23. Mercer Island, WA
Mercer Island, WA
Population: 23,577
Median family income: $146,570
Median home price: $754,000

"Outdoorsy" just begins to capture the spirit of this town of off-leash dog parks, sports fields and gorgeous beaches. Swimming, kayaking and boating draw residents to the water, while more than 300 acres of parks, ball fields and play areas give nature-lovers space to roam.

A shared appreciation for nature, physical activity and great schools helps this diverse community gel. Events like Summer Celebration, Community Campout and Shakespeare in the Park bring a cross-section of island dwellers together.

Home prices range from the mid-six figures for modest abodes to more than $20 million for grand estates with serious acreage and breathtaking water views.

See complete data and interactive map for Mercer Island

Last updated August 15 2011: 2:49 PM ET
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These terrific small towns -- even now -- boast great job opportunities, top-notch schools, safe streets, economic strength, and more.

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