Madison, WI

Best Cities to Raise a Family in the U.S.

American families move fairly often for a variety of reasons—new job opportunities, to be closer to family, or even a simple change of scenery. Whatever the catalyst for moving, there’s one thing all families have in common, and that’s the desire to provide the best environment for their children.

We compared the 150 most populous U.S. cities based on four key characteristics—safety, public school quality, availability of family-friendly activities, and cost of living—to determine which are the best cities to raise a family. While this list doesn’t account for personal preferences, proximity to relatives, or jobs on an individual basis, it can give families a place to start when looking for a great new city to call home!

To determine our overall ranking, we selected the cities with the best average ranking from all categories based on the following sources:

10. Virginia Beach, VA

Virginia Beach, VA
Photo by Terry Ballard

Population: 445,623
Crime Rate: 56% safer than other cities in the U.S.
Median Home Price: $263,200

Not only does Virginia Beach offer safe neighborhoods and excellent public schools like Kemps Landing Magnet School and Ocean Lakes High School, but it’s also home to nearly 300 city parks and miles of beautiful beaches! Families in the area love to spend time at the Virginia Beach Boardwalk, which offers playgrounds, restaurants, shops, and—of course—access to the beach. Other top attractions in Virginia Beach for families include Cape Henry Lighthouse and the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center.

9. San Diego, CA

San Diego, CA
Photo by Port of San Diego

Population: 1,341,510
Crime Rate: 31% safer than other cities in the U.S.
Median Home Price: $448,000

San Diego is known for its mild year-round climate and great beaches, so it often makes the list of best places to live overall. But the eighth largest city in the U.S. also boasts a wide assortment of family-friendly attractions and some of the best schools in the nation, such as Canyon Crest Academy and Del Norte High School, making it a wonderful place to raise children. Local families have access to the San Diego Zoo, one of the best zoos in the country, and Balboa Park, home to 17 different museums and a handful of gardens.

8. Plano, TX

Plano, TX
Photo by Erik Fredericks

Population: 271,166
Crime Rate: 60% safer than other cities in the U.S.
Median Home Price: $222,800

Located north of the Dallas metro, Plano is consistently ranked among the top cities to buy a house in the U.S. Combine the affordable housing with safe neighborhoods and superior public schools, and it’s easy to see why Plano is one of the best cities for young families! The city is also home to almost 4,000 acres of public parks, so it’s ideal for families who enjoy spending time outdoors. Locals enjoy both Arbor Hills Nature Preserve and Heritage Farmstead Museum, where children can learn about nature and farm life.

7. Omaha, NE

Omaha, NE
Photo by Shawn Rossi

Population: 435,454
Crime Rate: 19% safer than other cities in the U.S.
Median Home Price: $134,700

Ranked among both the best places to live and most affordable places to live in the U.S., Omaha is a great spot for families looking for a city with job opportunities and spacious housing! The area has excellent public schools like Alice Buffett Magnet Elementary School and Westside High School, as well as a number of popular family attractions like Vala’s Pumpkin Patch, the Omaha Storm Chasers, and the world-renowned Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium. The city also hosts the NCAA Men’s College World Series!

6. Boise, ID

Boise, ID
Photo by Boise Metro Chamber

Population: 211,655
Crime Rate: 38% safer than other cities in the U.S.
Median Home Price: $175,800

Boise is one of the safest cities on our list, making it one of the most family-friendly cities in the country! The capital of Idaho is the perfect home for adventurous families who like the outdoors—not to mention, it’s more affordable than other outdoorsy Pacific Northwest cities like Portland and Seattle. Locals love hiking, camping, and skiing in the nearby Boise Mountains, as well as visiting city attractions like Discovery Center of Idaho and Zoo Boise. Boise also has outstanding public schools, as well as great charter schools!

5. Madison, WI

Madison, WI
Photo by Richard Hurd

Population: 239,848
Crime Rate: 30% safer than other cities in the U.S.
Median Home Price: $211,600

Routinely named one of the best food cities in the U.S. and one of the top bicycling cities in the U.S. because of its availability of trails and parks, Madison is a favorite among millennial families! Wisconsin’s capital offers excellent public schools like Van Hise Elementary School and Memorial High School, opportunities for both higher education and jobs through the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and family-friendly attractions like Madison Children’s MuseumHenry Vilas Zoo, and Olbrich Botanical Gardens.

4. Sioux Falls, SD

Sioux Falls, SD
Photo by rachaelvoorhees

Population: 160,964
Crime Rate: 21% safer than other cities in the U.S.
Median Home Price: $155,200

Not only is Sioux Falls the largest city in South Dakota, but it’s also one of the fastest growing cities in the Midwest, so job opportunities and new homes are widely available. Sioux Falls rates very well for public education, offering great schools like All City Elementary School and Lincoln High School. The city also has more than 70 parks, so it’s an ideal spot for families who love green space. Locals enjoy taking their children to Falls Park, the Great Plains Zoo & Delbridge Museum, and the Butterfly House & Aquarium.

3. Overland Park, KS

Overland Park, KS
Photo by Benjamin White

Population: 178,945
Crime Rate: 52% safer than other cities in the U.S.
Median Home Price: $225,000

Overland Park offers some of the best public schools in the country, most from the top-rated Blue Valley Unified School District, so it’s easily one of the best places to raise children! This Kansas City suburb offers plenty of family fun with local attractions like Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead and Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. And, of course, KC metro attractions like LEGOLAND Discovery CenterScience City, the Kansas City Royals, and the Kansas City Chiefs are within driving distance!

2. Lincoln, NE

Lincoln, NE
Photo by Steve Cornelius

Population: 265,811
Crime Rate: 27% safer than other cities in the U.S.
Median Home Price: $144,900

Lincoln has recently gained national attention as a growing hub for tech startups, making it a great place for young families to find job opportunities. The city also has high ratings for safety, cost of living, and public education with highly-rated schools like Scott Middle School and Southwest High School. Favorites among family-friendly attractions include the Lincoln Children’s Museum and the Lincoln Children’s Zoo. Lincoln is also home to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, so that’s a plus for any Nebraska Huskers fans!

1. Brownsville, TX

Brownsville, TX
Photo by TravelingOtter

Population: 179,834
Crime Rate: 27% safer than other cities in the U.S.
Median Home Price: $81,900

Located at the southernmost tip of Texas, Brownsville offers families a comfortable climate, affordable living, safe neighborhoods, great schools, and plenty of fun, which is why it tops our list of best places to live with kids! The city shares a border with Mexican city Matamoros, so the area has a vibrant bi-national culture that culminates with the annual Charro Days Fiesta. The city also has outstanding public education with schools like Idea Brownsville Academy and South Texas Academy for Medical Professions. Regarding things to do in Brownsville, families enjoy the Children’s Museum of Brownsville, the Gladys Porter Zoo, and South Padre Island, which is only a 45-minute drive away!

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Safest Cities in the U.S.

Safety is always a top priority when it comes to children, so many families seek out cities or neighborhoods with low crime rates. Niche keeps a ranking of the safest cities based on total crime rate, including both violent crimes and property crimes. Here are the safest of the 150 most populous cities in the country.

  • Scottsdale, AZ
  • Glendale, CA
  • Irvine, CA
  • Cape Coral, FL
  • Port St. Lucie, FL
  • Boise, ID
  • Overland Park, KS
  • Henderson, NV
  • Plano, TX
  • Virginia Beach, VA

U.S. Cities with Best Public Education

Parents want what’s best for their children, and few things are more important than a quality education. Young families often choose their homes based on what school district they fall under, so why not choose a city for the same reason? Out of the 150 most populous cities, here are the U.S. cities with the best public education systems, according to Niche.

  • Scottsdale, AZ
  • Glendale, CA
  • Irvine, CA
  • San Diego, CA
  • Aurora, CO
  • Overland Park, KS
  • Raleigh, NC
  • Plano, TX
  • Arlington, VA
  • Virginia Beach, VA

Most Family-Friendly Cities in the U.S.

Many families love to get out of the house and hit the town for a day full of fun and adventure. To determine cities with the most family-friendly amenities, WalletHub created a “Family Fun” metric based on factors like number of playgrounds per capita, total parkland acreage, percentage of families with children, number of attractions, and more. According to their metrics, these are some of the most family-friendly cities in the U.S. with plenty of great activities to enjoy.

  • Oxnard, CA
  • Sacramento, CA
  • San Diego, CA
  • Denver, CO
  • Orlando, FL
  • Boise, ID
  • Minneapolis, MN
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Cincinnati, OH
  • Brownsville, TX

U.S. Cities with the Lowest Cost of Living

Settling down to start a family can be a costly endeavor, so location can make a huge difference. Cities with the lowest cost of living offer a huge advantage for young families that are planning to buy a home to support their growing family. Niche ranked the cities with the lowest cost of living in the U.S. using factors like median home cost, typical rent, housing cost to income ratio, grocery index, and more. Out of the 150 most populous cities, here are the most affordable cities in the country.

  • Montgomery, AL
  • Des Moines, IA
  • Fort Wayne, IN
  • Indianapolis, IN
  • Wichita, KS
  • Springfield, MO
  • Akron, OH
  • Cleveland, OH
  • Toledo, OH
  • Sioux Falls, SD

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*Our rankings were based on Niche’s findings, but had to be adjusted to account only for cities among the top 150 most populous cities in the U.S.