Moving to Boston Area - Where?

Updated on June 29, 2013
P.G. asks from Durham, NC
4 answers

Thanks for taking the time to read my post. My husband will likely accept a job near downtown Boston, which means we will be moving from NC. I'd like to get feedback about family-friendly, dog friendly areas to re-locate to so I can do some research, maybe between 15-30 min commute from Boston. We would rent initally. I'm in healthcare so I could probably find a job in the area where we move to.
I would also like info about elementary schools (would prefer a charter school, though may be hard to get in) and also highly rated daycare facilities for our kids.
Thanks in advance for any recommendations

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So What Happened?

Thanks all for the extremely helpful information! I will look into these areas.

More Answers



answers from Boston on

When you say 15-30 minutes, do you mean by car or by public transportation? That will make a big difference. Parking in downtown Boston is easily $30 a day so unless you're budgeting $500+ a month for parking (monthly passes are discounted), your husband would have to take the subway or train to work. You could live in Boston proper and easily spend 30-45 minutes commuting downtown via the subway.

There are lots of great communities right outside of Boston proper, but be prepared for sticker shock with real estate. As mentioned below, Belmont and Waltham are great, as are Brookline, Newton, and Watertown. Arlington is just north of the city, a little further out than Cambridge. To the south, Milton is a beautiful town with excellent schools. Dedham is OK.

There are definitely some communities that look attractive on a map but that you'll want to avoid due to poverty and poor schools - Quincy and Randolph to the south, Medford, Malden, Everett, Chelsea and East Boston to the north. Cambridge and Somerville are great communities but are definitely cities so if you're looking for a less urban experience, those may not be a good fit. You also want to avoid anything that's officially part of Boston (West Roxbury, Hyde Park, Brighton) because you'd have to deal with Boston public schools.

The communities above have very high real estate costs - if you decide you want to live a little further away, update your question and I can give some info on communities a little further away.



answers from Boston on

We live in Waltham which is about 9 -10 miles out of Boston. which on any given day is a 30 to 90 min commute to downtown Boston by car depending on traffic and construction and if a truck gets stuck onStorrow Drive. BTW: parking in downtown Boston is at a premium and VERY pricey. However, there are buses into Boston and also the commuter rail which from Waltham goes into North Station (where the Garden is, the one the bruins play in) and then connects to the subway. Elementary schools are good and some nice daycares in the area but no charters. I grew in the next town over, Belmont; smaller than Waltham, schools have a very good reputation(again no charters) and somewhat pricier than Waltham but a little closer to Boston proper...same commuter rail from Waltham goes thru Belmont and there some buses mostly into Cambridge/Harvard Square....
Both are generally dog friendly...I hope this info helps...Good luck



answers from Boston on

Hi P., we lived in Watertown with our family for many years. In fact, our two-floor condo is currently for rent if you are interested! It is within walking distance to an elementary school and the middle school.

Boston may be small, but it takes a while to get places, especially if you are commuting to downtown Boston. When we lived in Watertown, my husband drove to work and it took 30 mins with traffic (this is good). When we found out we were expecting our 3rd, we decided to move out to the suburbs. Without traffic, we are 25 mins from Boston. With rushhour traffic, it takes my husband 1.5 hrs. It takes me about an hour to get to my office in Newton in traffic. If you are looking for a short commute, you are better off finding a place closer to the city (Like Watertown, Newton, Belmont - which are all family-friendly) but they are also pricier places to live as you can imagine. Good Luck!


answers from Boston on


I hate to break it to you, but you could live in Boston and still have a 15-30 minute commute to Boston! It's a small city in terms of square mileage, but there's a river and some highways and a lot of buses and trolleys, and many old winding streets, so it's not a quick trip from anywhere to anywhere. Mass transit is plentiful but crowded. Driving is tough, parking is worse.

I'm in Westborough which is 35-40 minutes from the Boston line (due west) but it's easily an hour commute, sometimes more, in rush hour. The Mass Turnpike is the only way in from the west. Route 95/Route 128 (they are the same for many miles) form a beltway around Boston (which is one reason it's called "the Hub") and Route 93 runs roughly north/south closer in to the city. They are all virtual parking lots during prime commuting hours. A lot of accessibility from the north is via bridge or tunnel, and those are natural bottlenecks. That doesn't make the towns undesirable, but it means you need to revise your commuting expectations.

A lot of people take the commute rail in - it's not super quick (depends on whether it stops at every station) - there are 2 main lines, one of which goes to North Station (as mentioned below, where the Celtics and Bruins play at the Garden) and the other of which goes to South Station with a stop at Back Bay. Depending on where in "downtown" your husband is working, one or the other will be a much better bet. Parking is very expensive. The subway system is pretty comprehensive and is color-coordinated and easy to follow if you look at the maps on line, and signage is good when you are riding. It's not quick though, because there are many stops. The subways also run above ground as trolleys in many sections, so they are subject to traffic lights. There are many buses as well. The trains have wifi, and most commuters use the time to work, read, or nap.

My son lives in Brookline Village, and his roommate goes to downtown near Back Bay, and it's easily a half hour via mass transit. It would be about 7 minutes by car at night with no traffic. So you can't go by what it looks like on the map, unfortunately.

Boston has a zillion hospitals, which is good for people like you who want a job, but it also means there are a zillion patients using the roads and parking lots and subways. Same goes for college students - a lot of schools, a lot of kids and grad students.

You pay real estate prices according to how close to the city you are, and how good the neighborhoods and schools are, like any city.

Some of the most expensive areas are Brookline, Wellesley, Weston, Newton and Milton. Wellesley and Weston are particularly pricy, as is Dover-Sherborn which have a lot of open space, horse farms, etc. Some sections are more affordable than others within Newton, but still not a cheap town. Needham, Watertown and Waltham are a little less, usually, but still not cheap (e.g. Auburndale is a little more affordable). However, lots are small. The "boroughs" of Westborough, Northborough and Southborough also have good schools, with Southborough probably having more expensive houses. Ashland and Hopkinton are on the same train line as Westborough and Southborough with some good buys.

Also, there are many hospitals in the "MetroWest" section which is basically west of Route 128 and reaching almost to Worcester - most are part of the UMass system, and many Boston hospitals have satellite centers outside of the city. For example, Marlborough has many offshoots of UMass (a hospital and also many medical offices, labs, outpatient centers) as well as a charter school but I'm not sure what grades it covers. Remember also that not all charter schools have bus service, so there are a lot of parents doing the driving or at least setting up carpools.

Brookline and Newton have many older homes, with newer construction more available in outlying areas. There are also many apartments and condos especially in Brookline, with apartments more rare in outlying areas except in bigger buildings e.g. in Framingham.

If by "dog friendly" you mean you want a yard, that's one thing. If you want open space where you can run a dog, you need to get further out of the city. There are a lot of nature areas run by groups like Audubon and the Sudbury Valley Trustees, but those aren't good for the early morning or late night walks when you're on a schedule. There are a number of dog parks, and many areas have greenways or parks around water (e.g. Jamaica Pond, both sides of the Charles River in Boston/Cambridge, Chestnut Hill Reservoir on the Brookline/Newton line, etc.). Every town has a leash law and pooper scooper law, so your dog isn't going to run loose no matter where you are.

I think you need to connect with a good real estate firm with branch offices. All of us who live up here know people in real estate, or you can find one on your own. Ideally, if they are part of a big network, they won't just be showing you a small area where they have a lot of homes, you know? But remember some of those jokes about real estate terms: "close to commuter routes" means you can hear the traffic 24/7; "open space" or "country living" mean it's 7 miles to buy a carton of milk. So obviously you need to narrow down your search or you'll never plow through the info!! You can spend a whole lot of time researching schools districts and there is a ton of information to evaluate. Make a list of your priorities and make sure any agent is really straight with you.

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