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10 Best Towns for Families

Diamond Bar, CA, and Morton Grove, IL Diamond Bar, California

Population: 59,735
Median Income: $78,972
Median Home Value: $552,000
Households with Children: 45%
Student/Teacher Ratio: 23:1

Every day Tania Peterson walks 3 miles through the streets of this sun-drenched Southern California town, watching joggers and cyclists graciously give the right-of-way to kids roller-skating and playing stickball. The hike is a daily reminder of what the 43-year-old mom loves most about this rugged valley, just a half-hour commute from Los Angeles. "Like everyone else, we live outdoors," says Tania, whose husband, Todd, 49, an electrical engineer, and son, Tim, 14, are into soccer and sailing. "It's so healthy." Lorbeer Middle School, where Tim plays baritone sax in the jazz band, has been designated a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence by the Department of Education, and nearby Diamond Bar High has one of the nation's top calculus programs. The town, proud of its diverse population -- 49 percent Asian and 14 percent Hispanic -- holds an annual festival with exotic fare from India and Korea. The laid-back lifestyle extends even to church, where shorts and sandals are welcome. "No one has to wear their Sunday best," says Tania. "That means everyone -- especially the kids -- feels relaxed."

Family-friendly perk: Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm, as well as the surf at Newport Beach and the ski slopes of Mt. Baldy, are all within 25 miles.

Morton Grove, Illinois

Population: 21,691
Median Income: $72,331
Median Home Value: $376,000
Households with Children: 30%
Student/Teacher Ratio: 15:1

On the tree-lined street where she lives, Kyle Olund, 48, a manager at a market research firm, counts families from five countries. That's typical in this cosmopolitan Chicago suburb, where one-third of residents are foreign-born. Although Kyle and her husband, Mike, 49, who works at a pharmaceutical company, moved here in 1994 for the schools and affordable homes, they consider diversity an added dividend for daughters Sydney, 15, and Darce, 18. "The girls appreciate different kinds of people," says Kyle. "I think that will make them more compassionate -- and more capable -- when they go out into the world." The Olunds often hit Chicago's theaters and museums when they get a craving for culture. But they prefer the quiet life in this century-old village, where life's little pleasures are appreciated and moments are meant to be savored. "You wouldn't think of going to the dry cleaner without stopping and chatting a while," says Mike. "People here have time for one another."

Family-friendly perk: About 20 percent of the town's land is set aside as a forest preserve for running, walking, cycling, and picnics.