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10 Best Towns for Families: 2008

By Michael J. Weiss
Rated by 60 people


 Ankeny, Iowa

Ankeny, Iowa

Population: 31,598

Median income: $69,703

Median home price: $164,500

Households with children: 42%

Student/teacher ratio: 21:1

Residents who recycle: 44%

Steve and Jill Arneson says it's the little things that add up to the good life in Ankeny. Turn a corner, and you'll see flower beds with geraniums and prairie grasses, courtesy of the Master Gardeners volunteer program. On Friday nights people bring lawn chairs and picnic baskets to Wagner Park to catch a classic, kid-friendly movie. At the June regatta on Saylorville Lake, teens race to the finish line in homemade cardboard boats. "A lot of them sink, but nobody minds getting wet," says Steve, 48, a middle-school counselor and father of Laura, 18, Emily, 15, and Kelsey, 12.

In this Des Moines suburb, the streets are safe and the mood is laid-back and relaxed. "Parents don't freak out when their teenagers walk around after midnight," says Laura. "None of my friends have curfews." Moms and dads also place a premium on education. Voters recently approved an $83 million bond issue -- the largest in the state -- to build a new high school and upgrade existing facilities. Area schools rank among the best in Iowa for academics, sports, and music. And the town has lots of recreational centers, including the popular 120-acre Prairie Ridge complex. "Steve says it's like a huge restaurant menu -- there are so many options for your kids that it's hard to choose," says Jill, 45, an elementary-school teacher. "We've got an embarrassment of riches."

Going for the Green: To conserve energy, the new police headquarters will use geothermal power, saving an estimated $136,000 in heating and cooling costs each year.

Neighborhood content provided by OnBoard LLC. Copyright 2008 OnBoard LLC. Information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed.

Originally published in the August 2008 issue of Family Circle magazine.

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