7. Rochester, NY (tie)
Average home cost: $111,000
Number of parks: 136
- Has one of the highest rates of pediatricians per capita of any city in our survey
- Spends a great deal of money on education -- more than $9,000 per student
- Has decreased crime about 30% in the last six years
- Boasts the Strong Museum (kids can view the world's largest doll collection) and the George Eastman House and International Museum of Photography and Film (the Discovery Room offers hands-on exhibits for kids)
City highlight: Chili, NY, a small suburban town abutting Rochester, started the first American youth soccer league more than 100 years ago, launching a coed sports pastime that now defines the region. Rochester has more soccer-playing youth per capita than any other city in America, with up to 900 8- to 14-year-old kids a year participating in winter indoor and summer outdoor leagues. "There are some real soccer fanatics here," says Dick Allen, manager of athletics and aquatics in Rochester's Bureau of Parks and Recreation. "The kids draw quite a crowd."
Sponsored by Quad A (a community foundation), YMCAs, churches, and more, the teams play on dozens of area fields and gymnasiums -- the largest parks and recreation system in the state after New York City. Now the city plans to construct even more soccer fields to accommodate the growing league.