Home is where the heart is for sure, but in these uncertain economic times, home might turn out to be where the jobs are, too. When we set out to choose 10 great family-friendly cities, some of the things we looked for on our list of candidates included low unemployment, low crime and reasonable home and living costs. Other things, like great schools, a green vibe (lots of parks and outdoor activities) and growth potential were part of the equation, too.
There were some standouts that didn't have all of these features, but we thought they exhibited such superior qualities in other areas that they were worthy of a mention anyway. You'll see why. So, put on your traveling shoes. From the mountains to the prairies -- or was it the oceans? -- let's renew our faith in what makes the United States great by exploring 10 superior cities that any family would be happy to call home.
10: Huntsville, Ala.
Secure in the presence of an extensive and diverse economic base, Huntsville managed to make the top of Kiplinger's list of "10 Best Cities of 2009." With the abundant presence of aerospace, missile defense and medical research industries, Huntsville has plenty of jobs, and that translates to lots of resources for creating family-friendly communities. These brainiac industries also promote community interest in school funding, which is a very good thing if you're raising the next Bill Gates.
As if all that wasn't enough, a historically picturesque downtown, quality museums and majestic mountain scenery make Huntsville an attractive, interesting and secure place to live.
9: San Jose, Calif.
In the heart of Silicon Valley, San Jose topped the Forbes 2009 list of most affordable major cities. Although the cost of housing is admittedly high, so are salaries. Another advantage to living in San Jose is that the great weather and ample outdoor resources make it easy to get out of the house and enjoy sports all year long. If your kids are into computers, living where the action is has its advantages, too.
The California economy overall has experienced some well-publicized hiccups lately, but even at that, the weather and other resources San Jose has to offer make it a good choice for a two income family if you have a job going in.
8: Minneapolis, Minn.
Minneapolis hits it out of the ballpark in a number of categories. It's one of the safest cities in the United States and also one of the cheapest to live in. If you're just starting a family and money is tight, it offers a lot for your dollar. In 2009, Minneapolis schools spent more than the national average per public school student, and with only a 16 to one student teacher ratio, that isn't bad at all [source: Greenburg].
7: Olympia, Wash.
The state capital of Washington, Olympia has a thriving arts community and boasts a college town's youthful energy. Add beautiful scenery, a dedication to education and a crime rate that's lower than the national average, and you have a forest jewel that's a nice spot to put down some roots of your very own.
6: Austin, Texas
With a stable economic outlook, thanks to a dynamic and diverse group of area businesses, and a relatively low crime rate, Austin has family potential. If you're looking for sun, outrageously delicious Tex-Mex and a town with a bright future, you could do worse. Add to that a consistently low unemployment rate and an OK teacher to student ratio, and Austin becomes our lone star state candidate for relocation.
5: San Francisco, Calif.
San Francisco has a famously high cost of living, but the income levels are much higher, too, and although they don't offset taxes, housing costs and a currently stale local economy, the city by the bay is widely considered one of the most amazing places to live and work -- not only in the United States but on the planet. Because of its inherent beauty, entertainment venues for all ages and close proximity to the ocean, old-growth forests and even the mountains, we couldn't leave this classic off our list. If the costs are too steep for your blood, you can opt for an address down the peninsula and still participate in many of the inexpensive activities that make San Francisco such a unique and memorable experience.
4: Albuquerque, N.M.
Albuquerque is a cultural melting pot that offers diversity, stability and natural grandeur. For sun lovers, this city anchored on the banks of the Rio Grande River has plenty of outdoor activities to keep families in shape and in touch with nature.
Thanks to the presence of companies like Intel Corporation and Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque also has a stable economy. It boasts a cost of living lower than the national average and an unemployment rate worth bragging about.
We think that Albuquerque's great weather, cultural variety and economic balance make it a great place to settle down.
3: South Burlington, Vt.
With affordable housing, a low (13 to 1) student to teacher ratio and family-friendly activities everywhere you look, this gem nestled between the Adirondacks and the Green Mountains is a haven for families who enjoy the outdoors and appreciate a green sensibility. If your brood embraces water and snow sports, and you think things like energy conservation and maintaining clean waterways are important, South Burlington, Vt., is your kind of town.
2: Charlottesville, Va.
The hometown of Thomas Jefferson, Charlottesville is close enough to our nation's capital for a convenient day trip, but far enough away to have its own unique personality and style. If you're into academia, art, or just plain Southern hospitality, this historic city delivers. With a good student to teacher ratio and a dedication to providing quality education to its children, Charlottesville is a Southern belle that puts family first.
1: Fishers, Ind.
Rated the best affordable suburb in the United States by "Bloomberg BusinessWeek," Fishers, Ind., is an up-and-coming bedroom community serving the Indianapolis area. With great schools, a low crime rate and the convenience of being located at the crossroads of America, Fishers is our pick for the city most likely to steal your heart away. It isn't a metropolis, but Fishers' population has increased more than 63 percent over the last decade, and it's still growing. With affordable housing, low unemployment and positive job growth, Fishers has charisma to spare [source: Wong].
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