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
In 2014 my husband was offered a job from an employer located in the Seaport district of Boston. Though we were living 2,500 miles away (in the city both of us were born and raised in), we jumped at the opportunity.
At first, we did what anyone moving to the region who is unfamiliar with the Boston area does; we started searching for a home in Boston. However, as we perused the real estate listings, we quickly realized two things.
1. Boston real estate was WAY too expensive for our budget, and
2. We had NO idea where in Boston we would move.
With all its neighborhoods and surrounding towns, Boston was far too complicated for me to navigate the move from over 2,000 miles away.
After hiring a realtor, we discussed (and toured) many communities, including Natick, Melrose, Quincy, Milton, and even Dedham. Ultimately, we decided on Acton, a town 27 miles northwest of Boston, for a few reasons. Most importantly, the price was right, the schools and sports were great, and it had a commuter rail station.
Vibe :: Rural suburbia
Once we moved to Acton, we realized how lucky we were to have landed there. Sure, it’s not as close to Boston as we’d like, but the community can’t be beat.
A town of around 22,000 people, Acton is small enough to have a close-knit community, yet large enough not to have the everybody-knows-everybody’s-business feel.
The community exudes a welcoming, friendly, family vibe, presenting a mix of mostly young families with kids (around 65% of Acton’s population is under 45), with empty nesters and seniors sprinkled into the mix.
The quintessential rural New England town, Acton touts a town center complete with white steeples and farms sprinkled throughout. The town is steeped in history with roots that go back to pre-Revolutionary War times and has many landmarks and events that honor this.
Live :: Mostly single-family homes
Acton is known for its rural characteristics, and many of the properties reflect the “large” amounts of land they sit atop (in comparison to some of the nearby urban towns). Our house, for example, sits atop a little over an acre, which is a bit more than average but not abnormal by any means.
Many homes lie within neighborhoods, most built between the 1950s and 1970s, but there are just as many sprinkled outside of a defined neighborhood. The town is predominantly composed of single-family homes, and the median sale price for a home is around $569,000.
Because there are no “neighborhood” elementary schools in Acton (the town lets parents choose the elementary school the child attends), the town is less oriented around neighborhoods than some other towns. School choice benefits the local real estate market since the price of a home is not impacted by the desirability (or non-desirabliltiy) of given neighborhood’s school. Additionally, because students attend the schools from all areas of town, students and families are more likely to have broad social connections rather than being limited to neighborhoods.
Learn :: A well-regarded education system
The Acton-Boxborough Regional School District is known for providing excellent public education, and many people (including us) moved to the town because of it. As mentioned above, the town allows elementary students’ parents to choose which school they go to based on the differing methodologies of the elementary schools.
After completing sixth grade in one of the six elementary schools, all students go to R.J. Gray Middle School, then Acton-Boxborough High School. ABHS has ranked within the top schools in the state for several years and was ranked as the third best public school in the Greater Boston area (defined as within I-495) by Boston Magazine in 2014.
After only a short time living in Acton, we realized that the difference between my son’s education back home versus in Acton was monumental. To this day, we continue to be impressed with the education he and our daughter are receiving.
Play :: Enjoy the outdoors!
Known for its abundant wildlife and foliage, Acton has tons of outdoor recreational space. With over 1,650 acres of conservation lands, 14 playing fields and playgrounds, a skate park, a town beach, and two bike paths, to say there’s a ton to do outside is an understatement!
In addition to outdoor activities, Acton offers two public libraries, several theaters, and the Discovery Museum.
The sports and extracurricular programs are excellent, and for adults, the town has a very active social scene (though it is considered somewhat boring when it comes to a night out on the town IN town). However, the addition of two brewpubs in the past several years has definitely livened date nights up a bit!
Go :: Hop in the car and go
Acton is a town you’ll need a car in. Many people commute to Boston for work, and the commuter rail station in the town is a huge draw for those who don’t want to drive; however, unless you live right by it, you’ll need to drive to or be dropped off at the station.
We love how close Acton is to multiple major highways, including 495, Route 2, and 95, giving us the ability to be in Boston, Gloucester, New Hampshire, or Worcester within 45 minutes or less (excluding high commuting times).
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.