We set out to find communities across the country that combine big-city opportunities with suburban charm, locations that offer an ideal blend of affordable houses, good jobs, top-rated schools, wide-open spaces, and a lot less stress. Here are the results of Family Circle's extensive research: Perfect places to call home.
When Americans choose an area to live in, most of us yearn for the same things: fewer crowds; less concrete and hassles; more serenity, nature, and neighbors we can count on. That's why Family Circle singled out these small cities, where living costs, commute times, and crime rates are low, and the educational and cultural scenes are way above average. In all of them, moms and dads are stepping up to help their children thrive; they volunteer in schools, coach sports teams, and keep bike trails clean. As the people in these top towns will tell you, life is good. And if your community isn't among the winners, read on to learn ways you can make it warmer and friendlier.Castle Rock, Colorado
Median Income: $78,403
Median Home Value: $267,500
Households with Children: 48%
Student/Teacher Ratio: 21:1
Kristal Dulleck, 39, and her husband, Mitch, 40, a telecommunications analyst, left San Francisco seven years ago, looking for a rustic place to raise their kids. They found it in this Rocky Mountain town, which combines a booming economy, frontier-era events like rodeos, and true neighborly spirit. When a blizzard dumped 3 feet of snow last winter, a dozen of the Dullecks' neighbors banded together to dig out driveways. "It turned into a big party," says Kristal. "People around here take care of one another." The Dullecks can often be found hiking, picnicking, or cheering from the sidelines at 11-year-old daughter Mackenzie's swim meets or 15-year-old son Tyler's lacrosse games. The kids like the peaceful, easy feeling that comes with the low crime rate. "We can leave our bikes out at night and no one will take them," says Kenzie. "Cool."
Family-friendly perk: The town spent $2 million this year to buy land with a 6,785-foot butte; the reward for making the 20-minute hike is an awesome view.