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Old 09-22-2015, 04:08 PM
 
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Byron?
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Old 09-22-2015, 05:47 PM
 
Location: In the reddest part of the bluest state
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If you want to go SE check out Red Wing.
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Old 09-27-2015, 02:12 AM
 
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There aren't a lot of lakes and parks around Mankato but here a few that are nice:

Mankato, St. Peter area
Seven-Mile Creek Park : Explore Minnesota

Mankato, Madison Lake
Parks & Recreation - City of Madison Lake *
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Old 09-29-2015, 05:05 PM
 
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I would take a look at Alexandria. Even though its limits are smaller than you are seeking, its greater area (20 mile radius) has upwards of 25,000. Good schools, Lot's of job opportunities with a cluster of packaging equipment manufacturers plus a 3M plant, and one of the best lakes areas in the state. Also, its only 2 hours from the cities and 45 mins from St. Cloud if you need quick access to bigger city amenities.
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Old 10-01-2015, 05:01 AM
 
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I would check out the Duluth area, plenty of smaller towns nearby, lots of stuff to do.
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Old 10-07-2015, 07:52 PM
 
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Thanks for all the reply's! We're going to make a few trips to check out Mankato, St. Peter, and Alexandria. Talking to many different people and seeing the responses on here have given us a lot of insight!
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Old 11-08-2015, 12:02 AM
 
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Sartell

It's right next to St Cloud, but considered an excellent school district.
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Old 12-08-2015, 08:34 AM
 
Location: Carver, MN
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Check out School Digger for a list of schools rated by scores, there are really some exceptional outstate options in Minnesota. I would try to stay not more then 1 hour from the twin cities if you are looking for really good access to parks and events. Mahtomedi is ranked 3rd in the state and is a town of about 8000, but very close to White Bear Lake which is a much larger town. This can be considered a far north suburb, but it is certainly not going to feel like you are in a big city. Plus you are on the west side of White bear lake and will have access to tons of parks and activities just outside your door. Zumbrota-Mazeppa school district is ranked 16th in the state on School Digger's rankings
Byron is 18th
St. Michael - Albertville is 20th
Esko is 21st
- Other districts in the top 10% of all in the state are: Monticello, Sartell (st. cloud), Mapleton, Pequot Lakes, Stillwater, Barnesville, Annandale, Saint Charles, Becker, Lanesboro and Duluth
Full day kindergarten is available at almost all schools at no charge and pre-k is often available for a fee

Best of Luck!
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Old 01-07-2016, 07:41 AM
 
Location: Rochester, MN
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I'm on board with the SE MN replies - Zumbrota-Mazeppa, Lanesboro, Winona, Byron, Northfield. There might not be as many lakes in this area, but there is an abundance of rivers that can make for some great outdoor recreation. I don't believe there is a poor-quality school in the area, though there are a lot of towns that have consolidated schools (probably smaller than what you're looking for) so you would want to watch to make sure you land in the town that has the school if you want to avoid a bus ride.
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Old 01-08-2016, 10:42 AM
 
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Thanks for all the input. A smaller community would be nice and we would like really goods schools for our daughter.

Currently living in a suburb of Portland OR and the population of Beaverton is 89803 but you can't tell when you leave it and enter the next town or even Portland.
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