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5 Best Cities for Families in Oregon

Thinking of moving to Oregon? These awesome, affordable cities are perfect places to raise a family.

By Annette Benedetti on October 24, 2021

Neatly divided into distinct eastern and western regions by the Cascade Range, Oregon’s most family-friendly cities are as diverse as its landscape. With access to breathtaking wilderness areas, sweeping deserts and long stretches of coastline, families who value outdoor recreation thrive here. Similarly, those seeking access to arts and culture will find exceptional theater, live music and art museums even in the smallest towns.

From excellent schools to varied job opportunities to lifestyle options that fit a variety of family dynamics – the following are the five best cities for families in Oregon.

Beaverton, OR waterfront

1. Beaverton

If you are looking for a place to call home that offers easy access to the perks of both rural and big-city living, Beaverton is ideal. With a population of 97,229, Beaverton is the second-largest city in Washington County and is located just seven miles away from Portland. It also just nabbed the #3 spot on Livability’s 2018 Best Places to Raise a Family list.

While Portland is only a short drive away, this small town sits on the eastern edge of the Tualatin Valley and is surrounded by farmland, creating a peaceful oasis for its residents. With a whopping 90 park sites to explore with kids, your family will never get bored. And this small city boasts 30 miles of hiking trails and 25 miles of biking paths; so keeping the family active and healthy isn’t hard.

Job opportunities, especially in the tech industry, abound in Beaverton. Major tech employers include Maxim Integrated Products, Tektronix and VeriWave. But Beaverton is also home to one of the area’s biggest employers, Nike, which definitely helps contribute to the sporty, outdoorsy culture. 

Beaverton-area schools have received high ratings over the past couple of years, and the city’s access to higher education opportunities at schools like Anthem College and Portland Community College is a big bonus as well.

Bend OR downtown

2. Bend

This small town has everything the outdoor enthusiast family dreams of. Its location in the high desert of Central Oregon – with Mt. Bachelor and Smith Rock only a short drive away – makes it possible for residents to easily hit the slopes, scramble up Monkey Face or raft the Deschutes on the weekend. And those who crave the sunshine will be relieved to find out that while some areas of Oregon are known for being dark and wet, Bend is known for its generally sunny weather. It receives less than 12-inches of rain a year, so forget all your misconceptions about Oregon being a uniformly cold, rainy place. 

Bend recently experienced a 5.8% job increase, making it more accessible for families looking to move to a small Oregon town. The area’s biggest employer is St. Charles Health System, and the tourism industry is strong, providing an abundance of job options in the areas of retail and hospitality. Of course, Bend’s booming brewing industry is not to be overlooked for those looking for a career in beer.

Bend’s schools generally receive high ratings. Additionally, OSU-Cascades and Central Oregon Community College are big perks for residents looking to encourage their children to pursue higher education without moving far from home.

3. Ashland

Situated at the southernmost tip of Oregon’s stunning Rogue Valley, Ashland is just 15 miles from California. This culturally rich college town, with approximately 21,000 residents, is a big draw for families who value the arts and want to live with a community of makers and artisans. While Southern Oregon University is located in Ashland, what the city is best known for is being home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF), making it a beloved destination for theater-loving tourists each year.

Boasting an estimated 300 days of sunshine each year. This small Oregon town prioritizes the arts with year-round family-friendly activities that include live theater and music, independent films and diverse festivals – many of which are held in the town’s OSF’s Allen Elizabethan Theater and Lithia Park.

Families looking for a town with gorgeous green spaces are sure to be pleased with Lithia’s 93 acres of forested canyon land. It provides residents with expansive grasslands and forested areas to explore, as well as walking paths and playgrounds suited for families with little ones.

Ashland’s school system consistently earns high national scores for its quality of education. And there is a multitude of jobs available in higher education, tourism and healthcare.  

Eugene, OR aerial shot

4. Eugene

This city’s slogan says it all: “A great city for the arts and outdoors.†Nestled in the Willamette Valley and surrounded by mountains, Eugene’s 166,000 residents spend plenty of time outside hiking, biking, rafting and climbing. Often regarded as one of the healthiest places to live, because of the ability to pedal or walk almost everywhere, Eugene also prides itself on a low commute time of just 17 minutes due to lack of road congestion and an active community.

Along with having dreamy forests and nearby peaks to explore, Eugene has a reputation for being a great city for the arts. This comes from the large number of performing arts companies that call the small city home. They include Eugene Symphony, Eugene Opera, Eugene Ballet, Mozart Players, Eugene Concert Choir, Willamette Repertory Theatre, Oregon Bach Festival and The Shedd.

Eugene is home to the University of Oregon, which offers more than 300 undergraduate and graduate degree programs across a wide range of disciplines. It is also known for its excellent primary and secondary education and offers a “school of choice†policy that allows parents to choose which school they would like their kids to attend and request a transfer at certain times of the year.

Another draw for families looking for a safe place to call home is that Eugene is known for having a large variety of safe and friendly neighborhoods. In general, families with diverse interests and young children are sure to be pleased with this friendly city’s offerings.

Salem, OR capitol building

5. Salem

The state capital of Oregon definitely belongs on the list of the best family towns in Oregon. Not only is it still a relatively affordable place to buy a home in a smaller city with big city amenities – it’s located in the center of the Willamette Valley on the river and is surrounded by mountains and vineyards. Families looking for a small town with a big-city feel and fast access to outdoor recreation should put Salem on their list of places to check out.

There are an endless number of family-friendly activities that take place in Salem throughout the year. A farmers’ market or street festival is almost always being held somewhere in the city. The Salem Saturday Market runs from May through October and the annual World Beat Festival is held in June – just to name two. And with an array of kid-friendly theaters and museums like the Gilbert House Children’s Museum, there’s plenty to keep families with young children busy throughout the year.

With an abundance of quality state jobs available, Salem is a great place to grow your career. The city also has the second-largest public school system in the state and it rates well and offers families a variety of educational choices for their kids. Older children have the option of attending a nearby university with Willamette UniversityCorban University, and Chemeketa Community College calling Salem home.

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