Every year, thousands of families across the U.S. search for the best places to live in the Midwest. But why? The reasons are simple: a lower cost of living, access to nature, job opportunities, and, perhaps most importantly, fun, safe communities. For many, it is a world away from coastal cities.
This post looks at the top places to live in the Midwest. It avoids blanket city recommendations and instead lists the best suburban areas to live, based on factors families care about most, such as community spirit.
Des Moines Metropolitan Area, Iowa
Des Moines is Iowa’s state capital. And while it might be a big place, it’s also one of the best for families. The suburban metropolitan area boasts some of the best schools in the region such as Ankeny, Johnston, Urbandale, Waukee, and West Des Moines. Local attractions include Adventureland – a top amusement park – Blank Park Zoo, the Science Center of Iowa, Living History Farms – where you can learn about how people lived in the past – and Lauridsen Skate Park.
The city also has an excellent reputation, despite its low cost of living. It’s currently ranked as a top ten destination for business and careers and the third most affordable place to live in the country.
In terms of education, the City of Des Moines is home to Drake University, recognized as one of the finest universities in the Midwest. Plus, within easy driving distance are Iowa University in Iowa City and Iowa State University in Ames.
Crime in the metropolitan area is low compared to the national average.
Carmel, a suburb around 25 miles from Indianapolis, is one of the most desirable locations not only in the Midwest but also in the country as a whole. Money Magazine said it was the third best place to live in the U.S. And Safewise called it the fourth safest city to raise a child.
Educational institutions in the suburb are exceptional. Carmel High School, for instance, is widely recognized as one of the best places for children and teens to get an education in the state. It’s home to more than 5,000 students and over two hundred highly-rated teachers.
Carmel’s atmosphere is also positive. Residentials benefit from a neighborhood feel, a thriving arts scene, plenty of entertainment, and participatory civil society.
Clayton, Missouri offers residents an urban-suburban mix. Most families who move to the area own their own homes and enjoy quick access to shops, restaurants, and bars.
Niche recently rated Clayton as A+ for families. The suburb of just over 16,000 people has excellent public schools, reasonable housing costs, and safety. The median rent in the area is $1,334, a reasonable figure compared to the nation as a whole.
Communities in the suburb of St, Louis, such as Old Town and Tanglewood feel welcoming and locals often gather in yards or at community centers to talk to each other. The city is also close to Washington University – great for families looking to send their teens to college locally.
Madeira, a suburb of Cincinnati, comes highly rated for its friendly locals and fun vibe. It’s close to some great amenities, including the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens, Bonnell Park, and Silverton Field. There are also bowling alleys, bars, and plenty of amusements, such as Etter’s Custom Golf Center.
According to Niche, Madeira is the second best place to raise a family in the entire country. As such, it offers practically everything sensible families look for in a place to live. It gets top marks for its public schools, housing, and rural feel with parents loving the area for its many parks, coffee shops, and restaurants.
Madeira is also home to many retirees, so crime is low. But this can also make it feel quiet.
Brentwood is an attractive suburb of St. Louis with a population of just 8,023. Even so, it remains exceptionally popular among families, thanks to its low cost of living and excellent schools.
Median house prices here are just $222,200, which is considerably lower than both the Midwestern and national average. Most properties sit in their own plots, and there is plenty of open space for kids and dog walking nearby.
Top schools in the suburb include the Mark Twain Elementary School and the Brentwood High School, both National Blue Ribbon Award winners. Other excellent schools according to Niche, include the Bristol Elementary School, the Steger Sixth Grade Center, and the Maplewood-Richmond High School, all of which are in the top thirty for the state as a whole.
Overall, Brentwood has a quiet, peaceful attitude. Most parents who move to the area integrate with the local community via their children’s schools.
Prairie Village, Kansas
There’s no place like home, especially in Prairie Village, Kansas. This attractive suburb is just 20 minutes from downtown Kansas City and is considered one of the city’s best. When built in 1949, the National Association of Home Builders named Prairie Village the best-planned community in America thanks to its excellent transport.
Residents move to the area for its “village” feel, part of the city’s mission. Prairie Village is confident about what it is, and what it wants to become. It is happy to remain a small place, offering local residents a traditional way of life that feels unchanged since the 1950s. Families move to the area for its variety of housing options, recreational opportunities, decent job market, and pedestrianized center.
Ottawa Hills, Ohio
Ottawa Hills in Lucas County is a Toledo suburb, known for its unique family-focused community. Parents here espouse family values, making it ideal for anyone looking to raise their children in a traditional, safe environment.
There’s a lot of fun to be had, too. Ottawa Hills runs its own summer camp for kids where they can take part in art, dance, cooking, sewing, chess, science, and sports. And it is close to various amusements, including the Wildwood Preserve Metropark, the University of Toledo, and Toledo Zoo & Aquarium.
Average home prices in the region are around $300,000 with 80 percent of people owning outright. It’s a wealthy area, with a median household income of $139,000 per year.
Richmond Heights, Missouri
Richmond Heights is a small place with a population of just 8,457 people. Even so, it is lively and one of the best places to live in Missouri (and the Midwest as a whole). It recently won an A+ rating on the Niche Report Card, thanks to the quality of its public schools and welcoming atmosphere for families.
The suburb is actually quite close to the center of St. Louis, so it has a dense feel and is popular among young professionals. Families move to the area because of its excellent educational institutions, housing, and amenities.
The only downside? Crime. Niche recently rated it “C”, meaning it’s about average.
Chesterfield, Missouri, is another St. Louis suburb. Despite only being founded in 1988, it is already one of the most popular destinations for families and their children across the country.
Local people dub it “the city of Volunteers,” thanks to its citizens’ history of helping in community projects. Virtually everyone in the local area knows each other, and new families are always welcome.
Chesterfield offers a high standard of living for anyone moving to the local area. It’s home to Faust Park which offers a playground, walking trails, a carousel, and a historic village. Many families also visit Butterfly House, a large greenhouse home to thousands of butterflies showing them at every stage of their life, from tiny larvae to beautiful butterflies emerging from their cocoons.
Leawood, a part of the Kansas City metro area tops our list of best places to live in the Midwest. While house prices might be a little higher than many of the other suburbs mentioned here, the region makes up for it in terms of job opportunities for young professionals, and amenities for children.
Niche rates public schools in the area as A+ and gives its stamp of approval for families to move there. Housing in the region is also exceptional with its sparse suburban feel: perfect for those who want to get away from dense urban areas, traffic, and pollution. The cost of living is reasonable, and there are also plenty of health and fitness opportunities to enjoy.
Because Leawood is a part of the greater Kansas City metro area, it shares the city’s community-driven ethos and mindset. Neighborhoods always cooperate, and local people tend to be friendly, making it a great place for children. Driving down the streets, owners keep homes in pristine conditions, with manicured front yards and beautiful facades.
Thumping music at night is also unlikely. As a family-orientated area, there are rarely wild parties, if ever. People in the area embrace peace and tranquility.
Best Places to Live in the Midwest
Living in the Midwest offers many benefits, from a lower cost of living to excellent schools. But perhaps the biggest draw of becoming a Midwest family is the community spirit, fun and excitement the place offers. It’s good vibes all-around.
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