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Old 03-18-2014, 05:22 AM
51 posts, read 79,526 times
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Heyo! We currently live in the northern part of Phoenix, AZ. I have lived here my entire life and I could use a change of scenery. The dirt and weeds aren't much to look at. My wife was born and raised in Keosauqua Iowa and is eager to move back. And after dealing with this heat my whole life, I'd rather shiver than sweat at this point.

We have two kids, a 5 year old and a 6 month old. We like living here but the weather is miserable 6-7 months out of the year, and I'm tired of fighting off scorpions crawling around. The desert is no place for me. We like the town we're in now, but could use a change of people and living conditions. We live in one of those communities where the houses are nice, but there are no yards and every house is about 6-7 feet apart from each other, we need some space.

Basically, looking for that good old place where everyone is friendly, you can leave some bikes laying out outside and not worry about someone coming along and taking them, and you can leave your door unlocked and not have to worry about anything. It's very crowded here and there are some shady people that are sometimes lurking about, but all in all it's not too bad. So basically I am just wondering what towns in Iowa would be a great fit for a family? We're pretty laid back and relaxed. Enjoy some fishing and movies and meeting new people. I did some searching and found a list of what other sites ranked as the best towns in Iowa to raise kids, but wanted some first hand accounts. My wife lived in a tiny town in the far south east part of Iowa so doesn't know much about the Des Moines area. We'd just move down by her neck of the woods but we need some of what the city has to offer, without actually having to live in the city itself.

Here is the list of the towns I found, but I am open to any and all thoughts! Thanks everyone!

North Liberty
Pleasant Hill
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Old 03-18-2014, 07:47 AM
Location: Sioux Falls, SD area
2,955 posts, read 4,378,239 times
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A few of these I do have opinions on based on your post. I don't live in the area (a daughter does), but have had connections with them.

North Liberty - Town is a good alternative to actually being in Iowa City. You're kind of separating your family from the college craziness that can be Iowa City. Daughter used to live in Coralville and she talked positive about North Liberty.

Waukee - Fast growing, expensive area. Area is basically all newer construction over the last 20 years. Large school.

Johnston - Large school here also if that's OK for your kids. Big suburb.

Grimes - Growing area, but still is it's own community. School district is fairly large, but not huge. Sports teams are in one class down from the top.

Clive - You can't tell where Des Moines ends and Clive starts. To me it's part of the city.

Norwalk - Easy freeway access. Nice community on it's own still separated from the city.

Ankeny - Very fast growing community. Lots of upscale housing. Big suburb. Is somewhat a suburb of Ames as well as Des Moines as it grows north.

Urbandale - Big suburb. Pretty much part of Des Moines.

Pleasant Hill - Fairly large, but newer school setup. You're really out on the fringe of the suburbs. Still a lot of rural area.

Pella - Dutch community. Beautiful town 30 miles from Des Moines. What religion you are DOES matter here. If you're catholic, don't even consider it. I know this stuff first hand coming from both sides (I'm half Dutch and also catholic).

Altoona - Spread out area with a lot of commercial as well as a big casino. Not a very attractive family environment to me.

A couple towns around Des Moines that you didn't mention that are nice safe communities not swallowed up by the big city, but have most everything there that you need are Indianola and Winterset. I would also look at Carlisle.

Most all the towns you mentioned would be quite safe.
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Old 03-18-2014, 08:02 AM
Location: Jonesboro
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jmgg has added some nice input here.
If you are not wanting to locate in a new town with lots of suburban layout, ala cul de sacs glory & massive new areas of tract housing, as an alternative jmgg's Indianola would be a nicely-established college & county seat town for your consideration. Indianola has a great mixture of housing styles & ages & there would be plenty of local stores available for your shopping needs along with the very easy access on into Des Moines. Crime in Indianola is generally relatively low key & only petty in nature.
Another nicely established town with many of the same attractions & amenities as Indianola is Newton out on I-80 in the next county directly east of Des Moines. And to the east of Newton is Grinnell. Although smaller than Indianola & Newton, Grinnell has a college & a nice central business district.
To follow on jmgg's comment, Pella is a lovely & interesting town for visiting unless you are of Dutch background which would then also make it a fine place to consider for living.
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Old 03-18-2014, 08:03 AM
Location: Calera, AL
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You might want to consider Huxley as well. It's about 10 minutes south of Ames, and about 10 minutes north of Ankeny. It's grown considerably over the past decade (was about 1500-2000 forever, now it's practically doubled since around 1990) and has gotten to the point it could be considered a bedroom community of both Ames and the DSM metro. It's just north of the Polk County line, but if the growth continues (and starts growing southward in addition to north and east) it could be a vital link for making Story an official county of the DSM metro. It will take at least 20 or 30 years (assuming the growth continues) but it's plausible.

Ballard is a pretty good public school system, FWIW.
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Old 03-18-2014, 08:25 AM
Location: Keosauqua, Iowa
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I'd second Huxley, lived there a little over two years and was very happy with the community.

Of course you could always just move back to Keo, it's not so bad if you can find work.
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Old 03-18-2014, 09:08 AM
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I can't comment on the others, but N Liberty, while lovely, is more suburban than small-town. I have friends who are quite happy living there, so I don't want to discourage you from considering it--it's convenient to downtown IC and the area's biggest shopping district, and also fairly convenient if one of you ends up working in Cedar Rapids. I imagine the crime rate is probably quite low, and it has many spacious new homes on large lots.

If you are looking for a stand-alone small town in the Iowa City/Cedar Rapids corridor, you could consider Mount Vernon/Lisbon (about twenty minutes from CR and half an hour from IC). What you described--leaving bikes around without worry and so forth--is exactly how these twin towns operate: kids walk themselves to the library or to activities uptown, packages are left on the porch until you get home, etc. They also have good schools, and a surfeit of family-friendly activities. Mount Vernon is the home of Cornell College, so it also has the culture and "vibe" of a college town, but without the town-gown animosity that some college towns can get.
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Old 03-18-2014, 11:03 AM
Location: Des Moines Metro
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Basically, looking for that good old place where everyone is friendly, you can leave some bikes laying out outside and not worry about someone coming along and taking them, and you can leave your door unlocked and not have to worry about anything.
An open door may tempt a saint . . .

I agree that there is much less crime around Iowa as a whole, but I think we are past the days of leaving house and car doors unlocked. It also teaches children responsibility to bring in their toys when playtime is finished.

But I understand your overall desire and agree that the towns mentioned are safe if the usual common-sense precautions are taken. It's not the immediate neighbors that concern me but perps who cruise around looking for opportunities. They exist everywhere.
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Old 03-18-2014, 04:41 PM
51 posts, read 79,526 times
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Awesome guys, thanks for all the input. We're a young couple so we want to stay somewhat close to Des Moines, about 30-45 min away so we can still attend concerts and such at the arena. But prefer the quiet outskirts living. We're not religious in any way so not sure how much of a factor that plays into some of those towns.

We live in Phoenix but we're in the far north outskirts of Phoenix. It takes us about 40 minutes to get to downtown Phoenix. We live in the suburb called Anthem which is nice but, hot, crowded, and snooty people all around. I think the tipping point for wanting to move was about a month ago I saw this guy with his son who looked to be about 9 or 10 on a motorcycle at a red light, once it turned green a car cut in front of them and they both wiped out on their bike. Wasn't too bad of a crash, but the car that cut them off just took off, and the 5 or 6 cars behind them just honked their horns and drove around them, no one bothering to get out and check on the two other than myself and one other person after I already had. Kinda dawned on me that I really don't want my kids to grow up around these type of people. Not to mention the public schools here are terrible.
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Old 03-18-2014, 07:30 PM
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You mention North Liberty and Des Moines. They are not close to each other so are you open to the Iowa City/Cedar Rapids area as well? If so, I'd add Mount Vernon to your list.
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Old 03-19-2014, 05:11 AM
51 posts, read 79,526 times
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We're open to anything that would be perfect really. We're nerds to being close to the city is good for access to movie theaters, comic books stores, etc. Unless one of these small towns has a comic book store which would be amazing lol. We're scouting out Mount Vernon right now as well, taking a look at everything that's been suggested. Hoping we can pick the best. Wish there was a way to make a trip to look at everything but there's no way we can afford it at the moment.
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