Whether it’s a particular state you’re looking at moving to, or a city or town, there are hallmarks of a family-friendly location that are critical to watch for.
Of course, the idea of what’s family-friendly can depend on the family itself, but when you’re raising kids, certain features and amenities can make life easier and more fulfilling.
The following are features you might look for in a family-friendly location.
1. Good Schools
Good schools are probably your biggest consideration if you’re looking for a family-friendly place to call home.
Along with reading general things about a school system, there are certain factors that you can dive into more deeply to figure out if a location has a good school system.
You might spend some time with the principal of a school before making any final decisions on a location change, for example.
You can also take a visit to the school and get a feel for the atmosphere.
Even if you don’t have the chance to visit a school in person before your child enrolls, look at social media and see how active and involved parents seem to be.
The GreatSchools.org website is a good online resource to find out information on area schools, and you can look at factors like equity and test scores.
You can also talk to realtors in the local area you’re considering moving to, and they’ll be able to help you find out what the best schools are too.
2. Short Commutes
If you have to commute, looking for a location that’ll require the shortest drives is a family-friendly feature. Your goal is to spend as much time as you can with your children, and if you’re stuck in the car for hours a day, that’s not going to happen.
Not only do long commutes take time away from your family, but they’re not good for you mentally or physically, so they can prevent you from being the best possible parent.
You can learn a lot about how safe a location is online. You can start with the state by checking the FBI Crime Data Explorer. Once you have a feel for the general safety of the state, if you’re thinking about relocating, you can then look at other sites like AreaVibes, The Neighbors App, or Family Watchdog.
AreaVibes is a good tool to learn more about the overall safety of an area. The Neighbors App lets you talk to people in the community, and Family Watchdog can help you identify people on the sex offender registry. CityProtect is another tool for specific crime data, as is SpotCrime.
When you’re choosing an actual neighborhood, you want one that’s well-lit and where neighbors actively communicate with one another.
Walkable communities are great for families. These communities are safer when they’re designed with pedestrians and cyclists in mind. When your community is walkable, you can have peace of mind for your family, and there are more opportunities for all of you to get out and about and get exercise.
Some of the signs of a walkable community to look for include:
- The city or two leadership is committed to walkability. Many cities around the country have been actively working to reduce pedestrian and cyclist injuries and deaths, with things like crossing improvements, adding more crosswalks, and new sidewalks.
- Cities and towns that are pedestrian-friendly reward people who are on foot, according to America Walks. America Walks is an organization that works to increase how much people walk. For example, a building in a walkable city might be located close to the sidewalk, so you don’t have to trek across a parking lot.
- The crosswalks are pedestrian-friendly, with lights that let walkers plenty of time to get across. It’s never good when pedestrians constantly feel like they have to rush to make it to the other side of the street. Crosswalks should also have high-visibility stripes and yield to pedestrian signs, which can make drivers significantly more aware of pedestrians.
- Streets that are multi-purpose can be family-friendly. For example, maybe there are sidewalk cafes or public parks within city areas.
- Depending on where you’re thinking about moving, you might want to look at the public transit network and how accessible it is.
- Bike lanes with signs, road markings, and intersection signals help promote more cycling for families.
- How wide are the nearby streets? When roads are narrower, it tends to make drivers slow down, which can be safer for families.
- Are there connected networks of paths?
It’s difficult to afford to raise kids in big cities, where the cost of living is already astronomical in many cases. That’s why, when given the opportunity at the start of the pandemic, many people decided to move to lower-cost cities and states. For example, Texas and Tennessee saw an influx of new residents.
Affordability is a family-friendly concern because you might want to be able to afford a more spacious home, and perhaps one with its own outdoor space or a large yard. Affordability also matters in terms of groceries, transportation costs, taxes, and the cost of childcare.
Every family can have their own concept of what family-friendly amenities might look like for them, but frequently, families prioritize the proximity of nearby childcare, family-friendly shops and restaurants, and outdoor spaces and parks.
Amenities can also include frequent local events such as festivals and cultural activities, theaters, and museums.
7. Friendly People
Finally, a family-friendly community is often going to be one where the neighbors get to know one another and people have a generally welcoming and nice attitude toward one another. A place known for friendly residents is going to make it easier for you and your children to meet people if you’re moving. It’s hard to gauge how friendly people are unless you can visit potential new home locations in person. Some places do have reputations for being more friendly than others as well.