How do you pick your new town?
July 3, 2012 3:11 PM   Subscribe

Leaving the city: how do you pick your new town?

My wife and I are planning on moving away from the city (Brooklyn) when we move onto baby number two (in about 8 months). I am mobile with my job and we aren't moving towards either of our families. We want (from a longer laundry list) a place with:
- outdoor space for the kids to runaround and ride bikes
- good schools
- cool people (read: educated, not conservative)
- some culture: restaurants, fun things happening

We have been driving around trying to get a feel for different towns but it seems so random, leading to a feeling like we are throwing a dart at the map.

So, in general: If you have been in a similar situation, how did you go about deciding?

In particular: do you have any recommendations from between Philadelphia to the Hudson Valley? (I will still have to go into Manhattan from time to time, so we are limiting our range to this zone). So far we have Westchester, PA and Beacon, NY.

Thanks for your help, and I apologize for this being one of those hairy, nebulous, personal questions without a quick answer.
posted by cgs to Grab Bag (8 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Look for towns with an arts community. Often these will be towns that are more industrial or have more people of color. Westchester examples are Yonkers, Port Chester, and Poughkeepsie (or is Poughkeepsie in Putnam? Well, same town either way). Up the Hudson are Beacon, yes, and Kingston, NY. And as for New Jersey, I've heard good things about Maplewood.
posted by scratch at 3:40 PM on July 3, 2012

Princeton, NJ might fit the bill. Walkable town with a highly educated population, some decent restaurants, and lots of art offerings from McCarter Theater to the Arts Council of Princeton. Great library. If you live in town you have the best of all worlds - you can walk to a shuttle to train into Manhattan, your kids can walk to school, and you can easily go hiking or cycling along a lake. We just finished raising our kids there and they loved it.
posted by 6thsense at 4:14 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Check out South Orange, NJ.
posted by carmicha at 4:40 PM on July 3, 2012

All the hip/intellectual/artsy folks with kids I know who left Brooklyn for a bit more space moved to Maplewood, NJ.
posted by Pineapplicious at 5:40 PM on July 3, 2012

I don't live there, but I haven't heard such good things about schools in Beacon. Personally, when I surf for town fantasy life, I look at Rhinebeck.
posted by xo at 6:42 PM on July 3, 2012

Poughkeepsie's in Dutchess county.

A good point of reference would be the places rated/city data guides, or other census data-related breakdowns of regions. Websites specializing in trail guides can offer information of bike parks and paths.

In terms of Upstate NY, the Hudson Valley/New York Rail Trail links up with Walkway Over the Hudson, a former railway bridge converted into parkland. New Paltz in Ulster County's a bohemian region; Rhinebeck, in Dutchess, is more affluent and conservative, but not uptightly so, as it borders Bard College and a regional arts center. For an actual 60's vibe, you should check out the Bearsville/Woodstock area, and parts of Bethel that haven't cashed in yet. ;)

New Paltz's close to Lake Minnewaska, which has a decent hiking trails and climbing spots.

As far as other populated areas are concerned, you could try the Capital Region; though the old holdovers from Albany's punk scene have mostly left, there's a good multicultural vibe around there.

Poughkeepsie's become more of a commuter hub over the years, yet it's still retained its arts scene. Barrett Center and the Mill Street Loft have regular exhibits, and are in walking distance from the Bardavon 1869 Opera House and the Chance Theather. (The Bardavon has film revivals every week, in addition to hosting jazz and blues mini-fests.

Vassar College has a freeform community radio station (91.3 FM WVKR) in the vein of WFMU; the campus is also home to the France Lehman Loeb Art Center, which is free to the public and contains a number of works ranging from the Classical Era to the Postmodern.

As for childrens' education, Poughkeepsie Day School and Oakwood Friends School are private institutions - Oakwood has its roots (heh) in the region's Quaker Community, while Poughkeepsie Day (secular) acquired the former St. George's School (Episcopal) in a merger a few decades back.

As a final bit of trivia, there's a small number of MeFites who reside along the Mid-Hudson region.
posted by Smart Dalek at 3:41 AM on July 4, 2012

We made a big grid with the list of potential cities going down, and qualities we wanted in a city -- good libraries, friends, NPR stations, etc -- going across. Then I went through and marked off which had which, so we could compare them easily.

(Then we gave up and just moved back to Seattle.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:10 AM on July 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do you need to be within commuting distance of New York, or just day-trip distance? Some personal favorites are Yardley, PA; Dobbs Ferry, NY; everyone loves Maplewood, NJ; (quietly mutters Bayside, Queens under his breath); Hudson, NY; Princeton, NJ; Tivoli, NY; (Bellerose, Queens), Media, PA; Raburn, NJ; (Little Neck, Queens); Brewster, NY.

Further afield, perhaps not relevant: traditional favorite Northampton, MA; maaaaybe Lancaster, PA; Red Bank, NJ; West Hartford, CT?

Aren't Poughkeepsie public schools lousy? That was always my impression.

If I were moving out of NYC again it would be to (1) Dobbs Ferry (2) A mid-size Midwestern/Western city (3) Maplewood (4) southern New England. The trick with the NYC metro area is the nice suburbs ain't cheap, even for a non-commuter. Hence my CT/MA notes.
posted by zvs at 2:04 PM on July 4, 2012

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