Best Boston Suburbs For Young Families

Considering buying a house or condo in the Boston suburbs? Our in depth report identifies the suburbs with the best commute, the largest homes, the most affordable homes, the best schools, the best, shopping, dining, and more.

Young happy family couple dreaming of future life

Many young Boston families find it’s far more economical to move to the suburbs than it is to try to secure housing in the city itself. In the suburbs, the houses have more bedrooms, the school systems are often stronger, and there’s often less sticker shock for homeowners who are coming in from out of state to take advantage of Boston’s hot job market.

But don’t worry—the suburbs are anything but second best! Many of the home buyers I work with absolutely fall in love with the communities they come to call home. Some of these suburbs offer the full “big city” experience with all the trimmings. Others offer a more small-town atmosphere, all while delivering outstanding commuting options that keep everything Boston has to offer within easy reach.

Knowing that’s the case, all you have to do is choose the right community—the one you’ll be happy to live in for the next five, ten, fifteen, or even twenty years.

This article introduces you to Boston’s hottest suburbs, arranged by the different considerations young families need to think about when it is time to choose a community.

Choosing the Right Suburb

Before we dive into the individual suburbs let’s look at the different factors which might make one suburb stand out as the clear choice for your first home.

The first consideration is the commute, especially if you work in Boston. Nobody wants to spend four hours in a car every day, so an easy, great commute is an important consideration for most families.

happy family having fun outdoors at home on a sunny day

Affordability and home size definitely matter too—they’re the primary reason why many first-time homeowners start looking to the suburbs in the first place. After all, you can often get a single family home with a yard in the suburbs for the same price you’d pay for a condo in the heart of the city.

The school system has to be another top concern. Our suburbs offer lots of great options for getting your kids into some of the nation’s top schools. There’s plenty of stuff for pre-school kids and toddlers to do, too.

If you and your family love staying active and getting out into nature you’ll want to consider those facilities too. It’s harder to exercise if you have to spend an hour getting to the nearest walking trail or community pool.

Shopping, dining, nightlife and entertainment make a big difference too. Unless you’re specifically looking for a small town experience (that’s totally possible in the Boston metro area) you’re likely to want to be close to at least some of the action. While few families make entertainment their very first consideration it’s always nice to know what’s around.

Finally, if you’re coming in from out of state you might want to take the general friendliness of the suburb into account, as some are more welcoming than others.

Family in front of new home

I’ve chosen the top suburb picks in each of these categories to help you zero in on the amenities and features that concern you the most. Note that these are just the best of the best—some suburbs might still have many of the features you’re looking for even if they’re not listed as the “best of” their category. For example, Arlington offers many shopping, dining, and nightlife options, even though it didn’t make the top four in that category. Later, I’ll tell you how to take the next steps so you can engage in an even more in-depth exploration of these communities so you can truly find the place you’ll be proud to call “home.”

Boston Suburbs with the Best Commute

If you live and work in Boston then your commute is going to have to be one of your biggest concerns. This is more challenging for suburban dwellers than for those who live within the Boston City limits. However, when it comes to positively zipping to work, several communities do stand out.

Brookline is just four minutes away from Boston’s downtown area by car—and that’s if you don’t just work in Brookline. Given it plays host to some of the Boston metro area’s most major employers all by itself, that’s certainly a possibility. In either case you’ll also have access to the Green Line rail service as well as several MTBA bus routes, just in case you’d rather play on your iPad on your way to work than sit behind the wheel of a car.

If you want to be even closer try Somerville and Cambridge. Both are equally served by the transportation system, and they’re just 3 minutes away from downtown Boston. Cambridge is similar to Brookline in that it, too, holds many of the metro area’s hottest employers.

Medford and Arlington are both less than 10 minutes away as well. Like Brookline, both are served by Boston’s light rail system, as well as MTBA bus routes if you don’t care to risk getting caught in traffic.

If you don’t care to be super close but still want a reasonable commute, you could also try Canton. You’ll either zip into Boston via I-95/MA 1 on a 20 minute drive, or you’ll have the option to take a leisurely train ride into the city—this community just offers the perfect intersection of options (no pun intended). You’ll get your space from the city when you’re home, but you’ll still be able to reach it whenever you want to.

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Boston’s Most Affordable Suburbs

Affordability is a top concern for every young family I talk to. That’s why these super-affordable suburbs are absolutely worth a look.

First, let’s talk about Revere, practically the star of the show when it comes to affordable living. Average home prices there are typically incredibly low. These are single family homes with yards—not condos.

Malden and Quincy are a close second and third—they’re each a little pricier than Revere, but not by much. Again, we’re talking about spacious, well-kept, pretty homes, often with fenced yards.

Stoughton gets an honorable mention. While Stoughton homes are not as inexpensive as homes in Revere, Quincy, and Malden, they’re still well within the range of affordability for most young families in the Boston metro area. These homes seem to lounge comfortably on meticulously landscaped plots of land, and it won’t be too uncommon to see neighbors settling into rocking chairs on their front porches.

Wishing you could get this kind of affordability right inside of the Boston city limits? Believe it or not, you can! Check out what Brighton, Roslindale, and Dorchester have to offer in The Best Boston Communities for Young Professionals. Inside the city limits, however, space is as big a hurdle as price is—you may be able to find cheap, but getting enough bedrooms may be a challenge.

Boston Suburbs with the Largest Homes

While size isn’t everything, many first-time homebuyers are definitely looking for some room to grow. Whether you’ve got a baby on the way, an entire squad ready to pile into the SUV or simply love having the space to entertain, three Boston suburbs stand out as offering some of the most spacious homes in the metro area.

It wouldn’t be uncommon to find homes between 1600 square feet and 2600 square feet by venturing into Medford. Many of these homes are still fairly affordable, too—finding a large single family property in the mid-to-high $300,000s isn’t unheard of. It’s worth noting Medford is only a little pricier than Revere, Quincy, Malden, Quincy, and Stoughton.

If you’re willing to pay for it you can easily find 5,000 to 8,000 square feet in Wayland. However, there are spacious homes to be found even if you’re on a budget. You can easily find 1500 to 2500 square feet of home even at more modest price points. Many people come to Wayland for the yards, which are big enough for the kids to get out and stretch their legs with ease.

Couple riding in a cardboard box in new house on white wall background

Finally, Winchester offers a lot of home for your money if you move quickly enough to catch them. Come ready to buy with a pre-approved mortgage and you can snap up a 2,000 to 3,000 square foot home at mid-range price points of $400,000 to $500,000. If you’ve got more money to spend you’ll have more leisure time and more options, including some which are practically iconic “American Dream” homes.

Longing to live inside the city limits, but convinced you’ll never find any space there? Be sure to check out Roslindale, Dorchester, and Jamaica Plain before you make your final decision. Just read The Best Boston Communities for Young Professionals to learn more. Just keep in mind that you may sacrifice price and strong schools to get more space in the city.

Boston Suburbs with the Best Schools

Many young families flee to the suburbs specifically to escape the struggling Boston School System. And while many of Boston’s suburbs deliver fine educations, there are several stand-out choices for those who want to make sure their kids get the very best.

Greatschools.org has given the Arlington school system an impressive 9 out of 10 rating based on student test scores across all 12 grades. US News and World Report places Arlington High School in the state’s Top 20. It’s also in the top 500 for the entire country.

The Brookline public school system offers another outstanding education without forcing you to get too far away from Boston itself. Great Schools has also ranked it at 9 out of 10. Brookline High’s US News and World Report ranking isn’t quite as impressive as Arlington’s, but it’s close…it is #22 within the State of Massachusetts and still within the top 500 in the nation.

Winchester is another GreatSchools.org 9/10 pick. Boston Magazine ranks Winchester at #15 in the state for the 2015 year, which means it’s a great bet. US News and World Report places Winchester High School at #25 in the state (#473 in the Nation).

Finally, there’s Lexington, which shares the Greatschools.org 9/10 rating. If you want to be blown away, check out Lexington High School’s position as #5 in the state and #194 in the nation. Don’t be worried about your elementary students either: Boston Magazine has ranked Lexington’s school district at #3 in the state for the entire K-12 educational system.

Newton, ranked #10 in the state by Boston Magazine for 2015 (Great Schools rating of 8), gets an honorable mention. Much depends on whether you live in the northern part of Newton or the Southern part. US News and World Report ranks Newton South High School at #12 in the state and #256 in the nation. Newton North isn’t bad at #38 in the state, but it plunges to #845 nationally, dragging the averages down.

If you want to compare all of the school districts at once, click here. You’ll see the most recent list from Boston Magazine.

Want a school in the Top 10? Boston Latin School in Dorchester is #2 in the state, and Boston Collegiate Charter School, also in Dorchester, is #3. See The Best Boston Communities for Young Professionals to learn more about Dorchester.

The Most Family-Friendly Boston Suburbs

Schools aren’t the only thing you care about when you’re a young family trying to find a place to settle in with your kids. You also want to know there are a lot of activities to share with the kids.

Cambridge offers a lot of cool stuff for kids to do. The Boston Duck Tours are extremely popular with the pre-school crowd, allowing you to take your child on an educational tour of Cambridge and Boston on board a duck themed bus-to-boat transformer. The Harvard Museum of Natural History offers programs for kids and adults alike. And there’s always the Curious George Store, a toy, book, clothing and party supply store devoted exclusively to a certain lovable monkey and his companion in the yellow hat.

Quincy is also quite kid-friendly. The Quincy Art Association holds arts and crafts classes for kids and teens. And kids absolutely love spending the night on board the USS Salem, which lets them pretend to be naval adventurers in one of the coolest sleepovers around. And during the warmer months, there’s always the beach!

Somerville gets an honorable mention for the Lego Discovery Center alone. Somerville kids also enjoy access to The Play Place, an interactive indoor playground for kids ages 0-5. Free WiFi and coffee make The Play Place a haven for the parents, too.

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In truth, there are hundreds of cool kid’s activities to explore all over the Boston Metro Area. To find a few more options, why not take a look at what Jamaica Plain, Dorchester, and Roslindale have to offer by visiting The Best Boston Communities for Young Professionals?

Boston Suburbs with the Best Outdoor Facilities and Activities

Most of the Boston Metro area has dozens of great facilities where you can get outside and play. These stand-out communities just do a particularly good job of offering a host of options for getting out and getting active.

Medford has 24 parks spread out over the suburb, as well as a public pool. That’s a plethora of tennis courts, soccer fields, basketball courts, baseball fields and football fields. Wright’s Pond is worth particular mention because it offers a fresh water swimming beach, a bath house, a concession area and 148 acres of space. Locals rave about Barry Playground because it has accessible play spaces, a zip wire, swings, and slides for kids of all ages and ability levels. Cummings Park gets rave reviews as well thanks to its huge play structure, situated in an equally huge sandbox.

Brookline offers three well managed parks: the Daniel F. Ford Park and Playground and Linden Park. Daniel F. Ford is both dog-friendly and kid friendly, featuring plenty of climbing structures, as well as a spray pool. Linden Park is a little mellower, serving more as a quiet lunch spot for professionals. Those who want to hike or fish should check out the Brookline Reservoir Park on Route 9—just get a permit before you bring your pole and bait. And if you love to swim then the Evelyn Kirrane Aquatic Center is a must-visit: with three pools and a friendly atmosphere, it’s sure to satisfy.

Finally, Malden offers lots of green spaces to enjoy, starting with a community garden where residents can adopt their own planting bed for just $20 every year—a great choice if your own lawn or garden won’t maintain all the fruits and vegetables you’d like to enjoy. There’s a brand new playground at Coytemore Lea Park, as well as a walking path and a basketball court. You’ll find another very nice walk at Fellsmere Park and Pond. You can swim in Malden too—check out the Holland Memorial Pool. In truth, these examples are just the tip of the iceberg…this city’s Parks and Recreation department works hard to offer a variety of things to see and do.

A young family proudly stands in front of their new

Want to see what people inside the city limits are doing to get active? See The Best Boston Communities for Young Professionals to find out which neighborhoods offer some of the hottest recreational opportunities.

Boston Suburbs with the Best Shopping, Dining and Entertainment Options

Many Boston suburbs are largely residential, but are close enough to the Boston city limits for residents to go and play whenever they want. But for residents who want plenty to do within a few blocks of their location, three communities definitely stand out as outstanding options.

Brookline is perhaps the iconic choice for hot spots in the suburbs. There are seven different shopping areas to choose from, including the Chestnut Hill Shopping Center and Washington Square. The art and food scenes are nothing to sneeze at either. You can enjoy tasty sandwiches made from local, organic, all-natural foods at Cutty’s or chow down on some homemade pasta at the Bottega di Capri Italian Deli. If you’re looking for art stop by the MiddleGray Café or KooKoo Café.

Young couple in a new house. Real estate and moving background.

Cambridge is full of fun things to do. There is always something going on at Harvard Square, whether you’re just heading there to explore the many shopping and dining options or you’re on your way to one of the festivals and events. Many residents really enjoy stopping by the Haymarket Farmer’s Market as well.

Newton proves you don’t have to go all the way into Boston to have a great time. Instead, you can enjoy “farm-to-fork” French fare at Lumiere or grab something simpler at O’Hara’s Food and Spirits. If you’re ready to relax you can pop into the Bella Boutique Spa.

Feel like you absolutely must be closer to the action? Explore Dorchester, Brighton, and Jamaica Plain by reading The Best Boston Communities for Young Professionals.

Young couple signing financial contract

Boston Suburbs with the Friendliest Neighbors

There are no statistics you can consult to find out whether a neighborhood is “friendly” or not—you can only count on what the locals are saying. Nevertheless, I’ve done some digging. If you want a community where the neighbors will introduce themselves or encourage your kids to play with their kids, two suburbs stand out.

The first is Medfield. This suburb offers a true small-town atmosphere. Most of the families who move to Medfield stay put…your first house might just become your last house if you move there, and what’s more, you’ll want it that way.

Watertown is quiet and peaceful. Neighbors will give you your space when you first move in, but it retains its small-town atmosphere. If you get out and get involved you’ll have plenty of opportunities to meet new friends in a generally laid-back and casually welcoming atmosphere. There are several hangouts where people go to meet and catch up with one another.

Couple riding in a cardboard box in new house on white wall background

Don’t think these neighborhoods sound right for you? You’ve got friendly options inside the Boston city limits, too. Check out Jamaica Plain and Roslindale by reading The Best Boston Communities for Young Professionals.

Putting It All Together to Choose the Boston Suburb That’s Right for You

While articles like this can point you in the right direction it’s impossible to really make a great choice about a Boston suburb by reading any article. You should prioritize your needs, then try to find the community that does the best job of meeting them. To do that, you’re going to have to do a lot more research.

Some suburb names might have come up again and again as you went down this list of amenities. If so, then you’re off to an excellent start. Jot down those community names, then get ready to do a little bit more exploring.

You see, there are a lot more neighborhoods to share—and many of them offer a great balance of features, even if they haven’t made it into the top 3 or 4 for any single category. I’ve created two resources to help you learn more about them.

Young families have different concerns. If you’re raising kids in the Boston Metro Area and are a first-time home buyer you might want to check out The Best Boston Suburbs for Young Families Report. This 37 page report gives you an in-depth look at 13 of Boston’s most exciting suburbs. You’ll want to pay particular attention to the in-depth information on each suburb’s public school systems.

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The Best Boston Communities for Young Professionals offers additional insight. This guide is an in-depth, 34 page guide which explores 11 of Boston’s best neighborhoods and suburbs while highlighting commutes, work opportunities and entertainment options. There is some overlap between neighborhoods and suburbs which are good for families and those which are good for professionals.

After you’ve read each report, pick out another 2-4 neighborhoods to go visit in person. Visit some of the locations that seem interesting to you. Take note of traffic patterns. Pay attention to how the people interact, and see what really speaks to you. Every suburb has its own character and energy. You want to find something that meshes well with your personality, and your family’s. You also want to poke around to see if you can find some amazing little spots that weren’t mentioned in either the article or the report. The Boston Metro area has so much to offer that it’s hard to give a comprehensive picture of even a single street in a single article.

Try keep an open mind, and explore each neighborhood without any pre-conceived notions about it. Your #4 choice might become your #1 choice after you’ve been there in person.

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When you’re feeling ready to make a decision download out The Ultimate Home Buyer Guide to take the stress out of the home purchase process. When it’s time to start making offers on your new home you’ll be armed with all of the information you need to allow the process to run as smoothly as possible. You may find the information useful, even if you’ve purchased a home in the past.

When you have a short list of neighborhoods you love, are pre-approved for a mortgage and are feeling ready to take the next step, write down your additional questions and give me a call. I’m passionate about educating my clients, and I am ready to be your guide as you invest in your very first home. To set your appointment, call 617-807-0471 or e-mail ruth@ruthmalkinlerner.com.

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