THE GOODS: On weekends, it seems like most residents are propelling themselves around Lake Quannapowitt, whether on the paved path that circumnavigates the three-mile body of water, or on wind surfers or boats launched from the Quannapowitt Yacht Club, the oldest inland boat club in the country. Wakefield is awash is green space - about 40 percent of the town is open space, forest or wetlands. Lake Crystal provides some of the town's drinking water, and the 640-acre Breakheart Reservation has two more lakes and miles of hiking trails, including some with views of Boston. School sports are treated seriously: Locals still talk about the amazing night in 1997 when both the boys and girls high school basketball teams won state division championships. The town is well-situated for commuting, with three main highways and plentiful public transportation. Wakefield also has an impressive range of ethnic restaurants - Thai, Japanese, Greek, Portuguese, Indian, and, of course, Italian.
PROS: Elegant turn of the century and older period homes are almost as easily found as newly-built expansive contemporaries, and both types come with price tags appropriate for a comfortable suburb. The mid-range has roomy options in a mix of style and ages, from Colonials with intact details, to ranches and new, stylish townhomes. Entry-level housing is mostly compact Capes or condos in nondescript apartment buildings.
CONS: Wakefield's public schools don't receive the same acclaim as those in the wealthier W towns, although several of the elementary schools have new or renovated buildings. Tight finances have repeatedly forced hard choices, mostly recently teacher layoffs and the complete elimination of elementary school librarians. The child-centered focus may leave those without kids feeling out of sync with their neighbors.