Monday, July 1, 2013

5 Best Places to Raise Outdoor Kids

I found Outside Online recently ran this article, putting Missoula as one of the best places to raise to outdoor kids. Right now there is no rather place I would rather be, Montana summer is in its primetime.

New York City is a great place to raise a cultured, worldly kid. At just three years old, my Manhattan-born daughter has eaten delicacies my husband and I had never even heard of until we were in our twenties, and she has an appreciation for art exceeding that of most adults.

But when it comes to teaching kids to appreciate nature, the Big Apple falls short in a big way. Though it’s geographically close to a number of quick, fantastic getaways—kayaking in the Hudson and East rivers, climbing at the Shawangunks, hiking at Bear Mountain—it doesn’t exactly make it easy to give kids the kind of consistent exposure to the wild that will encourage them to keep going outside later in life. There’s no place to store the equipment, for one. And how often can we realistically get away from the city with one or more kids in tow?

We talked with some parents and grandparents of adventurous kids and asked them to make the case for their hometown (or the city or town they're scheming to move to). In making our picks, we looked for towns that had affordable housing, were close enough to the city to give kids exposure to museums and other cultural institutions, and, most importantly, had easy access to a variety of outdoor recreation. While this list is by no means comprehensive, these five cities are a solid bet for parents looking to give their kids an early entree to adventure.

Photo: Micah Sheldon/Flickr  

Montana's second largest city, sits at the confluence of three rivers—the Bitterroot, Clark Fork, and Blackfoot—and enjoys views of five distinct mountain ranges. Combined, these spaces make for some incomparable opportunities to immerse your kids “in a sea of wilderness even if you don’t have a car,” says writer Teresa Ponikvar, who went to college in the town. The downtown area is bike-friendly, and the Clark Fork Riverfront Trail is an ideal spot to introduce your young one to a bike; most of the trail is flat and wide. Rattlesnake National Recreation Area in the Lolo National Forest is so close to downtown that the city bus will drop you and your little one off at the park’s entrance.

Many sports and activities in Missoula are pegged to the seasons, with river rafting and fishing on one of more than 200 rivers and streams in the summer and cross-country skiing and other snow sports in the winter. For smaller kids or busier days, there are also plenty of park and rec spaces in the city proper, including McCormick Park, which offers free bike rentals in the summer and ice skating in the winter, as well as a skate park and ropes course.

With critters from mink to mule deer roaming the nearby woods, Missoula gives parents plenty of opportunities to teach kids respect for wildlife. “You know how in most places if you see the neighbors all gathered on the corner, it's usually because there's been a fire or a robbery or a heart attack?” she says. “In Missoula, it's usually because there's a wild animal doing something cool.”

The average home price in Missoula is about $200,000; rentals can be had for under $700.

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