Carmel, Indiana: A Great Place to Grow Up
When Angie’s List member Mary Beth Arenz and her husband, Gwynn Tucker, retired after each spending 20 years in the Army, including a stint at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Lawrence, they knew where they wanted to put down roots. “We are Carmelites by choice,” Arenz says of the rapidly growing suburb north of Indianapolis. “And we came here because this is where we wanted to raise our kids.”
Although her son, J.T., is now grown and working to earn his doctorate’s degree in early modern European history, Arenz says her 12-year-old daughter, Katerina, still reaps the benefits of living in a smaller community that’s close to the big-city attractions in Indianapolis.
“I think it’s safe to say that if anybody says they’re bored in Carmel, then they just don’t care to keep themselves busy,” she says. “There are plenty of options for every child in Carmel.”
Livability.com, a website that explores what makes small to midsized cities great places to live, work and visit, recently named Carmel one of the Top 10 Best Cities for Kids. The accolade recognizes the city for allowing children to get a great education, live a healthy lifestyle and engage in various activities.
Matt Carmichael, editor of Livability.com, says the list helps parents decide where they want to raise their families. “Having kids and when those kids start school are two of those key moments in a person’s life when they consider relocation,” he says.
To compile the list, researchers looked at school rankings, crime rates, childhood mortality numbers, and access to health insurance, health service providers and healthy food. It also factored in the number of parks, playgrounds, libraries and recreational venues geared specifically for children.
Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard attributes the city’s kid friendliness to community involvement and public policy. “We know community involvement is a key factor, but without the vision of our city leaders going back several decades, the infrastructure that is currently in place to support such involvement might not be here,” he says.
Brainard also cites Carmel’s low crime rate as an attractive characteristic. “We pride ourselves in doing all we can to provide a safe environment for families,” he says.
Dr. Joanne Smith, a highly rated pediatrician with the St. Vincent Physician Network, says she enjoys practicing medicine in Carmel because parents usually follow orders and she can easily consult with other doctors. “I feel very privileged to be a doctor here, because we have so many pediatric specialists,” she says.
With 500 acres of parks, including the Monon Community Center’s Waterpark, opportunities abound for families to spend time outside. In addition to the popular Monon Trail, which allows families to walk and ride bikes safely, Carmel-Clay Parks & Recreation offers summer camps, fitness classes, sports leagues and the Junior Master Naturalist program, which educates children about Indiana’s ecology.
If seeking indoor options, children can check out the Museum of Miniature Houses in the Arts & Design District and Mr. Muffin’s Trains on West Carmel Drive.
Steve Nelson, owner of Mr. Muffin’s Trains and a business professor at Butler University, says hundreds of people visit his shop each week to watch the huge model train display. “It’s pretty much a family activity. We get a lot of dads with kids, a lot of grandparents with kids,” he says. “Trains relate to any age, whether you’re 80 or you’re 8.”
Nelson says operating Mr. Muffin’s Trains, which charges no admission fee, allows him to give back to the community that supported him, his wife, Liz, and their four children. “My kids have grown up and prospered, and they were raised in Carmel, not just by my wife and me, but by the community.”