Boston vs. Washington, D.C.: Two Historic Towns Draw New Grads

Boston and Washington, D.C. share many alluring commonalities, filled to the brim with historic landmarks, monuments, museums and widely known colleges and universities. As major metros on the East Coast, both cities have much to offer new college graduates looking to venture into the next phase of life. In fact, much of the local population in both cities is made up of students who fell in love with their new communities and settled down long-term.

With a diploma in hand and tassels turned to the left, new grads will be weighing options to see which city is the best fit. We asked locals in Washington, D.C. and Boston to share their insights about life in their cities. Check out what they had to say before establishing roots.

Should a new graduate consider settling down in your city?

Yes! It’s a young city with a lot of opportunity. Just make sure you can split the rent with someone. — Jennifer Hill of JHill Design (Boston)

I would encourage new grads to move to D.C. because of the abundance of job industries here. I also love the diversity in the culture, with transplants not only from all 50 states but many different countries, too. Everyone can “find their place” in D.C. — Laura Franklin of Food Fun Family (D.C.)

What are the advantages of living in your city?

Boston is full of great eateries, distinctly different sections of the city, like the North End, and has so many historically significant landmarks. — Susan Mathison of Country Design Home (Boston)

The biggest advantages are: economic opportunity, cultural treasures, the physical beauty of the city and its proximity to the ocean (Atlantic) and the mountains (Shenandoahs). — Diane MacEachern of (D.C.)

View of the Paul Revere Monument in Boston’s North End.

What is the biggest disadvantage of living in your city?

The housing market is prohibitively expensive for many young people. — Susan Mathison of Country Design Home (Boston)

The high cost of living and the traffic. — Erin Myers of My Mommy World (D.C.)

What is the best neighborhood for young professionals?

South Boston has become a really popular home for young professionals. It’s close to the water and it’s in between Boston’s South End and Seaport districts. Lots of new bars and restaurants have been opening up in the last two years, as well as newly renovated condo and apartment buildings. — Jennifer Hill of JHill Design (Boston)

A lot of young professionals have moved in to renovated areas like Shaw. But it can be pretty expensive living there. Crystal City in Virginia is a good alternative and is much cheaper, while still being on the metro line. — Diane MacEachern of (D.C.)

How is the housing market for renters?

It’s expensive, especially for creatives in the city who don’t have the same income to compete with those who are in the city’s financial and tech industries. Most people have roommates or live a little bit outside of the city. But even those areas have become expensive for renters. –Jennifer Hill of JHill Design (Boston)

The housing market for renters in D.C. is very strong. One thing about the D.C. area that we’ve discovered in the 17 years that we’ve been here is that there are more households that are transient (in the area for 2 to 5 years) than there are households that stick around for the long haul. For those people who are only planning on staying for a few years, renting in D.C. is a great option! — Laura Franklin of Food Fun Family (D.C.)

A view of row houses in Mount Vernon Square in Washington D.C.

How is the housing market for first-time home buyers?

It’s a tough and competitive market and there is definitely a shortage of housing available in the city –- for both renters and buyers. — Jennifer Hill of JHill Design (Boston)

Presently, the housing market is quite expensive in Boston and its suburbs. Even the smallest condo or townhouse had a very large price tag. — Susan Mathison of Country Design Home (Boston)

The closer to downtown people want to live, the more expensive housing is going to be. There are lots of group houses for professional singles that will help reduce the costs. — Diane MacEachern of (D.C.)

Competitive. Affordable housing is hard to come by, and it goes very quickly. — Erin Myers of My Mommy World (D.C.)

What’s the job market like?

Seems healthy. Lots of tech, biomedical and higher education jobs given the surrounding universities, technology companies and hospitals nearby. — Sharon Sprague of umommy (Boston)

This is a very strong job market. Of course, the federal government is the biggest employer, but there is an increasing tech industry and there are lots of entrepreneurial start-ups, as well. — Diane MacEachern of (D.C.)

Does your city have good public transportation?

Boston’s public transportation is fair to poor, depending on who you are asking. The “T,” as we call it, is an older transportation system that often breaks down and rarely runs on time, so commuters are left high (but NOT dry) during snowstorms and rainy days. — Susan Mathison of Country Design Home (Boston)

Metro isn’t having its best days right now, but when it is running smoothly, it’s a great way to get around the city. Metro bus is convenient, and actually gets you to some places that are inaccessible by subway. Capital Bikeshare has over 350 stations around the D.C. metro area and lots of dedicated bike lanes, making cycling a very convenient (and fun!) mode of transport in the District. — Linda Samuel of Kid Friendly DC (D.C.)

A view of the local Capital Bikeshare program. Source: Linda Samuel of Kid Friendly DC (D.C.)

What’s the best way to get around?

The best way is walking, especially on a nice spring day. Boston is definitely a walking city, but there are also hop on/hop off buses that can get you around town. — Susan Mathison of Country Design Home (Boston)

I tell friends and family visiting the area that the best way to get around D.C is to get a day pass on the Metro and take it everywhere. I’m not a fan of driving in D.C., partially because of parking. — Laura Franklin of Food Fun Family (D.C.)

Public transportation, if possible. My husband takes a commuter bus into D.C., which saves on parking fees, but the commute time is brutal. — Erin Myers of My Mommy World (D.C.)

Which sports teams dominate?

What teams do not dominate this city is the real question! The Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins are so important to Bostonians. Baseball is this city’s heart and soul, and the rivalry between the Yankees and the Red Sox will never go away. — Jennifer Hill of JHill Design (Boston)

I have plenty of friends who are die-hard fans of the Redskins and the Capitals. One thing I’ve noticed about sports fans in this area is that I don’t see a lot of rival-bashing. Instead, I just see many loyal-for-life fans that love their local team. — Laura Franklin of Food Fun Family (D.C.)

View of Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox.

What is your favorite low-cost outing in your city?

Favorite low-cost outing: Duck Boat tour. Starting at the Museum of Science and winding its way through the old streets of Boston, only then launching into the Charles River, all the while with a tour guide on board providing all sorts of historical facts and information. — Susan Mathison of Country Design Home (Boston)

Loads of things to do for free –- walk the Boston Harborwalk, Rose Kennedy Greenway, explore historic sites or visit museums. — Sharon Sprague of umommy (Boston)

The Yards Park in the Navy Yard is a go-to spot for fun, inexpensive outings. Open grassy spaces, lots of artistically designed seating areas, and a sculptural Pedestrian Bridge set the aesthetic. And two levels of water features, spray fountains above and a wading pool below with a “wall of water” flowing into it, welcome guests to play. A boardwalk runs along the Anacostia River, and on Friday evenings during the summer, you can catch free concerts. Bring along a picnic or grab a bite at one of the nearby eateries -– there are several places to get a cheap bite and food trucks often park in the area, too. The ballpark boathouse nearby rents kayaks and canoes if you want to do some exploring on the river. — Linda Samuel of Kid Friendly DC (D.C.)

The Smithsonian! There are many museums to choose from with a variety of exhibitions — you don’t need to spend a dime. Also, The Kennedy Center’s millennium stage offers free performances every day of the week at 6 p.m. — Diane MacEachern of (D.C.)

yards park
A view of Yards Park in Washington, D.C. Source: Linda Samuel of Kid Friendly DC

What is your city’s best kept secret?

Castle Island in South Boston is a hidden gem. Go to Sullivan’s and get lobster rolls, then head over to the beach to admire the view and enjoy the breeze. — Jennifer Hill of JHill Design (Boston)

Favorite hidden gem is the Boston Harborwalk. It is miles long and follows the harbor where you can view the skyline, boat-watch and check out all of the local eateries that dot the waterfront. — Susan Mathison of Country Design Home (Boston)

There are actually quite a few, but a great one is Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. Tucked away behind a residential area in northeast D.C., you could easily drive within a few blocks of it, yet never know it’s there. The park itself looks like something from a fairy tale. Lots of small ponds are scattered throughout, and depending on the time of year you go, they could be filled with giant lily pads, gorgeous lotus flowers, water lilies and a variety of interesting aquatic plants. Paths wind around the ponds, and beyond that, a boardwalk traverses an area of wetlands with lookouts offering scenic views of nature and possible wildlife sightings. It’s a lovely, peaceful oasis in a big, bustling city. — Linda Samuel of Kid Friendly DC (D.C.)

A view of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in Washington, D.C. Source: Linda Samuel of Kid Friendly DC

What advice do you have for a new graduate moving to your city?

Get out and meet people. New Englanders are more reserved. Be friendly and everyone will be friendly back. — Sharon Sprague of umommy (Boston)

There is tremendous opportunity to get started here and begin a successful career path. — Diane MacEachern of (D.C.)

How did you become a Bostonian?

I moved here in 1997 to go to Massachusetts College of Art and Design and never left. — Jennifer Hill of JHill Design (Boston)

I went to college here, fell in love with it and wanted to stay. — Sharon Sprague of umommy (Boston)

How did you become a D.C. local?

I went to college in the area and moved to Capitol Hill shortly after graduating when a room opened up in a friend’s group house.  The neighborhood was much different back then -– there was a lot of crime, it wasn’t very family-friendly, and the commercial scene left something to be desired -– and I thought it would be a temporary stay. But the Hill grew on me and went through a tremendous transformation for the better over time, plus I just began to love Washington, D.C. It’s such a dynamic city. I mean, it’s the capital of our country! All of the places and processes so many people just read about in the news or in text books are here and happening right in our midst. But D.C. is so much more than government and politics –- there’s amazing culture, a thriving arts and entertainment scene, and an interesting mix people who come from all over the world and all walks of life. It’s an exciting place to be and call home. — Linda Samuel of Kid Friendly DC (D.C.)

I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, met my husband at college, and then moved to the D.C. area as soon as we graduated because he had an internship offer. We came 18 years ago and never left! — Laura Franklin of Food Fun Family (D.C.)


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