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Any other parents out there find themselves interrupting their regularly scheduled nightly Netflix binges for some “where do we see ourselves in five years” conversations with their S.O.? Because it’s been happening a LOT in our houses as of late, and we can’t help but feel like the whirlwind that was 2020 has so much to do with it. For many, the past year spent social distancing (and keeping in touch with our family and friends via FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, etc.) has made it easier to imagine all the potential what-ifs of living somewhere else. Then, when you consider all of the things that might have precluded you from making a move in the past—like proximity to your job (for many, remote work looks like it’s here to stay)—those what-ifs become why nots.

We’ve gotten pretty familiar with all the U.S. cities that should be on your must-move-to lists, but how about a big move to a smaller scene (i.e. with a population under 100,000)? If you have kids at home, a smaller town or a scaled-back suburb—with easy access to metropolitan amenities— might be the best thing for your family. Of course, one-off research and Googling are great places to start with your relocation recon, but you’ll also want to get familiar with resources like Niche and Livability to really check the pulse on prospective locales. Glowing and specific peer reviews, especially from fellow parents, are awesome ways for you to discover hidden gems when you’re on the hunt for a new hometown. After doing some research ourselves, here are the 12 best places we’ve uncovered.

RELATED: The 16 Most Charming Small Towns in Florida

best places to move if you have kids cat
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1. Bentonville, AR

The phrase “small town, USA vibe” is no joke, and families living in Bentonville subscribe to it every day. From renowned mountain biking and hiking trails to splash pads that transform into ice skating rinks in the winter, you’ll have ample opportunities to raise your open air affinity here. And if it’s some inside time that you’re after, Bentonville has that for the family, too. The Scott Family ‘Amazeum’ is unlike any children’s museum you’ve seen before, offering a total extension of Bentonville’s ethos as a place for exploration, creativity, and discovery. And in the summer, you can get together with your neighbors and family friends on the lawn at Lawrence Plaza (in downtown BTV) to watch movies or attend First Friday, a food truck festival that features live music on the first Friday of every month.

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best places to move if you have kids brookline nh
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2. Brookline, NH

Following the lead of Massachusetts in WalletHub’s list of the Best States to Raise a Family is New Hampshire, the sixth best spot to raise the squad. Brookline, a suburb of Manchester, is a wonderful, quiet place with a multitude of local activities for the whole family, which include water sports at the private town lake, beach trips, skiing in the winter, and weekend trips into Boston (only an hour-long commute into the city). The school district is excellent, the town is pretty safe, and the community itself organizes a ton of uniquely Brookline events throughout the year (there’s an annual chili, soup and chowder contest, so you’ll want to bring your best Kevin Malone-perfected chili recipe!). And while we’re on the subject of The Office, Holly’s former homestead, Nashua, is nearby, and we hear the downtown shopping scene is awesome.

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best places to move if you have kids carmel in
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3. Carmel, IN

Any Parks & Rec fans out there? Well, we have it on good authority that Carmel, Indiana, is a much more exemplar Eagleton; when we say that, we mean that it’s a stunningly manicured, gorgeous community filled with happy, helpful and welcoming people (seriously, they have a very active newcomers club). There is a major approach to ‘walkability,’ “where a system of trails and bike lanes have made Carmel one of the most bike-friendly communities in all of Indiana. Many residents can live, work, shop, and enjoy entertainment without using their cars,” according to Carmel’s official website. If having 12 parks only scratches the surface for what your nature-loving squad seeks in your move, believe us, there are so many other amazing, year-round activities to keep an eye out for.

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best places to move if you have kids greenville sc
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4. Greenville, SC

You know that feeling when you vacation in a spot that’s so enchanting you dream about moving there afterward? That’s where we are with Greenville, South Carolina. The plethora of attractions in this affordable, walkable and epicurean-focused city (which boasts 100 locally owned restaurants and four James Beard nominations in just three years) is unparalleled. We’re particularly pumped about the Children’s Museum of the Upstate, which is the only children’s museum to be a Smithsonian Affiliate, and the Mice on Main eye-spy adventure inspired by Goodnight Moon. (There’s a bronzed sculpture of the book and one mouse mounted on the fountain in front of the Hyatt Regency Hotel, and an installment of eight other hidden mice along a 5-block stretch of Main Street.) Want to hop on Greenville’s free trolley and start exploring? Us too!

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best places to move if you have kids excelsior mn
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5. Excelsior, MN

When your town has dedicated Instagram accounts managed by really involved residents, there must be a valid reason. Excelsior, Minnesota is completely worthy of the hype, and we’ve done some of our own snooping to corroborate that fact. This under-3,000-person neighborhood features its own quaint general store (which set the standard for cool way before Schitt’s Creek came into play) and a lively main street drag. There are adorable boutiques, mom-and-pop shops for candy, ice cream, collectibles and the plenty of gift havens to buy those “Somebody in MN loves you” tchotchkes from.

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best places to move if you have kids grapevine tx
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6. Grapevine, TX

There are a lot of high marks for this roughly 53,000-strong locale in the Lone Star state (amazing schools, beautiful and affordable homes, a staggering 30+ parks, a vibe that mixes small-town charm with urban style). But let’s not ignore the fact that as THE Christmas capital of Texas, the downtown decorating game is downright gangbusters and the events that go on all season will inspire plenty of new traditions for your fam. Beyond the most wonderful time of the year, though, there is never a dull moment for kids here. Grapevine is home to the LEGOLAND Discovery Center, SEA LIFE Grapevine Aquarium, the Peppa Pig World of Play indoor playspace for preschoolers, and a number of water parks in the greater Dallas/Fort Worth area.

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7. Montclair, NJ

Are you familiar with the magnet approach to education? Because in Montclair, that’s the gold standard school of thought. Montclair’s Board of Ed is fiercely allegiant to children being served by programs that best support their individual learning styles, so instead of being beholden to the institutions closest to their homes, families can choose to enroll their kids in the school that best represents and teaches toward their needs. It’s a pretty major perk of the town, and one that greatly exemplifies Montclair’s commitment to inclusion and diversity, which sparkles, by the way. To that point, we’re blown away by the food scene on Bloomfield Ave and Walnut Street: it boasts dozens of cuisines ranging from Meditteranean and Moroccan, Turkish to Thai and everything in between. Need more spice? New York City is a quick 30 to 40 minute-at-most trip, and there’s a train stop right in town.

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8. Moorpark, CA

When you’re contemplating a milestone move, the anxiety that comes with finding a place your littles will (hopefully) love creeps up fast and furiously, but it helps when the place you’re looking puts family-friendliness first and foremost. Peep America’s Teaching Zoo at Moorpark College, for example—it’s close, it’s student-run and it provides a great experience for budding zoologists. Beyond that, we were shocked at the sheer number of kid-centic events, celebrations and meetups on Moorpark’s Spring Recreation Guide, which would be a tremendous resource for newcomers and their kids. The 805 certainly isn’t the cheapest spot to explore in California, but for a diverse Los Angeles suburb, with lots to do and see, it isn’t completely unreasonable (you can still find a beautiful home under $600K, which is more than we can say about the majority of LA-adjacent outskirts).

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9. Norwich, VT

If you don’t mind rain and a lot of mud every once in a while, Norwich, Vermont might just be your jam—especially if you’ve gotten used to social distancing and actually prefer to be a little further away from other people. The rural town of 3,400 holds the number one spot in Niche’s list of the best places to live in Vermont, and it’s not hard to see why. There are lots of small, quirky shops and a ton of things to see and do outdoors like hiking, kayaking and skiing. But what the locals love here the most are the friendly faces they see every day (or every few days…), the A+ school system, and the postcard-worthy picturesqueness that they’ve settled into. The general store’s mantra is "If We Don't Have It, You Don't Need It,” and it’s this kind of simple, unfussy attitude that sets the tone for the store’s own philanthropic and community-serving endeavors.

Oh, and dogs are very welcome. Especially fluffy ones!

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best places to move if you have kids pittsford ny
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10. Pittsford, NY

  1. There is truly so much to love about this 30K-strong suburb of Rochester, NY, starting with the amazing schools, the high employment rates and affordable housing, the plethora of outdoor parks and one of the most thriving farmers market situations we’ve ever seen. Community events during COVID cropped up like crazy, with family drive-in movie nights and food truck Wednesdays, among others. Add to that an overwhelming want to be there from its residents, many of whom grew up in Pittsford and had no intention of leaving when they started their own families. As a suburb of the more bustling Rochester, NY (less than 15 minutes away), Pittsford residents can enjoy family days out at Seneca Park Zoo, The Strong National Museum of Play, Seabreeze Amusement Park and the like, but then retire home to their quiet, simple stomping grounds.

For many parents, nights spent taking walks at Tinker Nature Park or feeding ducks at the Erie Canal after dinner make for the best memories, bar none.

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11. Sycamore, IL

Life offers more in Sycamore… well, that’s what they say here, and we actually believe it. In fact, when you consider making a move to a small town like this, “giving up” those big-city amenities for a lot less busyness can actually make feel happier and more fulfilled. In Sycamore, the vibe is very quiet, but safe and secure. You can get A LOT for your money when it comes to finding a house (three, four and five-bedroom houses are available for less than $400K). Oh, and once you’re here, you’ll instantly feel connected to your neighbors. Everyone shows up for the festivals (like the huge pumpkin fall fest). Add to that an hour-long commute into Chicago, and you’ve got the best of both worlds—small town charm and big city adventure.

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12. Westborough, MA

As the number one draft pick for families across all 50 states, Massachusetts can ‘afford’ to be pricey, but the town of Westborough, MA isn’t out of the realm of possibility. The median home value is $460K (versus more than two or three times that in other desirable Bay State best towns), but the schools and the sense of community in the area are top-notch. While locals call it the “Westbubble,” it’s actually a very big term of endearment versus a criticism. In fact, it’s Ginny & Georgia-level New England beauty, charm, safety and security, with all of the inclusion and diversity that fictitious Westbury was missing. Add to that a college-rivaling curriculum and teachers who are passionate about motivating and encouraging ALL of their students: Mr. Gittens need not apply. For that alone, we’re big fans.

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