Everything I Wish I Had Known When Moving to the Boston Area

moving to Boston - Boston Moms
Photo by todd kent on Unsplash

Are you moving to Boston soon? Just moved here? Welcome! 

My husband and I relocated to Boston from Dallas in 2018 with our then 2-year-old daughter and a baby boy due 3 months after we arrived in Massachusetts. Having previously visited the Northeast, I knew I loved all the area had to offer — plenty of nature to explore, history to experience firsthand, and real seasons. 

But my excitement was also balanced with apprehensions. In some ways, acclimating to this new region felt like acclimating to a whole new country. In 2.5 years of living in the Boston area, I have met multiple fellow transplants who share the same nervous concerns I felt. This is the advice I give to new New Englanders, and everything I wish I had known when I made the transition to the Northeast. 

1. Do not be scared of winter 

Our family moved in May, and I spent the entire summer interviewing my new friends about the season I was actually fearful of. What should my kids wear? Will we be able to drive on the roads? Just how much snow are we talking?

That first winter was definitely a learning experience, but it went much smoother than my mind had led me to believe it would. 

My son was a baby for our first cold season, so I was up around the clock nursing him. The sound of metal scraping snowy asphalt became familiar as I would hear the snowplow starting around 3:30 a.m. The sunrise revealed that there were snowplows and sand trucks everywhere! The interstates and major roads were always cleared, and as long as fluffy white flakes were falling from the sky, workers were diligently maintaining the roads. I felt completely safe transporting my babies in winter weather. I also learned that the ground is not covered in snow for the entire season — it comes and goes. 

As for dressing my kids, I found that cotton gloves were useless against wet snow play, and the adorable puffer coat I bought my daughter was returned immediately when I realized it was not waterproof. Waterproof is key for allowing safe and dry outside play during the winter months. The expensive brands are tempting, but Target apparel has kept my family warm and toasty just fine. These are the essentials I have on hand for my kids every winter:

  • Beanie or trapper hat big enough to cover the ears
  • Waterproof winter gloves
  • Waterproof winter coat
  • Fleece-lined leggings or jeans
  • Snow pants
  • Lined snow boots that will comfortably wrap around a bulky snow pant 
  • Since it is NOT safe to strap kids in their car seats while wearing winter coats, I also recommend keeping a blanket in the car to keep them cozy until you have reached your destination.

2. How do you say these town names?  

Glah-chester? Walt-ham? Chath-am? Pronouncing New England towns was a huge source of anxiety for me as my husband and I looked at different properties with our realtor. Part of me felt that it would be insulting to mispronounce the names of towns we were visiting.

My advice: Ask a local, because you’ll never guess. 

It was important to me that I join several mom’s groups to quickly make new friends in the area. One of the most helpful meetings I attended allowed for newbie moms to ask local Boston moms how to pronounce challenging town names. We sat around drinking coffee and laughing as the conversation took up the better part of an hour. If not for that group, I still would not know how to properly pronounce Haverhill, Worchester, or Leominster.   

3. The reputation of Boston drivers 

Contrary to stereotypes you might have heard, Bostonians are some of the kindest, most genuine, down to earth people you will ever meet — until they are behind the wheel of a car. Kidding! Boston drivers do tend to be on the aggressive side. To their credit, Massachusetts drivers are ranked some of the safest drivers in the country. The strict no texting while driving law could contribute to drivers’ focus.

And drivers need to be focused — you will understand why the first time you maneuver through the paved-over cobblestone streets of downtown Boston. No simple grid system exists in the heart of the city. These streets have been traveled for centuries, and as you marvel at old photos of Paul Revere’s North End home, you visualize just how much the city has built up over hundreds of years. 

What helped me to gain confidence driving in this historic city was one big realization: No one knows how to drive in downtown Boston! 

Be patient with yourself and others as your GPS tries to navigate you through one-way streets, lengthy traffic jams, twists and turns, cars cutting you off, moving vans stuck on Storrow, and loads of pedestrian traffic. You’ll be fine!

4. What about housing? 

Boston housing threw me for loop more than just about anything our family encountered. We moved to Boston with a dog, plus two young children. This seemed innocent enough, but it led to a long, challenging housing search. My husband and I were looking to rent, but the majority of landlords we encountered did not allow pets. Some allowed cats, but our 15-pound pug was not welcome.

The age of the buildings in the Greater Boston area inevitably means that properties built before 1978 are likely to contain lead paint. As a result, all children in Massachusetts under the age of 6 must be screened for lead poisoning each year. De-leading a home is expensive, so some landlords prefer not to go through the hassle. 

When our realtor would locate a property that allowed pets and had been de-leaded, we were always in line with 8-12 other eager applicants. Whether buying or renting, housing in the Boston area is extremely competitive — and expensive. 

5. The unfamiliar becomes familiar

Relocating our young family of four to Boston was not the easiest thing I have ever done. In fact, it was really hard. There was a lot of stress, a lot of learning, and a lot of tears involved. But the honest truth is that it was all worth it to call this incredible place home. I would do it all over again… but preferably if I could do it knowing what I know now.  

Shannon is a native Texan who first visited Boston in 2012 with her now-husband, Ben. Shannon and Ben immediately fell in love with New England, and it was during that trip that they knew they eventually wanted to raise their family in the Northeast. Fast forward to 2018, and Ben accepted a job as a Photographer/Director at a Boston ad agency. They said goodbye to Texas and moved to Woburn with their pup and daughter (2016). Oh, and Shannon was 6 months pregnant with their son (2018). Shannon holds her License and Masters degree in Social Work, and in the past has been a Case Manager to the homeless population, as well as a School Social Worker. She currently stays home with her two littles, and teaches online ESL courses through VIPKid. Most weekends, you will find The Gibson family traveling and exploring all that New England has to offer. Yes, Please: kindness, coffee, dessert, the beach, phone calls to her mom, antique stores, Target runs. No, thank you: passive-aggressiveness, sweet tea, clutter, sleep deprivation, shoes my toddler can’t put on herself, squeaky playground swings.