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No. 9: Des Moines, Iowa

Des Moines’s friendly, hometown atmosphere, top public schooling and affordable cost of living make it an ideal place to raise a family.

MAGNET FOR FAMILIES

Population: 532,425Population Growth Since 2000: 9.6%Percentage of Workforce in Creative Class: 32.1%Cost-of-Living Index: 90.6 (100 being national average)Median Household Income: $53,384Income Growth Since 2000: 16.3%

Des Moines’s friendly, hometown atmosphere, top public schooling and affordable cost of living make it an ideal place to raise a family. But it also has big city amenities, including a growing arts scene with galleries, a symphony orchestra, a ballet and opera, trendy shops and an expanding skyscraper cityscape.

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The local economy is gaining momentum as well. Jobs will increase mainly in finance, insurance, government and manufacturing. About 60 insurance companies here make the city the third largest insurance center in the world

Housing is still affordable. The median price for a single-family home is just under $150,000. In the northwest suburbs, for example, a 2,100-square foot three-bedroom home will go for $165,000. For those seeking trendier accommodations, a one-bedroom condo in the downtown’s newly redeveloped Western Gateway neighborhood can fetch a price of under $130,000, while a 2,700-square foot, newly renovated Victorian home in the western suburbs can go for just under $330,000.

For summer fun, Des Moines offers trails for hiking and biking and lakes for boating and fishing, the Adventureland amusement park, an annual arts festival at the city’s Western Gateway Park and the annual Iowa State Fair. While you’re there, don’t miss the traditional "butter cow" sculpture made from 600 lbs. of low-moisture, pure cream Iowa butter.

NEXT: No. 10 -- Provo

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