We searched the country to find perfect places to live and raise kids. This year's winners offer more than affordable homes, great schools, and good neighbors -- they're also making smart moves to save the planet.
By Michael J. Weiss
Median income: $84,774
Median home price: $250,569
Households with children: 42%
Student/teacher ratio: 19:1
Residents who recycle: 51%
A funny thing happened this spring when Dana and Timothy Masek went cycling with their kids, Michael, 18; Joseph, 15; Stephanie, 13; Jacob, 8; and Samuel, 5. "We were hot and tired, so we parked our bikes and jumped in the lake," says Dana, 44. "You can do that here and no one bats an eye. Where else could you say that?" Situated 10 miles north of Minneapolis, Shoreview is a family-friendly town where housing is affordable, crime is low, and student test scores are way above average. But what residents rave about is the water -- 1,400 acres of wetlands, 11 lakes, and a community center with an indoor water park (hottest attraction: the Shark Attack waterslide). Families who live on the shorefront, like the Maseks, landscape with eco-friendly coconut fiber logs, switch grass, and flowers to prevent erosion. "It's the kids' job to compost, mulch, and replant," says Tim, 48, a fixed-income researcher. "They're learning that it's everyone's responsibility to keep our waters pristine."
Going for the Green: The town awards prizes for home eco-projects like building porous driveways that prevent oil and salt runoff. Winners receive bragging rights (a plaque to post outside) and a gift certificate for native plants.