In our yearly roundup of perfect places to raise kids, we salute these communities for their affordable homes, green spaces, blue-ribbon schools, and giving spirit.
By Seema Nayyar
Median Income: $59,755
Median Home Price: $119,900
Households with Children: 37%
Student/Teacher Ratio: 17:1
Great Schools Rating: 7
Karen Trice, 42, wasn't too keen on leaving northern New Jersey for this Greenville suburb when her husband got a job in the area in 2002. But Vernon, 44, a computer technician and consultant, wasn't complaining. "Here, a four-bedroom house with a quarter-acre of land costs half what it does around New York City—and there are great schools too," he says. "That, to me, was the big ticket."
Now a stay-at-home mom to Jackson, 14; Skyler, 12; Arley, 8; Aja, 7; and Aaron, 4, Karen has since come around to Simpsonville's many charms. The kids take swimming, soccer, and gymnastics classes at the Y, slide and surf at Discovery Island Waterpark, and catch hi-def movies at the brand new IMAX theater. The local elementary school has 1,200 students, but it's warm and personal, thanks to administrators, teachers, and parent volunteers working together.
Even Mauldin Middle School, where there are five music bands, offers a supportive environment. "Jackson plays clarinet in the wind ensemble," says Karen. "It isn't an easy age, but this is the kind of crowd you want your 14-year-old to hang out with."
While she sometimes misses the diversity of the big city, Karen loves Simpsonville's small-town lifestyle. "We've planted new roots here," she says. "It's quiet, easygoing, family-friendly—there's definitely a nice vibe."
Good Deeds: Hundreds of volunteers turn out every year at Freedom Weekend Aloft, a four-day spring festival with hot air balloon rides, concerts, and crafts that raises up to $50,000 for programs that provide health education for women and help tween girls develop self-esteem.