Study: Best Cities to Live in Massachusetts

Whether it's the fast-paced urban lifestyle that the Boston area has to offer, the down-home ambiance of a small, historic city, or the cool ocean breezes floating in from the Atlantic Ocean, there's a place for everyone in Massachusetts. Steeped in deep history, surrounded by (sometimes) winning sports teams, and seasons of every shade, many people flock to the Commonwealth for the colleges and end up staying to begin their careers and, eventually, start their families.

The diversity of communities make choosing where to set up roots a tough decision. The closer you are to Boston – where the jobs are plentiful – the higher the cost of living. The farther away you go from “the Hub,” the more the pace of life slows down. We’ve found the spots that provide a mix of decent commutes plus places to go when you’re not working. Life is not boring in any of these cities; it’s manageable and interesting. If you're planning a move to Massachusetts or already live there and need a change, we suggest considering the CreditDonkey team’s ranking of the best cities to live in Massachusetts.

Study Methodology

In compiling our rankings, we focused on five key factors:

  1. Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime
  2. Commute Time
  3. Income
  4. Residents Who Attended Some College
  5. Restaurants Per Capita

When you're moving to a new place, you want to know that you'll be safe in your new home and when you're out and about. For this study, we included only those cities in Massachusetts that boasted a below average crime rate.

Next, we looked at the average commute time. All of the cities on our list have an average commute time of less than 35 minutes.

Working at a job you love can be a reward in itself, but it's nice to have a fat paycheck to go along with it. That's why we considered income rankings when deciding which cities to include in the study. We know that the average level of education can have an impact on wages, so we also looked at how each city ranked in terms of the percentage of residents who attended some college.

Finally, we ranked each city based on the number of restaurants. After a hard day at work, you don't always feel like cooking – the more dining out options you have, the better.

10 Best Cities to Live in Massachusetts

1. Beverly

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 484
  • Commute Time: 25.8 minutes
  • Income: $67,958
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 18.9%
    (Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 41.8%)
  • Restaurants: 1 per 357 inhabitants

Just 16 miles northeast of Boston, Beverly is one of the oldest cities in Massachusetts. A relatively low crime rate combined with a high average wage makes Beverly an excellent choice for families and professionals. Its close proximity to Boston gives commuters access to the area’s commuter train and a short ride to the city (albeit with some company along the way), yet it also has its share of restaurants and local attractions that keep people around during their off-hours.

Did You Know: Several people from Beverly were accused of witchery at the Salem witch trials. The Salem Witch Museum includes a tour of the Beverly home of a minister who perpetuated the false accusations.

2. Gloucester

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 1,084
  • Commute Time: 24.3 minutes
  • Income: $62,059
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 16.7%
    (Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 34%)
  • Restaurants: 1 per 275 inhabitants

If you're looking for ocean views while remaining relatively close to the metropolitan area, Gloucester is the place to be. Residents are able to score an average commute of under 25 minutes, although those who commute to Boston will have double or triple that amount, depending on whether they take the local train or drive during rush hour. While there are plenty of places to enjoy a good meal – including fresh fish – or have a drink, you're just a stone's throw from Ipswich, Rockport, and Essex, which offer even more options.

Did You Know: Gloucester shot to fame when all six crew members on board the Andrea Gail lost their lives during a 1991 Nor'easter, the storm documented by local author Sebastian Junger in his book "The Perfect Storm." The movie based on the book was filmed here.

3. Woburn

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 405
  • Commute Time: 24.2 minutes
  • Income: $72,434
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 18.2%
    (Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 32.5%)
  • Restaurants: 1 per 423 inhabitants

Woburn ranks third on our list partly because it’s one of the safest places to live in Massachusetts. Wages here are also slightly higher, with incomes averaging just over $72,000. Woburn ties with Waltham for the shortest commute time, clocking in at just 24.2 minutes.

Did You Know: Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan and actor Eric Bogosian were both born in Woburn.

4. Waltham

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 423
  • Commute Time: 24.2 minutes
  • Income: $72,332
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 12.9%
    (Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 46.5%)
  • Restaurants: 1 per 238 inhabitants

Once part of nearby Watertown, Waltham earned the nickname the "Watch City" thanks to the Waltham Watch Co., which produced over 40 million watches and clocks here in the 19th century. Less than 10 miles from Boston, Waltham is home to Bentley College and Brandeis University. The city features active nightlife and an eclectic dining scene, topping our list with 260 restaurants and bars to choose from, many of them on Moody Street.

Did You Know: High-profile employers based in Waltham include defense contractor Raytheon, online marketing company Constant Contact, and StudentUniverse, a tech company that offers discount travel services to students.

5. Peabody

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 431
  • Commute Time: 25.2 minutes
  • Income: $67,052
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 16.7%
    (Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 29.9%)
  • Restaurants: 1 per 447 inhabitants

Another community located in the North Shore suburban region, Peabody is a retreat from the big city life for both students and professionals alike. Peabody once made the Forbes magazine top 100 list of best places to live in 2012, thanks to its high median income levels and below average home prices. That’s a designation we believe is well deserved.

Did You Know: Giles Corey, who was infamously pressed to death during the Salem Witch trials, once owned a farm in Peabody.

6. Westfield

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 546
  • Commute Time: 23.4 minutes
  • Income: $57,018
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 20.5%
    (Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 27.3%)
  • Restaurants: 1 per 567 inhabitants

If it's natural beauty you're looking for, Westfield features rich farmland, scenic stretches of rolling hills, and plenty of rivers and streams ideal for fishing, kayaking, and canoeing. At 23.4 minutes, Westfield has the shortest commute time on our list, mainly because if you live here, you work near here. While it ranks at the lower end in terms of median income, the cost of living is less than what you'd pay in an urban setting.

Did You Know: Once inhabited by the Native American Pocumtuc tribe, Westfield was originally known as Woronoco.

7. Marlborough

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 335
  • Commute Time: 26.8 minutes
  • Income: $70,849
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 14.3%
    (Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 38.8%)
  • Restaurants: 1 per 297 inhabitants

Approximately 30 minutes west of Boston, Marlborough ranks number two as the safest city on our list. Convenience is the main reason to live here, as the city provides easy access to three major highways for fast getaways and for getting to work in either Worcester or Boston. It has its own action as well, with a major hockey sports center, a big mall, restaurants for just about every taste, and two Targets. Higher income rates and corporate residents Boston Scientific and TJX (the company behind TJ Maxx) are a big draw for the under-40 professional crowd.

Did You Know: This city with a small-town atmosphere was known for a century as “one of the shoe manufacturing capitals of New England,” according to local historians. The only sign of that time is a shoemaker statue and a Reebok outlet store near the downtown area.

8. Newburyport

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 843
  • Commute Time: 32.8 minutes
  • Income: $83,509
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 14.8%
    (Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 55.9%)
  • Restaurants: 1 per 321 inhabitants

Thanks to its historic seaport, Newburyport is a bustling tourist spot, but it's also a great place to call home. Wages here are among the highest, averaging $83,509. Even though the commute is little longer, driving to Boston is bearable, and the city has a commuter rail stop. The crime rate here is moderate, and there are plenty of local dining spots that feature everything from New England favorites to New Orleans-style cuisine.

Did You Know: Since 1957, residents have celebrated the Yankee Homecoming, an annual festival commemorating the return of natives to Newburyport.

9. Newton

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 1,141
  • Commute Time: 26.4 minutes
  • Income: $113,416
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 7.6%
    (Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 75%)
  • Restaurants: 1 per 505 inhabitants

A conglomeration of 13 villages, Newton ranks number one on our list for the highest median income. The Chestnut Hill area is home to Boston College, and Newton is located centrally between Boston, Waltham, Brookline, Wellesley, and Needham. The city has a strong tourist trade, but it's also recognized as a thriving college community with a strong artistic and cultural presence.

Did You Know: Newton is usually the top-ranked Massachusetts city in “safest city in America” reports, and, in fact, has earned the top spot a few times by an oft-cited report by Morgan Quitno Press. It may have something to do with the town-like feel this community offers.

10. Attleboro

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 310
  • Commute Time: 29.3 minutes
  • Employee Wages: $65,767
  • Residents Who Attended Some College, No Degree: 18.3%
    (Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 30%)
  • Restaurants: 1 per 498 inhabitants

Once known as the jewelry capital of the world, Attleboro is less than a 10-minute drive from nearby Pawtucket, RI. A significant part of the city's population commutes, either to Boston or Providence, with the average commute time squeaking in at just under 30 minutes.

Did You Know: The Capron Park area features a popular zoo that's a big draw for local residents and visitors.

When it comes to choosing a new place to live, it pays to do your research beforehand. Our rankings are meant to be a starting point so you can get a feel for what each of these Massachusetts cities has to offer. Ultimately, it's up to you to decide which city is the perfect spot to call home sweet home.

Data Sources:

  • U.S. Census Bureau, Population Estimates
  • FBI, Uniform Crime Reports
  • U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey
  • U.S. Census Bureau, Economic Census

Rebecca Lake is a journalist at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and reviews website. Write to Rebecca Lake at Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

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