Almost Lake Wobegon

By Kelly

It was rainy and cool in Minneapolis this past weekend, harbinger of an autumn that’s coming on much too fast. Fighting the doldrums and Early Onset Cabin Fever, my husband and I gathered our three kids Sunday afternoon and headed to the Minnesota Children’s Museum.

We hadn’t visited since spring. Summer is glorious in Minnesota, but short. Why waste a sunny day playing indoors? We have winter for that.

But if we must have winter and dreary weekend days, I’m glad we have a place like the Children’s Museum. It’s colorful and creative, imaginative and engaging. Our kids are partial to scrambling through the huge anthill in the Earth Works room and playing supermarket clerk and mailman in the kid-sized neighborhood of the Our World gallery. Teyla, at eight months, loves crawling around the padded Habitot room, which is full of textures, sights and sounds designed for babies.

It’s just one of the reasons I’m happy to be raising my family in the Twin Cities. And according to the results of the 2008 America’s Favorite Cities survey, even outsiders view my hometown as a good place to settle down. Minneapolis-St. Paul ranked second (out of 25 major U.S. cities) in the areas of cleanliness, intelligent residents and safety. We came in third for having friendly people and being an affordable place to shop and live. And we were in the top five for public parks and access to the outdoors, farmers and specialty food markets and ease of getting around town.

We didn’t do so well in the thriving nightlife area, ranking low for quality of singles bars and nightclubs. Nor did we score high on weather. (Only Chicago came in lower than us.) But that’s OK. When it comes to raising my kids, I’d rather have intelligent neighbors and great public parks than Las Vegas’ party scene or San Diego’s picture-perfect climate. (I will not remember saying this come January.)

The Twin Cities tend to be in the top ten of every “Best Place to Raise a Family” list out there. Chalk it up to great schools, low cost of living, tons of pediatricians, almost non-existent pollution and low crime.

Here are a few other reasons why I love living here:

Change of seasons. There’s something magical about watching the ebb and flow of nature through the eyes of a child. Natalie loves the snow. (Despite her father’s mantra that “winter is evil, winter is evil.”) Connor looks forward to our annual trip to the apple orchard. The seasons give our lives structure and variety and expectation.

Active lifestyle. Minnesotans are a resoundingly fit bunch. Even on the coldest winter days, you’ll see people jogging and ice skating and cross-country skiing and sometimes even biking to work. (Although I personally believe winter bikers are certifiable. As are people who ice fish.) During warmer months the trails and parks and lakes and fields can get downright crowded. The assumption is to get out and get moving, never mind the weather. Gotta love that attitude.

Water. I wasn’t born a Minnesotan, but I grew up here. Thus, I am a water baby. There are gorgeous, sky-blue lakes around every bend in Minnesota. (Which is also why we have mosquitoes the size of robins. But I digress.) I love swimming and spending lazy summer days at the beach. I’m proud that the sport of water skiing was invented here, that we have a pristine lake wilderness to canoe and yes, that those lakes freeze into hockey rinks each winter.

So now it’s your turn. Brag a little about where you live. What makes your city a great place to raise a family?

And if you can’t think of anything? Feel free to move to Minnesota. Your first play date at the Minnesota Children’s Museum is on me.

Kelly, who still misses San Diego, despite all evidence to the contrary, can also be found blogging at Love Well.

14 Responses to Almost Lake Wobegon
  1. Happy Geek
    September 17, 2008 | 12:25 pm

    I LOVE Calgary. It has a world class zoo (with reasonable seasons pass rates) it is an hour from the Rocky Mountains, located on two rivers (with lots of walking and biking paths.
    PLUS, while we do get lots of snow Calgary gets chinooks. It can be blowing and snowing one day and melting like mad the next. I LOVE me a good chinook.
    Plus many of the Christian schools are now Alternative schools making them much more affordable. Even if we choose public schools they are still a high quality choice. And as a good Canadian I cannot imagine living without Universal healthcare. So, any city I choose has to be North of the 49th.
    Calgary is a vibrant multi-cultural city with one of highest standard of livings in North America. There are festivals and cultural events galore.
    I truly feel blessed to be able to raise my kids here.

  2. Sarah at themommylogues
    September 17, 2008 | 1:51 pm

    I love MN. I live out in the stix, where my daughter goes to kindergarten in the same room I did. It truly is Lake Wobegon. Everyone knows everyone. My pediatrician is now theirs. There are a lot of conversations with people like, “We just bought a new house.” “Oh, did you buy Smith’s old place?” “Well, we bought it from Johnsons’, but it was Smith’s before that.” “Oh sure, where are they moving?” “I think they bought Carlson’s house on the lake.” “That makes sense — hasn’t his mom been sick? Now they’ll be a little closer.”

    You get the idea.

  3. Ashley
    September 17, 2008 | 2:35 pm

    I live in San Angelo, TX. It is west Texas. There are so seasons really. I mean, we do have them, but they are not like seasons up north. It is a smaller city, about 100,000 people, so I like it because it’s not crazy city-like with all the hussle and bussle. We are in west Texas. It’s as laid-back as you can get! I love it here and want to stay here until my kids get older. Plus all my family lives here and it’s great having them around. The shopping here isn’t that great, but I’ll take it over living and raising my kids in a big city.

    I grew up in the Philippines. My parents were Southern Baptist Missionaries. We moved there when I was 4 and came back to the US the summer before my senior year in highschool. (We did have two one-year furloughs in between all that time.) I LOVED growing up overseas. I think it saved me from the whole “spoiled American mind” if you would let me say so. I am very appreciative of all that I have because of where I was raised. Plus, the beaches over there were something else. Beautiful!

  4. Megan
    September 17, 2008 | 3:51 pm

    I love suburban Chicago for the PEOPLE. They are the nicest, most down-to-earth group I’ve met anywhere and have made us feel so welcome and at home. I love the summers here, and heck, I love the winters until about January and then UGH! NOT GOOD. Oh, and I love the corn. And my neighbors/neighborhood. And we have several nice children’s museums, too. And an awesome commuter train system.

  5. Moriah
    September 17, 2008 | 4:30 pm

    I could not LIVE without our children’s museum membership – I almost love it more than our kids! But, unlike you, I use it in the summer sometimes just to ESCAPE the Southern heat. (This year hasn’t been too bad, so I haven’t renewed it quite yet…)

    I do love our city; very family friendly, lots to do, great restaurants, a user-friendly downtown and some fun hot-spots.

  6. Heather of the EO
    September 17, 2008 | 6:29 pm

    Oh how I love it here too. especially now that I know there are a lot of smart people 🙂

  7. edj
    September 17, 2008 | 7:10 pm

    Well, Oregon has all those things you mention. Friendly, intelligent, fit people biking to work, (eco-conscious too) incredible nature, plenty of water and outdoor sports and parks (including the 20-mile-long Forest Park RIGHT next to downtown Ptld) PLUS a thriving art scene and great coffee and independent bookshops where you can find great deals.
    Sigh…now I miss it. But I know I’ll learn to love Morocco too. I can already see glimpses…the fresh-squeezed orange juice available on every corner (except during Ramadan), and the history and fascinating handicrafts.

  8. gretchen from lifenut
    September 17, 2008 | 7:31 pm

    CO is everything you mentioned—outdoorsy, fit population (least obese state in the nation), tons of parks, museums, cultural attractions, great restaurants, highly education population, etc…

    I think the thing which sets CO apart is the huge diversity in our landscape. We have the sublime Rockies running right down the middle, the rolling plains in the east, and redrock desert canyons (where I grew up) in the west. In fact, my parents had palm trees for years. The climate is that mild! Orchards and vineyards everywhere, too.

    I love it here and have no desire to live anywhere else. Visiting is fine, but CO will always be home. Plus, I feel weird if I can’t see mountains for long.

  9. Michelle Burrill
    September 17, 2008 | 9:09 pm

    I challenge you to find anything you want to do that you can’t do in San Jose, CA. Snow skiing is close enough to go for a day trip, The Pacific Ocean is 30 minutes away, there are glorious mountains and hills all around, and it’s still a large city, so you do or find anything you need. Children’s museum? Check. Sporting Events? Check. And we don’t get cabin fever in the winter, because it’s usually pleasant enough to go places. The weather is brilliant, and the schools are fantastic. I love it here, and can’t imagine living anywhere else.

  10. Emily
    September 18, 2008 | 1:51 am

    I live in San Jose, CA- and I could not want OUT more badly!! This is a crazy place to raise a family!! Housing costs are crazy- we pay in rent the same as my sister pays for her HOUSE payment… San Jose lacks SEASONS. If we have to have one more day of hot, sunny weather I feel like I will lose my mind! 🙂 Seriously though- give me fall during fall (not in December)- give me some snow outside my door. I don’t want to have to drive hours and sit in awful traffic just to enjoy snow with my children. I enjoy having the ocean close- but I would be just as happy with lakes. The mountains are beautiful- and I will miss them when I leave… I will probably miss Inn-n-Out the most though. 🙂 The Children’s Museum is San Jose is sorely lacking. We go because it’s something to do, but we don’t love it… The public schools aren’t great, most of them arne’t even good- if our child was school age I would work a 2nd job just to pay tuition for a private school… I can’t really say much good about living in San Jose! Most of my friends that grew up here only stay because of family. Most of them aren’t overly thrilled with live in San Jose… I am content being here for now because at this time in our life this is where are supposed to be. I can’t wait for the day we move- hopefully next summer- to a land like Minnesota or Colorado- or someplace with family values and seasons- and hopefully a Chick-fil-a too!! 🙂

  11. Beck
    September 18, 2008 | 8:21 am

    My town? It has under a thousand people and a hardware store. Oh, and an arena, since you have to be pretty teeny in Northern Ontario not to get your own ice rink.
    The school’s okay – 90 kids and my mom is teaching The Girl this year. The Boy is in a Grade One/Senior Kindergarten/Junior Kindergarten split, which is a LOT of splits.
    And there are lots of pretty trees and bears.

  12. Erica MacKnight
    September 18, 2008 | 11:17 am

    I live in Rhode Island. I grew up in Newport (google to oggle the mansions that you can tour!) and I love it here. We have tons of coastline, and tons of beaches. We have quaint towns and a cool capital, Providence. It’s a small city with just enough city to make it great. We are 3 hours from New Hampshire, so skiing is a big winter activity for my family. Cape Cod is one hour away, and it’s so beautiful there too. Because Rhode Island, is how to I say this… tiny, we can get everywhere in a realtively short time. People who have a commutes longer than 15 minutes are regarded with awe around here. Anyways, I’ve lived in California, and visited several other states, but I can say, that Little Rhody is just right for me!!!

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