Illustration by Sean McCabe

Television executives seized the idea long ago: American families value where they plant their roots. The Cosbys had Brooklyn. The Cunninghams, Milwaukee. The Simpsons, Springfield.

But fathers face reality when they're not in prime time. They want to raise their children somewhere safe, where they can attend good schools with favorable student-teacher ratios, above-average test scores, and respectable budgets. Plenty of museums, parks, and pediatricians also contribute to a good quality of life, whereas multihour commutes, expensive houses, and divorcing friends and neighbors do not.

Best Life editors used these categories and data from the U.S. Census Bureau, National Center for Education Statistics, FBI, American Association of Museums, National Center for Health Statistics, and American Bar Association to evaluate 257 cities. Here are the best—and worst—places to raise a family.

1      Honolulu, Hawaii (Schools spend almost $9,000 per pupil, unemployment ranks less than half the national average, and you can play on the island of O'ahu's 125 beaches.)
2      Virginia Beach, Virginia
3      Billings, Montana
4      Columbus, Georgia
5      San Diego, California
6      Des Moines, Iowa
7      Minneapolis, Minnesota
8      Madison, Wisconsin (Madison has a high number of pediatricians per capita.)
9      Colorado Springs, Colorado
10    Santa Rosa, California
11    Wichita, Kansas
12    Los Angeles, California
13    Corona, California
14    Austin, Texas
15    Stamford, Connecticut
16    Omaha, Nebraska
17    Naperville, Illinois
18    Fort Wayne, Indiana
19    Springfield, Illinois
20    Boise, Idaho
21    Manchester, New Hampshire
22    South Bay Area, California
23    New York, New York
24    Fontana, California
25    Louisville, Kentucky
26    Plano, Texas
27    Oceanside, California
28    Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
29    Sacramento, California
30    Ann Arbor, Michigan
31    Reno, Nevada
32    Las Vegas, Nevada
33    Lincoln, Nebraska
34    San Bernardino, California
35    Grand Rapids, Michigan
36    Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina (Median value of a home: $202,733)
37    Kansas City, Kansas
38    Fremont, California
39    Buffalo, New York
40    Berkeley, California
41    Cambridge, Massachusetts
42    Kansas City, Missouri
43    Waterbury, Connecticut
44    Syracuse, New York
45    Phoenix, Arizona
46    Albuquerque, New Mexico
47    Akron, Ohio
48    Boston, Massachusetts
49    Escondido, California
50    Fairfield, California
51    Antioch, California
52    Elgin, Illinois
53    Rochester, New York
54    Seattle, Washington (Residents spend $266 per person annually to maintain the city's parks.)
55    Tucson, Arizona
56    Santa Clarita, California
57    Denver, Colorado
58    Indianapolis, Indiana
59    Glendale, Arizona
60    Chicago, Illinois
61    Atlanta, Georgia
62    San Antonio, Texas
63    Mobile, Alabama
64    Concord, California
65    Denton, Texas
66    Coral Springs, Florida
67    San Francisco, California
68    Cedar Rapids, Iowa
69    El Paso, Texas (Classrooms average fewer than 16 students for every teacher.)
70    San Buenaventura, California
71    Worcester, Massachusetts
72    Baltimore, Maryland
73    Richmond, California
74    Lowell, Massachusetts
75    Portland, Oregon
76    Jacksonville, Florida
77    Fort Collins, Colorado
78    Orlando, Florida
79    Modesto, California
80    Montgomery, Alabama
81    Tampa, Florida
82    Salinas, California
83    Newport News, Virginia
84    Oakland, California
85    Augusta, Georgia
86    Fort Worth, Texas
87    Washington, D.C.
88    Tulsa, Oklahoma (Residents spend just 17 minutes commuting to work.)
89    Bellevue, Washington
90    Cincinnati, Ohio
91    McKinney, Texas
92    St. Louis, Missouri
93    Hayward, California
94    Midland, Texas
95    Sterling Heights, Michigan
96    Greensboro, North Carolina
97    Arlington, Texas
98    Alexandria, Virginia
99    Winston-Salem, North Carolina
100   Lexington, Kentucky

The 10 Worst Places to Raise a Family (from best to worst)

Springfield, Missouri
Dayton, Ohio
Corpus Christi, Texas
Flint, Michigan (Country's highest violent-crime rate)
Columbia, South Carolina
Waco, Texas
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Fayetteville, North Carolina
Beaumont, Texas (Long-standing air-quality challenges)
Clarksville, Tennessee (Low educational spending: $6,729 per student)

More on MSN:

<a href=,988f49b2-ddac-4652-82fe-6dd34f5c29dc&t=&f=17/64&p=&fg= target='_new'>Video: Best cities to raise kids</a>TODAY's Al Roker talks to Best Life magazine contributing editor Eric Villency about the best cities for families with kids.