Maybe you’ve been in Boston for years, but you’re now having kids and looking to relocate. Maybe you’re planning a move to the Boston area from another city in the U.S. or abroad, and you’re trying to make sense of your options. Whatever the case, Boston Moms is here to help with a handy guide to some popular towns in the area! We’ll tell you about the vibe, income levels, schools, and fun insider info to help you figure out the best place for you.
How we got here
My family moved to East Arlington in early 2013 when my husband got a job at a biotech company in Cambridge. We were returning to the U.S. after five years in Switzerland. We knew nothing about Boston or the surrounding areas, as we had both grown up and attended college in Texas and never had the opportunity to visit the Northeast. But as different as the Boston area is from Texas, it still felt like coming “home” after spending so much time overseas.
We opted to rent in Arlington, a town just northwest of Cambridge, while we house-hunted. Living in Arlington offered an easy commute, seemed like a family-friendly town, and the apartment complex fit our needs. We were open to buying in many towns in Greater Boston and were frankly struck by the sheer number of villages and vibes there were to choose from. We discussed with our realtor the options of Winchester, Lexington, Belmont, Newton, Natick, Milton, and even Billerica. But ultimately, we were surprised to find that we were already living in the town that best fit our needs.
We now live in a four-bed, two-bath condo (post renovation) in East Arlington, and we just love it. I hope you find this guide helpful — maybe you’ll learn to love Arlington just like we did.
Vibe :: City meets suburb
The friendly, family vibe was the biggest draw for us. The population of the town is a mix of young families with kids (about half the population is under 40), empty nesters, and older people who have lived in Arlington forever. The infrastructure of the town supports community and connection.
A vibrant stretch of Massachusetts Avenue runs through the middle of the town and serves up all kinds of establishments offering convenience and entertainment, while the side streets are quiet, tree-lined, safe, and full of families pushing strollers.
One of our favorite things about Arlington is that it’s supremely walkable. From our house, we are within easy walking distance of at least three parks, a great elementary school, a pond, soccer fields, a pool, an adorable movie theater, shopping, eating out, and the Red Line of the MBTA. We didn’t have a car in Switzerland and really became accustomed to walking everywhere. It’s nice to not have to jump in the car every time you leave the house, especially in the thick of a snowy Boston winter.
The walkability of Arlington gives it a real city-meets-suburb feeling. The town recently executed a major renovation of the East Arlington stretch of Mass Ave., improving the pedestrian safety, road quality, and beauty of the surrounding business district.
Live :: Mostly condos and townhomes
Arlington offers a range of options in terms of living arrangements, which I would call affordable for middle-to-upper-income households.
Nearby Arlington Heights offers single-family homes that range in price from the mid-$700s to over $1 million, but East Arlington is dominated by condos, multi-family homes, and townhouses that are in the $400-$850 range. There are few apartment complexes in the area. We stayed at The Legacy Apartments during our house hunt. We loved the proximity to Arlington Center, the comfortable, well-maintained units, and the ease of leasing, move-in, and move-out.
The median home price in Arlington is $680,000 as of this publication. As with most areas around Boston, the homes are old. The majority were built in the 1920s and 30s. This offered us an opportunity to buy an older unit (with a low mortgage payment), completely renovate it, and make it ours, which we’ve never regretted.
Learn :: Educational excellence and abundant childcare options
The other big draw to Arlington for us was the quality of education our kids could get here. We are die-hard public school advocates and wanted to move to a city that supports its local schools. Arlington offers exemplary elementary and middle school and a very solid high school with terrific gifted and talented and advanced placement records.
There are at least five good day cares that I know of (two of which are bilingual) within walking distance of our home, as well as Montessori schools and religious-affiliated childcare options. We opted for Kindercare’s Cambridge center, a stone’s throw from the Alewife T station, because of the commuting convenience and their wonderful curriculum. We feel great about dropping our kids there every weekday. The teachers are loving, the center is very secure, and our kids learn so much.
Play :: Outdoors, indoors, and beyond!
As any parents with young kids know, getting them out of the house is critical to everyone’s sanity! That’s why we love having an abundance of fun options, again, within walking distance. The Capitol Theater offers occasional kid-friendly movies and has an adorable ice cream shop attached. The Fox Library has age-appropriate toys and books for rainy days.
The Hardy Elementary School playground and the newly renovated Magnolia Park offer plenty to climb on as well as some fun nature features for kids to learn about the world around them. Thorndike Field offers plenty of open space for running, frisbee, or soccer. Even though we aren’t dog owners, our kids love to visit the neighborhood dogs at the dog park on the Minuteman Trail. And we love walking down the trail on sunny days and stopping by Spy Pond to watch the ducks and play at the playground by the water.
Go :: Easy, especially for those who are anti-car
East Arlington makes it super easy to get around. There’s convenient access to Mass Ave. and Route 2, and it’s a short drive to 93. But really, public transportation is the big draw of the town in terms of convenience. We’re right at the end of the Red Line, with easy access to Alewife Station. The tree-lined, car-free Minuteman Bike Path makes it safe and enjoyable for those who live further north to get there without taking a car or bus. Every morning, you’ll see cyclists, joggers, and parents with strollers (and every manner of kid-movers) taking the trail to get where they need to go. It’s a great way to start the day.
I hope you’ve found this guide helpful!
Stay tuned for more town guides to clue you in about Greater Boston’s many terrific family-oriented places to live.