Best Places to Live

2016 10 Best Places to Raise a Family

Many of the key reasons Americans move revolve around doing what’s best for their families. We move at certain key stages – as we get married, as we have kids, as our kids become old enough for school, and as our kids head off to college.

The communities we choose to live in as we raise children are arguably the most important, as they tend to be some of the places we live the longest. Thus, Livability created this 10 Best Cities for Families list to offer some great examples of metros that truly stand out as great places to raise your kids.

We crunched the data. We looked at the quality of the schools, the crime rate, and measures of the quality of healthcare and economy. We gave points to communities that are walkable, diverse, have lots of parks and active children’s sections in their libraries. We favored communities with shorter commute times (so working parents can be home more and on the road less) and larger populations of other kids to play with.

As with all of our Top 10 lists, our data-driven process produces a shortlist which our editors then use to guide the selection of cities. We try to choose cities of a variety of sizes and in a variety of places. Not every city will necessarily be a perfect match, but our hope is that one of the 10 will be a good fit for you--and in this case for your family, too. You can check out more information on each of these 10 cities – and thousands more – on

Ranking Criteria
Percentage of School Age Children (5-18)
Number of Parks
Crime Rate
Graduation Rate
Quality of Schools in the Area
Walk Score
Average Commute Time
Number of Libraries
Percentage of Families in Poverty
  • 10

    Palo Alto, CA

    Population: 66,478
    Courtesy of Mith Huang under a CC 4.0 license.

    The saying, "You get what you pay for," definitely holds true in Palo Alto. While housing costs are some of the highest in the country, the amenities the city offers families are well worth the hefty price tag, making the city easily one of the Best Cities to Raise a Family.

    For starters, the Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) is one of the top-rated school districts in the country. It serves approximately 12,000 students, and is comprised of 12 elementary schools, three middle schools and two high schools. The district also sponsors the Palo Alto Adult School, which offers continuing education classes in a number of areas, from ESL and world languages, to personal development and career training. Then there's the Hospital School at Stanford's Lucille Packard Children's Hospital, which provides full-time accredited teachers to patients for bedside instruction or classes in a traditional classroom setting.

    Why Palo Alto is one of the best places to live in the U.S.

    PAUSD was ranked the 11th best school district in the country by the 2016 K-12 School & District Rankings, with Palo Alto elementary schools taking the top 11 spots on the website's list of the best elementary schools in California. Palo Alto High School was ranked the 31st best high school in California by U.S. News & World Reports. One reason for the success of the district is the support schools receive from involved parents, local businesses, government agencies, community organizations and area colleges and universities – all of which place a high value on education. With the West Coast's only Ivy League institution, Stanford University, in its backyard, it's no wonder the city boasts such a high educational attainment rate. More than 80 percent of adults have at least a bachelor's degree.

    No doubt, Palo Alto families work hard, but they also play hard. The city's location in the San Francisco Bay area gives families access to a host of cultural and recreational activities. Operated by the city, the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo gives families a place to explore science and nature up close. The zoo is home to more than 50 species of animals, from bats to bobcats, to ferrets and freshwater fish. The Community Services Department also manages a number of neighborhood and public parks, golf courses, and the city's Art Center, a Children's Theatre and a Nature Preserve. The Children's Library, the oldest free-standing children's library in the country, is also a popular spot families. The library features an impressive collection of books and other media for kids, from birth through fifth grade.

    Want something more reasonable? These Are The 5 Most Affordable Cities in CA

    One of Palo Alto's more charming family-friendly features is the number of quirky museums to thrill young minds. Fans of Apple products – both young and old – will get a kick out of tracing the company's evolution at the Computer History Museum in nearby Mountain View. Stanford's Cantor Arts Center offers art classes for kids, and the Museum of American Heritage features Frank Livermore's collection of 19th- and 20th-century technology items, such as wall-mounted an rotary dial telephones. Imagine that!