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5 Best Places to Live in Massachusetts

By: Susan Finch
August 19, 2021

Thinking of moving to Massachusetts? The Bay State is rich with history, urban fun, and some of the best higher education opportunities in the country. Plus, the state also boasts a strong job market and close proximity to the waterfront.

If you're ready to move but aren't sure where the best places to live in Massachusetts are, prepare for a challenge. Massachusetts offers a choice of vibrant city centers, leafy communities, and outdoor wonders.

Not sure where to start? Here, we did the work for you and rounded up some of the best places to live in Massachusetts.

1. Boston

  • Population: 692,600
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $3,702
  • Median Household Income: $71,115
  • Walk Score: 82
  • Transit Score: 72
  • Bike Score: 70

Boston, Massachusetts, was founded by English Puritan colonists and grew into a central hub for politics, finances, religion, and education in New England. The city was also the birthplace of the American Revolution when the British retaliated for the Boston Tea Party, protesting taxation without representation. Boston grew into a bustling seaport and cosmopolitan center by the 1800s, attracting a wave of settlers and immigrants over the century.

According to our Apartment List Renter Migration Report, people are moving to Boston from New York, Providence, and Worcester. When they pack up and relocate, they're headed to Washington, New York, and Providence.

Boston is still an epicenter of commercial activity with healthcare, finance, insurance, manufacturing, and higher education at its forefront. Millennials, college students, and families all make themselves at home in Boston. The city is also home to world-class institutions, including Boston College, Northeastern University, and nearby Tufts University.

The cost of living in Boston comes with an expensive price tag, though is worth the tradeoff for urban amenities and world-class attractions. Downtown Boston is perfect for easy train commutes, convenience, and fun, but it is also ideal for college students. Charlestown, Hyde Park, and East Boston are among the best neighborhoods in Boston for families. However, if you're on a budget, Roslindale and Hyde Park may offer affordable rents than areas like Beacon Hill or the Seaport District.

Boston is overflowing with historical and cultural attractions. The 2.5-mile Freedom Trail offers a historic walking tour from the Boston Common to the famed Bunker Hill Monument. The Museum of Fine Arts features 600,000 sq ft of most comprehensive art collections with impressionist paintings to early American art. Locals and newcomers enjoy a blend of new and old at North End with restaurants, cobblestone streets, and historic stops like Paul Revere's house and Old North Church. Of course, in a city where everything is historical, you're never far from a watering hole our founding fathers drank in.

Despite all of the old buildings, brownstones, and modern condos, Boston boasts incredible green space and gardens. Its crowning gem is the Boston Common, designed by Central Park park designer Frederick Law Olmstead. The park is famous for its swan boats, 600 varieties of trees, blooming flowers, and a surrounding urban backdrop.

2. Worcester

  • Population: 185,428
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,730
  • Median Household Income: $48,139
  • Walk Score: 56
  • Transit Score: 33
  • Bike Score: 38

During the 19th century, the Blackstone Canal and rail transportation transformed Worcester into an industrial powerhouse. The city produced machinery and textiles, which attracted European immigrants. After a population decline following World War II, there was a new wave of white-collar industry and an immigrant population.

Worcester is about an hour outside of Boston, but traffic is intense getting in and out of the city. A commuter rail system is also available. Fortunately, locals don't need to leave Worcester to build a career, as Millennials and college grads enjoy opportunities in higher education, medicine, and biotechnology. Worcester is also home to Clark University and private institutions like Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Worcester offers its share of arts and culture, including the Worcester Art Museum with Roman mosaics and medieval armor. Live entertainment is available at the Hanover Theatre and Conservatory for the Performing Arts. Over at Green Hill Park, people stroll, canoe, and golf on temperate afternoons. Worcester is also home to the EcoTarium, a science and nature museum featuring a digital planetarium and animal exhibits. Plus, the nightlife scene is filled with neighborhood bars, college hangouts, and dive bars with seasonal craft brews.

3. Springfield

  • Population: 153,606
  • Median Household Income: $39,432
  • Walk Score: 38
  • Bike Score: 53

Springfield is situated along the Connecticut River in western Massachusetts. It was founded in 1636 and was designated as the site of an armory by George Washington during the American Revolution. Springfield also commemorated the location of Shays Rebellion and served as a spot along the Underground Railroad.

Manufacturing is the mainstay industry of Springfield. The service industry is growing, as well as chemical, paper, insurance, government, and healthcare facilities. Springfield's central location, job opportunities, and commuter rail system make it an attractive option for college students attending Springfield College, American International College, and other private universities.

American paintings and sculptures attract visitors to Springfield Museum, while sports lovers gather at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame with artifacts and exhibits. Springfield is also home to the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss, celebrating the renowned children's author.

For an outdoor reprieve from the city, Forest Park features a Victorian Garden developed between 1880 and 1920 by Frederick Law Olmsted. The park is also home to the Zoo in Forest Park and Education Center with domestic and exotic animals. Like most Massachusetts cities, Irish pubs are scattered through Springfield and make for a lively atmosphere with friends.

4. Cambridge

  • Population: 118,927
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $2,750
  • Median Household Income: $103,154
  • Walk Score: 88
  • Transit Score: 74
  • Bike Score: 96

Cambridge was settled in 1630 for its location upriver from Boston Harbor, making it easier to defend from the British. The Charles River also made it a convenient location across from Boston, and today is easily accessible by foot, bike, or car. The area was initially called Newtowne and still holds a marketplace in a small park where farmers sell crops from surrounding towns. New College, later renamed Harvard College, was founded in 1636 to train ministers.

Despite the higher cost of living in Cambridge, locals can't beat the location and opportunities to study or work at Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Other significant industries include biotechnology and government. Although Cambridge's leafy neighborhoods make it a tranquil place to raise a family, there's also plenty of bars, cafes, and bookstores that cater to the lively college crowd.

Beyond the historic and majestic university buildings, the Harvard Museum of Natural History was created to teach botanical courses 120 years ago. Today, it boasts incredible glass flowers and sea creature collections, whale skeletons, hundreds of mammals, rare minerals, gemstones, and multimedia exhibits. Locals enjoy access to the Charles River with 950 acres along both sides of the river with bicycle and jogging paths, tennis courts, swimming pools, and an outdoor amphitheater.

Enjoy the outdoors from the urban plaza at Harvard Square, which attracts millions of visitors each year. Visitors can find anything they want in Harvard Square, from pubs to shopping and live music and street performances. The historic Mount Auburn Cemetery was founded in 1831 as America's first landscaped cemetery and inspired the creation of the country's first public parks.

5. Lowell

  • Population: 110,997
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,686
  • Median Household Income: $56,878
  • Walk Score: 64
  • Transit Score: 39
  • Bike Score: 46

Lowell, Massachusetts, was founded in the 1820s along the Merrimack River rapids as a planned manufacturing center for textiles. It manufactured 50,000 miles of cloth annually at its peak. Once a rural farming town, Lowell flourished as an urban center and attracted mill workers looking for new opportunities. The city became highly diverse with immigrants and global cultures.

Lowell is also a popular spot for Millenials and families looking for opportunities outside of bustling Boston. The city is home to the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Merrimack College, and Brandeis University. Locals have many industries to choose from in Lowell, including healthcare, technology, and education. Plus, Boston is only a 30-mile commute For those who dislike traffic, there is also a local commuter rail system that runs into the Boston metro area.

The historical backdrop of Lowell also creates stunning attractions for visitors and locals, including the Boott Cotton Mills Museum, Lowell National Historic Park, and New England Quilt Museum. The Lowell National Historical Park also features a look at water-powered textile mills, exhibits, and a speakers series. With a trolley stop, you can access the park and walking paths along the water.

Final Thoughts - Where Should I Move to In Massachusetts?

Massachusetts offers plenty of city living, mountainside retreats, and historic towns. Whether you want some nightlife or to live among a gem of waterfalls and hiking, you can find it in Massachusetts. Ready to make a move to the Bay State? Sign up for Apartment List to find the best places to live in Massachusetts.

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AUTHOR
Susan Finch is a freelance writer and content manager focusing on local experiences, travel, and anything relating to really good food and craft brews. Her work has appeared in travel guidebooks and national magazines and newspapers. Read More
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