American Dream

Best Places to Raise Kids Series: Maple Valley, Washington

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Maple Valley, Washington, ranks as one of the better communities in the country for parents seeking great places to raise kids. Southeast of Seattle, this town of 24,000 offers a quaint, family-oriented atmosphere while still being close enough to the city to take advantage of its amenities. Families who want great schools, fresh air, and an availability of good jobs to choose from might not need to look any further than Maple Valley.

High-Ranking Schools

The Tahoma School District offers a 21:1 student to teacher ratio. That is a 32.7 percent higher ratio than the national average, meaning your children will have personalized attention. In addition to a 95 percent high school graduation rate, the school system boasts a sustainability program and places strong emphasis on post-high school planning. Parent participation is encouraged in the district, with a parent-partnered school that serves grades K–8 and co-op preschool programs.

Outdoor Recreation

The town of Maple Valley is home to Lake Wilderness Park, which offers a full calendar of family-friendly events and outdoor recreation opportunities. Adjacent to the park is Lake Wilderness Arboretum, 42 acres of open space featuring northwestern horticulture and ecosystem management. Additionally, indoor and outdoor farmers’ markets provide the ability to shop for fresh, local produce and goods year round.

For families on the move, the Cedar River Trail is a 17-mile system that follows the river and connects towns in the area, while hikers and mountain bikers can take advantage of the Black Diamond Coal Mine trail system. With the Cascade Mountain range and Puget Sound both less than an hour away, there is no shortage of outdoor activities.

Cost of Living

Cost of living here is about 30 percent higher than the U.S. average. However, higher prices are offset by a median income per family of almost $105,000; that’s $40,000 more than the U.S. average. With Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon, and Nintendo headquartered in the area, technical and aerospace occupations are readily available, and unemployment is lower than the national average at only 4.3 percent.

Housing prices are reasonable for the area. A three-bedroom, two-bath home can be had for under $300,000. Washington also has no state income taxes, which means more take-home pay for residents of the Evergreen State.

Cons of Living in Maple Valley?

The one true negative of living in the area is the commute into the city; to bring home those high salaries, employees often need to drive into Seattle. Although the distance is only about 30 miles, traffic can be brutal, especially during inclement weather. While there are ride-share options, most residents end up spending part of their work day commuting.

With its availability of good-paying jobs, affordable housing, great schools, and family-friendly activities, most residents of Maple Valley would agree that spending a bit of time in the car is well worth the sacrifice for such a high quality of life.

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist by day and financial writer/blogger by night. She lives in Southwest Colorado with her husband and daughter who all share a love of travel, the outdoors, and finding ways to earn passive income to retire early. Her writing has been featured on Business Insider, Life Hacker,  Mint, and Livestrong.com.