Family moving to Boston needs advice (Beverly, Natick: middle-class, renting, houses)
Please register to participate in our discussions with 1.5 million other members - it's free and quick! Some forums can only be seen by registered members. After you create your account, you'll be able to customize options and access all our 15,000 new posts/day with fewer ads.
We are a family of 5 with kids who will be in kindergarten, 6th, and 8th grades, respectively, this fall. We are moving out to the Boston area from Oregon probably this summer and are trying to find the best fit so we don't have to move again
We work from home, will not need to commute every day, but do travel enough to want the drive/train to the airport to not be ridiculous. We are looking at houses up to $850K or so and want excellent schools (and not just based on test scores). We also want a small town feel with everyday conveniences (grocery store, bank, library, gas station) nearby but an hour or less from Boston so we can enjoy its amenities on a fairly regular basis. I am from a small town in central CT, so I really want a friendly, New England feel to the neighborhood we choose. I am not interested in social climbing, helicopter parenting, or a status symbol lifestyle.
Any advice would be great! We have been looking at Essex, Concord, Lexington, Acton, Beverly but the details get lost just doing research online.
My first suggestion depends on how convenient you want the access to public transit to be. If you'd be willing to drive to an adjacent town to catch the train, Holliston comes to mind as a town which is an affluent middle- to upper-middle-class town with good schools which still seems to maintain some friendly small-town feel. And they've got a nice little town center that has the basics in terms of stores that serve everyday needs.
Something that gets kind of tricky is finding a town with excellent schools which does not have the status-symbol-helicopter-parent quality you're saying you'd like to avoid. Acton is one town you're considering which does maintain a school system regarded as outstanding, yet is generally viewed as less pretentious than some other towns with top schools. I'm not familiar with the entire town of Acton, so I don't know what they have in the way of a downtown area and the collection of basic businesses you'd like nearby, so that's one point that would need further research.
I'm also unfamiliar with much of what this next town has in the way of local businesses, but Sudbury may be worth a look if it turns out to have what you need in that regard. This is another suggestion that, like Holliston, would also depend on how close you want to be to the train, as Sudbury itself does not have commuter rail service, so you'd have to drive to other towns in the area for the train, and from much of Sudbury you'd have more of a drive to the train than you would to the nearest station from much of Holliston. It's difficult to say where things stand when it comes to upper-crust way of life and attitudes, because it's going to be difficult to avoid that altogether in towns with excellent schools, and properties near the top of your price range, but Sudbury is a nice, pleasant, little bit countryish town that generally seems to me, admittedly as an outsider looking in, like less of a nose-in-the-stratosphere kind of town than some of the other nice affluent communities in the Boston metro area.
Speaking of the attitude, valuing status, etc., this last suggestion may be a stretch, but I'm thinking that maybe, maybe you might check out Wayland. That's tricky. Wayland is adjacent to or very close to several of the wealthiest social-climber towns in the Boston area, so it may just be that in comparison to these towns Wayland seems less status-conscious, while actually being somewhat of a status town by comparison to more basic middle-class suburbs.
Two other points that lead me to put Wayland last on this list of suggestions are that it's another town without its own rail service, so you'd have to drive to adjacent towns for the train, and if your idea of a nice New England kind of feel includes a quaint little downtown area, you'd find Wayland disappointing in that respect, though there are a couple of commercial areas that are more mundane-looking, in the sense of being oriented around small shopping centers rather than downtown kinds of buildings, but which do have the kinds of basic businesses you're looking for.
On the up side, Wayland's schools are regarded as excellent, it's a pleasant, attractive town, and the town's location makes access to Boston easy and quick, assuming your trips to enjoy the amenities will likely fall outside of commuting hours.
In addition to commuter rail, Go Boston Shuttle is based in West Concord so they'll always pick you up on schedule for Logan airport if you live near that area. If you're heading near Copley Square during a weekday, the Yankee Line commuter bus picks up passengers in the morning at East Acton and Concord Depot.
If you want a small town feel, there are a number of good village centers with varying degrees of pretense. Since it's such a subjective assessment, your best bet might be to visit the ones that have the amenities you want and people watch during a morning (before the non-locals start making their way in). We usually hang out in West Concord and it's mostly townies early on at Concord Teacakes and Nashoba Brook Bakery but it gets filled with non-locals by lunchtime (leisure visitors on weekends and employees from the nearby Baker Avenue offices on weekdays). We like Concord Center and think it's lovely, but it's less our style (more tourists, trophy wives, and nannies though nothing like Wellesley, Lincoln, Weston, etc.).
Sherborn is home to the #1 rated public high school in the state, according to Boston Magazine and twice was recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the best high schools in the country. We love it here. We don't have children in the schools but my sister-in-law does & so do many of my friends who rave about Pine Hill Elementary. The school itself isn't anything fancy to look at but people say the teachers are marvelous. We've only lived here for four years but people have been so welcoming. I already know tons of people here and it's a pretty low-key place. I love heading to Farm Pond in the afternoon or going for a hike. There are tons of trails here, including Rocky Narrows, which overlooks the Charles River in parts. It's a quiet town but we're really close to the Mass Pike, Boston commuter rail, and tons of shopping in Natick and Wellesley. Our library is going through a big expansion as well.
I'd also second the vote for Holliston, as I've found people very welcoming there and they have award-winning schools & lots of community events to tap into.
Stow is another option. A right-to-farm community, it has a very rural and relaxed feel but is just a little over 3 miles to the commuter rail station (40-50 minutes into North Station, Boston) in South Acton. Stow is presently building and renovating its elementary school and joining the K-5 grades into one new building in the center of town. They have their own middle school and the HS students attend a centralized school in Bolton- 15 minutes from Stow. There is excellent shopping in and around Stow (Roche Brothers, Trader Joes, CVS, Shaws, Ace Hardware, Whole Foods, etc.). The town has a lovely town park, a town beach on the shores of Lake Boon, and is famous for its many fruit farms and golf courses. The housing costs are considerably lower than many of the surrounding towns, and the ambience is friendly and relaxed. Homes are on spacious grounds and the town has an abundance of preservation land. We are retired and so have no children in the schools, but our neighbors are very happy with the schools. They seem to be carefully balancing the testing issues with the educational needs of children. Certainly Stow is one town to explore.
Please register to post and access all features of our very popular forum. It is free and quick. Over $53,000 in prizes has already been given out to active posters on our forum. Additional giveaways are planned.
Detailed information about all U.S. cities, counties, and zip codes on our site: City-data.com.