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10 Best Towns for Families

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Cedar Park, TX, and Derby, KS Cedar Park, Texas

Population: 36,029
Median Income: $76,266
Median Home Value: $206,914
Households with Children: 49%
Student/Teacher Ratio: 15:1

Marilyn and Doug Fisher were still newlyweds when they moved here in 1990. Since then both they and Cedar Park have seen a population boom. The Fishers are now a party of five -- with Erin, 8, Grant, 15, and Jake, 17 -- while the town has doubled in size. Schools offer the rigorous International Baccalaureate Program, and the job market is teeming (Marilyn, 43, is an oil sales rep and Doug, 45, is a financial analyst). And Austin, where the Fishers like to catch college games and scarf down burritos at their favorite Mexican eatery, is only 17 miles away. "We've got everything we need here," says Marilyn. "Cedar Park is a haven for families."

Family-friendly perk: To raise funds for the anticrime group National Night Out, residents last year held 41 block parties, Texas BBQ included.

Derby, Kansas

Population: 18,928
Median Income: $67,668
Median Home Value: $146,807
Households with Children: 43%
Student/Teacher Ratio: 16:1

Since moving to this suburb 10 miles south of Wichita, Jim Urso, 45, a director of facilities at Boeing, has been offered better-paying jobs in other cities several times. He always said no. "I can be home for lunch in 10 minutes and get back early enough to hang out with my kids after school," says Jim, dad to Alexandra, 12, Stefanie, 15, Danielle, 17, and Kristin, 23. His wife, Tamie, 48, agreed with his decision to stay every time. She couldn't bear to give up the sweet, slow weekends spent sitting in lawn chairs and sipping iced tea with friends, fellow moms, and neighbors. "There's absolutely no rat race around here," she says. No housing bubble, either. Derby is still highly affordable, with spacious three-bedroom ranch homes selling for as little as $150,000. And the brightest lights in this small town are the old-fashioned Friday Night kind -- those at the playing field during varsity football games. "There's only one high school, so everyone rallies around the students," says Tamie. "Rooting for our kids brings the whole community together."

Family-friendly perk: At Rock River Rapids water park, 2,000 kids a day get their kicks with state-of-the-art water slides, a 600-foot "lazy river," and a 50-meter lap pool.