Moving to and Living in Boston, MA: Your Essential Guide

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Overview of Boston

The site of Paul Revere’s famous ride and the legendary Tea Party, Boston’s revolutionary veins run deep. This historic capital on Massachusetts Bay is the most populous city in the state, and its compact footprint gives it a hefty cultural punch.  

One visit to the charming North End neighborhood will transport you back in time, and many of the spots that helped solidify the revolt against British rule have proven popular for political protests long beyond the tumult of the 18th century. Boston was a key site on the Underground Railroad, and Harriet Tubman had deep ties to the city and its citizens. Suffrage festivals were held at the Copley Plaza Hotel, and women used sites throughout the city to organize for women’s rights and representation.  

But this historic town is also the City of Champions, known for its World Series-winning, Stanley Cup-clinching, NBA title-taking, Super Bowl-bagging teams. And when you’re not watching sports, you can be playing them yourself at one the numerous greenspaces in Boston’s “Emerald Necklace.”  

With renowned universities like Harvard and MIT, artistic institutions from the MFA Boston to the Boston Lyric Opera and Fortune 500 companies like GE and Gillette, this city has built on its historic roots to become the cultural capital of New England.  

But this wealth of resources does come at a price — one that’s too steep for many to reach. So, if you’re thinking of moving to Boston, be prepared to dig deep.   

Get an inside look at this spectacular city below and learn more about the Bay State in our Guide Moving to Massachusetts

Living in Boston: What You Need to Know

Boston’s Weather

With cool ocean air in the summer and the chilling winds of winter, Boston’s weather is one of the things that gives the city its unique New England character.  

There are four distinct seasons in this city, and you’ll only occasionally suffer extreme weather. This might take the form of a heat wave in July or a nor’easter in February. The city usually stays above freezing from mid-April through mid-October, making for a long growing season for gardeners and lots of time for outdoor adventures in the city and countryside. 

In July, the average high is only 82.1 — barely warm by most states’ summer standards — and the lows are in the mid-sixties.  

January is another story, though. The average low is 23 F and the average high doesn’t even reach 37 F. The city is accustomed to accumulating 48 inches of snow in a normal season, but Boston’s recent winters have been anything but normal. Like other Northeastern locales, Boston has been suffering through a “snow drought,” and the city only saw 12 inches of snow over the entire 2022-23 season. 

The city has also seen warmer, wetter weather in the summertime, which has brought torrential amounts of rain. Despite the city’s age, it seems protections against climate change haven’t been grandfathered into the city’s atmosphere.  

Cost of Living in Boston

Like most Northeastern cities, Boston has a high cost of living, and real estate prices are the primary culprit. Boston’s housing costs are nearly twice that of any of its New England neighbors. The median home value in Boston is now $684,900 (rivaling New York City), topping Portland’s (ME) median of $411,600, Burlington’s (VT) average of $383,300, Worcester’s (MA) and Providence’s (RI) median — which both hover around $300,000 — and Hartford’s (CT) average of $198,900. Renters don’t fare any better in Beantown, with Boston’s median nearly cresting the $2,000 mark, and other New England hamlets ranging only from $1,154 to $1,540. 

Income levels follow a similar arc, with Boston’s leading the pack at $89,212 — $15,000 above the national average. But it may come as a surprise that Boston’s median household income is several thousand dollars below the state average, and a mere fraction of the highest incomes in the state. Some cities and towns surrounding the Boston area, like Weston and Dover, boast average income levels of more than $250,000, according to the U.S Census. On the opposite side of the state and the spectrum, Springfield has a median household income of only $47,677, highlighting the disparity between coastal and Western Massachusetts.  

But there is a bright side. Although Bostonians shell out more for housing, education and personal insurance/pensions, they do spend less than their national counterparts on transportation, food, healthcare and entertainment. 

Boston’s Job Market

With a robust economy and a diverse industry base, the greater Boston area can be a desirable place to build your career. Known for giants like General Electric, Fidelity Investments, Gillette, Liberty Mutual and — who could forget — Dunkin’, the corporate ecosystem in the city is astonishingly healthy. 

With its leading universities and hospitals (like Boston Medical Center) — and its commitment to superior public schooling — it’s no surprise that Boston’s largest industry base is education and health services. But professional and business services and trade, transportation and utilities are close on its heels. And, with the historic sites in this coastal capital, jobs in leisure and hospitality and the government are also abundant in the region.  

All industries in the Boston area saw growth over 2023, with the largest gains in the mining, logging and construction industry (+6.3%), education and health services (4.9%), and other services (4.1%).  

The unemployment rate in the Boston-Cambridge-Quincy metro stood at only 3.2% in December — lower than the national average — but the rate did mark a significant uptick from the five months prior, when the rate had held at 2.7% or below.  

Higher Education in Boston

For a city of less than 50 square miles, Boston has an outsized number of outstanding colleges and universities within its reach. There are elite schools like MIT and Harvard, along with Boston University (BU), Boston College, Wellesley, Northeastern, Brandeis and Tufts. And, more than 53% of residents have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher. No doubt about it, Boston is one smart city.  

Commuting and Public Transportation in Boston

With a footprint of less than 50 square miles and a compact city center, Boston is a highly walkable city. The densely packed streets make it easily navigable on foot and easy by bicycle if you’re a seasoned rider. What these narrow, historic corridors don’t lend themselves well to is the automobile.  

Thankfully, when you must travel to farther flung destinations, Boston has one of the most robust systems of public transportation in the country. The MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority) or “The T,” oversees bus, subway, trolley, commuter rail and ferry service throughout the region, with standard fares starting at $1.70 for buses and $2.40 for all other services.  

The subway has five main lines, and several other branches to bring riders deeper into western neighborhoods. Improvements are already underway for the green and red lines, and buses and commuter trains pick up where the light rail leaves off.  

Popular Neighborhoods in Boston

Boston’s diverse downtown districts hold great appeal, whether you’re looking for historic charm or contemporary innovations. And, of course, the suburban wells of the city run deep, so if in-town living isn’t quite your scene or you’re just looking for a little more square footage, check out the digs in places like Beverly, Newton and Jamaica Plain.  

If you are looking for downtown living on a budget, South Boston is still one of the more affordable areas of the city. But that depends on what your idea of a budget is. Buyers can expect to pay at least $500,000 for a small condominium in this rapidly gentrifying area. Southie, as it’s better known, was a longtime working-class, Irish American district, with clapboard houses, seaside charm and cozy, noisy bars. The nightlife remains in this changing area, but rent is rapidly on the rise.

Boston’s South End is a central enclave adjacent to the coveted Back Bay neighborhood and the bustling Theatre District and Chinatown. The area’s 19th-century Victorian beauties draw architectural enthusiasts out in droves, but the old warehouses in the area are what gave rise to the SoWa Art + Design District. Many artists keep studios in these refurbished spaces, but trendy boutiques and showrooms have also elbowed their way in. Every Sunday, the SoWa Open Market makes the district into a mini festival of food, funk and hand-crafted goods, and First Fridays in are a parade of offbeat revelry.

Boston’s neighborhoods don’t get more elegant — or exclusive — than the riverfront Back Bay. This affluent area on the Charles is bookended by some of the finest greenspaces in the city: the Public Garden and Boston Common to the east and the Kelleher Rose Garden and Back Bay Fens to the west. Each morning, you can walk the dog along the Charles River Esplanade, and in the afternoons and evenings, fine shopping and dining await. You can even walk to Fenway! Housing here is some of the most expensive in the state, though. A tiny, garden-level unit could easily cost $1,000/ square foot, and a posh unit in a new development might be over $3,000/sq. ft. Expect to pay close to a million for anything with one true bedroom in Back Bay. You might shell out nearly that much for a parking spot alone. Rent is similarly daunting — you can easily spend $2,500/month on a studio, and that might not even assure you four burners on the stove. On the plus side: no one will expect you to host Thanksgiving dinner. 

The North End neighborhood is the historic hub of the city. Back in the day, you might have rubbed elbows with Paul Revere in these quarters, but today you can simply enjoy with charm of the red brick without worrying about the British invading your town. Because of the glut of notable sites, you will need to have a high threshold for tourist activities. But there are plenty of local haunts in the area, too — especially Italian joints, like Bova’s Bakery, which is practically a historic site itself, having supplied the city with cannoli for nearly a century.

Note: If you’re thinking of moving to Boston, it’s important to thoroughly research neighborhoods or areas in the city you might be interested in living. Before you decide where you are going to live, make sure you understand the area’s cost of living, commute time, tax rates, safety statistics and schooling information. 

Things You Can Only Do in Boston

Historical Landmarks

With landmarks like the Paul Revere House, the Old North Church and Faneuil Hall, there is no escaping the revolutionary spirit in Boston. You can hit all the highlights on the Freedom Trail, which will take you on a journey as exciting as Paul Revere’s famous ride at a decidedly more leisurely pace. Your trek begins in 1634 — long before the war with the Brits broke out — at Boston Common, the oldest public park in the country. This popular greenspace has come a long way since milk cows grazed in the grasses. From there you can visit the Old State House (site of the Boston Massacre), the Bunker Hill Monument and several significant burial grounds.  

No site better embodies revolutionary rebellion than the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, though. Performers spiritedly reenact the resistance to British taxation, and visitors can even dump a bit of tea over the edge of the boat in belated solidarity with the rebels.  

If maritime history is your mainstay, though, a trip to the USS Constitution is in order. Better known as Old Ironsides, this military warship is the oldest vessel of its kind that’s still afloat. And if those hulls could talk, you would get to hear more than two hundred years over history, including tales from her fearsome battle against the HMS Guerriere during the war of 1812.  

But Boston’s historic landmarks aren’t all Revolutionary War-era. Fast forward two centuries and get a glimpse into more recent political history at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum. The incredible building — designed by renowned architect I.M. Pei — houses exhibit extolling JFK’s landmark achievements, like establishing the Peace Corps and advancing the space program, and features a replica of the Oval Office and a spotlight on Jackie O.  

Recreational Activities

The fastest way to get from past to present day Boston is through Faneuil Hall. Part of the Boston National Historic Park, these walls echo with the revolutionary voices advocating for the abolition of slavery to the granting of women’s suffrage. You can tour the site for free and then mosey on over to the Faneuil Hall Marketplace and Quincy Market, where restaurants and vendors have hawked their fare and wares for two centuries.   

With saunas in the winter and a beer garden in the summertime, the Rose Kennedy Greenway is the place to be in any season. This 1.5-mile parkland in the heart of Boston has splash pads and a carousel for the kids and food trucks, public art and gardens that the whole family can enjoy.  

Boston is also known for its Emerald Necklace — a chain of public parks that runs from the heart of the city to the western burbs. Originally designed by Central Park landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, the park encompasses diverse terrain and ecosystems, from Jamaica Pond to the Arnold Arboretum. Visitors can picnic, ride bikes — even go sailing.  

Indoor attractions in Boston are just as fine as the city’s outdoor adventure spots. Fun-filled days for the smaller set are easy to plan with spots like the Boston Children’s Museum, which has shows for every age, from tots to pre-tweens. The expected hands-on activities are supplemented by more unusual experiences here, like the Japanese House, where kids can explore a full-size urban dwelling from 1800s Japan and learn about traditional architecture and customs from Boston’s sister city, Kyoto.  

What does the inside of a hippo’s mouth look like? How does an orb-weaver spin its web? What does a fault line look like before an earthquake strikes? You’ll find the answers to these questions and many of life’s other whys at the Harvard Museum of Natural History, a spot that garners thumbs ups from kids and grownups, alike.  

Art afficionados will know the encyclopedic collection of the MFA Boston (Museum of Fine Arts) well, but if you want a deep dive into the contemporary scene, head to the waterfront for a visit to the ICA, the Institute of Contemporary Art / Boston. The stunning building designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro makes for an almost majestic experience, where airy galleries accommodate the most experimental of works. Each summer, the museum’s auxiliary space in the East Boston Shipyard — the ICA Watershed — brings a single, wild vision to life, which has taken the form of multi-channel video works and interactive, musical sculptures. Other art spots not to miss: the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the Harvard Art Museums and one of the newest spots, MAAM, the MassArt Art Museum. 

Unique Sports Experiences

It’s hard to say which Boston sports team has the biggest fan base, and we’d certainly never guess out loud about which one’s the best, because competitive fevers run high in the City of Champions. If you hate the Yankees, you’ll be okay.  

It’s certainly hard to rival the fanbase of the Red Sox — the city’s oldest team and one of the country’s first baseball franchises. The longtime underdog broke its “curse” in 2004 when they clinched their first World Series title in 84 years. The Sox’s beloved Fenway is the nation’s oldest ballpark, so seeing a game there also counts as visiting a historic site.  

The Boston Celtics are certainly having a banner year in the 2023-24 season, sitting at the top of the Eastern Conference and currently ranked #2 in the NBA. The Celtics play at the famous Boston Garden (now known as TD Garden), where you can also see the Boston Bruins take to the ice. The Bruins hold an impressive spot in the NHL standings this season, currently #1 in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern conference with 71 points and #2 in the overall standings — only the Canucks have more points. 

Boston is responsible for the football reputation of New England, but the 2023-24 season wasn’t kind to the Patriots, who finished the season with four wins. But this is highly unusual for the Pats, who have appeared in a whopping 11 Super Bowls and taken home the title 6 times, a feat only the Pittsburgh Steelers have matched.  

Moving Tips for Boston 

Moving to Boston presents unique challenges that may not be encountered in other cities. Here are some important considerations to keep in mind when planning your move: 

  • September lease turnover. Many leases in Boston turnover at the beginning of September. This can lead to a shortage of truck rentals, movers and moving materials during this time 
  • Default speed limit. Boston operates with a default speed limit of 25mph, regardless of posted signs 
  • Storrow drive restrictions. Moving trucks are prohibited from traveling on Storrow Drive due to low clearance. It’s essential to plan an alternative route to avoid any complications 
  • Parking reservation. Reserving a parking spot for your moving vehicle at least two weeks before your move is crucial. This ensures that you and your movers have convenient access to your new residence within the city. 

Hiring Professional Movers for Your Move to Boston

If you’ve decided to move to Boston, now is the time to start looking for the right professional moving company to help you. Get a moving quote for Boston.  

As America’s #1 Mover®, United Van Lines can make your cross-country move seamless. We provide customized, full-service moving packages that can be tailored to your needs. Our long-distance movers can help with packing and unpacking, shipping a car, storing your belongings, removing debris and other assistance.  

If you are making a local move within the Boston area or moving to Boston from another city in Massachusetts, our interstate Massachusetts movers can provide local moving services in Boston and in Massachusetts independently under their own businesses and brands. 

Still want to handle your own move to Boston? Take advantage of United Van Lines’ helpful moving resources, which can save you time and hassle, whether you’re moving cross-country or locally. Keep your move on track with our packing tips, moving checklists and regional guides.  

And get a local perspective on the Bay State in our Moving Guide to Massachusetts, which contains essential information about the pros and cons of living in Massachusetts and New England. 

 Get a quote today on moving to Boston 

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