5. Tiburon, California
Don't be put off by the fact that its name is the Spanish word for shark—Tiburon is one benign and happy place, settled on
the steep-hilled tip of the Tiburon peninsula. One of the many lovely things about living in this town of fewer than 10,000
folks is that you can commute to San Francisco by fast ferry: no gridlock. A revitalized Main Street that made all the town's
popular boutiques and restaurants handicapped accessible without forgoing quaint streetscapes is testimony to the beating
heart in Tiburon. So are the top-notch schools, which brought in the highest rankings in our survey.
Perhaps most emblematic of the welcome in Tiburon is in the philosophy of one of its oldest restaurants, the beloved waterfront hangout Sam's Anchor Cafe (one of the only restaurants in the San Francisco Bay with a public dock): "Pull up. Tie up. Stay a while." It's that kind of place.
Where to Stay: The luxury spa rooms at The Lodge at Tiburon are painted in soothing blue tones. Most have private balconies and patios. Rates start at $168; 415/435-3133 or lodgeattiburon.com.