Parents intuitively know it, and scientific research also backs it up: Where we live closely influences how we live. It comes as no surprise, then, that American parents tend to look at a wide range of factors before they choose a place to settle in and start a family. From home prices and neighborhood safety to the proximity of reputable schools and popular recreation opportunities, there is certainly a lot to consider. Naturally, affordability and infrastructure score the highest on the priority list for parents, but recreation deserves its own place, too.

Access to parks, playgrounds, sports & spectator venues, swimming pools, and other family-friendly community amenities largely impacts children’s physical development, promotes their mental well-being and simply makes them happier.

Without further ado, here are the cities that rank best when it comes to making unforgettable childhood memories:

Pittsburgh, PA, Offers the Most Child-Friendly Recreational Options

Quick to snatch first place in our ranking is the “City of Bridges,” thanks to a balanced combination of community amenities that address both indoor and outdoor activities for children and parents alike.

Pittsburgh, PA, is turning heads thanks to its recent emergence as a hub for the education, tech, and healthcare industries – in fact, there are 3.3 health centers per 1,000 locals. What truly turns Pittsburgh into Kidsburgh, however, is the array of family-friendly outdoor and indoor destinations that range from riverfront activities, recreation areas and hiking spots to various amusement parks, museums and science centers that go out of their way to cater to the younger members of the household, as well. A regular day out on the town could start with riding one of the two inclines overlooking the Downtown area, followed by a delicious meal at your favorite kid-friendly restaurants that satisfy even the pickiest palates. You’ll find it especially easy to pick a place to eat at, given that Pittsburgh boasts the 4th largest number of restaurants relative to population. You could continue the fun with a visit to the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh or the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, but if the weather allows, your crew will be just as delighted to hit the trails, go on a cycle tour through the city, or enjoy a more laidback afternoon at one of the countless parks or playgrounds. Sports buffs will also find the 10th largest number of basketball hoops and the 4th greatest number of swimming pools in Pittsburgh, so you can always bond with the entire family while shooting hoops or swimming laps.

View of downtown Pittsburgh from top of the Duquesne Incline, Mount Washington, in Pittsburgh, PA
View of downtown Pittsburgh from the top of the Duquesne Incline, Mount Washington, in Pittsburgh, PA

Though many recognize it for its unique isthmus between lakes Mendota and Monona, Madison, WI, is now emerging as a strong contender in the amenity-friendly race, as the city’s diverse offerings respond to the entire family. Madisonians have a vast network of parks (10.8 of them/10K residents) and bike trails at their disposal – in fact, the city is one of five communities in the country that attained the “Platinum Bicycle Friendly Community” status by the League of American Bicyclists. Children and parents alike can enjoy being outdoors at any of the 10 basketball hoops, 7 playgrounds, 6.6 tennis courts, and 3.3 community gardens per 10K residents each. Madison leaves no room for disappointment when it comes to indoor entertainment, either: the seemingly endless list of game centers, jumping houses, adventure parks, and golf centers helps it win the silver medal.

Two Virginian cities also stand out for their recreation opportunities

Another appealing location for families with children to enjoy outdoor and indoor amenities is the history-infused Richmond, VA, one of the oldest major cities in the nation. The River City’s highly suggestive moniker already points to the great variety of waterfront activities attracting families on both sides of the James River, including everything from observing natural wildlife to cruising, kayaking, rafting, and fishing. RVA is also a premier destination for leading an active lifestyle, especially if you’re a tennis lover – it provides as many as 8 courts/20k people, which amounts to the greatest number out of the 100 cities examined. In addition to this, parents and children will benefit from numerous swimming pools, parks, and restaurants, as well as a bevy of events and festivals that promise year-round entertainment.

Arlington is another Virginian city that reveals its amenity-friendly side – the walkable neighborhoods, lush green spaces, and the rich variety of outdoor sports courts immediately make it a fantastic destination for families with kids. There’s always something fun to do with the entire crew, whether you’re picnicking at the Potomac Overlook Regional Park, hitting the trails at the Gulf Branch Trail, or just taking the little ones to a nearby playground. What truly makes Arlington stand out, however, is its concentration of sports courts: it lands 2nd place with its large number of tennis courts (7.8 tennis courts/20k people) and 3rd place with its basketball hoops (16.4 hoops/10k residents). And while the younger ones are training to become the next Serena Williams or Michael Jordan, you can practice your green thumb with ease – Arlington provides as many as 2.5 community garden plots/1,000 locals.

Irvine, CA, and Seattle, WA, are western amenity-friendly locations for families

The list wouldn’t be the same without sunny California, and here, Irvine seems to be the parents’ best bet to find a place that caters to their children’s need for recreation and connection within their communities. Locals can expect 4.7 health centers/1,000 people for peace of mind, 0.3 amusement centers/1,000 locals for year-round entertainment, as well as a wealth of playgrounds (4.2/10K people) and community gardens. Irvine is even more generous to tennis buffs, offering 7.3 courts per 20k people. But what really makes it stand out is the concentration of basketball hoops that reaches 17.1 courts per 10k residents. When you’re not busy improving your backhand or 3-pointers, you could be flying over this Orange County gem in the Great Park Balloon, loved by locals and tourists alike – because, let’s be honest, who could say no to some breathtaking aerial views? In addition to that, the warm climate allows for plenty of time spent outdoors, so you can stroll through Irvine Regional Park, cycle along the Bommer Canyon Nature Trail, or enjoy a scenic hike at Turtle Rock Viewpoint Trail anytime you like.

Downtown skyline of Irvine, CA
Downtown skyline of Irvine, CA

One cannot simply slide over Seattle, WA, either, not when it can strike the right balance of activities that can benefit the entire family. It’s almost impossible to live there and not spend most of your time exploring the various parks and nature escapes, most of which happen to be pet-friendly, too. Moreover, there are plenty of options for families who appreciate a thriving culinary scene, with 3.5 restaurants per 1,000 locals, double the national average. Those passionate about the performing arts won’t feel left out, either, because the Emerald City is home to 0.4 performing and sports venues per 1,000 residents. Sports & amusement centers, skate parks, and community gardens abound, as well. The real game-changer for outdoor fans in Seattle, however, is the 3 pickleball courts available per 20k people, which is the largest number across the country.  Whether you're moving to Seattle or you live here and you have children, there is a lot that the area can offer for a balanced family life.

The Southeast also sees representation among family- and amenity-friendly destinations

Few things sound as tempting as a coastal lifestyle in a warm and sunny place year-round, which probably explains how the catchphrase ‘we live where you vacation’ became so popular. Naturally, the “Sunshine State” is among the first that come to mind here, and if you’re planning to relocate with your whole household, you might want to test the waters in Tampa, FL. Apart from its reasonable prices, the state’s third most populated city attracts families with children as it comes with many community and recreational perks for this category. The city boasts 3.6 health centers per 1,000 residents, one of the highest in the country. It also offers 2.5 restaurants per 1,000 people so you can spoil your taste buds on the Tampa Bay Food Tours or at any other dining venue that suits your fancy. With about 5 parks per 10K people, opportunities to explore nature abound, whether you enjoy the scenery at Weedon Island Preserve or take a scenic stroll down the Tampa Riverwalk. An attractive number of tennis courts (2.7/20K people), pickleball courts (1,5/20k people), local festivals, eclectic neighborhoods and a rich culinary scene once again make Tampa a great place to raise a family.

Downtown of Tampa, FL

Georgia’s most populous city, Atlanta, is yet another destination worth keeping in mind if you’re looking for a place that has a balanced mix of family-friendly amenities. Its apt nicknames, “a city in the forest” or “tree haven,” already speak volumes to the ample green spaces locals can roam freely: Atlanta is home to an impressive 7.6 parks per 10K residents. Moreover, families can cool off at any of the 6.5 pools per 100K residents, the third-highest number in their category on our list. Tennis lovers will also have an impressive 6.7 courts per 20k people, but you’ll have a hard time picking among the incredible array of restaurants or the abundance of signature ATL arts, sports events and so many other family-friendly activities. Locals spend entire weekends enjoying the festivals and outdoor movie screenings at Atlanta Station, the water adventures awaiting on the Chattahoochee River or exploring the immersive exhibits at the Children’s Museum of Atlanta.

Other cities that also shine brightly offering the right mix of community amenities for families with children include Boise, ID, Omaha, NE, Urban Honolulu, HI, St. Petersburg, FL, Baton Rouge, LA, Cincinnati, OH and Denver, CO.

Self storage supports outdoor-inclined families with children

With so many possibilities for enjoying outdoor activities and cultivating hobbies year-round, families may find their homes filled with a lot of outdoor equipment items  – from bikes, tennis racquets, basketballs, and skateboards to hiking supplies and various water sports gear, the list can become long. Luckily, there’s a way to keep these belongings without having to clutter your home space, and this is where self storage options come into play. A storage unit can keep all types of equipment until they can be used the next time you're ready to enjoy the outdoors. Rates for a storage unit can vary based on location, with some cities charging more than others for the service. For instance, you can rent a Richmond storage unit for around $107/month, where kayaks, canoes, and fishing supplies can comfortably sit. Similarly, a 10'x10' storage unit in Seattle, WA, costs $187/month on average, catering to families who need a place to put away their sports equipment. Families in Southeastern cities can also turn to storage to help them better manage their home space – Atlanta residents can find suitable storage options for $140/month, while renting a Tampa, FL storage unit can cost local families $120/month on average.

Finding the best city to cater to your family’s needs in terms of community amenities and recreation opportunities can be daunting, but many locations in the Northeast, South, or West provide a mix of features that can offer a well-rounded lifestyle for both parents and children. Whether we’re talking about opportunities to enjoy the natural landscape, participate in community sports, or attend cultural events throughout the year, there is something to appeal to each member of the family.


This analysis was done by StorageCafe, an online platform that provides storage unit listings across the nation.

The report aims to identify the most family-friendly cities in terms of community amenities and recreation opportunities. We started by selecting the 100 most populous cities based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Indianapolis, IN, San Juan, PR, and Fort Wayne, IN, were excluded from our analysis because of insufficient data.

We ranked these cities based on a series of metrics covering community amenities and recreation opportunities, such as:

  • Health centers per 1,000 - U.S. Census
  • Restaurants per 1,000 - U.S. Census
  • Performing arts, spectator sports and related per 1,000 - U.S. Census
  • Other amusements and recreation industries per 1,000 - U.S. Census
  • Parks per 10,000 residents - The Trust for Public Land
  • Playgrounds per 10,000 - The Trust for Public Land
  • Basketball hoops per 10,000 - The Trust for Public Land
  • Skate parks per 100,000 - The Trust for Public Land
  • Swimming pools per 100,000 residents - The Trust for Public Land
  • Community garden plots per 1,000 residents - The Trust for Public Land
  • Tennis courts per 20,000 residents - The Trust for Public Land
  • Volleyball nets per 20,000 residents - The Trust for Public Land
  • Pickleball courts per 20,000 residents - The Trust for Public Land

Data on self storage (rates for a 10’x20’ unit and inventory) came from StorageCafe’s sister division Yardi Matrix, a business development and asset management tool for brokers, sponsors, banks and equity sources underwriting investments in the multifamily, office, industrial and self storage sectors.

Fair use and distribution

This study serves as a resource for the general public on issues of common interest and should not be regarded as investment advice. The data is true to the best of our knowledge but may change if amendments to it are made. We agree to the distribution of this content but we do require a mention in return for attribution purposes.


Reka is a creative writer for REACH by RentCafe, with a background in English Language & Literature and Cultural Studies. Besides being a writing enthusiast, she has a passion for reading fiction and fostering shelter dogs. You can reach her via email.

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