Discover the Top 8 Family-Friendly Cities in Iowa: A Guide to Finding Your Perfect Home

Des Moines

Iowa, known for its charming small towns, vibrant cities, and friendly communities, is a fantastic place for families to call home. In this article, we dive into the “best places to live in Iowa for families”, exploring what makes each location special. From excellent schools to affordable living, these top eight cities offer an ideal balance for a family-friendly lifestyle.

Des Moines: A Vibrant Capital City

Des Moines, the capital of Iowa, is a vibrant and welcoming city that offers an enticing mix of urban amenities and suburban comfort. Families will find several compelling reasons to consider this city as their home.

Cost of Living

Des Moines prides itself on being surprisingly affordable for a capital city. The cost of living, including housing, stands out as one of its most attractive features. Below is a detailed breakdown:

Cost of Living CategoryDes Moines
Median Home Price$150,000
Utilities (Monthly)$150
Groceries (Monthly)$300
Transportation (Monthly)$100

Schools and Education

Families prioritize education, and Des Moines excels in this regard. The city is home to some of the best schools in the state, offering a variety of educational opportunities. Key educational highlights include:

  • A range of public and private schools, catering to diverse learning needs;
  • Acclaimed universities and colleges within close proximity;
  • Robust extracurricular and enrichment programs for students.

Family Activities

Des Moines ensures that families have access to numerous recreational options to create lasting memories together. Here are some family-friendly activities to explore:

  • A plethora of parks and playgrounds for outdoor fun;
  • Museums, including the Science Center of Iowa and the Des Moines Art Center;
  • The famous Iowa State Fair, an annual event with rides, exhibits, and delicious food.

Cedar Rapids: The City of Five Seasons

Cedar Rapids, known as the “City of Five Seasons,” stands out as another excellent choice for families in Iowa. This city offers a unique blend of cultural richness and natural beauty, making it a compelling option for those seeking a family-friendly environment.

Cost of Living

The cost of living in Cedar Rapids is moderate compared to many other cities. The average home price in Cedar Rapids is approximately $140,000, making it an affordable option for families. Here’s a detailed overview of the cost of living:

Cost of Living CategoryCedar Rapids
Average Home Price$140,000
Utilities (Monthly)$130
Groceries (Monthly)$250
Transportation (Monthly)$100

Community and Safety

Cedar Rapids is renowned for its safe, tight-knit communities, which create an ideal environment for raising a family. Key community and safety features include:

  • Low crime rates and a strong police presence;
  • Engaged neighborhood associations and community events;
  • Supportive networks for newcomers.

Outdoor Recreation

Cedar Rapids’ natural beauty and recreational opportunities make it a haven for families who enjoy the outdoors. Here are some highlights:

  • Picturesque parks, including the Indian Creek Nature Center and Noelridge Park;
  • Extensive trails for hiking, biking, and enjoying nature year-round;
  • Numerous sports leagues and clubs for all ages and interests.

Ames: A College Town with a Family Feel

Ames, home to Iowa State University, offers a unique blend of a vibrant college-town atmosphere and a family-friendly environment, making it an attractive option for families looking for a balance between education and community.

Cost of Living

Ames boasts a slightly higher cost of living, primarily influenced by the presence of Iowa State University. The average home price in Ames is approximately $220,000. Below is a detailed cost breakdown:

Cost of Living CategoryAmes
Average Home Price$220,000
Utilities (Monthly)$140
Groceries (Monthly)$250
Transportation (Monthly)$100

Educational Opportunities

Ames is renowned for its educational opportunities, not only due to the university but also because of its top-rated public schools. Families can benefit from a range of educational programs and activities, including:

  • Access to university resources for enrichment;
  • Internship and mentorship opportunities for students;
  • Supportive educational environment for children of all ages.

Community Events

Ames hosts a variety of community events and festivals throughout the year, offering endless possibilities for family outings. Some notable events include:

  • The annual Ames Farmers’ Market;
  • Story County Fair with rides, food, and entertainment;
  • Art festivals showcasing local talent.

Iowa City: A Culturally Rich Environment

Iowa City, another university town, stands out as an ideal choice for families who appreciate a culturally rich environment and a diverse real estate market.

Cost of Living

The cost of living in Iowa City is reasonable, with a median home price of approximately $230,000. Here’s a detailed overview of the cost of living:

Cost of Living CategoryIowa City
Median Home Price$230,000
Utilities (Monthly)$150
Groceries (Monthly)$280
Transportation (Monthly)$120

Cultural Activities

Iowa City’s designation as a UNESCO City of Literature highlights its rich cultural scene. Families can immerse themselves in various cultural activities, including:

  • Literary events, book fairs, and author readings;
  • Music festivals featuring local and international artists;
  • Art exhibits, galleries, and public art installations.

Healthcare Facilities

Iowa City is home to a major medical center, the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, ensuring excellent healthcare options for families. Key healthcare benefits include:

  • Access to a wide range of specialized medical services;
  • Highly qualified healthcare professionals and medical research facilities;
  • Convenient and state-of-the-art healthcare facilities within the city.

Sioux City: A Blend of Urban and Rural

Sioux City, nestled in the heart of Iowa, offers families a unique blend of urban conveniences and rural charm. This city provides an appealing mix of affordability, cultural diversity, and access to natural beauty, making it an excellent choice for families seeking a well-rounded living experience.

Cost of Living

One of Sioux City’s most attractive features is its affordability. The average home price in Sioux City is approximately $130,000, making housing more accessible for families. Here’s a detailed breakdown of the cost of living:

Cost of Living CategorySioux City
Average Home Price$130,000
Utilities (Monthly)$120
Groceries (Monthly)$250
Transportation (Monthly)$100

Diverse Communities

Sioux City prides itself on its cultural diversity, offering a vibrant and inclusive environment for families. Some key aspects of the city’s diverse communities include:

  • Cultural festivals representing various ethnicities and traditions;
  • A wide range of international cuisine options and restaurants;
  • Supportive organizations and community events celebrating diversity.

Natural Beauty

Surrounded by scenic landscapes, Sioux City provides numerous opportunities for family outings and adventures in the great outdoors. Some notable natural attractions and activities include:

  • The scenic Missouri River, perfect for boating, fishing, and picnicking;
  • Multiple parks and nature reserves with hiking trails and wildlife;
  • Family-friendly camping sites and recreational areas for weekend getaways.

Davenport: A Riverside Gem

The city of Davenport, which is situated on the banks of the Mississippi River, provides a gorgeous location for families who are looking for a combination of urban conveniences and natural stunningness. Residents of this city have access to a wide variety of options, and the city is well-known for its lively riverfront culture.

Cost of Living

Davenport maintains an affordable cost of living, with a median home price around $160,000. Here’s a breakdown of key cost of living categories:

Cost of Living CategoryDavenport
Median Home Price$160,000
Utilities (Monthly)$140
Groceries (Monthly)$280
Transportation (Monthly)$100

Riverfront Activities

Families in Davenport can enjoy a range of riverfront activities, including:

  • Scenic riverwalks and parks for outdoor relaxation;
  • Boating and water sports on the Mississippi River;
  • Riverfront festivals and events throughout the year.

Cultural Diversity

Davenport embraces cultural diversity, providing a welcoming atmosphere for families of all backgrounds. Some highlights include:

  • Ethnic festivals celebrating various cultures;
  • A thriving arts and music scene with local talent;
  • Opportunities for cultural exchange and learning.

Dubuque: A Historic Gem in Eastern Iowa

Dubuque, nestled along the bluffs of the Mississippi River in eastern Iowa, offers a unique blend of history, natural beauty, and family-friendly attractions. This city boasts a rich cultural heritage and a range of activities for all ages.

Cost of Living

Dubuque maintains an affordable cost of living, with a median home price around $150,000. Here’s a detailed breakdown of key expenses:

Cost of Living CategoryDubuque
Median Home Price$150,000
Utilities (Monthly)$130
Groceries (Monthly)$260
Transportation (Monthly)$100

Historical Sites

Dubuque is home to numerous historical sites and attractions, providing educational experiences for families:

  • The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium;
  • Historic districts with well-preserved architecture;
  • Interactive exhibits and heritage tours.

Outdoor Recreation

Families in Dubuque can explore the scenic beauty of the region through:

  • Hiking and biking trails in nearby state parks;
  • Waterfront parks for picnics and outdoor play;
  • Seasonal events like winter sledding and ice skating.

Ankeny: A Rapidly Growing Suburb

Ankeny, a suburb just north of Des Moines, is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after locations for families in Iowa. Known for its rapid growth, excellent schools, and community spirit, Ankeny offers a perfect mix of suburban tranquility and city amenities.

Cost of Living

Ankeny, while slightly more expensive than some other Iowa cities, offers great value for its quality of life. The median home price in Ankeny is around $200,000. Here’s an overview of the cost of living:

Cost of Living CategoryAnkeny
Median Home Price$200,000
Utilities (Monthly)$130
Groceries (Monthly)$270
Transportation (Monthly)$100

Schools and Community

Ankeny is renowned for its top-rated public schools, making it a prime location for families prioritizing education. The community aspect is also a big draw, with:

  • High-performing public schools with strong academic and athletic programs;
  • Active community with family-friendly events and activities;
  • Parks and recreational centers that cater to families and children.

Economic Growth and Job Opportunities

The economic landscape in Ankeny is thriving, with an expanding job market. This growth provides:

  • A variety of job opportunities in sectors like retail, healthcare, and education;
  • Proximity to Des Moines, allowing for easy commute to a larger job market;
  • An environment conducive to both professional and personal growth.

Leisure and Entertainment

Ankeny shines with its leisure and entertainment options suitable for all family members:

  • Shopping centers, restaurants, and entertainment venues;
  • Community centers and sports complexes for youth and adult sports;
  • Beautiful parks, trails, and outdoor activities for family outings.


When looking for the best places to live in Iowa for families, these eight cities stand out for their affordable cost of living, excellent schools, safe communities, and abundance of family-friendly activities. Each city offers its unique charm and advantages, making Iowa a great state for families to grow and thrive. Whether you prefer the bustling energy of a capital city or the serene beauty of a smaller town, Iowa has something special to offer every family.


What makes these cities the best places to live in Iowa for families?

These cities offer a perfect blend of affordable living, excellent educational opportunities, safe communities, and a variety of family-friendly activities.

Are these areas safe for families?

Yes, one of the key factors in selecting the best places to live in Iowa for families is the safety and well-being of the communities.

How is the job market in these cities?

The job market varies by city, but overall, Iowa boasts a strong economy with opportunities in education, healthcare, technology, and manufacturing sectors.

What are the options for higher education in these cities?

Many of these cities are home to renowned universities and colleges, providing excellent higher education options for families with older children.

Jerry Miller

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