• Burlington, Newton, and Wakefield emerge as the best suburbs in Massachusetts, skillfully combining the charm of suburbia with the convenience of city life
  • Sommerville and Brookline are leading in house diversity, registering the highest share of apartments in their local housing stock
  • Wilmington, Lynnfield and Dedham are top rated for the quality of their education

Renowned for its rich history, cultural diversity and vibrant cities, Massachusetts provides a great setting for young professionals and families alike. Boston is hard to rival in terms of job opportunities and entertainment, while Worchester, the state’s second-largest city, impresses with its diverse cultural scene and affordable cost of living. But one thing big urban hubs are short on is living space. The average size of an apartment in Boston is 800 square feet whereas houses hover around 1,810 square feet on average, some of the smallest in the nation. Additionally, with almost a quarter of the state’s residents working from home, many of whom may place a higher value on living space, it’s not surprising to see so much interest in the suburbs. Having a dedicated room for a home office or a nice garden to relax in after work makes a world of difference.

One of the best things about Massachusetts is that moving to the suburbs doesn’t have to mean giving up on urban comfort. You just need to know where to look. Some select, city-like suburbs in Massachusetts feature amenities and services comparable to those we can enjoy in a big city.

To identify the top suburbs in which to live in Massachusetts, we analyzed 40 of the state’s smaller cities and towns—those with populations ranging from 10K to 100K. We looked at various criteria including residential factors (housing diversity, affordability and new construction), demographics, business environment, health, education, lifestyle-related amenities, safety, public transportation and self storage availability and cost.

The best suburbs in Massachusetts for those who want to hold on to city-like living are all part of the Boston-Cambridge-Newton metropolitan area—hardly surprising considering that the huge metro area encompasses almost 5 million of the state’s 7 million residents. Without further ado, here are the top 10 suburbs that seamlessly blend the typical suburban advantages (larger homes, greenery and peace and quiet) with urban-like perks.

Map of MA with top 10 suburbs for city-like living

Let’s delve into what sets the top 10 suburbs apart as the crème de la crème of Massachusetts suburbs.

1. Burlington, MA

Street view, Burlington, MA
Burlington, MA

Best for:

  • Business environment
  • Education
  • Health

This remarkable suburb manages to hold on to its historic charms while also stepping decisively into the 21st century. Its business-related infrastructure is the best among the suburbs analyzed, with 50 businesses registered per 1,000 residents, as well as ample office and coworking space available. Looking at the residential front, there is construction activity, with almost eight building permits per 1,000 residents in 2022, and some housing diversity as well—about 28% of the housing units are apartments.

Shopping and dining out are easy to come by, while access to good-quality education earmark Burlington as a great spot for young families. The suburb performs well for health care indicators as well, with Lahey Hospital & Medical Center, one of New England’s best hospitals, located here. Burlington enjoys plenty of green space and walking and biking trails—despite the town’s intense development over the years, its Mill Pond Conservation Area offers more than 350 acres of space for outdoor activities.

Downton Burlington is teeming with historic buildings, art installations, shops and restaurants, cultural centers and other local businesses that turn it into a vibrant space where you can find almost anything you might want.

2. Newton, MA

View of Newton, MA
Newton, MA

Best for:

  • Health
  • Transportation
  • Business

Newton is considered one of the earliest examples of a garden city in the United States, with a layout focused on maintaining the natural beauty of the area, and featuring ample green spaces and wide, tree-lined streets. It’s also the birthplace of the beloved Fig Newton cookies, so there’s plenty to love about this place already.

The local median household income, at almost $165K, is the highest among the suburbs analyzed, offsetting a relatively hot local real estate market. Newton also ranks well for its local health care sector, which ensures easy access to hospitals and medical services. The student-to-teacher ratio, around 11 to 1, and the generally good scores students obtain in standardized tests are indicative of a well-performing education sector. Other areas where Newton stands out from the crowd are safety (the seventh-safest suburb among those analyzed) and transportation (about 40% of the residents don’t need their cars on a daily basis).

3. Wakefield, MA

Wakefield MA historic town center
Wakefield, MA

Best for:

  • Residential
  • Health
  • Education

Located a mere 12 miles north of Boston city proper, Wakefield allows residents to enjoy the best of two worlds. The housing options are quite diverse (about 40% of the local housing stock consists of apartments). The suburb is also the second-most active among those analyzed for new construction, with about 10 building permits per 1,000 residents.

Wakefield a has a dynamic local economy, with almost 35 businesses registered per 1,000 residents, while the median household income hovers at over $110K. The suburb’s charming downtown area, with its beautiful colonial and Victorian architecture, offers numerous shopping and dining options, as well as cultural attractions and historic landmarks. Lake Quannapowitt, a central feature in Wakefield, adds natural beauty and recreational opportunities to the town.

4. Waltham, MA

View of Waltham, MA
Waltham, MA

Best for:

  • Business
  • Transportation
  • Health

Waltham is a dynamic city that seamlessly blends its industrial heritage as one of the pivots of the American Industrial Revolution with contemporary amenities. The local economy of the “Watch City” (a nickname earned for its association with manufacturing timepieces) keeps ticking away, with 41 registered business per 1,000 residents, a median household income of over $100K per year and good access to office and coworking space. The local commute time is a very decent 24 minutes on average.

That’s not saying that Waltham is all work and no play. Quite the opposite. Moody Street, the city’s main thoroughfare, buzzes with eclectic restaurants, boutiques and cultural venues, making it a hub of activity. There are, in fact, over four restaurants per 1,000 residents, the most of all the Massachusetts suburbs analyzed. For outdoorsy types, the Upper Charles River Reservation provides a scenic escape, offering walking and biking paths along the riverbanks.

5. Woburn, MA

Aerial view, Woburn, MA
Woburn, MA

Best for:

  • Business
  • Health
  • Transportation

Nestled in Middlesex County and just a half an hour away from downtown Boston by car or train, Woburn certainly blends suburban attributes with urban perks. Over 40% of the local housing stock consists of apartments, providing newcomers with diverse housing options. The local business sector is thriving as well, with over 52 businesses registered per 1,000 residents—the most out of the suburbs analyzed. Woburn also ranks fourth for office and coworking space.

Its revitalized downtown area has restaurants for all tastes, plus shops and other local businesses that provide all sorts of services residents might need. Horn Pond, a gorgeous glacial pond sitting on 500 acres of protected greenery, is located just a mile away from downtown, and it’s an excellent setting for walking, biking and even kayaking and canoeing. Middlesex Falls Reservation, another excellent spot for outdoor activities, is located just 10 minutes away from the town.

6. Dedham, MA

Best for:

  • Amenities
  • Education
  • Business

Not only does Dedham mix suburban perks with urban amenities, but it also manages to celebrate its history while also moving firmly into the 21st century. The town’s historic district features well-preserved colonial and Federal-style homes, contributing to its picturesque charm. At the same time, more than 30% of the local housing stock consists of apartments, the local economy is thriving and amenities such as shops and restaurants are top-notch.

Dedham also has an impressive 1,900 square feet of park space per capita. The local school system is excellent, both in terms of student-to-teacher ratio and student results on standardized tests, shaping Dedham up as one of the most family-friendly suburbs in Massachusetts.

7. Brookline, MA

Streets in Brookline, MA
Brookline, MA

Best for:

  • Residential
  • Transportation
  • Education

This vibrant and affluent town located just west of Boston ticks all the boxes of a suburb with urban qualities. Well-connected to Boston’s downtown area through public transportation, it is one of the best commuter suburbs near Boston. Three-quarters of its housing inventory is dedicated to apartments, which helps newcomers relocate here easily. However, Brookline also boasts natural preserves such as Hall’s Pond Sanctuary and Friedman Park, offering the ideal combo for residents.

This suburb is an excellent option for families with young children. Not only do they have plenty of choices for outdoor fun, but the Public Schools of Brookline system is highly regarded, with strong public schools serving the community. Brookline High School in particular is known for its academic excellence. Lifestyle amenities abound as well, with its downtown and its Coolidge Corner commercial area hosting shops, restaurants and cafes.

8. Norwood, MA

Best for:

  • Business
  • Amenities
  • Population

A mix of historic architecture, including well-preserved Victorian homes, particularly in the Norwood Centre area, gives this charming suburb a lot of character. Even so, almost half of the local housing inventory consists of apartments, granting extra points for the urban vibe of the place. The local business sector is thriving, with 42 businesses registered per 1,000 residents, plus office and coworking space available for residents.

In terms of amenities, Norwood has a mix of local businesses, restaurants and shops, particularly along Washington and Central streets. Legacy Place, a shopping and lifestyle center, also contributes to the town’s retail scene. More than that, there are cultural attractions in the area, including the Norwood Theatre, a historic venue originally built in 1927 that hosts live performances, movies and community events.

9. Hudson, MA

Best for:

  • Education
  • Health
  • Safety

Located about 40 miles west of Boston, with the Assabet River flowing through it, Hudson features scenic beauty and recreational and economic opportunities. The well-performing public school system, combined with good scores when it comes to safety and health care, make it a great place for families.

The shopping and the dining-out scenes are pretty animated, while Riverside Park, along the river, is a popular spot for outdoor activities and community events. A former industrial town, Hudson also has a lot of character when it comes to its architecture. The Hudson Mills Complex is a historic area that once housed various mills. Today, it stands as a reminder of the town’s heritage and has been repurposed for residential and commercial use.

10. Lynnfield, MA

Best for:

  • Education
  • Residential
  • Business

Lynnfield’s appeal includes its secluded, woodsy setting, only 20 minutes away from downtown Boston, as well as its comprehensive selection of lifestyle-related amenities. Its upscale Market Street commercial district features restaurants, cafes, boutiques and other local businesses, ensuring that residents don’t have to drive too far to get what they need.

Although commuting to Boston is more than manageable, residents can also tap into the well-developed local economy. There are about 31 businesses per 1,000 residents registered in Lynnfield, while the median household income, at over $147K, is the third-highest among the 40 suburbs we looked at. Another area where Lynnfield truly shines is its public school system, with local students performing well on standardized tests.

Massachusetts’s suburban landscape is a vibrant one, and the communities we highlighted embody the perfect fusion of modern amenities, cultural richness and a welcoming atmosphere.

See below the full list of the 40 most popular Massachusetts suburbs, ranked by their capacity to provide access to urban amenities.

40 Massachusetts Suburbs Ranked by Ranked by City-Living Flair

SuburbRankHousing Affordability IndexBuilding Permits*Single Family Homes %Population Change (5 years)Population Density (people/sq. mi.)Businesses*Median Household IncomeOffice and Coworking Space IndexRetail Stores*Restaurants*Park Space/ Capita (sq. ft.)Health Care & Social Assistance Access*ObesityLife ExpectancyEducation IndexCrime RateCar UsageCommute TimeSelf Storage per CapitaSelf Storage Rent
Burlington, MA11567.672%2%2,23348.9124755247.13.0135.42.521%81.79.81.0%80.4%29.12.0182.0
Newton, MA21662.864%0%4,97232.31646072113.01.9303.73.421%81.714.00.6%59.8%27.61.1207.3
Wakefield, MA31639.961%2%3,65834.61103721462.42.1225.02.121%81.713.50.7%73.3%32.52.096.8
Waltham, MA41960.643%3%5,07341.4103498513.54.3287.22.221%81.726.50.8%71.4%24.52.5146.4
Woburn, MA51871.957%4%3,23852.495184754.12.2123.23.321%81.717.51.1%80.5%25.62.4137.9
Dedham, MA61741.768%0%2,46436.81080471676.12.51888.53.024%81.59.81.1%74.5%32.31.3129.3
Brookline, MA71944.424%6%9,26324.21223565191.72.5233.34.124%81.510.51.2%34.3%28.40.1221.7
Norwood, MA82080.353%8%3,01141.896414694.52.2196.76.624%81.514.80.9%75.2%32.03.0133.9
Hudson, MA92071.654%0%2,69027.5838281834.12.0235.91.021%81.713.80.5%81.7%28.73.7112.3
Lynnfield, MA101171.686%3%1,30631.21472373824.91.9166.91.827%80.69.50.5%78.7%31.91.9138.8
Medford, MA1118114.841%6%7,49519.31078533302.41.9154.61.421%81.720.01.1%61.0%30.50.9174.1
Danvers, MA121620.367%1%2,10640.81056541676.02.6399.03.327%80.617.81.5%82.8%28.62.4138.3
Gloucester, MA132001.859%1%1,13829.5829843784.12.7902.11.427%80.613.80.6%83.4%26.34.1166.4
Wilmington, MA141220.687%0%1,37337.51462501592.91.815.41.721%81.74.50.8%80.6%30.41.0216.8
Stoneham, MA151760.455%6%3,83726.61055413973.01.91.43.021%81.715.00.7%82.7%28.81.6140.4
Northampton, MA162261.354%3%85833.6726875385.13.03408.33.422%81.615.52.0%68.9%21.43.7136.8
Somerville, MA172141.416%1%19,55119.4108896872.52.552.01.021%81.724.01.4%38.1%32.00.7196.7
Beverly, MA182190.253%4%2,81330.6898821203.32.4188.82.927%80.621.80.5%70.9%30.62.5182.0
Maynard, MA191840.266%2%2,05523.01124321502.21.8163.30.821%81.712.30.6%84.4%31.53.7174.0
Salem, MA202101.734%4%5,36026.3728842363.92.5221.01.627%80.622.01.8%70.0%31.11.5218.4
Peabody, MA211620.556%4%3,34128.1835703715.12.2378.51.827%80.629.51.0%89.8%27.31.6155.4
Milford, MA222020.764%6%2,69231.7852912603.92.2306.13.330%79.725.30.7%81.6%29.52.0152.0
Saugus, MA231540.271%3%2,64728.5937375206.53.21028.81.227%80.620.51.1%83.6%30.40.9146.3
Abington, MA241691.572%5%1,70421.71131556613.72.01693.11.125%80.017.80.9%81.6%36.11.8122.5
Everett, MA251845.726%8%14,14317.9715105512.81.575.20.721%81.728.81.8%67.1%37.20.7130.0
Malden, MA262010.032%8%13,00616.9771193352.21.755.51.221%81.726.31.5%59.3%36.71.3153.9
Milton, MA271850.676%4%2,18116.91539716171.00.6242.41.824%81.517.30.4%62.4%33.40.2207.4
Leominster, MA282331.256%5%1,50827.4695254155.02.4388.82.030%79.727.02.2%88.7%27.98.5138.2
Lawrence, MA292030.228%11%12,66716.6475422542.61.2167.01.127%80.623.81.3%84.7%22.31.2121.0
Somerset, MA301750.085%0%2,31218.8969677063.42.2818.41.127%78.515.80.9%92.9%24.82.5167.0
Holbrook, MA311840.980%3%1,56425.7897637153.41.8274.30.624%81.528.01.7%75.4%35.40.9133.0
Taunton, MA322222.953%5%1,26520.1667874283.21.41104.51.127%78.532.50.9%92.5%28.92.5120.7
Revere, MA331730.936%14%10,64515.9730417242.41.758.80.723%79.631.01.6%66.8%33.30.8172.5
Haverhill, MA342190.652%8%2,03118.1751304362.01.6255.21.127%80.631.01.5%87.7%27.42.2157.8
Fall River, MA353220.725%5%2,81921.0496133882.91.878.52.127%78.532.02.0%88.6%25.12.9137.7
Webster, MA362720.539%0%4,06820.5531762883.42.4159.71.430%79.729.31.8%84.9%29.91.6173.0
Gardner, MA372640.852%4%96019.5527704833.81.6424.71.730%79.729.51.7%86.8%32.311.9118.5
Fitchburg, MA382721.050%3%1,50218.0604663792.61.4366.31.730%79.729.52.0%84.6%25.81.8160.0
Westfield, MA392611.162%-1%88520.7736924513.21.650.01.032%78.618.31.0%88.2%24.12.2110.0
Chicopee, MA402480.353%-1%2,42916.5565095582.61.4760.00.832%78.621.32.6%90.2%19.61.1124.0
*per 1,000 People

StorageCafe analysis of U.S. Census, Yardi Matrix, Commercial Edge, Coworkingcafe, Department of Education, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, FBI and Trust for Public Land data

Methodology

This analysis was done by StorageCafe, an online platform that provides storage unit listings across the nation.

To determine the top suburbs that offer the best urban and suburban living combined, we ranked 40 suburbs located in Massachusetts. We considered a suburb any place located within a large metro area and with a population of between 10K and 100K.

The ranking is based on the suburbs’ overall scores. Overall scores represent an average of all the suburbs’ weighted scores based on the metrics presented below:

To calculate the number of retail stores, restaurants and health care and social assistance establishments related to population, we used U.S. Census data and made estimates based on ZIP code data.

To assess education, we created a ranking based on standardized test results, number of public schools per 1,000 residents and student-to-teacher ratios.

Obesity rates and life expectancy were calculated based on county-level data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The data on self storage costs was taken from Yardi Matrix, StorageCafe’s sister division and a business development and asset management tool for brokers, sponsors, banks and equity sources underwriting investments in the multifamily, office, industrial and self storage sectors.

Fair use and distribution

This study serves as a resource for the general public on issues of common interest and should not be regarded as investment advice. The data is true to the best of our knowledge but may change if amendments to it are made. We agree to the distribution of this content but we do require a mention in return for attribution purposes.

Author

Maria Gatea is a real estate and lifestyle editor for Yardi with a background in Journalism and Communication. After covering business and finance-related topics as a freelance writer for 15 years, she is now focusing on researching and writing about the real estate industry. You may contact Maria via email.

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