Top-10 lists for the most the family-friendly cities in America are a pretty regular occurrence. Forbes seems to do one every year. MSN Real Estate’s got one. Kiplinger and Parenting have them. Usually the criteria range from crime to quality of schools. Other things to consider might be what kind of environment, overall, do you want your children to grow up in? Do you have access to transportation and a decent standard of living? Some of these things are subjective. Some you can rely on based on the statistics. But all parents would agree, to raise kids, a good education comes first. We factored in crime rates, cost of living, and more, when we came up with our own list, but education came first. And just to do one better, we’re turning it up to 11.
#11 Honolulu, HI
Honolulu’s an expensive place to live, with the median home price at around $632K. But it’s beautiful year-round, and its schools boast a student-teacher ratio that’s only 14-1. That means kids gets attention and they get to hit the beach.
#10 Virginia Beach, VA
Like Honolulu, your kids get to grow up with beautiful beaches surrounding them (about 35 miles’ worth), and while they’re at it, they’ll get a good education with very little crime. Six of Virginia Beach’s 11 high schools were ranked in the top 6 percent in the nation by Newsweek. And median home prices here come in at around $240K.
#9 Plano, TX
Forbes called Plano America’s safest city. It’s also got tons of parks and a fantastic school system. It’s the wealthiest town in the U.S. with a population over 250K, so you’re bound to get good stuff here for your family.
#8 Portland, OR
Portland’s got a lot of green space and great public transportation. The public schools are very solid and progressive, with seven charter schools. Moving in won’t be too bad, either, with homes priced around $257K.
#7 Scottsdale, AZ
Scottsdale will keep your kids safe with the sixth-lowest rate of violent crime in the country, and it will provide them with a decent standard of living (median household income here is $69K). It also has highest number of baseball-diamonds relative to population of any city in the U.S.—great for Little Leaguers.
#6 Raleigh, NC
About 90 percent of kids in Raleigh’s school system go on to some form of college. Homes are not too expensive, around $202K, and there’s a lot of diversity here. Men’s Health called it third most-educated city in the U.S., and that’s got to rub off on your kids.
#5 Madison, WI
Do you want to take your kids to the lake in the summer? Or in the winter? There are ample choices around Madison, which also has a great school system and booming economy due to the University of Wisconsin, state government and local health and biotech industries.
#4 Irvine, CA
Irvine is packed with parks and bike paths, and it has a first-rate university. Plus it’s in Orange County, where the standard of living is high, there’s virtually no crime and its schools are great. Oh, and the weather is awesome.
#3 Overland Park, KS
The second biggest city in Kansas, it’s pretty inexpensive ($215K median home prices) to live here. The schools are better than good, there’s no crime, and parents have a place to work at Sprint/Nextel headquarters, just a stone’s throw from Kansas City.
#2 Bellevue, WA
Just across Lake Washington from Seattle, Bellevue is gorgeous, and its high standard of living ($462K median home price) means great schools (three highly ranked by U.S. News and World Report) to go with the view of the lake and the mountains and all the outdoor activities that go with them.
#1 Ann Arbor, MI
In terms of schools, seasons and safety, Ann Arbor’s got it all. From the University of Michigan on down to the very unconventional Community High (no sports, no dress codes, no valedictorians or detentions), kids have choices in this small city that acts like a college town. And median homes are only $207K.