Many of my clients use google earth to get an idea of what neighborhoods look like- how closely settled they are, what the backyard looks like, where the parks are... it's a useful resource when doing a drive by is impractical.
I live in Sturbridge and love it. We have Old Sturbridge Village as our historical playground. There are numerous parks, ponds and lakes, plenty of festivals, and fantastic restaurants. Please see my Sturbridge community web site (below) for an inside look at our town.
Other great towns with solid school systems: Grafton, Charlton, Dudley, Holland, Brimfield, Auburn, Westborough, Wilbraham.
Please let me know how I can help!
I know Sturbridge has an excellent school system, as well as Brimfield, Dudley, and Charlton. I believe Holland is a good school system as well since I have shown properties there to families looking for good school systems. I have heard that Southbridge isn't as good a school system, but it's better to do your individual research on schools in towns you are interested in because every person's child may have a deifferent experience. You might want to check out the website: http://www.greatschools.net or another one would be: http://www.schoolmatters.com or you can look on the Massachusetts Education Department website for different school profiles: http://profiles.doe.mass.edu
If you'd like help looking for places in any of these towns, or wish to do a town tour at any time, let me know and I'd be happy to offer my services. I am a realtor with Prudential Prime Properties and we have an excellent website you can use to search for homes and keep up with the market in any of those towns. You can check us out at: http://www.prudentialprime.net
I wish you well on your move. Sturbridge is a great rural area, but also in a good commuter location to CT through Rte 84 and also into Spring field or to Boston by the MA Pike entrance being right in town (although it's a good hour commute from Sturbridge). Rte 20 is also a main route that runs east and west for commuting. If you have any other questions, don't hesitate to ask.
Prudential Prime Properties