Buying a Home: The 10 Best Cities for Families

5. Orlando

Population: 180,308
Average home cost: $129,200
Number of parks: 92

  • Offers an extensive magnet-school program, including an economics curriculum for elementary school students
  • Will open 36 new ball fields by 2002
  • Boasts a low unemployment rate and high predicted job growth
  • Has great spots for family excursions, from the Disney theme parks (an Aladdin magic carpet ride opens at the Magic Kingdom this month) to the Orlando Science Center (kids can climb a tree and turn oranges into juice)

City highlight: Most water parks make waves with thrill rides-perfect for teens, but inappropriate for toddlers. Water Mania, however, puts as much emphasis on family as on flumes, offering lifeguard-supervised attractions and free life vests for young children. A big hit: the Rain Train, a life-size locomotive with water sprays in its stack, wheels, and slides. Kids also love hanging out on the Pirate Ship, featuring rope ladders, water guns, and slides, or playing on tricycles that shoot water.

There's also lots to do as a family. A gang can float down Cruisin' Creek, an 850-foot tropical river filled with foam animals, or enjoy the park's 3 acres of picnic area, with a playground and a basketball court.

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