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Top 10 Best Cities for Families 2014
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10. Madison, Wis.
Kicking off the Top 10 is Madison. Wisconsin's capital has something to keep even the most active families busy indoors and outdoors, even in the winter. Learn a thing or two while you ride out a rainy afternoon at the Madison Children's Museum, the Olbrich Botanical Garden's Bolz Conservatory or the UW-Madison Geology Museum. Enjoy the great outdoors at one of the city's beaches, five lakes, or bike and walking trails. Out of the city's many parks, the 45-acre Vilas Park stands above the rest by also featuring a beach and the Henry Vilas Zoo, which has no admission fee. It isn't all recreation, though. The city knows how to get down to business, with a 4.8 percent unemployment rate in 2013. Bonus: If you'd like a change of scenery for the weekend, Chicago and Milwaukee are within easy road trip distance.
9. Virginia Beach, Va.
For the family invested in art, the environment and having loads of outdoor entertainment options, there is Virginia Beach. It's more than just a gorgeous vacation spot. Due to Virginia Beach's dedication to public art, the 497-square-mile city (249 square miles of land) currently has 51 pieces displayed, bringing culture and community to the city year-round. On the environmental front, the city is researching how to extend the Tide Light Rail system from nearby Norfolk. You can't get more kid-friendly than a place called Beach Street USA, home to a boardwalk filled with street artists of every variety in the warmer months, and where swearing isn't allowed.
8. Raleigh, N.C.
Rich in good schools and higher education opportunities, the capital of North Carolina provides numerous opportunities for learners of all ages. Outside the classroom, the city offers venues like Marbles Kids Museum and Historic Yates Mill County Park. Learn about renewable energy and clean transportation at the North Carolina Solar Center's State University Solar House. Experience any number of live performances at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts. Your healthy food options aren't just at the grocery store; the year-round State Farmers Market includes 75 acres of indoor and outdoor shops, restaurants and a garden center. Capital City BMX hosts races for bike lovers.
7. Worcester, Mass.
In Worcester, it's best to get outside and get involved. Free outdoor concerts at Pinecroft Dairy and Restaurant are ideal for picnicking families. Fans of nature and hiking can try out spots all over the city, including Boyton Park, Broad Meadow, Cascades Park and East Side Trail. Kids can get a mix of nature, education and adventure at Ecotarium, which includes animals, a planetarium, and indoor and outdoor activities, as well as science and nature exhibits. Residents of Worcester get their fill of arts and culture at attractions such as the annual Grecian festival, the Worcester Art Museum, the Worcester Historical Museum and the Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts. Parents can have a fun night on the town at the new Brew Woo Craft Beer Festival.
6. Richmond, Va.
A city filled with art and history, Richmond is also known for its strong private schools, specifically the Maggie L. Walker Governor's School for Government and International Studies. A few of its artistic and entertainment highlights include the Ada Gallery, the Visual Arts Center of Richmond, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Modlin Center for the Arts, Richmond Centerstage and the Richmond Ballet. Expand your child's view of the world at the Science Museum of Virginia. Enjoy the beauty of nature at one of the several gardens and historical homes in the city, such as Maymont, Agecroft Hall, Ashland Berry Farm and Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.
5. Allentown, Penn.
Early America comes to life in Allentown with historical experiences at the Museum of Indian Culture and The Liberty Bell Museum at the Historic Zion's Church, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The church housed people during Indian raids, acted as a hospital during the Revolutionary War, and during the same period protected the Liberty Bell. Move forward in time with America on Wheels, a road transportation museum sure to entertain the vehicle buff in your family. On the artistic side, every member of the family can take classes at a community school, The Baum School of Art. Expand your children's imaginations at the Da Vinci Science Center, or give them a good dose of culture with the Allentown Art Museum, Allentown Symphony Hall and Civic Theatre in Lehigh Valley.
4. Dallas, Texas
"Big D" is known for its many exceptional public and private schools. Outside the classroom, you can extend your child's education with experiences throughout the city. The Arboretum and Botanical Garden is a 66-acre, nationally recognized attraction dedicated to preserving horticulture and educating patrons. Visitors can attend classes or just take in the sights, which include a life science laboratory. It also features the Rory Meyers Children's Adventure Garden, which connects children with nature through 17 galleries that focus on specific science themes. Get a large dose of fresh air at the new Trinity River Audubon Center, which offers activities like camping, paddling, archery, fishing, nature photography and more. It's located by the 6,000-acre Great Trinity Forest, the largest urban hardwood forest in the United States.
3. Nashville, Tenn.
Known as Music City, Nashville is home to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, which features musical artifacts and changing exhibits. It also has the Grand Ole Opry, which honors the biggest stars of the genre. Non-fans of country music still have plenty to enjoy. The Frist Center for the Visual Arts has exhibits that change every six to eight weeks. It features hands-on crafts, classes and interactive areas for kids. Get a lesson in American history at a national historical landmark by visiting The Hermitage, President Andrew Jackson's Greek Revival mansion, built in 1821. Take a closer look at the man gracing the $20 bill through his 1,000-acre estate.
2. Colorado Springs, Colo.
Colorado Springs is for families looking to explore the great outdoors. Try Seven Falls, "the grandest mile of scenery in Colorado," which—as the name suggests—has seven waterfalls. Travel the 19-mile-long Pikes Peak Highway, the world's highest toll road, which offers the scenic route to the summit of the mountain. Take a tour and explore the 1890s Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine by going 100 shafts into the Earth. It's the only 1,000-foot vertical shaft gold mine tour in the country.
1. Boston, Mass.
Returning to the No. 1 spot, Boston is a city filled with good schools, a low unemployment rate and scores of cultural opportunities for the whole family. Take a walk through time on the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile course that takes you to 16 important locations in the struggle for American independence, including Paul Revere's house and the site of the Boston Massacre. Experience all facets of the world around us at the Harvard Museum of Natural History, home to 12,000 specimens culled from the collections of other Harvard museums, including dinosaurs, meteorites and gemstones. Indulge in historical and contemporary art exhibits throughout the city with the Public Art Walk. Use the interactive map to plan your art-gazing journey and see what the latest additions include.