Friendly place to live near Boston (Cambridge, Newton: apartments, rentals, condos)
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My husband is working now in Boston and my daughter (age 10) and I will be moving there this summer. I'm considering a private school "British School of Boston" for her. First of all, I would like to have some advice re this choice.
I'm also looking for a place to live (rent initially). We like living near the city - a place like Brookline - but I would also like to have access to children's activities within easy distance - like swimming, scouts, music lessons, soccer league, etc. In short, a family friendly neighborhood, with friendly people, that is not too deep in the suburbs.
I have visited the city several times, and so far, I love the cultural experience, but the people seem kind of aloof.
I would appreciate any suggestions from this Forum.
It depends on your budget and by what you mean by "not too deep in the suburbs" but you might want to look at Newton, which is a very nice town and has what you're looking for. There are a number of villages, or sections, of Newton that are near the Green Line T or the commuter rail to Boston, including Newton Center, Newtonville, and West Newton. Other parts of Newton such as Waban or Chestnut Hill are lovely but more expensive.
There are plenty of other towns that offer those things as well, but many are a bit more removed from Boston. A couple that are closer in are Arlington, Belmont, and Watertown. Though it is costly, Brookline itself will also offer those types of activities.
There has been much written on here about whether Boston people are aloof, and you can scan the forum to get a sense of the discussion. My take is that Boston people are somewhat reserved and are often well rooted in their community, so they take longer to open up and it may require you to be a bit more outgoing to move things along. For many people used to a more immediately outgoing part of the country, however, it is hard to adjust to Boston. That said, they are loyal friends once a connection is made. People in other parts of the U.S. will be much more effusive upon first meeting you, but in my experience that is a more superficial connection.
I'm not personally familiar with the British School but, if it's anything like the Lycee Francais de New York or the International School of Boston it's very expensive. Whether you have the means or the preference to educate your kids in an environment with some continued British influence is not something any of is well equipped to offer advice on, but locally the free public schools in many Boston-area towns, including those named above, are considered quite good.
I have been considering private schools mainly because I don't want to be hostage to a particular neighborhood just because it happens to feed into a school of my choice. I'm a veteran of San Francisco Bay Area and Wake County North Carolina Public Schools and I've been getting rather tired of being pushed around by the school districts. Other reason for private schools would be smaller students - teachers ratio.
I have taken your advice and scanned the Forum for Boston people. I'm feeling a bit more optimistic now.
On one of my visits, I went with a realtor to look at homes in Newton, Weston, Lexington, and even as far as Andover. I have been considering Newton or Brookline because they are closer to the city and have good schools. But the single family homes are absolutely disappointing. The ones that we find tolerable are about a million dollars and I have only been considering factors like spacious kitchen, bathrooms and a resemblance of a yard. Not really impressed with "historic" homes in Newton too
But we don't know anybody in Boston - that's why friendly neighborhood is of critical importance.
It wasn't clear from the original post what your budget was or what kind of space you were looking for but I thought you were looking to rent in the short term and you don't want to go too far, which makes things more challenging. It's true Brookline and Newton are very expensive towns for single family homes though there are some decent deals on smaller rentals in parts of Newton. Compared to Wake County the houses in most places close to Boston will be older, smaller and more expensive. Compared to the Bay Area, a lot of people think Boston's pretty cheap.
The towns you've looked at are all nice. Somewhat more affordable alternatives to Brookline and Newton might include Belmont and Arlington, which are not cheap but do cost less and have a lot of kids and soccer, etc. A lot of people feel these towns strike the balance between being close to the city and having some more space and kid-friendly activities in a good way. There are many homes about 2,000-2,500 square feet and those that are much larger will also be expensive, but not as much as Brookline or Newton. Belmont, or parts of it, has long been a somewhat upscale place, and Arlington is one of the hottest places in the area because it is an attractive town with a suburban feel but a lot of activities and a growing selection of restaurants and shops. It seems the British School is on the JP/Brookline line, which is a little harder to reach from Arlington or Belmont. The school's location is a little tough because the nearest places to it are either in the City of Boston or in Brookline or Newton. A town with some nice areas near there is Needham.
I wish I could be more specific about friendly areas. The one place that people always say on here they've gotten a warm welcome is Franklin, but that's far from Boston. I lived in Arlington as a kid 20 years ago, before its current popularity really took hold, and thought it was a good family town then. The population has become more professional, educated and upscale since and there is relatively easy access to Cambridge and to Boston.
Best of luck. There was a thread on here about Raleigh and Boston recently and I said, with someone else concurring, that people here are slower to open up but are more loyal and tolerant of differences when they do.
Holden's given some good advice. Something it took me time to see (growing up in a very tiny town) is like most large cities, folks are busy. Oftentimes behavior pegged as aloof can simply be rushing, busy folks. I feel in Boston, most people are rushing from packed/often late trains/busses to/from work, rushing through traffic/town/Copley Sta./S. Sta. during lunch hour to pick up lunch within 45-min, so when stopped by tourists, many don't have & won't take the time to give directions, etc.
I'm very friendly, but if I'm working, I can't afford the time to stop for every curious tourist on my jaunt to beat traffic, get home, pick up lunch. I simply say over my shoulder, "I'm sorry, I don't have time. Perhaps someone in that store can help you." Aloof? No. Busy & running for the next train? Yes. We seem to always be rushing as we're a medium-sized, v e r y crowded city with an equal amount of people who commute into the city to work each day/shop each weekend/visit... that combined with more-often-than-not cold, rainy/snowy weather makes us walk fast, talk fast, answer q's fast... It can be a bit disconcerting if one's not used to crowded cities or larger cities.
I find that most areas in & around the city are child-friendly. In other words, I've never been anywhere where I haven't seen children. Certain pockets around colleges filled with students/musicians (parts of Allston, Kenmore Sq.) have less families/kids, but everywhere I go I see families w/kids or in more upscale neighborhoods, nannies w/kids.
Why the rush to purchase? Perhaps if you lived here for a few months & rented a nice condo (there's plenty online, 4 upscale condos on my street alone for rent), you can see which neighborhoods you like, where you need to go for shopping/errands/school, what your commute is like, etc. & can choose a neighborhood based on your needs, which may be different from what you now think. Just a thought... Yes, housing is expensive all over the city, but if you rent & take your time, you won't feel so rushed to choose now.
There are several great private schools (closest to the green/orange "T" lines) in Copley Sq. When I moved to Boston, for my last year of highschool, I attended a British-based preparatory school on Marlborough St. which is still open & thriving. I see they've changed a bit (now require uniforms) & added teams, for instance, so I no longer know the cirriculum. I believe it's for older students, but perhaps calling them to inquire about other schools might prove helpful? There are 3 private grade schools right in that area, perhaps more. Here's the link for the school I attended:
The Newman School – private high school in Boston, Massachusetts (http://www.newmanboston.org/home/home.asp - broken link)
I knew someone who had young, grade school children who attended The Learning Project Elementary School & another (used to be called The Copley School, but the name has changed & I don't recall the new name. I believe it's on Newbury St., but not sure.) This link may help you a lot:
You can search for schools via area & compare side by side. I noticed there's an all girls school for grades 5-12 called the Windsor School that looks lovely. I wish you the best of luck with your search & move & hope you find a wonderful school for your daughter. Welcome to Boston... VV
Thanks for the posting and for the information on schools. We have decided to rent for much of the same reasons you have mentioned. And THANKS () for the school information. While I'm nervous about the move, quitting my job to start over again, it is also kind of exciting and this Forum has been a goldmine of information. I will check the schools you have listed. Do you know of a good web site apart from Craigslist that would list properties for rent?
Try Winchester or Arlington great towns...close to the city easy access via rail/subway/bus
Winchester is a bit pricey but you can find some condos between $150,000 and $300,000 and apartments between $850 and $1200 a month.
Woburn would be another option......
but I would suggest looking at Arlington and Winchester first.
Winchester is a beautiful town
Arlington is too but more a cultural mix of people
(has a bike path through the center of town too) 10 miles.
Winchester has a big woods reservation on the east side of town (middlesex fells) lots of family recreation events summer concerts on the common for kids and adults, movies on the common, the enka fair/carnival, town day, tree lighting with santa coming around the common in a fire truck...thanksgiving football. We also have the best schools in the state. one of our elem schools posted the best MCAS scores in the state last year.
We have a rich volunteer environment in Winchester.
From Community TV to Environmental groups to
parenting groups. We have it all.
We have a beautiful downtown which is walking/pedestrian friendly and lots of parks all over town. playgrounds, etc.
it is a family friendly community
We have lots of pizza, sub shops in town, a bank, a grocery store, commuter rail into boston, post office, hardware store, toy store, ice cream shop, and much more.
Google maps can give you an idea of our location to in refernece to Boston
20 min by car, train maybe 30-40 by bicycle ???
Easy highway access and close to the Woburn-Anderson Logan Express airport bus terminal and Manchester Airport bus terminal
We have the Mystic Lakes as well and a Boat Club
you can join and do sailing and such and put your boat in to go out to boston harbor.
There's the Medford and Winchester Boat Clubs.
Mystic Lakes has a great walking running area along the parkway and a nice park..playground and a beach (Sandy beach) for kids in the summer. -
We also have a town beach Broggard beach at Wedge pond
we have some theater clubs like Winton Club Cabaret and The Winchester PLayers if you're into that
and for music lovers we have the Winchester Community Music School
We have the Arthur griffin museum of photography here as well named after the famous photographer Arthur Griffin who lived here.
We have lots of churches for almost every religions and religions is big in this town. lots of people attend mass and religious services.
Anyway that's more about Winchester.
Hope this entices you to find out more about our town and research apartments/condos,.
Winchester is great and Wedge Pond Rd is right near the center. It's a very small street so I'd think you'd have a nice view of the pond itself from any house on it. Good luck.
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