Winning may not be everything, but it can take the sting out of disappointments in other arenas of life. And Boston sports teams do their fair share of winning: Since 2002 the area's four major pro sports teams have combined for seven championships: three by the NFL Patriots, two by the MLB Red Sox and one each by the NBA Celtics and NHL Bruins.
Boston can also credibly claim to be America's intellectual and historic capital. But what distinguishes the city today is its culture, parks and quality of life.
Metro Boston includes the city itself (population 617,594) and more than 50 surrounding cities and towns. The second-biggest city in the metro area is Brockton (93,810). Smaller places range from 17th-century villages (Plymouth) to some of the oldest suburbs in America (Brookline and Braintree). Many area towns date from the 18th century and are built around central squares ringed by locally owned businesses.
Boston's cultural preeminence includes 35 degree-granting colleges and all the lectures, performances and symposia they spawn; one of the best music scenes in the U.S.; and a packed schedule at the Citi Performing Arts Center.
Boston's parks are big and exceptionally good. Frederick Law Olmsted designed several of them; the Arnold Arboretum at Harvard is world-class, and the Boston Nature Center includes trails and educational programs. The metro area comprises nearly 120 miles of Atlantic coastline and lots of dedicated bike paths.
Adding to the attraction for retirees, most payments from public pensions in Massachusetts are exempt from state taxes. And metro Boston is a major center of medical talent, with a high concentration of physicians, hospital beds per capita and teaching hospitals. Rates of smoking and obesity are low, as are rates of hypertension and mortality from heart disease.
Large districts of Boston still struggle with poverty and high rates of violent crime, but there's another side to that story. In the 1980s, for example, residents of Dudley Street in the Roxbury/North Dorchester district of South Boston formed their own community land trust. Today Roxbury offers a large stock of guaranteed affordable housing, dramatically lower crime rates and thriving neighborhood centers.
Traffic congestion is a serious, even legendary problem. Parking downtown can cost $30 a day, so many commuters use the region's excellent train system. Also, many residents walk or bicycle to work. The weather here can be severe — a good excuse to huddle inside a cozy arena for a game.
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