Best Places to Live 2013: Moving Up

The second kid is on the way and your closets already look like an episode of Hoarders. (Is it possible your place is actually shrinking?) You need more space, for sure, but schools are a top priority. And you wouldn't mind shortening your commute....


In this South Shore town, it’s all about oysters, orchestras, and overachievers.
Median home price: $542,250
One-year change: +4.3%


Waterfront living in Duxbury. (Photo by iStockphoto)

Duxbury—home of Island Creek Oysters—is certainly taken with the sea, but the town has, admirably, focused its recent improvements away from the shore. Residents, for instance, voted in 2011 to build a new middle and high school complex, a $125 million project that’s scheduled to open for the 2014 term. Moreover, the school committee has pledged a computer for every student by 2015. Summer vacation, meanwhile, involves a number of cultural offerings, including the Duxbury Music Festival, in which students and renowned musicians work together during two weeks of classical music instruction and performances (some of them in private homes). But did we mention that the ocean is big here? Residents are treated to 37 miles of coastline, and yes, they get preferred parking.

6: Length of Duxbury Beach, in miles.


The way life should be—just ask the people who live here.
Median home price: $505,000
One-year change: +1.0%

In a poll conducted last year, 99 percent of Andover residents said their town was a good or excellent place to live, and 87 percent rated it just as highly as a spot to raise kids. As such, it seems that there are really only two reasons people leave: They’re looking to downsize, or they’re relocating for a new job. The former is a major market influence right now, with the flight of empty-nesters creating buying opportunities for young families. Beyond the excellent school system, the town’s commitment to its young people is evident in the $4 million Cormier Youth Center, which is expected to break ground sometime this year.

45: Percent of eighth-graders who scored advanced on their MCAS for math.


Great schools, low taxes, and a thriving retail scene—we’ll drink to that.
Median home price: $670,000
One-year change: +3.2%

Last year’s inaugural season of the Great Hall Concert Series—a revolving salon of local and international musicians, performers, and artists lighting up the renovated town hall—only strengthened Needham’s emerging reputation for cultural refinement. Dwellers here also enjoy the many restaurants in Needham center, as well as a recovering retail scene that took a hit when Dedham’s Legacy Place mall debuted in 2009. And don’t forget the liquor stores that will begin opening up after residents voted overwhelmingly last year to ditch Needham’s age-old designation as a dry town. Steady business and industry revenues keep property taxes shockingly low for a suburb that every year sits near the top of this magazine’s school rankings. And for those who may be caring for another type of dependent, an $8 million senior center is scheduled to start welcoming guests this fall, offering movie nights and computer and fitness classes.

96.6: Percent of students who graduate high school in Needham.


Paris on the Neponset?
Median home price: $450,000
One-year change: +1.1%


Spacious Colonials abound in Milton. (Photo by Tyra Pacheco)

Okay, so Milton isn’t actually as cosmopolitan as the City of Lights, but it does have a few European qualities. Consider the popular French-immersion program, which students start in the first grade. The most happening area in town right now, Milton Village, is situated near the “high speed” (hey, it was built in 1929) trolley that connects to the Red Line. The neighborhood has come into its own, complete with the terrific sandwich shop the Plate (which turns a year old this month) and a serious new eatery in Chris Parsons’s Steel & Rye. One look at meticulously landscaped neighborhoods like Emerson Woods, Indian Cliff, and Loew Estates has buyers saying oui, oui.

19: Miles of bike lanes proposed or existing in Milton.


by Rachel Dratch

rachel dratch

I drew all the Saturday Night Live “Sully and Denise” sketches from real high school experiences I had growing up here: the house-party scene, hanging out drinking in the woods, the ski trips to Wachusett. I’ve since settled in New York City, but when I’m back visiting I feel like a dork because I love it so much. There’s the whole nature vibe. The sky is relatively dark at night. In the fall, I like walking through the leaves. Now, because I have a little kid, I take him across the street to the park in New York, and I’m not trying to be funny, but the piles of leaves, you don’t know what’s going to be in those piles of leaves. In Lexington, it’s just leaves. Then there’s the reason that I visit: my friends, many of which I made in elementary school. We don’t go and drink beer in the woods anymore. Now we stand around in kitchens and drink wine.

Rachel Dratch is a comedienne and actress.


Check out all of our Best Places to Live 2013 coverage.