Before I moved here last summer, I’ll admit it – I had never set foot in Davis, or even heard of it. (Well, I was living 3,000 miles away, and had only been to Boston itself twice.) But as soon as I asked local friends where to move not just visit, Davis Square came up a lot.
During the whirlwind visit to the area to get a real feel for different neighborhoods, my first trip to Davis unfortunately fell on a Tuesday, around 2pm, in the middle of a rainstorm. Oh, and we walked up Highland to get there, unknowingly never landing on the much more populated/interesting Elm or Holland Streets. So, um, it pretty much looked like a wet, concrete intersection. Bummer.
So we figured we’d get a place in Inman instead, for something that’s still a bit off the main drag that is Harvard and Mass Ave. But we were convinced otherwise when the realtor (who kindly took us in at 7pm on a Friday evening – seriously?) started with his listing in Davis before heading to the one in Inman. Oh, yes, Friday evenings, particularly during summer, are some of the BEST in Davis. People everywhere, lights in the trees, live music. Restaurants flowing over onto the sidewalks. We saw the place and signed the lease in a matter of two hours, and have been rewarded for that spontaneous opt-in ever since.
Since I have the most excellent situation called working-at-home-on-West-Coast-hours, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to explore some of those other neighborhoods we seriously considered – South End, Inman, Central, and so on. So, with a bit more perspective, I offer a few nerdy, bulleted points on what I think Davis aces, and what it admittedly lacks compared to some other great spots.
- Quick: Davis is one of the only places I’ve encountered in Boston where you find hipsters, grandmas, professors, Tufts kids (in requisite sweatpants ensemble), working class folks, young professionals, artists, and families. A place that feels like an actual community, yet right on the red line. Excellent southern BBQ and local vegan, within a few blocks of each other.
- My very favorites: I’d probably have to start with food – Redbones (the beer is as good as the BBQ, by the way), Pulse Café, wraps at Blue Shirt Café (don’t mind the lack of atmosphere), whopping sandos + sides at Deli-icious. Dave’s Fresh Pasta. Other – Diesel Café, balanced by free Wi-Fi at an unusually friendly Starbucks. Living 380 ft from the T, and around the corner from the library. Downtown Wine and Spirits. Recognizing faces. Buffalo Exchange. The housewares selection at Goodwill. The Minuteman.
- What it lacks: Hm. 5 points of historical charm compared to, say, Harvard. I also sometimes wish I were closer than a 4ish-mile walk to Boston, but that’s mainly so I can actually have company for that walk. A great bookstore.
- Best time to scope it out: Any evening, but especially Friday or Saturday nights or when the evening weather is perfect. Go for a date, or when you want a new place for dinner or studying.
- Other neighborhoods you might like (if this is your cup of tea): JP, Allston-Brighton, Central, Inman. Somewhat South End. Union Square.
IF YOU DECIDE TO STAY A WHILE
If you’re still with me, and are also intrigued by the possibility of setting up shop here, a few more notes:
- WHO lives there? Again, a great mix. Folks who have been there for generations, and others who are in the 20-35-year-old range (with babies or not). Really friendly people, from all I’ve seen.
- WHAT does life look like? It feels like you’re in the city, yet a more low-key version. There’s a good mix of restaurants as well as small markets, a farmer’s market, lots of CSA drop-offs, and Davis is within easy walking/driving distance of Shaw’s (closest), Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, etc. The Minuteman Bikeway (Trail, really) runs through Davis, which is a great option for heading out on a run. We’re also 2ish miles from the Fells, for a real taste of the woods. Just over one mile to a jog around Fresh Pond. And, again, still feel close to the city with the T being right there. One of the most livable places I’ve found on either coast.
- WHEN? Be sure to check listings 60-90 days in advance. Places seem to turn over most come September, but given that many non-students live here too, you can probably try to find places all other months as well. The neighbors downstairs moved in during December, for example.
- WHERE? In the little bounds of Davis Square, you probably can’t go wrong with housing. The neighborhood has felt safe in all directions to me, even on an evening stroll.
- WHY? I have to say, I love the squares that the Cambridge side of things offers. A real community in an urban environment.
- HOW? Probably best with a realtor, as we found out. Just negotiate down the fee!
- COST: Housing – Though Davis itself is more expensive than the rest of Somerville, it’s still a steal compared to many of the other great neighborhoods in the Boston area. For the cost of a one-bedroom near Harvard, we instead got a two-bedroom in a beautiful, character-filled Victorian, with a driveway parking spot, a basement (a.k.a. loads of storage), free laundry, a backyard garden/patio/grill area. And we’re one block from the T, really. Housing tends to be Victorians, by the way. Other – Parking permits are $15 for the year, and visitor parking cards (you can get 2) are $5 for the year. As someone who used to live in downtown SF, this is amazing. Obviously the T is cheap, but with the proximity of Davis to many places – urban or more rural – we rarely even have to pay for that.
OTHER HELPFUL LINKS
- Davis Square LiveJournal (I told you it feels like a community)
- DARBI – Your Davis Square
- Somerville Theatre Online (As charming as it looks. Plus, they sell beer, wine, and homemade ice cream, and have the Museum of Bad Art in the basement.)
- Redbones Events
For as long as this review is (apologies, apologies, I just get carried away when it comes to my home turf!), I hope it’s a helpful one. If you hadn’t already guessed, we happily signed another one-year lease in our Victorian attic, and don’t plan to budge any time soon.