Help Needed: How to Find a Free-Range Neighborhood?

Hi Readers! Here’s a question I’d love you to weigh in on — as would the writer, Maya. (And — totally off topic but too cool for me not to mention is that when I saw Maya’s unusual last name I asked her if she could possibly  be related to a woman who shared it named Marie who, about 70 years ago, was my father’s mentor, teaching him interior design in Chicago. So Maya went and found her husband’s family tree and there on one of the branches was his great aunt, born 1900, in the Chicago suburb of Evanston. Name: Marie. Profession: Interior designer!) – L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: My husband died a few months ago, and after I do a possibly-crazy 3-6 month long road trip with my 20-month-old, I’m going to relocate.  As a sole parent, I’m going to have to be even more Free-Range than I may have been otherwise.  It seems that half the battle is settling in a neighborhood that already has Free-Range tendencies.  I’m looking for tips on how to spot a Free-Range neighborhood, especially when you don’t know anyone and have to look for outward signs, or do some investigating that won’t get you arrested.

The ideas I have so far:
1) Drive near the schools in the morning or afternoon and see if lots of kids seem to be walking.
2) Hang out at the park (with child) and see if the park is used and if it used by unescorted children.
3) Visit the local library after school hours. [Bonus points if library is in walking distance to school or neighborhood!]
4) Look for sidewalks [not sure how critical this is]
Any other ideas for signs of a Free-Range neighborhood, or other ways of investigating and finding one?
Thanks! – Maya
Lenore again: I’d like to hear these, too. And Maya, very sorry about the loss of your husband. Very glad to help you find a community to provide support! – L

Ideal: A neighborhood where kids get to DO things.

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