kids

16.3%

Metro

Count of amenities, Points of Interest database 2019

Percent of households with children

10.2%

Metro

Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS), 2019

Playgrounds, parks and green spaces

6.1%

Metro

Count of playgrounds, local parks and green spaces

Increase in households with children

6.1%

Metro

Census Bureau, ACS, 2019

Cost of Living

0%

Metro

BestPlaces.net

Median home price

0%

Metro

Bestplaces.net

Table of Contents

    Lauren Nowacki

    Lauren Nowacki is a staff writer specializing in personal finance, homeownership and the mortgage industry. She has a B.A. in Communications and has worked as a writer and editor for various publications in Philadelphia, Chicago and Metro Detroit.