See a slide show of all our Best Cities for Married With Kids.
MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA
On the first Saturday of each month, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis is free for families. They come in droves to enjoy its contemporary-art collection, including Claes Oldenburg's upside-down bag of french fries, and to make soft sculpture, be puppeteers and watch animated short films. The Walker is just one way that families can tap into an urban lifestyle in a metro area that's clean, progressive, studded with architectural gems, and laced with lakes, rivers and parks that are an easy walk from almost anywhere. The Twin Cities population is generally healthy, diverse and well educated -- the classic ingredients for a creative class.
||Best Cities for Young Singles|
||Best Cities for Mid-Level Professionals|
||Best Cities for Empty-Nesters|
||Best Cities for Retirees|
Over the past 30 years, the Twin Cities have attracted immigrants from Latin America and from as far away as Somalia, Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Plus, Minnesota ranks first in the nation for overall health of its residents, and child care is excellent, thanks to high state standards for quality. Families take advantage of the University of Minnesota's Children's Hospital and the Mayo Clinic.
Minnesota's public schools deserve their great reputation. In the Minneapolis suburb of Edina, Steve Henke, 47, a professional photographer, and his wife, Margo, 45, producer and co-owner of Henke Studio, wonder why parents would bother paying to send their kids to charter or private schools. Their daughters Adele, 14, and Celine, 13, are both in a French-immersion program. Still, per-capita spending on students has fallen in recent years, and class sizes have been rising. Many Minneapolis families now send their kids to public schools in the suburbs, exercising their "open enrollment" option.
A wealth of colleges and universities helps drive a dynamic economy. There are more than a dozen private colleges and two campuses of the University of Minnesota, plus schools of art and design, and community and technical colleges. "The U" is a leader among public research universities. President Bob Bruininks describes it as a "talent magnet" that fuels key state industries, including marketing, food processing, health, banking, biosciences and the arts.
Cultural opportunities for kids include the Children's Theater Company, in Minneapolis, as well as the Minnesota Children's Museum and the Science Museum of Minnesota, in St. Paul. For adults, there are 163 other art galleries and museums and more theater seats per capita than in any other U.S. city outside New York.
Transplants from the coasts will think housing is a steal. Northstar MLS reports that in 2006 the median price for a home in Minneapolis was $224,250, and in St. Paul, $200,000. In highly desirable Lake Minnetonka, the median price was $462,000. -- Patricia Mertz Esswein
What you'll love about the Twin Cities
The new Minneapolis Central Library, designed by Cesar Pelli, has special spaces for kids and teens, and a cafe to buy carry-around java.
The Minnesota Zoo, open year-round, is home to denizens of the wilds of Minnesota and other northern climates, and to natives of the rain forest and marine environments.
The Minnesota State Fair, located between the Twin Cities, begins in late August and offers top music acts and a great Midway (or Kidway). Fairgoers get to nosh on cheese curds, walleye and Pronto Pups (corn dogs).
Nestled between the Wasatch Mountain Range and Utah Lake in the heart of Utah Valley, Provo is a pleasant college town with a strong Mormon influence. A cost of living that's below the national average combined with a low crime rate and great recreational opportunities make it a compelling choice for families.
The Provo-Orem economy is one of the strongest in the country. Job growth is expected to reach almost 4% this year, according to Moody's Economy.com. Education, health-care and technology enterprises form the backbone of the creative economy. In nearby Lehi, IM Flash Technologies, a joint venture between Intel and Micron Technology to manufacture a type of flash memory, is well located to tap a young and highly educated workforce.
In 2006, local home prices appreciated almost 20%, compared with 6% nationally. But the housing frenzy appears to be cooling off. The median sale price for a single-family home stood at $227,000 in February, down from a high of $237,000 in September 2006. The area offers families plenty of hiking, biking and fishing. And for skiing and arts workshops, Robert Redford's Sundance resort is just up the canyon, 25 minutes away. -- Magali Rheault