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Old 03-10-2008, 08:38 PM
 
Location: Quincy, MA
64 posts, read 168,778 times
Reputation: 22

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Hey all- we're a young family (me and wife are 23 with a 1 yr old son) currently living in JP. As it is starting to get nicer out, we are looking for nice town squares to walk around, shop, eat, explore, etc...with a little more to offer than centre st here in JP. As an added bonus, we're considering moving and this would be a huge consideration in an area we pick.

As such, can anyone recommend/talk about some of the nicer "town square" areas in the greater Boston area, with restaurants and shops to highlight? Thanks! So far all we really know/have been to are here in JP, Davis Sq in Somerville and Harvard Sq in Cambridge...thanks!
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Old 03-11-2008, 09:41 AM
 
1,813 posts, read 3,421,243 times
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Your "town squares" idea makes me think what are the ingredients or characteristics of a place that make them attractive for walks? We can all relate to the attitude of the tourist who's looking for something diverting, authentic, interesting... Maybe think of ourselves as tourists at home--what are we looking for when we go out and about? The idea of the town square is exactly what many people want when they travel in Europe or Latin America--a plaza, historic buildings, markets, interesting shops, nice landscapes, cafes to sit in, restaurants, and so on. The requirements include walkable distances and a variety of public places, both indoor commercial places (historic buildings, cafes, shops, restaurants, theaters, museums, galleries) and outdoor places (interesting streets to walk, parks, historic sights.) So where does that leave us? Around here, Boston itself has the most to offer. You've already seen Harvard Square--to me, that's a great example of a place with all the necessary ingredients: a concentration of walkable streets with shops, cafes, etc., outdoor public space that's full of people looking at other people, interesting surroundings including Harvard Yard, historic buildings, Cambridge Common; nearby parks and other public spaces--the Charles River, the H.W. Longfellow house and Longfellow Park... You can spend time in the square, walk along Brattle Street past interesting old houses and other sights, even out to Mt Auburn Cemetery which is itself a great place for walking.

Union Sq, Somerville may be interesting. Coolidge Corner, Brookline, has plenty of shops but not the other ingredients; same with Central Square. Jamaica Plain is hard to beat--great places to walk, a main street with shops, etc., interesting old houses to look at. It's just that Centre Street is limited and the sidewalks are too narrow. Charlestown has lots the other ingredients but lacks a concentration of shops and other public places. Outside the city, Needham has a lively downtown. So has Wellesley but with the added attraction of Wellesley College and Lake Waban. Dedham has a beautiful historic district and some, but not enough, shops and restaurants. Newton Centre has shops and restaurants but little else. Arlington has good stuff along the main street, also the rail trail and some nice lakes. Winchester has a lively center with a pond and the fells reservation a mile or so distant. Maybe Woburn is similar. Farther afield, Concord has all the ingredients; so does Marblehead, Salem, and Newburyport. Hingham has a nice commercial district, historic buildings, and a harbor front. Cohasset has a beautiful center and harbor, though not so many shops. I believe Andover has some good things but haven't been there. A few ideas, anyway...
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Old 03-11-2008, 10:21 AM
 
110 posts, read 390,245 times
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I can tell you the kid friendly town centers I know in the Boston area.

I like Cooliage Corner a lot. Great shops, good restaurants and parks near by. A Barnes and Noble and Magic Bean for toys and overpriced strollers. There is also a farmers market during nice weather. Same with Central Sq. in Cambridge Lots of great places to eat and shop with a farmers market in nice weather. There is a good used book store in Central that I could wander through for hours. Central is also nice because of its proximity to Inman, Harvard, Union, Kendall and Cambridgeport. All within a short walk and all have unique shopping, eating and playing. I like Inman because of Stella Bella toys and Christina's Ice Cream. The kids love to hang out there and play.

We lived in Porter sq. for 2 years and really liked it. Some nice shops for families (Stella Bella and Porter Bookstore) and good family dining. The little Porter mall has good cheap asian food stalls. The best part is the short walk to Harvard or Davis. It's hard to pick a single center in Cambridge since they are all so close. Get off the red line at Central and walk to a few in a day. You can see the little differences in each neighborhood's demographics.

Arlington Center is similar. Good food, shopping and a really nice toy store. Not your average Joe's seems to be about 3/4 families at any given time. It's a little tougher to get to Arlington without a car (there are buses from the red line). They do have a cheap public lot if you can drive.

Have fun exploring.
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Old 03-13-2008, 07:51 AM
 
Location: Quincy, MA
64 posts, read 168,778 times
Reputation: 22
Thanks for the input thus far...definitely seems like there are plenty of places we have yet to check out.

What do people here think of the different Newton villages? I posed a similar question to the one above to people at work and they suggested we check them out. Do people know specifics about the different ones..which ones have better shopping, restaurants, nicer areas to live, better parks, etc??

Again, thanks for all the input!
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