Best small towns to raise a family

Big city living isn’t for everyone—many people prefer the slower pace and relative predictability of planned communities and suburban living. Plus, small towns often offer easy commutes into big cities without the high property values or rents of urban downtowns.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 discover 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 March 2023. 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 several 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. Keep reading to gather inspiration for your family’s next move.

An old church and graveyard in Boalsburg.

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#50. Boalsburg, Pennsylvania

-Population: 4,376
– Location: Suburb in Pennsylvania

Located just a few miles away from Penn State University’s largest campus, Boalsburg is a charming small town that claims to be the birthplace of Memorial Day. Every year, up to 25,000 visitors flock to Boalsburg for the annual Memorial Day celebration. The Pennsylvania Military Museum and the Columbus Chapel and Boal Mansion Museum—which boasts historic artifacts including a lock of Napoleon’s hair and documents signed by Christopher Columbus—are also big draws.

A yellow and a green mailbox and autumn leaves.

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#49. Great Neck Estates, New York

-Population: 2,935
– Location: Suburb of New York City, NY

Great Neck Estates is recognizable by its Tudor and colonial houses. F. Scott Fitzgerald once lived in Great Neck Estates, and residents there now enjoy public pools and the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ben Rebhuhn house.

The Haring-Blauvelt House, a historic building in Northvale.

JERRYE & ROY KLOTZ M.D. // Wikimedia Commons

#48. Northvale, New Jersey

-Population: 4,762
– Location: Suburb in New Jersey

This Northern New Jersey enclave on the New York border dates back to the early 1900s and even has a few homes 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 modern, silver cistern collecting rainwater in Riverwoods.

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#47. Riverwoods, Illinois

-Population: 3,742
– Location: Suburb of Chicago, IL

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

A beautiful summer sunset over the Plandome coastline.

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#46. Plandome, New York

-Population: 1,264
– Location: Suburb of New York City, NY

Located on the North Shore of Long Island, Plandome is one of the top 10 most affluent towns in the United States. The average home value in Plandome is more than $2.2 million, with a median household income of more than $250,000 in 2020.

A statue in a public park.

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#45. Chappaqua, New York

-Population: 3,062
– Location: Suburb of New York City, NY

Farther north in Westchester County, Chappaqua provides easy access to both upstate New York and New York City. Hillary and Bill Clinton have spent a good portion of their time here since leaving the White House, and Horace Greeley High School regularly ranks as one of the best public schools in the state. The Pinecliff Audubon Sanctuary is a peaceful escape for many locals.

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

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#44. Mariemont, Ohio

-Population: 3,497
– Location: Suburb of Cincinnati, OH

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

Waldmann Memorial Park in Munsey Park.

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#43. Munsey Park, New York

-Population: 2,806
– Location: Suburb of New York City, NY

Like Plandome, 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.

The front porch of a grey brick house.

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#42. Sixteen Mile Stand, Ohio

-Population: 3,589
– Location: Suburb of Cincinnati, OH

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.

The front porch of a yellow house.

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#41. Holly Hills, Colorado

-Population: 2,843
– Location: Suburb of Denver, CO

Holly Hills is one of the more mysterious entries on this list, as it’s a neighborhood separate from, but entirely encircled by, Denver. Even locals don’t know much about Holly Hills, but residents love the schools.

The front door of a white house.

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#40. University Gardens, New York

-Population: 4,125
– Location: Suburb of New York City, NY

This hamlet in Great Neck is near many of Long Island’s top country clubs and has its own pool and tennis club. Residents looking for top-flight Asian groceries can shop at the H Mart, which has everything from Ramune soda to fresh kimchi.

Ridder's Pond Park in Manhasset Hills.

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#39. Manhasset Hills, New York

-Population: 3,928
– Location: Suburb of New York City, NY

The high numbers of commuters into New York City make Manhasset Hills a bedroom community. The hamlet includes several public parks, as well as several nearby golf clubs.

The LDS Mormon Temple towering majestically above the trees in Kensington.

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#38. Kensington, Maryland

-Population: 2,336
– Location: Suburb in Maryland

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.

A tree-lined lakefront.


#37. North Barrington, Illinois

-Population: 2,814
– Location: Suburb of Chicago, IL

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. Local golfers enjoy the grounds of the Biltmore Country Club and the Wynstone Club.

The Benjamin Ring House used as headquarters by General George Washington during the 1777 Revolutionary War Battle of the Brandywine in Chadds Ford Township.


#36. Chadds Ford Township, Pennsylvania

-Population: 3,923
– Location: Suburb of Philadelphia, PA

The land that would eventually become known as Chadds Ford Township was first inhabited by the Lenni-Lenape people before English Quaker settlers built their first shelters in caves. Chadds Ford was also the site of the Battle of Brandywine during the Revolutionary War; you can still visit the battlefield. If you’re not a military buff, nearby Longwood Gardens is also a popular destination.

The waterfront in Sands Point.


#35. Sands Point, New York

-Population: 2,714
– Location: Suburb of New York City, NY

Located at the very tip of the Cow Neck Peninsula on Long Island, this exclusive, affluent community-inspired East Egg—F. Scott Fitzgerald’s fictional enclave in “The Great Gatsby.” Well-to-do families like the Hearsts and Guggenheims would flee the summer heat in New York City for their mansions on the water here, although few of the huge historic homes remain standing. Sands Point still has a reputation as a wealthy community, though, with young families flocking there for the excellent public schools, easy commute into Manhattan, and beautiful bay views.

Fagley House in West Pikeland Township.

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#34. West Pikeland Township, Pennsylvania

-Population: 4,014
– Location: Suburb of Philadelphia, PA

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.

A yellow front door and a colorful doormat.

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#33. Ottawa Hills, Ohio

-Population: 4,762
– Location: Suburb of Toledo, OH

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.

A sign for Chevy Chase View in a suburban neighborhood.

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#32. Chevy Chase View, Maryland

-Population: 1,103
– Location: Suburb in Maryland

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 bench outside the front door of a house.

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#31. Brookmont, Maryland

-Population: 3,841
– Location: Suburb in Maryland

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

92nd/Yarrow Point Freeway Station and SR-520.

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#30. Yarrow Point, Washington

-Population: 1,365
– Location: Suburb of Seattle, WA

Like the nearby communities of Kirkland and Bellevue, Yarrow Point is a Seattle suburb known for its affluence—in fact, it ranks as the third-wealthiest community in the state. 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.

Thomaston Village Hall.

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#29. Thomaston, New York

-Population: 2,760
– Location: Suburb of New York City, NY

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.

A hanging swing bench.

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#28. Bannockburn, Illinois

-Population: 1,315
– Location: Suburb of Chicago, IL

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 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.”

The Whole Foods Market in Spring House

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#27. Spring House, Pennsylvania

-Population: 4,652
– Location: Suburb of Philadelphia, PA

Spring House residents who work in Philadelphia can commute for about a half hour by car or take about an hour by train. With several public parks within its city limits as well as easy access to Penllyn Woods and several golf courses just outside, Spring House offers lots of opportunities to spend time outside. Locals also love dining at the Spring House Tavern, which dates back to 1719.

A home on Hedge Lane in Hewlett Harbor.

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#26. Hewlett Harbor, New York

-Population: 1,019
– Location: Suburb of New York City, NY

Known for being the home of late comic book legend Stan Lee, Hewlett Harbor sits right on the bay on Nassau County’s South Shore—the perfect location for setting sail from nearby Hewlett Point Yacht Club. Many of the high-end homes in the village offer bay views or even water access, while the lack of sidewalks, through roads, or even a downtown main street gives it a laid-back, sleepy feel.

South Russell Village Park in South Russell.

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#25. South Russell, Ohio

-Population: 3,962
– Location: Suburb of Cleveland, OH

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 nearby parks, including the prairie trails at Frohring Meadows and historic sandstone ledges in the West Woods.

Bare trees in Bradford Woods.

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#24. Bradford Woods, Pennsylvania

-Population: 1,226
– Location: Suburb of Pittsburgh, PA

Bradford Woods is situated just north of Pittsburgh. Like those from Franklin Park and Marshall Township, 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.

The Essex Fells Post Office.

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#23. Essex Fells, New Jersey

-Population: 2,270
– Location: Suburb in New Jersey

Visitors to Essex Fells will notice it includes no apartment buildings, office parks, restaurants, or even traffic lights: A 1928 ordinance prohibits commercial activity of all kinds, the exception being one three-story office that looks like a house and two small workshops. Residents love the quiet feel, and often spend time walking in Grover Cleveland Park in warm weather or skating on Essex Fells Pond in the winter.

The Blanch Haring House in Harrington Park.

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#22. Harrington Park, New Jersey

-Population: 4,801
– Location: Suburb in New Jersey

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.

Coe Hall Historic House at the Planing Fields Arboretum in Brookville.

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#21. Brookville, New York

-Population: 2,937
– Location: Suburb of New York City, NY

English and Dutch farmers first bought the land that would eventually become Brookville from the local Matinecock tribe in the 17th century. By the early 20th century, wealthy New Yorkers had built huge mansions on lavish estates in the town, earning the area the nickname of the “Gold Coast.” More recently, Brookville has been named one of the wealthiest towns in America with a median home price of more than $2.8 million.

A front porch with hanging flower baskets.

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#20. Tower Lakes, Illinois

-Population: 1,340
– Location: Suburb of Chicago, IL

Less than an hour away from Chicago, Tower Lakes has been a Tree City for 26 years. Throughout the year, locals enjoy beaches, a chili cook-off, and a days-long July 4th celebration.

An American flag hangs over a front porch.

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#19. East Williston, New York

-Population: 2,637
– Location: Suburb of New York City, NY

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

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#18. Aspinwall, Pennsylvania

-Population: 2,901
– Location: Suburb of Pittsburgh, PA

This Pittsburgh suburb situated 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.

A large country home.

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#17. Haworth, New Jersey

-Population: 3,341
– Location: Suburb in New Jersey

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

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

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#16. Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey

-Population: 4,248
– Location: Suburb in New Jersey

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 it 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.

Narberth train station.

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#15. Narberth, Pennsylvania

-Population: 4,467
– Location: Suburb of Philadelphia, PA

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.

Searingtown Pond Park in Searingtown, Long Island.

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#14. Searingtown, New York

-Population: 4,553
– Location: Suburb of New York City, NY

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 have an elementary, middle, and high school within the town limits, though, so families won’t have to commute far for their kids’ schooling.

Possum Hollow House in Rose Valley.

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#13. Rose Valley, Pennsylvania

-Population: 1,116
– Location: Suburb of Philadelphia, PA

Rose Valley is officially celebrating its 100th birthday in 2023—a milestone residents can honor by visiting the town’s Rose Valley Museum—although the borough’s origins date back to land grants William Penn gave English settlers in the late 1600s. 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.

Flower pots displayed on a front porch.

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#12. Kildeer, Illinois

-Population: 4,093
– Location: Suburb of Chicago, IL

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.

Two cyclists riding on the South County Trail.

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#11. Ardsley, New York

-Population: 4,984
– Location: Suburb of New York City, NY

This Westchester County community just north of New York City is surrounded by golf courses on all sides, making it an excellent choice for commuters who love to hit the links. Ardsley’s quaint shopping district includes a model train store, a popular diner, and a bagel and doughnut shop.

Mountain Lake historic district.

Jerrye & Roy Klotz, MD // Wikimedia Commons

#10. Mountain Lakes, New Jersey

-Population: 4,464
– Location: Suburb in New Jersey

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 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.

South Union School in Cordaville.

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#9. Cordaville, Massachusetts

-Population: 2,776
– Location: Suburb of Boston, MA

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.

Kenilworth train station.

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#8. Kenilworth, Illinois

-Population: 2,423
– Location: Suburb of Chicago, IL

Settled along Lake Michigan, much of Kenilworth’s foundation comes from the Sears family. The Kenilworth Club 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.

Pumpkins and leaves on a front porch.

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#7. Herricks, New York

-Population: 4,163
– Location: Suburb of New York City, NY

Herricks runs along State Route 25B, a major route across Long Island. Locals enjoy the Iceland skating rink and attend the Herricks Union Free School District. The Herricks schools regularly produce candidates for National Merit Scholarships.

Berwyn Train Station.

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#6. Berwyn, Pennsylvania

-Population: 3,620
– Location: Suburb of Philadelphia, PA

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.

Great Neck Estate Park

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#5. Great Neck Gardens, New York

-Population: 1,258
– Location: Suburb of New York City, NY

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

Princeton Junction train station.

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#4. Princeton Junction, New Jersey

-Population: 2,208

Princeton Junction is technically in West Windsor, not Princeton, but is not far from the latter. A major train station provides hourly service into New York’s Penn Station. The town has experienced an increase in Asian residents, with several Asian markets and grocery stores flourishing in the area.

A view from the Village Club at Lake Success.

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#3. Lake Success, New York

-Population: 2,856
– Location: Suburb of New York City, NY

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 from 1946 to 1947. Today, Lake Success is a tight-knit village with a public summer camp, fitness center, and golf club for residents.

An exterior view of the Kensington Library.

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#2. Kensington, New York

-Population: 1,299
– Location: Suburb of New York City, NY

Kensington, located on the peninsula of Great Neck, is very close to the water but locals also enjoy the scenery of the public pool. A popular landmark is the Great Neck giraffe (get it?), which is the unofficial mascot of Kensington. The village has launched a concerted effort to create more services for the area’s elderly population.

An exterior view of a brick row house.

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#1. Devon, Pennsylvania

-Population: 1,981
– Location: Suburb of Philadelphia, PA

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 hour-long drive from Philadelphia. The Jenkins Arboretum is another popular destination for Devon families.

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