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Why St. Joseph, Missouri, Is a Great Place To Raise a Family

St. Joseph has an affordable cost of living, great family-friendly amenities and educational opportunities. Local parents share what they love about raising a family in St. Joe.

By Rebecca Treon on November 1, 2022

Illuminate Entertainment Co. in St. Joseph, MO
Lura Landis Photography

St. Joseph, Missouri, has lots to offer for those looking to put down roots and raise a family, from affordable housing and a lower cost of living to a welcoming community and loads of family-friendly amenities.

When it comes to educational opportunities, St. Joseph offers a number of quality public and private options, plus higher education at Missouri Western State University.

There are plentiful community events as well as great options for extracurriculars.

“There is always something happening for parents and for kids — Chamber of Commerce events like Parties on the Parkway and there are downtown outdoor events every Friday,” says LaTonya Williams, Executive Director of the Bartlett Center, a member of the St. Joseph School District School Board and single mother of three girls. “If you look, you will find it. I don’t have the time to do everything I want to do.”

The Reilly family in front of the historic home they are restoring in St. Joseph, MO
The Reilly family is renovating this historic home in St. Joseph, MO.

Home Sweet Home

The American Dream of owning a home is out of reach in many cities with home prices ballooning over the past few years. As the flexibility of remote work allows people to live and work in less urban settings close to their office, many have decided on homeownership and relocation to rural areas, inflating real estate prices nationwide.

“We’re getting ready to sell our Craftsman bungalow, which we bought for about $69,000 in 2013 — housing prices are definitely very favorable here even with the market being as crazy as it is across the country,” says Emily Baumann, a local entrepreneur and mother of two. “Compared to how much my friends are paying in other cities, even St. Louis and Kansas City are so much more expensive than St. Joseph. If you want to raise a family, it’s more affordable here.”

In St. Joseph, the dream of being a homeowner is still a reality — housing prices are lower here than in the rest of the country, so you can afford more house for your money. The average home price in the area is $140,824 according to Zillow, compared to the national average of $355,852. And if you’re a DIY-er looking for a project you can sink your teeth into, St. Joseph is full of historic and affordable fixer-uppers that need a little TLC.

“The house prices are good and you get more bang for your buck,” says Baumann. “We didn’t want to be house poor or in crushing debt, we wanted to be able to travel and not be stressed about a house payment.”

Williams seconds this, saying that even though affordability is relative, the cost of living in St. Joseph allows her to have money to fund her daughters’ extracurricular activities.

“St. Joseph is more affordable compared to other locations in our area, like Kansas City,” she says. “As far as affordability, what’s affordable to me may not be for someone else, but it depends on what’s really important to you — for me, it’s that my children participate in dance — so if it’s important to you, you’ll find a way.”

The Remington Nature Center in St. Joseph, MO
Courtesy of St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce
Remington Nature Center in St. Joseph, MO.

Playtime

St. Joseph has tons of family-friendly amenities that are great for people looking to have fun with their kids and have a good quality of life. The public library is an excellent resource for people of all ages, but it has plentiful programs for kids like story time, reading with therapy dogs and take-and-make crafts. There are many local parks throughout the city, including Hyde Park, which has a splash pad.

The St. Joseph Parkway is a 26-mile park and parkway system that winds through the city linking trails, green spaces, recreational facilities and parks. Numerous festivals, concerts and other cultural events take place there year-round and it’s widely viewed as one of the city’s best features. Forward-thinking when it was planned in the early 1900s, the Parkway is now a historic district.

“I definitely think that the coolest amenity we have that’s evolved over the past 100 years is the Parkway — it’s very accessible, everyone lives within a couple of miles of it and it has paved trails throughout the park for walking, running, cycling … . It’s just a wonderful asset that offers so many outdoor activities,” says Baumann. “There’s a lot of entertainment connected to the Parkway. There are concerts in mid-spring to autumn, the city puts on events like scavenger hunts, people come there for birthday parties or just to play yard games.”

The city is also home to 14 museums, and will soon include a Children’s Discovery Center, which will be a new amenity for current and future residents.

Phil Welch Stadium in St. Joseph, MO.
Courtesy of St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce
Phil Welch Stadium in St. Joseph, MO.

You’re Welcome

St. Joseph is a friendly and supportive community that welcomes new people and has plenty of ways to get involved.

“St. Joseph is a medium-size city with small-town connections — it’s easy to meet people and make connections and get to know them, but it’s not so small that you feel trapped,” says Baumann. “You may know people and their families but it’s also big enough that you have a career and have a life and you don’t know everybody’s business — we have a nice, calm, mid-size city vibe and it’s not go-go-go like a city is.”

The Bartlett Center, where Williams works, is another great example of a community center that offers a place where parents can not only find childcare and other resources, but also can participate in community activities like yoga classes.

“There are before and after-school programs and we do community outreach programs for parents on parenting and other topics,” says Williams. “Involvement is everything when it comes to your kids engaging in extracurricular activities. I’ve joined organizations like the Junior League just to be engaged in my community, and my girls dance and perform locally and are in various organizations as well. Being engaged is what gives you a sense of community.”

This article was sponsored by the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce.

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