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Old 06-12-2012, 07:43 AM
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Just came back from house hunting. Saw Weston, Wayland, Sudbury, Lincoln, Dover, and Concord. Of all of them, only really liked Concord because of the real, vibrant downtown (and the town area of West Concord), but there are so few homes on the market and the prices are skyhigh. Plus I think I picked up on a snobby, exclusive vibe (am I wrong about that?)--seemed the case with several of those town...

I'm looking for a down to earth, liberal, artsy (verging on crunchy, hippie-dippie) community with a real town and good (don't have to be the best) schools. Husband will commute to back bay, but he's used to dealing with a looooong NYC commute, so anything under an hour each way would be much better than he has now. What towns am I missing? Where else should I be looking?

Any and all input would be so helpful!!!! TIA!
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Old 06-12-2012, 08:08 AM
Location: Needham, MA
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I'm drawing a blank. The combination of verging on hippie-dippie while at the same time having a developed commercial area makes it tough. While the state of MA is often viewed as one of the most liberal states in the USA, I find most of the liberal thinkers (i.e. the hippie-dippies) are generally located immediately around Boston. When you get to the 'burbs people tend to be more conservative from a social standpoint but many are still politically liberal.

You could take a look at Natick. A pretty down to earth 'burb with an easy commute to Back Bay via commuter rail. It's much more affordable than the other towns on your list and has a great town center plus one of the largest shopping areas in the state ("the Golden Triangle"). Natick is big enough that you could probably find some hippie-dippie, artsy-fartsy type people to spend time with.

I also thought about Needham for a second. It's more affordable than Weston, but less affordable than Sudbury. So, it's kind of in the middle of your list in that way. It has a great town center and an easy commute to back bay. There are a smattering of artsy-fartsy, granola-crunchy people around town but in no way would I characterize the town as overwhelmingly populated by that type.

By the way, if your husband is commuting to Back Bay, I would cross Concord, Lexington, Lincoln, Sudbury, and generally that whole area off the list. The commuter rail line in that area goes to North Station which means he'd have to switch to the T and take it a few stops to get to work. It will be a much easier commute for him if he lives along a commuter rail line that goes into South Station as those trains I believe also stop in Back Bay. I know you said commute is less of an issue but you'll have your husband back in your life a lot more of the day if you keep it as short as possible.
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Old 06-12-2012, 08:35 AM
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OK, so let's cross hippie-dippie off the list, and at least leave it at down-to-earth... Would Needham qualify that way? I'm just looking for something more laid back than I saw in the towns I visited. (I actually liked the laid back feel of Sudbury, but it seemed over-built and had no real town.) How are the schools in Needham?

My husband does have parking in the city, so he was planning on driving--but I know the traffic from those towns can be horrible.

Thanks so much for your input!
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Old 06-12-2012, 09:23 AM
Location: Beverly, Mass
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You saw some of the most exclusive towns with highest ranking school districts in Greater Boston.

You would find more of the vibe you are looking for on the North Shore and Cape Ann area. I would suggest to take a ride through Swampscott, Marblehead, Beverly and north on 127, and then take route 133 west through Essex and Ipswich.
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Old 06-12-2012, 09:59 AM
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My first thought is Lexington, based on the character of the other towns you listed. Lexington has top-notch public schools, a Waldorf School, Trader Joe's, farmers market, Mother Earth Health Boutique, etc., plus historical charm.

Next door, Arlington is a lot less charming, with much smaller yards, but you will definitely find fellow crunchies and good schools, plus good bang for your buck if you can afford the towns you listed.

For your husband's commute, I'd suggest looking into Brookline or Newton (particularly West Newton). Both have independent movie theaters and bookstores, tons of shopping, and fast commuter rail or train to Back Bay station.

As for Needham, that's also on a good commuting line to Back Bay. Great schools, less snooty people, good downtown. It doesn't have a lot of New England charm, in my opinion at least, but it's clean and nice.
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Old 06-12-2012, 10:33 AM
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Default I second Natick-

It has TCAN-center for arts-Farmers Market on Saturdays-the downtown has its fair share of art and hand craft places/stores-2 more are in the process on pond st as well-downtown is very walkable with a big common which has concerts in the summer-train is convenient to Boston-New high school opens in the fall-schools are good-and the town has a good community vibe. Trader Joes and whole foods are a quick drive up route 9-local markets like tilly's also have some good food options too. Nice parks and we have Elm bank for walking and canoeing -sledding in the winter. Dug pond (Memorial beach) for summer swimming and Broadmoor nature preserve and the Organic Farm which runs various program's for kids and teens through the year.

One thing-you don't say what your budget is or how many/ages of your children? Natick has houses-but be warned the good ones are taken quickly-we sold ours the first day with over 50groups of people coming through in two hours-and another in our street went under contract last week-didn't make it to open house.

Good luck with your house hunt!
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Old 06-12-2012, 01:52 PM
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I think a crunchy vibe mixed with the most expensive towns in Massachusetts might be something of a misnomer, although I would think that Concord might fit.
Personally haven't gotten a "snooty" sense in those towns, but have not lived in them. I defer to those who have more knowledge of a good commute to Back Bay for town suggestions. Best wishes on your move.
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Old 06-12-2012, 10:27 PM
Location: Needham, MA
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Originally Posted by donewithpretty View Post
As for Needham, that's also on a good commuting line to Back Bay. Great schools, less snooty people, good downtown. It doesn't have a lot of New England charm, in my opinion at least, but it's clean and nice.
I would agree somewhat with your assessment of Needham's lack of New England charm. The center of town is quite charming with a 300 year old, golden domed town hall at its heart. The housing stock is much more modern than some New England towns because the town has seen major development spurts in the last ten years and also the 50's/60's. So, it lacks the classic New England victorians you'll see in say Newton. Personally, I wouldn't want to live in an 1800's house. They tend to be drafty and basements with fieldstone foundations are impossible to keep dry.
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Old 06-13-2012, 10:12 AM
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We are sorely lacking in vibrant town centers in this area. The best, in my opinion, are Concord & Wellesley, but Wellesley does not have the feel I think you're looking for. I never found Concord snobby at all, and I like that they have a growing artist community there and that they've always retained their historic character. That being said, it's a terrible commute by train. Not too bad driving though.

The only communities in our area I've heard described as hippy dippy are Lincoln and Cambridge itself. If there were one I'd live there. :-) We live in Sherborn and like that the community invests in things that are important to us like energy efficiency, lots of green space, education, and such, but there's barely a town center to speak of, except for the UU church, Peace Abby, Sherborn Inn, etc. Not much to walk to. But we do have a lovely pond for swimming & sailing, tons of great trails, fun community events, and decent access to Boston.

I think there are villages within Newton that will have that feel you're looking for to a certain extent, as well as a really easy commute to the city & very strong schools. You'll find lot sizes are smaller in Newton than in places like Lincoln, Concord, Sudbury, etc and prices but there's lots more to walk to. Further out you could check out Holliston as a town with a charming New England center with nice family-owned businesses, has a small but growing artist community, award-winning schools & quite a bit more for your $$ than Concord/Lincoln/Sudbury,etc but it's town center doesn't have as much going on as Concord's.

I agree that Needham & Natick lack some of the charm you're seeking. Needham for some reason seems to lack some cohesion in the center and Natick isn't what I'd describe as having a charming or vibrant center. It always bugs me when I drive through Natick that the town center isn't nicer and better utilized. It's getting somewhat better, but I still find when I drive through there with clients their response is usually rather lackluster. (No offense to anyone from Natick. It's a decent town, just doesn't do it for me personally.)
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Old 06-13-2012, 11:14 AM
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How about Southborough
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