Historic Adams Building at 1354 Hancock Street with United First Parish Church in historic city center of Quincy, Massachusetts. Editorial credit: Wangkun Jia / Shutterstock.com

7 Best Places to Live in New England in 2024

New England's charm, a phrase commonly used, holds true, attracting myriads of tourists to this beautiful region. However, New England is more than just a tourist destination; it's a lifestyle. With so many great cities in various states to choose from, there's a new home for everyone on this list. Capturing the quintessential coastal charm, Portland, Maine, exemplifies a quintessential New England town with its praise for "artful living," quality dining, and a "timeless" appeal, thanks to the seaside lighthouses and cobblestone streets.

Each city, rich in diverse vibes, neighborhoods, and natural surroundings, offers a wealth of cultural offerings. For instance, Cambridge, Massachusetts, is home to the Harvard Art Museum and the Harvard Museum of Natural History. Finding a new place to live can be daunting, but this crafted list guides you through the region's crème de la crème. Portland boasts a very competitive median home price of $306,000, while in Quincy, more than half of the population prefers to rent. Worcester is on its way to becoming the state's hottest city and capturing the top spot in the housing market in 2024.

Boston, Massachusetts

People walk in pedestrian zone in Boston
People walk in pedestrian zone in Boston, via Tupungato / Shutterstock.com

Boston, the capital of Massachusetts and home to around 651,000 people, is the region's largest city, its intellectual and medical center, and is regarded as the unofficial capital of New England. Known as the Cradle of Liberty, Boston attracts after-work sports enthusiasts, artists, entrepreneurs, families, recent college graduates, and seasoned professionals with its thriving economy, rich history, and vibrant culture. With 100 colleges and universities in the Greater Boston Area alone, hosting over 250,000 students together with Cambridge, this youthful city offers an enviable lifestyle. Despite being 21% above the national average cost of living, it has a median house price of $489,000, making it one of New England's more affordable cities.

Boston boasts a remarkable college degree attainment rate of 45.5% and a meager unemployment rate of only 2.8%. The target job sectors for new residents include education, biotechnology, tourism, and financial services. Joining this hub means embracing a dynamic lifestyle, part of its drive for innovation with economic and cultural impacts on the entire region. Historic and ever-evolving, Boston's spirit, born out of the American Revolution, is discoverable at key historic sites and the Boston National Historical Park. The city, on the cutting edge of medicine and technology, offers pastimes like the notable Institute of Contemporary Art and Fenway Park.

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Harvard, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Harvard, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Cambridge, with a population nearing 120,000, is a thriving, affluent city. It has a median household income of $91,799, a median home price of $525,000, and a cost of living 21% above the national average, similar to Boston. Cambridge was spotlighted last year on Fortune's 2023 list of the 50 best places to live for families, alongside Portland, Maine. After analyzing some 1,900 nationwide communities on healthcare, education, and resources for seniors, Cambridge ranked highly, including in affordability, walkability, and well-being. According to Fortune, people can integrate into its community easily, benefiting from a myriad of resources; its authentic lifestyle is welcoming to all.

Home to two internationally prominent universities, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge attracts families and young professionals. With major industries in education and technology, its college degree attainment is 50.7%, higher than Boston, with a similar unemployment rate of 2.7%. The city boasts a rich cultural scene with venues like the Harvard Art Museum and the Harvard Museum of Natural History. The Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology and the MIT Museum preserve history amidst Cambridge's intensive urbanization during the late 19th and 20th centuries. The city's innovative contemporary architecture, largely influenced by Harvard and MIT, is interwoven with an unusual number of historic buildings, dating back to the 17th century.

Hartford, Connecticut

Hartford, Connecticut, USA downtown city skyline on the river.
Hartford, Connecticut, USA downtown city skyline on the river.

Home to 1,213,324 people in the metro area, Hartford is a city beloved for its balance of urban and historic charm, with a median age of 40.6. The median home price is $347,842, and the monthly rent averages at $1,199. Despite daily expenses on groceries and transportation being higher than the national average, the median income of $67,140 helps mitigate these costs. Although the unemployment rate is a concern at 8.8%, Hartford's status as one of the oldest metro areas in America enriches it with a blend of timeless architectural ambiance and modern attractions. Nestled along the Connecticut River Valley, Hartford is a haven for nature lovers, boasting rolling hills and wooded neighborhoods that invite exploration of its natural and cultural treasures daily.

The city's history is illuminated by notable past residents such as Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Today, locals and visitors alike enjoy historic sites, entertainment venues, and leisure activities in Hartford's central business district. The surrounding suburbs offer affordability and tranquility, providing families access to urban attractions within a peaceful environment. Hartford's diversity and array of leisure pursuits, including nearby vineyards, state parks, and ski slopes, make it a versatile destination for recreational activities in any season.

Manchester, New Hampshire

The Merrimack River in Manchester, New Hampshire. New Hampshire ranks as the safest state in the United States.
The Merrimack River in Manchester, New Hampshire. New Hampshire ranks as the safest state in the United States.

Manchester, the largest city in northern New England with a metro population of 415,200, is known for its robust median income of $81,670. The city's reasonable cost of living, only 9% above the national average, alongside a low unemployment rate, attracts families and young professionals. Its industries in healthcare and financial services are thriving. Situated along the Merrimack River, Manchester offers scenic trails and waterfront activities, alongside sporting and musical events at the Verizon Wireless Arena downtown. Known for its baseball tradition and as a staple in presidential campaigns, Manchester is also home to landmarks like the historic Palace Theatre, the Currier Museum of Art, and the Franco-American Center.

Prospective residents and students are drawn to its educational institutions, such as Southern New Hampshire University and the University of New Hampshire at Manchester. The city's retail landscape caters to student life, offering work opportunities and leisure shopping. With a third of residents over 25 holding a bachelor's degree or higher, Manchester's outdoor activities are an added bonus, from skiing in winter with over 60 inches of annual snowfall to summer beach trips and autumnal leaf-peeping in the White Mountain National Forest.

Portland, Maine

Skyline of Portland, Maine
Skyline of Portland, Maine

Fortune magazine highlighted Portland as one of the best New England cities for families in 2023, celebrating its healthcare, education, senior resources, affordability, walkability, and overall well-being. With a population of 68,000, Portland is located at the mouth of the Fore River in Casco Bay, embodying the essence of a quintessential New England town. Known for its "artful living," quality dining, and "timeless" seaside charm, Portland attracts both locals and tourists. The city offers a unique blend of big-city amenities and small-town vibes, increasingly appealing to those relocating from Boston. According to U.S. News & World Report, it ranks highly among the best places to live in the U.S. for 2023–24. The metro area, with a population of 535,400, boasts a median household income of $70,398, and the cost of living is only 1% above the national average, with a median home price of $306,000.

Portland's economy is strong, with significant sectors in financial services, healthcare, high-tech, and real estate. The city offers a balanced work-life environment, highlighted by the historic Old Port district and its vibrant Arts District. Cultural attractions include the Portland Museum of Art, Portland Stage Company, Maine Historical Society & Museum, and the Portland Symphony Orchestra, enriching the city's cultural landscape. The Maine College of Art adds to the artistic vibrancy, hosting galleries, studios, and street events such as the Festival of Nations, the Maine Brewers Festival, and the Maine Vegetarian and Vegan Food Festival.

Quincy, Massachusetts

Quincy historic city landscape aerial view on Hancock Street in Quincy, Massachusetts
Quincy historic city landscape aerial view on Hancock Street in Quincy, Massachusetts

Named after John Quincy Adams, Quincy is a city that radiates historic charm, boasting a Nantucket-style boardwalk that serves as both a staple and a touchstone for relaxing strolls and social mingling. It's an ideal place to begin exploring the city. Quincy attracts a youthful, liberal-leaning professional demographic, offering an urban/suburban mix where 56% of residents rent and 44% own. The city provides easy access to coffee shops, parks, and a highly-rated public school system. Despite a median home value of $563,200—significantly higher than the national average of $281,900—and average rent of $1,901, its lower population density and proximity to amenities, including the spectacular downtown Boston skyline just 27 miles away on the South Shore, enhance its desirability.

Often underrated, Quincy, a suburb of Boston with approximately 101,000 residents, embodies the small-town feel of a close-knit community. Rated as one of Massachusetts's best places to live by Niche with an A-minus overall score, its public schools also receive high marks. While there is room for improvement in crime rates and housing, its A-rated diversity and nightlife stand out. For those seeking a vibrant life, Quincy offers a median income of $113,386, alongside a plethora of restaurants, bars, and welcoming locals.

Worcester, Massachusetts

Worcester Art Museum in historic downtown Worcester, Massachusetts.
Worcester Art Museum in historic downtown Worcester, Massachusetts. Editorial credit: Wangkun Jia / Shutterstock.com

An hour from Boston, Worcester has stepped out of the capital's shadow to become one of the state's most sought-after cities. Predicted to top the housing market in 2024, the demand has surged, with a 42% increase in home prices and a median value of $475,000 as of November 2023. Despite a 9.5% unemployment rate, Worcester's appeal is undeniable, thanks to an average annual salary of $84,324 and its moniker, the Heart of the Commonwealth. Home to over 940,000 residents in its metro area, Worcester is celebrated for its green spaces, quality hospitals, and a vibrant, diverse community.

The city's median age is 40.3, thanks in part to the student population attending the dozen esteemed colleges and universities within its bounds. Worcester's cultural life is most vibrant downtown, home to the Worcester Art Museum and historic Victorian and Queen Anne residences on the West Side. Renowned for its dining, especially Italian cuisine along Shrewsbury Street, and a robust arts scene, "Wormtown" affectionately nods to its lively underground music scene. Worcester's neighborhoods offer diverse experiences, with a distinct vibe attracting students and young workers to downtown rentals. The city's numerous parks, lakes, and playgrounds make it an appealing destination for families seeking outdoor activities.

New England Overview

From the rugged coasts to the historic downtown areas, New England's diversity and beauty are unparalleled. Boston, known as the Cradle of Liberty, embodies the spirit of the American Revolution, with landmarks like the Boston National Historical Park offering rich historical insights. Meanwhile, Cambridge has embraced intensive urbanization since the late 19th century, now featuring innovative contemporary architecture amidst numerous historic buildings from as early as the 17th century. According to Fortune, Portland, with its "do-it-yourself" spirit, and Cambridge rank as two of the best New England cities for families in 2023, excelling in healthcare, education, and resources for seniors, alongside affordability, walkability, and a strong sense of community well-being.

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