Whether it’s a diner, a family-friendly cafe or some other neighborhood hotspot, brunch is a great way to gauge a community
The goal of any town visit is simple: get a true sense of a community and decide if THIS is the place you and your family want to call “home” for the long haul. Doing that means digging deeper than just a quick “drive by” and, instead, really exploring the community, chatting with residents and trying to get a feel for where you fit — or if, at the end of the day, this isn’t the right spot for your crew.
“The summer is not indicative of what a town is like,” says Suburban Jungle Strategist Erika Ades. “If you want to get a real sense, go in the spring or the fall.”
Better still, she adds, “Go on a weekend. In most suburbs, on Saturday morning, every field is filled. Every dance studio parking lot is packed. Pools are packed. Then, around noon, everyone breaks between activities and every restaurant fills up with families. That’s where you want to be.”
Brunch, she explains, is the perfect time to get a good pulse-check on a town. Be in the mix between AM and afternoon activities and you’ll be able to check out your could-be neighbors, strike up conversations and get a sense for what future weekends may look like.
“I had a client who did this recently,” says Suburban Jungle Head of National Strategy & Emerging Markets Patti Natiss. “She called me after and said no one held the door for them. That really turned her off. She just got a vibe she didn’t love, so they scratched that town off of their list.”
Heather Jagher, Suburban Jungle Strategist, agrees. “Those weekend break out times are great,” she says, “but make sure it’s a nice day. You’ll have more families out and about.”
Beyond weekend brunch, Patti and Heather both recommend hitting up community activities to see how engaged residents are. “If you like movies, go to the Maplewood Film Festival,” Patti says. “If you’re a big reader, check out the literary festival in Montclair. Sometimes families back into towns by starting with their hobbies and interests.”
“If you go to a July 4th parade or street fair and no one shows up, that says something about the town,” Heather says. “If it’s well-attended, that shows a real commitment to the community. And don’t be afraid to ask questions. People are happy to talk about their town, especially if they love where they live.”
Regardless of how you structure your town list, Erika notes, make sure you spend lots of time there before making the leap. “Narrow down your town list and really spend time there all year round, if you can,” she recommends. “And don’t be too house-focused. This is about a lifestyle. You want to make sure the lifestyle is what you want for the next 12 to 20 years.”
There are hundreds of towns to choose from. How do you figure it all out? You simply don’t, without getting a Suburban Jungle Strategist to help you through it all. Schedule here for your strategy session with our innovative suburbs strategy team. All services are completely free.