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By Elizabeth Gehrman
With so much just beyond your doorstep, there’s nothing quite like city life. But say you want to buy a home and can’t see yourself paying $1,000 a square foot. Or your next great career move positions you far from downtown. Or the big one: You’re expecting a little one.
Liz and Dylan Forester moved from Boston’s South End to Wakefield, roughly 15 miles north of the city, this summer to put down roots. “We had been renting, but we wanted something that we could invest in and really make our own,” says Liz, who, like her husband, is an architect in her early 30s.
No matter the reason for moving, your first suburban home or apartment can signal an exciting time of transition. But it can also be daunting: How will you cope without the amenities you’re so used to and all the hustle and bustle that makes life in the city so interesting? “Some people resist moving to the suburbs, and part of that is the fear of seclusion,” says Aimee Rideout, a relocation director at Gibson Sotheby’s in the South End. “But that’s not how it is anymore.”
With these five tips, setting up yourself and your family (Fido included) for success outside the city is as easy as spotting Keytar Bear in a crowd.
1. Find your urban oasis
Suburban centers used to be seen as a bit tired, but now, many are aspiring to bring in more of what the city offers, Rideout says.
As an architect, Forester has seen this trend in her backyard and beyond. “Melrose, Wakefield, and surrounding areas are really stepping up their downtown game,” she says. “So it’s not just suburban lawns and houses — there are places where people can gather and interact. It’s almost like a satellite city.”
Rideout points to Legacy Place — a shopping, dining, and entertainment destination, centrally located off of 128 in Dedham — as “the perfect example of how a built-environment can really pump some energy and life into the suburbs.” The center, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary, brings Boston’s favorite shops and eateries — like Whole Foods, Apple, Sephora, Salon Capri, Shake Shack, Amazon Books, Showcase Cinema de Lux, and J.P.Licks — together in one dynamic and charming atmosphere.
“[Legacy Place is] like a small town with an urban vibe, so when you move to Dedham or Milton or Westwood or Wellesley, you don’t feel like your life has changed as much as you might have thought it would,” says Hope McDermott, owner and broker at Hope McDermott Real Estate in Dedham.
2. To make friends, head to local events
When McDermott moved to Dedham, it reminded her of living in the city. “I rediscovered the same kind of community I’d had on Beacon Hill,” she says. “It’s just a question of how much you’re willing to engage.” Depending on your interests, she says, there are loads of activities where you can meet people — from hiking at Wilson Mountain, to kayaking the Charles River, to joining the horticultural or historic societies or an arts organization like Motherbrook.
Some towns also have hubs designed specifically to encourage activity and social interaction. Legacy Place and its tenants, for example, offer more than 200 outdoor events each year, including a walking club, free yoga, and kayaking and paddleboarding classes sponsored by L.L. Bean. Indoors, you’ll find social events like the always-entertaining mix of wine tasting and DIY artistry at Muse Paintbar or trivia night at King’s Dining & Entertainment.
It may actually be easier to strike up conversations with potential friends at a place like King’s than in the city, according to high school teacher Margaret Driscoll, 29, who moved to Milton in August with her fiancé, Michael Dermody. “When you go out in a suburban town it’s pretty effortless,” she says. “People assume you live there and will have something in common with them, so that breaks down the wall.”
3. Don’t rely too much on your car
You probably will need a vehicle to get to some destinations from the suburbs, but you might be surprised how walkable small towns really are. “There are places in Milton where you can park the car, go food shopping, and have your choice of three or four restaurants,” Driscoll says.
One-stop-shopping-and-dining areas mirror the convenient proximity that the city provides. “Young urban professionals use Legacy Place like it’s their downtown neighborhood,” says general manager Christa Seychew. “It gives people a place that feels familiar and comfortable but also lets them accomplish all the things they need and want to do.” In one morning trip, visitors can workout at Stil, SoulCycle, or Pure Barre; have coffee with a friend at Caffè Nero or lunch at Cava or SweetGreen; stop by Whole Foods; and maybe take in a little retail therapy at shops like Altar’d State and Kendra Scott.
4. Make Fido feel at home
Suburban towns these days are equipped with plenty of doggie daycares and puppy parks. Plus, for many dogs, the green space of the suburbs is ideal. While Driscoll doesn’t have a dog of her own, she says friends’ dogs “live a life of luxury with their own huge backyards,” and taking your pup to check out the miles of trails outside the city, like at places such as Wilson Mountain Reservation in Dedham and Blue Hills Reservation in Milton, will have them giving you extra sloppy kisses to thank you for moving.
More and more shops and restaurants are becoming dog-friendly, so you can often take your pooch with you while running errands or dining al fresco around town, too. Most businesses at Legacy welcome dogs, and there’s even an occasional “yappy hour” with a doggie caricature artist, a “smooch your pooch” kissing booth, live entertainment, and more.
5. Discover new date-night digs
It will take more time and money to get to your old favorite haunts in Boston, so make exploring your local options a bonding experience. In Dedham, “a lot of people rely on Legacy Place for movies—where on the Lux Level you can get food and drinks while watching—bowling at King’s, and other entertainment,” Seychew says. Legacy also runs the gamut for dining, from the seemingly endless beer menu at Yard House, to the French bistro Aquitaine, to its latest offering, Il Massimo, a regional Italian restaurant voted best in Rhode Island last year.
“Nightlife here is pretty deep for what most people see as a destination for shopping,” Seychew adds. Overall, for those missing the energy and flavor of the city, busy spots like this can become a haven for the familiar and the fun. “Because it’s such a diverse property, with a wide variety of tenants and people from all backgrounds, it really has an urban feel,” Seychew says.
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