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 Blog 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
The South End was the first Boston neighborhood I lived in after I got married. My husband decided to settle down in this vibrant neighborhood a couple of years earlier because of its location, food scene, and cultural richness. We love this booming Boston neighborhood.
Vibe :: Hip, urban, and minutes from the action
As you walk around the South End, you will immediately notice the beautiful Victorian brownstones that line the manicured parks, housing some of the trendiest local boutiques and restaurants. In fact, the National Register of Historic Places listed the South End as having the largest district of Victorian brick row houses in the U.S.
While the brownstones have been around for a long time, the rejuvenation of the South End is still fairly recent. Before the 90s, the South End was not the best place for a family. Since then, the South End has emerged as a melting pot of people with many different ethnicities and walks of life who all live as neighbors. You’ll see polished professionals walking their dogs, a cosmopolitan LGBT culture, young families heading out to the local organic food markets, and people speaking multiple languages all around the neighborhood. Living in the South End also means you are minutes away from other interesting and diverse neighborhoods, like the Back Bay, Beacon Hill, downtown, and of course, Southie.
Live :: Row house, condos, and apartments
Be prepared to pay a pretty penny if you rent or buy in the South End. It’s expensive to be so close to restaurant row and the luxury boutiques. And although many people enjoy urban living, it’s not super wallet friendly when it comes to housing.
According to Zillow’s current real estate overview report for the South End, the median sales price to buy a home averages around $831,600, or about $1,014 per square foot. The average monthly rent for a place in the South End is about $3,005. That’s up from last year by 7.3%, and the trend is expected to go up by about 2.5%.
There are plenty of condos and apartments available, so renters have many more options than buyers. Many of the area’s old buildings have been fully gutted and replaced with new modern apartment and condo buildings. Many of these are in the SoWa (South of Washington Street) neighborhood of the South End.
Single-family homes are tougher to find in the South End. If you have your heart set on buying, be prepared to act fast and partake in bidding wars. The market is hot! One other thing to be mindful of is the verticality of homes, particularly the town and row houses — the stairs can be very steep. This makes carrying strollers and large items up and down very difficult. The verticality and increased cost of additional space are the main reasons families move away from the South End. Even those who adore urban living find that expanding a family means needing more space. It really comes down to your lifestyle and personal preferences!
Learn :: Public, private, and preschools
You have options for public or private schools for school-age children, as well as a host of day cares and preschools in close proximity.
The public schools in the South End are part of the Boston Public Schools district (BPS). Boston is the home of the first public school in the country, so BPS is the oldest public school district in the U.S. There are a total of 125 schools within the system, with five public schools offering both primary and secondary education in the South End. If you go public, then life in the South End might present challenges when selecting a school for your kids. BPS has a lottery system, in which you list your top-choice schools and then the powers that be select which school your child goes to. Your top choices and home address are taken into consideration, so it’s not a complete roll of the dice. But for some parents, this presents enough uncertainty for them to look at other options.
Parents looking for private school options have easy access to private schools in and around Back Bay, such as Kingsley Montessori and The Newman School. For little ones? There are day care options in the heart of the South End, such as Little Sprouts and Tartts. You also have the option of Back Bay preschools/day cares because of their proximity. I can’t attest to the schools around the South End from personal experience, but it may be worth doing a little more research if schools are on the top of your list of deciding factors for your next move.
Play :: Food tours, architecture, and SoWa
South End is great when it comes to activities for all ages. The best way to really explore the South End is by foot. Don’t be surprised to see parents wheeling strollers up and down the sidewalks on a blustery winter day or hot summer weekend — it’s just the way of life here. We find ourselves spending quality time together at the local cheese shops and food markets and then hitting up one of the many playgrounds after a fun brunch.
The restaurants in the South End are surprisingly kid friendly (for being in the city) and pretty easy to get in and out of if you don’t need to park a car. Flour Bakery and Cafe is a sweet spot to grab a quick bite (FYI, the sticky buns are to die for!), and if doughnuts are your jam, be sure to grab one from Blackbird Doughnuts. If you’ve got a babysitter lined up, you won’t need to stray too far from home for your much-needed date nights or girls’ nights. If you’re after a more in-depth look at the amazing food scene here, you can do a food tour. Check out the Bites of Boston Food Tours.
The SoWa Open Market is a fantastic place to roam around, people watch, and enjoy yummy goodness. SoWa is the arts and design district located in the South End. The area is a renewal of what used to be unused and neglected warehouses. The revival of this area through its retail shops and art community has been a great support for local artisans, entrepreneurs, and artists. The market runs every weekend from April-October and offers a variety of local foods, beverages, and treats from New England vendors. You can even get your kitchen knives professionally sharpened there! You’ll also see a sea of food trucks for after all the browsing and shopping.
Word on the street is that there will also be a new eight-acre underground urban park and playground in the area called Ink Underground (located between Ink Block complex and Four Points Channel). It’s set to have green space and a dedicated dog park, and it’ll serve as a venue for concerts and other activities.
Go :: By foot, bus, subway — but parking for cars is limited
The South End’s main streets include Mass Ave, Tremont Street, Washington, and Columbus Avenue. When we had a car in the South End, it stayed in the garage for literally months at a time because of the walkability factor. The South End is pretty accessible via interstates 90 and 93, but parking is hard to find for non-residents. Residents can get a parking permit to street park. Non-residents must use metered parking — there are virtually no parking garages and very few lots in the South End.
By subway, the Orange line is the best option via the Mass Ave and Back Bay stations. If you are leaving/arriving from the ‘burbs, Back Bay Station is where you want to be. But in reality, public transportation via subway in the South End is not as convenient as the bus or by foot.
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.