Buying a Home: The 10 Best Cities for Families

4. Miami

Population: 369,253
Average home cost: $126,400
Number of parks: 94

  • Offers the nation's largest magnet-school program, with 78 fields of study, including the newly added mechanical engineering, commercial art, and biomedicine
  • Raised the scores on a second-grade standardized reading test by 13 points from 1999 to 2000
  • Reduced crime by 40% since 1993, thanks largely to increased cooperation with the community and expanded after-school programs for kids
  • Is jam-packed with places to visit on family outings, like the Miami Museum of Science & Space Transit Planetarium (kids 6 and under take a trip around the solar system during the Rusty Rocket space show) and the Miami Metrozoo (which offers a behind-the-scenes tour)

City highlight: Miami is synonymous with beaches, so it's not surprising that it boasts one of the splashiest in the country for families -- Crandon Beach Park. Its offshore sandbar aids young swimmers by taking the edge off incoming surf. Kids love playing in the gentle water, building sandcastles, and going to the adjacent amusement center, with its newly restored 1949 carousel, free outdoor roller rink, and splash fountain.

Little nature lovers can walk or bike to the 200-acre Crandon Park Gardens, complete with a Tropical Jungle Hayride that carries visitors into dense vegetation. Walking trails lead to canoe-filled lakes and local wildlife. And during nature programs, children can get up close to creatures as diverse as seahorses, reptiles, and birds while learning about their environments.

Families can expand on their wildlife experience with a trip to nearby Parrot Jungle Island, a world-famous a bird sanctuary. It features a petting zoo where parrots will land on your little one's shoulder, providing a perfect photo opportunity.

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