Boston, like much of New England, is scrappy — a relatively small city with a world-beating attitude. It is home to some of the most prestigious universities in the world and some of the most successful sports franchises. But what really set Boston apart are its culture, parks and the quality of life in its suburbs.
See also: America's healthiest hometowns.
Greater Boston (population 4.5 million) includes the city of Boston (618,000) and more than 100 cities and towns. The smaller places range from 17th-century villages (Plymouth) to some of the oldest suburbs in America (Brookline and Braintree). Many area towns were built in the 18th century and most feature central squares surrounded by small businesses and residential neighborhoods.
In 2008 Boston was ranked the eighth most literate big city in the U.S., and a high share of area residents have a college degree.
Boston's parks are big and exceptionally good, with several designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. The Arnold Arboretum at Harvard is one of the finest in the world. The Massachusetts Audubon Society's Boston Nature Center has opened on the grounds of the old Boston State Hospital. The metro area also offers nearly 120 miles of Atlantic coastline and lots of dedicated bike paths.
Locals bond over sports: the Red Sox and New England Patriots have become regular contenders; the Celtics are synonymous with Boston hoops tradition; and the Bruins have the second-most Stanley Cup victories by a U.S.-based team in NHL history.
Massachusetts is a great place to be retired from a government job or the military because most payments from public pensions are exempt from state taxes. And metro Boston is a major center of medical talent with a very high concentration of physicians, hospital beds per capita and teaching hospitals. Rates of smoking and obesity are low, so the metro area has low mortality from heart disease and low rates of hypertension.
Because traffic congestion is a serious problem in the city, many locals use the region's excellent train system or walk or bicycle to work. Boston's coastal location means it does get severe storms, including nor'easter blizzards and the occasional hurricane. That's when it's time to button up and seek refuge in a museum, university or sports bar.
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