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The Best Places to Raise Outdoor Kids: Salt Lake City, Utah

Published: 06/30/2013

By Julie Schwietert Collazo, -- 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.

Salt Lake City, Utah

Amherst, Massachusetts

Brevard, North Carolina

Missoula, Montana

Eureka, California

Salt Lake City, Utah

If you want to get your kids started on adventure from the word go, you couldn’t do much better than Salt Lake City.

“Even on the ski slopes they start them young,” says Erika Wiggins, a former commercial real estate broker and pilot who now blogs at The Active Explorer. “The proof is in the number of families I see outdoors here.” There are a range of attractions within 45 minutes of the city, allowing parents and children to take advantage of even the shortest days. She also finds Salt Lake City ideal because of the range of outdoor experiences available to families within minutes of the city. Nearby attractions include Little Cottonwood Canyon, home to Snowbird and Alta ski resorts as well as hundreds of granite climbing routes, and Timpanogos Cave National Monument, where visitors can tour three stalactite-festooned grottoes.

While housing prices increased in the first quarter of 2013, they still remain below the national average. The average for Salt Lake City is just under $150,000; rentals on two-bedroom apartments average right around $700.