The suburbs have long been glorified and demonized in equal measure in American art and entertainment. Balancing out every "Leave it to Beaver" caricature is a Stepford Wives dystopia, lambasting those prim, idyllic neighborhoods for its seeming superficialities. That was last century, though, back when suburbs by and large resembled a cookie-cutter mold. Today is a whole different story.
Yes, there are plenty of suburban towns with neat houses all in a row, but increasingly across the country, you'll find neighborhoods that aren't quite the city, but aren't small town, either. Drive outside of Boston or visit Washington, D.C.'s, satellite 'burbs, ranging from Shirlington to Falls Church to Arlington. One thing you'll notice is that these D.C.-dependent districts aren't actually all that dependent. Nor are they carbon copies of one another. They're lively, spacious, green and sovereign. In these places, you can have a house and a lawn, while still being able to enjoy the culture and nightlife you may find in the city. At the same time, you can still escape into the metropolis for a classic night on the town.
What results is an opportunity to enjoy two lives in two locales. You can escape to your low-key suburb, while still taking advantage of the city. If you're planning to move to these kinds of suburbs, you may as well make the most of them. Here are some tips to make sure you get the best of both worlds:
Go into the city
If you live in a suburb, you may find yourself near bars and restaurants, whether on main street or nestled in some strip malls. These places can be great for hanging out when you don't want to commute into the city, but you should remember that a metropolis is a whole other breed of nightlife and entertainment. Museums, art, theater and plenty of people-watching await, and finding entertainment can be as easy as walking up and down the streets. The culture, after all, is one of the main perks of living near a major city.
Get to know your own neighborhood
At the same time, don't forget that the suburbs can be filled with their own hidden gems. When it comes to restaurants or theaters, proximity to a city center does not correlate with quality. Plenty of establishments, especially restaurants, may choose to set up shop outside town due to cheaper rent and an underserved market. Get to know what your suburb has to offer, and take advantage of it - maybe it's a great, unexpected ethnic restaurant or bakery. You'll also find that staying in your own neck of the woods can be much less expensive than commuting into the heart of the city.
Try to use public transportation
Many suburbs nowadays are served by trains and buses. If you happen to live in such a place, try to take advantage of it as much as possible. It may not only save you money, but keep you from having to deal with traffic.
Get a car
Inevitably, though, many suburbs are still rather spaced out in terms of density. While you may be able to get around some of the time without a car, it's going to make your life a lot easier to have a vehicle. Fortunately, parking shouldn't be difficult outside of town, and you can always carpool with neighbors or co-workers.
Become a local
Another drawback to the suburbs being spacious is that it makes it a little harder to feel a sense of belonging to the community. When you have to drive everywhere, you can easily feel disconnected. As such, you may want to make an effort to establish yourself as a local at certain establishments. Frequenting the same coffee shop daily can give you a sense of belonging, especially if you're on friendly terms with the baristas. Get to know the area better, and it suddenly won't feel so big.