Comprised of two neighborhoods, the Commonwealth
area of Boston has a diverse population. Young families and college students live in the Allston
neighborhood, creating a vibrant, active community. Diverse restaurants, second-hand stores and music venues make up the retail areas of town, and the community has easy-to-use public transportation options with many bus routes to downtown Boston, which is only five miles away.
Brighton also has a younger population of mostly graduate students and professionals, and it isn’t quite as active as Allston. Pharmacies and banks line the streets, as well as restaurants and bars that cater to the college community. Brighton has many good elementary and high schools, and part of the Boston College campus can be found in this area.
Schools in Commonwealth
School data provided by GreatSchools
Restaurants & Nightlife
Many of the eateries in the Commonwealth area can be found near Highway 20/Brighton Avenue in the Allston-Brighton neighborhoods. A tiny hole-in-the-wall place, Alfredo’s serves homemade pasta dishes that truly define what comfort food should taste like. Try the linguini ai frutti di mare, composed of shrimp, scallops and mussels, or a Margherita pizza topped with homemade mozzarella cheese. Inexpensive food plus home delivery to the neighborhood keeps the locals coming back for more.
Located on a side street in Allston, The Glenville Stops offers an upscale dining option to this residential neighborhood. The modern ambiance welcomes guests to relax while they dine, and the food doesn’t disappoint. Featuring tapas-style bites and small-plate dining, the griddled cheese served with raw honey, garlic croutons and oregano oil drizzle is a favorite appetizer to start off a meal. For an entrée, the locals rave about the free-range half chicken paired with fried cauliflower, lentils, mint and yogurt. The restaurant has an extensive wine list and craft beers on tap that complement any meal.
Every college town neighborhood can be judged on the quality of its pizza, and Otto Pizza fits the bill for great food. With topping choices not found in many places, locals can expand their pizza experience by ordering a butternut squash, ricotta and cranberry pizza or choosing an apple, bacon and red onion pizza. Pitchers of pumpkin ale or honey cider that tastes like mead give a new take to the traditional pizza-and-beer combination.
Part of the neighborhood since 1998, locals gather at the White Horse Tavern to shoot a game of pool or catch the game on the several TVs within the bar. Open seven days a week without a cover charge, the tavern can be found between Boston College and Boston University and draws a mostly professional crowd.
T’s Pub can be found on Commonwealth Avenue and has been the place to meet friends for over 30 years. Featuring domestic and craft beers, diners enjoy great burgers, wings and pizza while watching Monday night football or challenging each other in a trivia game on Thursday nights.
For live music in Allston-Brighton, check out O'Brien's Pub, Great Scott, the Paradise or Wonder Bar. Drawing in the college crowd and young professionals, the music scene in these establishments can last well into the night.
History & Culture
Settlers first came to the Commonwealth area of Allston and Brighton, known for many years as Cambridge, in 1630. Cattle markets and gardens were the main sources of industry after the Revolutionary War, and by 1866, Brighton had over 40 stockyards.
Both college students and young entrepreneurs call the Allston-Brighton area home. The brownstones that line Commonwealth Avenue house students, families and young professionals, making the neighborhoods lively and diverse.
Each September, residents enjoy the free Allston Village Street Fair. The festival celebrates the cultural diversity of the neighborhood with food vendors, live music on two outdoor stages, and artists and craftspeople selling their handmade wares.
The Brighton-Allston Heritage Museum showcases the history of the two neighborhoods. Artifacts and photographs from past to present highlight the industries and diversities that contributed to the neighborhood’s development.
Getting around the Commonwealth area is best done on foot or by using public transportation, as parking a car can be a challenge. Interstate 90 exchanges conveniently take drivers to other Boston neighborhoods.
The trolley’s green line stops in the southeast section of Allston, and nine bus routes service the Allston and Brighton neighborhoods, providing residents an easy way to commute downtown. Bike lanes can be found throughout Boston and the Allston-Brighton streets, and the New Balance Hubway bike-sharing program allows residents and visitors to rent bicycles for a day or subscribe to a yearly plan. Residents can also use Uber to get from Allston to downtown Boston for approximately $20, which is about the same cost as using a local taxi service, or take the bus one way for about $2.
The cost of living in the Allston-Brighton area runs approximately 2.5 percent higher than the Boston average and 47.2 percent higher than the national average. The median rent for a one-bedroom
apartment costs $1,450 a month. A gallon of gas in the neighborhood is about 8 percent higher than the national average, but residents usually leave their cars parked and travel by bus to downtown locations for $2 one way or $75 for an unlimited monthly pass. A mug of beer at a local bar averages between $4 and $5 and is cheaper in the Allston-Brighton area than other Boston neighborhoods.
Many shops can be found on or close to Highway 20 in the Commonwealth district. Some are geared toward the college-aged crowd, but a nice variety of retail outlets makes shopping a fun experience in the neighborhoods.
Urban Renewals features gently used, vintage clothing as well as housewares, such as dishes, bakeware and linens. The store only accepts cash, so make sure you bring extra in case you find lots of great deals.
To listen to recorded music with authentic sound, you have to step back into the past and play vinyl, and In Your Ear Records has a huge selection of vinyl records to please any musical taste. The shop houses
every musical genre imaginable, and shoppers can listen before they buy on the shop’s record player. Prices are reasonable too, which makes it easy to stock up on those golden oldies.
For essential oils and aromatherapy needs, Kameleon Healing stocks quality products. Whether you need individual oils or a blend, this shop has a large variety. The owner does custom blends for shoppers upon request. Kameleon also has aromatherapy classes for students wishing to learn more about oils and what they do.
Locals can patronize the BU Farmers Market, but most travel to Allston to its farmers market on 19th street at Harvard. The market features organic produce, herbs and baked goods from local farmers and vendors.
Several grocery stores can be found within the Allston-Brighton area, and locals love to visit Bazaar On Cambridge. This shop features European specialities, with an emphasis on Russian, Polish and Bulgarian fare. Shoppers can find Whole Foods just to the east of the neighborhood in Cambridge when they need an all-purpose grocery store.
Mansfield Street Park allows off-leash pets to play. Double gated and large, pets enjoy the area, but be sure to bring some water since it doesn’t have a water feature for pets.
The Commonwealth Avenue Mall has beautiful shaded areas to sit and relax and a paved walking trail that is perfect for walking the dog. It has a public garden, and monuments can be found scattered throughout the park commemorating past residents and heroes of the Boston area.
Lots of playground equipment can be found at Stanley Ringer Park in Allston. It sits next to Jackson Mann School and has baseball fields for little leaguers, courts for basketball and a large field that is perfectly sized for throwing a Frisbee.