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Best small towns to raise a family

Stacker compiled a list of the best small towns to raise a family using data released by Niche in June 2024.
Stacker compiled a list of the best small towns to raise a family using data released by Niche in June 2024. - Nicole Glass Photography // Shutterstock
Stacker compiled a list of the best small towns to raise a family using data released by Niche in June 2024. - Nicole Glass Photography // Shutterstock
Annalise Mantz

Big-city living isn’t for everyone. Many people prefer the slower pace and relative predictability of planned communities and suburban sprawl. Plus, small towns often offer easy commutes into big cities without the high property values or rents of urban downtowns.

Raising a family in a small town offers a unique set of advantages that can be incredibly beneficial for both parents and children. Small towns often provide a tight-knit community atmosphere where neighbors know each other and a strong sense of belonging. This close community bond fosters a safe and supportive environment, which is particularly reassuring for families.

If you’re looking for a comfortable place to start a family and feel ready to trade apartment broker’s fees and monthly rent for homeownership, we’ve done the homework to determine the top places to start anew. Stacker compiled a list of the best small towns to raise a family using data released by Niche in June 2024. Niche ranks places based on various factors, including public schools, jobs, and cost of living. Towns with a population under 5,000 were considered.

How does a town outside Chicago—known for a Frank Lloyd Wright home—sound to you? If you’d prefer to be closer to the Big Apple than the Windy City, northern New Jersey has six top options. For families looking to relocate to the Midwest, there are plenty of posh locations with famous golf courses, nature trails, and museums to entice young families.

Many of these towns have tons of history, with some dating back to the Revolutionary War. But what really sets the small towns listed below apart is their unique charm and character. Each small town has its own traditions, festivals, and local businesses that give it a distinct identity. Keep reading to gather inspiration for your family’s next move.

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A German style building at Grant's Farm.

Logan Bush // Shutterstock

#50. Warson Woods

– Location: Suburb of St. Louis
– Population: 2,107

Warson Woods emphasizes a family-friendly atmosphere with activities like 4th of July parades and seasonal events such as the Warson Woods Fall Festival. The Warson Woods Swim Club offers programs like kids’ movie and pizza night, summer reading book club, and Cardinals games at the pool. Warson Woods’ top-rated schools, like Hudson Elementary School, provide a robust educational foundation for children.

A view of Gile Mountain in Norwich.

Beth Fitzpatrick // Shutterstock

#49. Norwich

– Location: Town in Vermont
– Population: 3,620

Host to numerous family-centric activities, including hiking trails and the Norwich Farmers Market, one of the oldest and largest farmers’ markets in the region, Norwich provides a sense of place for both residents and visitors alike. The King Arthur Baking Company’s flagship store offers hands-on baking classes for kids and adults as well as a café for those who just want to cozy up with a warm chocolate croissant.

A hanging swing bench.

Brocreative // Shutterstock

#48. Bannockburn

– Location: Suburb of Chicago
– Population: 1,065

Located north of Chicago, this small village is home to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Allen Friedman House. The structure was one of Wright’s last creations and is located not far from where Phil Jackson lived when he coached the NBA’s Chicago Bulls. According to the village website, Bannockburn’s founders intended to create “a residential community with homes on large tracts of land within a rural atmosphere.”

Kids riding scooters in a neighborhood.

Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post // Getty Images

#47. Chevy Chase Village

– Location: Suburb in Maryland
– Population: 1,885

This small-town community consists of 720 homes spread across less than half a square mile and features a variety of family activities, including Chevy Chase Lake’s Summer Concert Series and Holiday Tree Lighting, with food and entertainment. The Jane E. Lawton Community Recreation Center provides after-school programs, summer camps, and sports leagues for children. The close-knit community benefits from various cultural and educational events hosted by the local library.

Flowers in a residential neighborhood.

Lynn Neuman // Shutterstock

#46. Moreland Hills

– Location: Suburb of Cleveland
– Population: 3,440

Moreland Hills, the birthplace of former President James A. Garfield, features several community gathering spaces. One of them is the Lang Pavilion, which hosts family-friendly activities, live music, and yoga sessions. Minutes away, the South Chagrin Reservation offers nature programs, hiking trails, and outdoor education for all ages.

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A historic home.

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#45. West Pikeland Township

– Location: Suburb of Philadelphia
– Population: 4,018

The historic homes dating back to 1775 and colonial-era mills signal that West Pikeland Township has a deep history: In fact, William Penn gave Irish merchant Joseph Pike the original land grant for the area in 1705. Today, nature preserves and local parks dot the landscape, making West Pikeland Township a lovely choice for outdoorsy families.

Kids riding scooters on a sidewalk.

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#44. Franklin

– Location: Suburb of Detroit
– Population: 2,653

Located approximately 20 miles north of Detroit, Franklin boasts a range of family activities, including the Franklin Labor Day Round Up, an annual festival featuring a petting zoo, food, games, and entertainment. Franklin’s parks, such as the Village Green and Franklin Community Park, provide playgrounds, tennis and basketball courts, and picnic areas—supporting a vibrant and healthy family environment.

A dog on a nature trail.

Karina Eremina // Shutterstock

#43. Edgeworth

– Location: Suburb of Pittsburgh
– Population: 1,520

With an abundance and variety of mature trees and a network of interconnected sidewalks, Edgeworth gives families serene and walkable ​​access to the outdoors. The town’s parks—Way Park, Morrow-Pontefract Park, and Walker Park—also feature plenty of green space for family picnics. Community programs include youth and adult sports like tennis, swimming, and bowling, organized by the Edgeworth Club.

A snowy small downtown street.

Pete Bannan/MediaNews Group/Main Line Media News // Getty Images

#42. Narberth

– Location: Suburb of Philadelphia
– Population: 4,478

Narberth has its own train station that provides access to Philadelphia. Students attend the Lower Merion School District and can enjoy weekends at a cozy independent movie theater in town. Barnes Arboretum is a favorite site of nature lovers.

A large brick country home.

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#41. River Hills

– Location: Suburb of Milwaukee
– Population: 1,530

River Hills supports family life with open spaces like River Hills Park, known for its easy access to fishing, hiking, and biking. The 40-acre Lynden Sculpture Garden offers guided walks and educational programs for children, families, and adults. The town also boasts excellent schools, such as the University School of Milwaukee, which has excellent academic programs and a robust athletics department.

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A backyard table and chairs.

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#40. Munsey Park

– Location: Suburb of New York City
– Population: 2,792

Munsey Park is part of the Greater Manhasset area on Long Island’s North Shore. Named for newspaper publisher Frank Munsey—who purchased the land on which the village sits today—Munsey Park features homes built in the Colonial Revival style. Even today, residents must get permission from the town to alter their homes’ exteriors and design approval for a new home.

A bench outside the front door of a house.

Jason Finn // Shutterstock

#39. Brookmont

– Location: Suburb in Maryland
– Population: 3,732

Brookmont’s location near the Potomac River makes it ideal for water activities. Just a short drive from Washington D.C., Brookmont draws a variety of residents, from artists and poets to canoe slalom world champions.

A historic colonial homestead.

Wangkun Jia // Shutterstock

#38. Sherborn

– Location: Suburb of Boston
– Population: 4,404

This small, rural community hosts family-friendly events like the Sherborn Library Arts & Crafts Fair and Farm Day, which celebrates Sherborn’s farming past and present. Throughout the year, the Sherborn Library offers storytime sessions, summer reading programs, and educational workshops. Sherborn’s variety of outdoor recreational opportunities, like the Rocky Narrows and other hiking trails, also make it ideal for families.

A mailbox.

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#37. Northvale

– Location: Suburb in New Jersey
– Population: 4,769

This Northern New Jersey enclave on the New York border dates back to the early 1900s and even has a home listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Residents can play on community sports teams at John L. Hogan Memorial Park, test their fitness at High Exposure Rock Climbing, or drive a few miles over the New York border to experience German culture at the German Masonic Park.

A large brick home.

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#36. Clarkson Valley

– Location: Suburb of St. Louis
– Population: 2,608

Housing in the picturesque city of Clarkson Valley is composed of spacious lots, ideal for suburban living and growing families. The nearby Chesterfield Valley Athletic Complex has playgrounds and several sports fields for kids of all ages. Meanwhile, the town’s highly rated schools, such as Marquette High School, create a supportive family environment.

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A botanical garden trail.

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#35. Berwyn

– Location: Suburb of Philadelphia
– Population: 3,700

Berwyn residents can use public transit at the nearby Daylesford and Devon train stations. The Footlighters Theater is a beacon of the arts in the area, and students learn through the Tredyffrin-Easttown School District, which boasts top middle and high schools.

A home on the water.

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#34. Yarrow Point

– Location: Suburb of Seattle
– Population: 1,280

Like the nearby communities of Kirkland and Bellevue, Yarrow Point is a Seattle suburb known for its affluence. In fact, out of all Washington communities with populations between 1,000 and 25,000, Yarrow Point is the wealthiest as of 2023. The proximity to Lake Washington makes it a popular spot for boating and lakefront living, while the town’s annual Fourth of July celebration draws visitors from all over the Seattle area.

An elementary classroom.

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#33. Searingtown

– Location: Suburb of New York City
– Population: 4,700

This Long Island hamlet has few businesses within town limits, but residents can take advantage of the restaurants, boutiques, and salons on nearby Willis Avenue in the community of Albertson. Searingtown does boast an elementary, middle, and high school within the neighborhood, so families won’t have to commute far for their kids’ schooling.

A covered bridge over a river.

Rusty Lofgren // Shutterstock

#32. Houserville

– Location: Town in Pennsylvania
– Population: 2,096

The State College community of Houserville is known for its rural feel and for being close to award-winning public schools, like Spring Creek Elementary. The active local library with children’s programs further enhances the family-friendly atmosphere. Spring Creek Park offers sports fields, playgrounds, and nature trails for family outings.

A white historic home with a red roof.

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#31. Anchorage

– Location: Suburb of Louisville, KY
– Population: 2,419

Described as a scenic, park-like community, Anchorage welcomes families with events like Anchorage Independence Day, which features a 5K walk, a parade, a picnic, and firecrackers. Families can also walk or bike the 2.1-mile Anchorage Trail, which is dog-friendly and passes a scenic creek.

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A small grey house with a white picket fence.

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#30. Russell Gardens

– Location: Suburb of New York City
– Population: 1,100

A stone’s throw away from New York City, Russell Gardens offers all the amenities of a small town as well as top-rated schools and quick access to outdoor recreation. The Russell Gardens Association manages facilities like tennis courts and a swimming pool.

Great Neck Estate Park

Florenc.Elezi // Shutterstock

#29. Great Neck Gardens

– Location: Suburb of New York City
– Population: 1,139

Located on the Great Neck Peninsula of Long Island, this hamlet is notable for the expansive Allenwood Park, a favored recreational spot on Long Island. Great Neck Gardens is just north of Kensington, and its commuters frequent the Manhasset Long Island Railroad station.

A mom and two kids riding bicycles.

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#28. Chevy Chase View

– Location: Suburb in Maryland
– Population: 1,123

Not to be confused with nearby Chevy Chase, this small Maryland town was only incorporated in the 1990s. It’s conveniently located just outside the Beltway, within easy reach of the Rock Creek Hiker-Biker Trail as well as the National Museum of Health and Medicine.

A large stone home.

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#27. Rollingwood

– Location: Suburb of Austin, TX
– Population: 1,514

Known for its scenery and security, the Austin suburb of Rollingwood offers family-friendly events like Rollingwood Night Out and It’s My Park Day. Both foster a sense of community through fun festivities. The Western Hills Athletic Club provides swimming, tennis, and youth sports programs.

A playground.

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#26. Thomaston

– Location: Suburb of New York City
– Population: 2,750

Thomaston is one of the more historically rich villages on Long Island and borders Northern Boulevard, which leads into Queens. Residents can easily reach Manhasset Bay, LaGuardia Airport, and Citi Field, home of the New York Mets.

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A train station.

Tony Quinn // Shutterstock

#25. Kensington

– Location: Suburb in Maryland
– Population: 2,241

Just a half hour from Washington D.C., Kensington is a quaint option for commuters to the nation’s capital. Nineteenth-century Victorian homes, a popular weekly farmers market, and a charming business district filled with boutiques and art galleries make it a lovely small town for families.

The front porch of a grey brick house.

Brett Taylor Photography // Shutterstock

#24. Sixteen Mile Stand

– Location: Suburb of Cincinnati
– Population: 3,677

Sixteen Mile Stand was named for being about 16 miles from Cincinnati. The town is close to a nature preserve and several kids’ sports centers, providing many options for recreational entertainment.

A wood home in the trees.

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#23. Bradford Woods

– Location: Suburb of Pittsburgh
– Population: 1,235

Bradford Woods is situated just north of Pittsburgh. Students in Bradford Woods attend the North Allegheny School District. A women’s club and conservancy provide a sense of community for adults with varied interests.

An American flag hangs over a front porch.

Robert Hale // Shutterstock

#22. East Williston

– Location: Suburb of New York City
– Population: 2,630

The Wheatley Hills Golf Club is a big draw for residents near East Williston, a small village on Long Island. Residents enjoy elements of small-town charm like a newsletter, a Santa Claus visit on Christmas Eve, and tai chi classes.

A yellow front door and a colorful doormat.

Appz Dreamer // Shutterstock

#21. Ottawa Hills

– Location: Suburb of Toledo, OH
– Population: 4,782

This small village borders the University of Toledo, and Ottawa Hills High School is renowned in its own right. Locals can stay abreast of news through the Village Voice of Ottawa Hills, a monthly magazine. Families enjoy walks, picnics, and art at the Sculpture in the Park gardens.

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A tree-lined lakefront.

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#20. North Barrington

– Location: Suburb of Chicago
– Population: 3,119

In 1854, the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad built its first station in what would one day become North Barrington, a suburb about 35 miles north of Chicago as the crow flies. Local golfers enjoy the grounds of the Biltmore Country Club and The Club at Wynstone.

A park with a gazebo.

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#19. Terrace Park

– Location: Suburb of Cincinnati
– Population: 2,150

Tree-lined streets and charming homes make Terrace Park an Ohio gem. The village hosts family-centric events such as Music on the Green, featuring games, food, and local musicians. The Terrace Park Swim Club offers swimming lessons and recreational swim times for families and the Terrace Park Garden Club, founded in 1920, is open to all residents to promote gardening.

A front porch.

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#18. Cordaville

– Location: Suburb of Boston
– Population: 2,884

Midway between Boston and Worcester, Cordaville would be a convenient home base for commuters to either city. The town borders Hopkinton State Park, where locals can get into the woods on hiking trails or fish in the stocked lake. The Sudbury River runs along the town’s southern border.

An aerial view of Fall trees.

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#17. Lake Success

– Location: Suburb of New York City
– Population: 2,825

You’d never guess it by strolling through Lake Success today, but this small community on the North Shore of Long Island was the temporary headquarters of the United Nations for a short period of time from 1946 to 1947. Today, Lake Success is a tight-knit village with a public summer camp, fitness center, and golf club for residents.

A train tunnel with snow covered train tracks on a winter day in Aspinwall.

woodsnorthphoto // Shutterstock

#16. Aspinwall

– Location: Suburb of Pittsburgh
– Population: 2,890

This Pittsburgh suburb alongside the Allegheny River was originally created in the 1880s as a community for young couples and families with parents working in the steel industry. Aspinwall has plenty of fun activities for families, from checking out the antique music boxes at the Bayernhof Museum to kayaking at Allegheny RiverTrail Park.

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A snowman in front of a train station.

MKPhoto12 // Shutterstock

#15. Kenilworth

– Location: Suburb of Chicago
– Population: 2,537

Settled along Lake Michigan, much of Kenilworth’s foundation comes from the Sears family. The Kenilworth Assembly Hall is a popular clubhouse for community events, and the Ware Garden draws dog owners galore. Kenilworth residents receive beach passes for a fraction of the non-resident price.

A front porch with hanging flower baskets.

Michael Shake // Shutterstock

#14. Tower Lakes

– Location: Suburb of Chicago
– Population: 1,282

Less than an hour away from Chicago, Tower Lakes has been a Tree City for 29 years. Throughout the year, locals enjoy beaches, a chili cook-off, and a days-long July 4th celebration.

A stone home with black shutters.

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#13. Rose Valley

– Location: Suburb of Philadelphia
– Population: 1,187

Rose Valley officially celebrated its 100th birthday in 2023. The borough’s origins date back to land grants William Penn gave English settlers in the late 1600s, and residents can learn more by visiting the town’s Rose Valley Museum. Rose Valley is also a premier example of the Arts and Crafts Movement, and the town’s historic district is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

South Russell Village Park in South Russell.

Lynne Neuman // Shutterstock

#12. South Russell

– Location: Suburb of Cleveland
– Population: 3,966

This four-mile by one-mile Cleveland suburb has a tight-knit community feel, with village-wide yard sales and special trash pickup days for seniors frequently advertised on the town’s website. The area is full of opportunities for outdoor recreation, including the prairie trails at Frohring Meadows and historic sandstone ledges in the West Woods.

Princeton Junction train station.

EQRoy // Shutterstock

#11. Princeton Junction

– Location: Town in New Jersey
– Population: 2,022

Princeton Junction is technically in West Windsor, not Princeton, but is not far from the latter. A major train station provides frequent service into New York’s Penn Station. Princeton Junction has several flourishing Asian grocery stores and restaurants since it’s a short drive from Belle Mead, home to the fastest-growing Asian population in the U.S.

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Kids roasting hotdogs on a fire.

Cavan-Images // Shutterstock

#10. Kohler

– Location: Town in Wisconsin
– Population: 2,142

Kohler may be small, but it’s home to an outsized presence: the headquarters of the bathroom supply giant The Kohler Company. The annual Kohler Food & Wine Experience, headlined by celebrity chefs, offers ​​an immersive culinary experience with live music and plenty to eat and drink. The Sports Core Health & Racquet Club provides swimming, tennis, and fitness programs, promoting community wellness for all ages.

A park near a pond.

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#9. Harrington Park

– Location: Suburb in New Jersey
– Population: 4,826

This New Jersey town has one of the highest levels of recreational acreage per capita in the state, thanks to the numerous public parks within its borders. Senator Cory Booker spent his childhood here, as did “Blue’s Clues” creator Angela Santomero.

A colonial style home.

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#8. Haworth

– Location: Suburb in New Jersey
– Population: 3,342

Located on Oradell Reservoir, Haworth has less than 4,000 residents, enjoys two golf courses, and is in proximity to Manhattan. Haworth was called “a true hometown” by the New York Times, with residents boasting swim clubs, varied cultural influences, and “postcard pretty” streets.

The Ho-Ho-Kus Fire Department on Sheridan Ave.

Travis Muller // Shutterstock

#7. Ho-Ho-Kus

– Location: Suburb in New Jersey
– Population: 4,234

The name of this northern New Jersey town comes from the Lenni-Lenape language, although historians aren’t sure exactly what it translates to. They’ve narrowed the name’s meaning down to about 16 options, ranging from “running water” to “the red cedar.” In the late 1800s, Ho-Ho-Kus became a popular tourist destination because it was home to Sylvan Lake, a man-made 70-acre lake that has since dried up.

Today, residents enjoy taking pottery classes at Mudspinners, shopping for local produce and petting farm animals at nearby Abma’s Farm Market, and participating in the Ho-Ho-Kus Garden Club.

A modern, silver cistern collecting rainwater in Riverwoods.

Thomas Barrat // Shutterstock

#6. Riverwoods

– Location: Suburb of Chicago
– Population: 4,007

This village to the east of the Des Plaines River was founded in 1959 by about 40 families who formed the Riverwoods Residents Association. Riverwoods is a paradise for nature lovers, with the Edward L. Ryerson Conservation Area inside its borders and Half Day Forest Preserve nearby.

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The picturesque town center of Mariemont as seen from the town square park.

Bentley Davis // Shutterstock

#5. Mariemont

– Location: Suburb of Cincinnati
– Population: 3,493

Local philanthropist Mary Emery founded this planned community in the 1920s. American planner and landscape architect John Nolen designed it as an English garden city. The tree-lined streets filled with Tudor-style homes make it one of the most walkable communities near Cincinnati.

People on a lake dock at sunset.

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#4. Mountain Lakes

– Location: Suburb in New Jersey
– Population: 4,499

Mountain Lakes is farther west than most of the other New York City suburbs on this list but still has its own train station with service into the nearby metropolis. The Mountain Lakes schools are among the best in the state, and according to the New York Times, much of the town feels like a “resort getaway.”

An iron fence.

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#3. Kensington

– Location: Suburb of New York City
– Population: 1,445

Kensington, located on the peninsula of Great Neck, is very close to the water, but locals also enjoy the public pool. A popular landmark is the Great Neck giraffe (get it?), which is Kensington’s unofficial mascot. The statue is housed on the Village Green, one of Kensington’s many popular outdoor spaces.

An exterior view of a brick row house.

Spiroview Inc // Shutterstock

#2. Devon

– Location: Suburb of Philadelphia
– Population: 1,890

Known as the home of the Devon Horse Show—the oldest and largest multi-breed horse competition in the country—Devon is also a quick half-hour train ride or drive from Philadelphia. The Jenkins Arboretum is another popular destination for Devon families.

Flower pots displayed on a front porch.

ET Tisomboon // Shutterstock

#1. Kildeer

– Location: Suburb of Chicago
– Population: 4,133

About 40 minutes from Chicago, Kildeer is a small village with low crime rates and top-rated public schools. Newcomers can find out more about the town through the unique Facebook page specifically tailored for those moving into Kildeer.

Additional writing by Cynthia Rebolledo. Story editing by Cu Fleshman. Copy editing by Meg Shields. Photo selection by Lacy Kerrick.

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