Advice about Moving to Massachusetts
– Dec 7, 2017(7 replies)
hello everyone, we're shopping for a new place to live. anyone out there have experience living with kids in either northampton, ma, or boston area? pros/cons vs. berkeley? we're east coast parents with a 100-percent california kid. looking for a good arts scene, fresh air, middle class affordability and great schools. sincerely, family in fluxDec 7, 2017
We have friends who moved to Northampton from a large East Coast city a couple of years back. They enjoy it, but find it starkly different from their former urban neighborhood and miss the walkability and amenities of city living. It's a tradeoff in that they could afford to buy a house, though. They like but don't love the schools, which apparently recently went through some cuts and restructuring, so definitely do some research there. It's far less diverse racially/ethnically than Berkeley. Many Boston/Cambridge/Somerville neighborhoods will feel more like Berkeley (assuming that's a plus), but when we looked at a move there recently, we found that the cost wasn't markedly less than the Bay Area, sadly. Good luck!
I grew up in Northampton and lived in and around Boston for 10 years before we moved to Berkeley in 2010 when our kids were little. My parents are still in Northampton. I love Massachusetts and miss it. Though I don't miss winter at all. You don't say your reasons for moving, but here are my perceptions:
I can't really speak to what it's like to live in Boston right now and raise kids as I lived there 10 years ago. My understanding is that it's expensive, though not quite as much as the Bay Area. When I lived there I loved the northern suburbs along 128/route 2 of Arlington, Lexington, Winchester, Acton, Concord etc. Good schools, nice families etc. I very much liked Cambridge too with it's academic vibe. It reminds me a lot of Berkeley but a bit more buttoned up. Brookline is great with good schools though it's expensive. The more affordable urban areas are JP, Roslindale, parts of Dorchester etc. They are all part of Boston Public Schools though and that can be a bit to negotiate. (I don't know how old your kids are.) There are some incredible private schools around Boston too if that's in your budget.
We still visit Northampton every summer and I love it. I'd move back there in a heartbeat if we could figure out careers. The economy there is very academic and really centered around the 5 colleges in the area. Most of my friends still there either work at one of the colleges or have moved back after figuring out a way to telecommute to jobs elsewhere. There are some ties to Boston or NY, though both commutes are long when raising kids. The word on the street is that Northampton is getting too expensive for middle class people who are moving to Easthampton, Greenfield, Holyoke or the "hill towns." It's unclear, when looking at that comment from the lens of the Bay Area if we'd feel the same way.
Friends of mine raising kids there love it. There seems to be a nice balance of work and family with lots of things for the kids to do. I think the schools are fine. None of my friends gush over them, but compared to public schools in the bay area they seem remarkable. Massachusetts as a state is very, very, dedicated to education and I think for the most part the public schools reflect that. There are also some excellent private schools in the area.
There are good restaurants, great yoga, nice shops etc. There's a cute farmer's market in the summer and a great coop that sources local food. Whole Foods is close too. Historically there's been good arts scene in Northampton, but I think recently many artists are moving to the towns listed above. The entire area has a very bohemian vibe.
Winter in Western Ma is no joke. I think that would be the biggest challenge compared to living in Berkeley. It's really hard to be outside on a regular basis from November to Mid April. There are hardy types who will run in 15 degrees, go snow shoeing in blizzards, etc, but for the most part, there are a lot of long winter days inside with kids in New England in winter. That can sound romantic from California, but February and March can be really really depressing and bleak.
Overall there is a soul to Western Ma that is really special to me. It's still a place I love to goto and feel very very rooted too. When I get together with friends from the area who have moved away we all seem to keep it in our heart.
Hope that helps!!
I'm a Bay Area native with east coast kids who just moved back to CA from Providence, Rhode Island. I would say Providence has all of your requirements except "great schools," though we were happy with ours. I also have friends who live in Brooklyn and have a vacation house in Northampton because they love the community there. The good news is that almost everywhere will have "middle class affordability" compared to the Bay Area! good luck.