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Old 08-03-2012, 01:55 PM
 
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Hi there,

I'm a Connecticut native: grew up in Wethersfield, went to high school in Windsor and college in New Haven (where I also lived for two years in my 20s). My husband, our three young children (4, 3, and 1), and I are going to be moving back to CT from the Midwest in the spring of '13 to be closer to family.

My husband and I are writers and will both work from home so commuting is not an issue. The towns we have zeroed in on are Guilford, Madison, Old Saybrook, West Hartford, and Glastonbury, but, given that we've never lived in any of them, we would love to hear feedback - including neighborhoods we might focus on - from people who know these towns better than we do.

Our criteria:

- great schools (shouldn't be an issue in any of these places)
- 3+ bedroom house for under $500,000
- walkable downtown, ideally with some good restaurants and/or shops
- family-friendly - well, really, friendly in general, or at least not too snobby

Do you think any of these towns would be a better fit than the others?

Thanks in advance for any insights you can give us as we prepare to make our move!
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Old 08-03-2012, 02:02 PM
 
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We have VERY similar specs as you, and I've definitely gathered that West Hartford is very walkable and friendly. You should be fine getting a home under $500k, but taxes will be higher than for some of the other towns.
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Old 08-03-2012, 02:45 PM
 
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You've really got to sit down and organize what you're looking for a little more. For example, West Hartford is densely developed town of almost 64,000 people as compared to Old Saybrook which has about 10,000. That's going to give you a totally different town character. West Hartford is going to be more urban / city like in character of the places you picked.

Housing stock in West Hartford is mostly two story, older homes on small lots. The other towns are far more suburban and you can find homes on lots to two acres or more. Guilford,Madison & Glastonbury have some new or newer homes, followed by Old Saybrook, then West Hartford, which has, as noted, older homes.

All the towns noted have walkable centers- with West Hartford the more expansive. Old Saybrook schools probably the least well on your short list of towns, with Glastonbury, Madison and Guilford in the top three IMO.

You can get the house you want in any of those towns. Old Saybrook has a more seasonal and retiree population than the others. That is not to say that there are not many subdivisions with families in them. Just a different town character.

Can't give you an idea on neighborhoods until you tell us what is important to you. Guilford and Madison stretch ten miles or so inland and homes can be close to town, close to the water, or way up north end of town. Depends on what you want. Same with Glastonbury which can be almost rural in some areas to more developed.

I don't think any of those towns would be snobby, although there can be an element in Madison that tries to be pretentious. But those are newer transplants, not the native locals.

All five are good, safe towns and depending on what you're looking for, any could be a good choice. But you've got to figure out if you want a city on your end of your spectrum to a little beach town on the other.
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Old 08-03-2012, 02:49 PM
 
Location: Coastal Connecticut
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First you really have to choose coastal or inland. It's a very different experience.

I would personally go Madison, West Hartford, and 2 towns you didn't include: Branford and Milford. In Madison, I'd focus on areas south of 95 as it gets really quiet and wooded north of it. In Branford, focus on coastal as well - areas around the town center, and Pine Orchard and Stony Creek are particularly nice. In Milford, I'd consider the area around dowtown/harbor/duck ponds, Gulf Street/Gulf Beach area, Trumbull Beach area, Morningside, Bayview, and Woodmont. Most of those areas have sidewalks and are very family friendly. I'm sorry, but I'm not familiar enough with West Hartford neighborhoods to make a suggestion, although the area around the center is really nice.

Madison for its beauty, picturesque town center (though with few eating options), beaches and relaxed lifestyle. West Hartford for its amazing downtown and variety of restaurants and shopping. Branford for its value, quaint downtown with restaurants/shops, and beautiful rocky coastline. Milford for its lively, beautiful town center and harbor with many restaurant/shopping options, abundance of beaches and walkable areas. Branford and Milford might not have the test scores of Madison and West Hartford, but they're still above the average for the state and they really fit your criteria.

I think Guilford sounds a little too low key for you, and Glastonbury doesn't really have any walkable areas or a defined downtown.

Old Saybrook is another good option, with a decent main street with a few dining options (not a lot of great food though). Old Saybrook is a great value, with a nice shoreline and is generally a really nice place to live. The only issue is it's a little further away from shopping, cities, other conveniences.
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Old 08-03-2012, 03:01 PM
 
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I'd suggest the OP check out the lower CT River Valley - Essex, Chester, Deep River. Beautiful towns, artsy and not a far drive from shopping in Middletown.
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Old 08-03-2012, 03:03 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BackToCTin13 View Post


Our criteria:

- great schools (shouldn't be an issue in any of these places)

Quote:

I would personally go Madison, West Hartford, and Milford.
GREAT SCHOOLS are the OP's top criteria. Your ancillary recommendation is faulty. IMHO.
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Old 08-03-2012, 03:05 PM
 
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Milford and Branford are nice towns with good, solid schools, but I would not put them on par with Madison or Glastonbury.
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Old 08-03-2012, 04:01 PM
 
15 posts, read 32,557 times
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Thanks for all of your excellent feedback, especially given the fact that our list of towns isn't exactly consistent.

The dilemma we're facing is that we currently live in a very small economically depressed town with terrible schools and no restaurants or cultural opportunities so the idea of moving to any of these towns leaves us salivating. But I appreciate the encouragement to try to hone in further on what we'd value more: big inland town vs. coastal hamlet.

In the meantime, I'm grateful for any nods or nos for the places on our list.
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Old 08-03-2012, 04:20 PM
 
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For me, this one is easy. I'd go shoreline any day over inland. Madison, Guilford, each a sparkling, gorgeous town with great schools. Walkable downtowns, Madison in particular, with great beaches.

Although the towns aren't huge in population, the shoreline towns stretch out like a string if jewels. When you get tired of the restaurants in one town, just head to the next. Also, plenty of things to do. Artists, galleries, exhibits, music, etc. all over the place.

The big plus, you're 20 minutes from New Haven which is a foodie's treasure trove and a cultural mecca. Whatever you remember of New Haven from 10-15 years ago, forget. The center has changed, greatly, for the better.
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Old 08-03-2012, 04:22 PM
 
Location: Coastal Connecticut
21,422 posts, read 27,625,478 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stratford, Ct. Resident View Post
GREAT SCHOOLS are the OP's top criteria. Your ancillary recommendation is faulty. IMHO.
If high CAPT scores are your measure of great schools, sure. PS: Milford and Branford have nearly identical CAPT scores in 2012.
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