Chicago, Illinois, is an urban epicenter of culture and history, but without the price tag or overwhelming feel of a bigger city. With widespread job prospects and several highly-ranked universities, the city is a popular relocation destination for professionals and students alike. 

Moreover, families looking for a city with ample green space on their front door can be sure to find a suitable home to raise their children in Chicago, without having to make the compromises that often come with living in a large US metropolis. 

So, if you’re after some advice on moving to Chicago, look no further than this list we’ve put together of what you need to know, which covers the following areas:

  • About Chicago
  • The Climate
  • The Best Chicago Suburbs and Neighborhoods
  • Employment in Chicago
  • Cost of Living in Chicago, Illinois
  • Food and Restaurants in Chicago
  • How to Get There – Moving to Chicago 
  • Is Chicago a Good Place to Live? Final thoughts

About Chicago

Chicago, Illinois, is the third-most populous city in the US. Situated on the shores of Lake Michigan, the city is a hub for the finance, commerce, technology, and telecommunications industries.

This Midwestern city has a vibrant and diverse population, which grew rapidly in the 19th century. Moreover, good public transportation makes it easier to move around Chicago quickly and cheaply. 

Besides its beaches which line the shores of Downtown and the North Side, Chicago is also home to over 580 parks and 8000 acres of green space. This has earned it its reputation as “the city in the garden.”

The city’s name is derived from the indigenous Miami-Illinois word shikaawa, which translates to a wild relative of the onion.

The Climate

If you’re asking yourself, “is moving to Chicago a good idea?”, you may want to factor in the fact that you’ll feel a notable difference between the four seasons. 

Although Chicago’s nickname, the “Windy City,” is not necessarily because of the weather, you’ll most definitely be greeted by the cold in the winter, with temperatures often tipping below freezing. 

Summers, however, are hot and humid, with temperatures averaging a high of 84°F (28.9°C).

Rainfall in Chicago is distributed relatively evenly throughout the year, with July and August registering the highest levels of precipitation, and January and February registering the lowest. 

The Best Chicago Suburbs and Neighborhoods

As you pass through different neighborhoods in Chicago, expect each one to have its own, unique feel. 

Here are our picks of the top areas to live in the city center:

  • Lincoln Park – On the south side of Chicago, this neighborhood, which is situated to the west of Chicago’s largest park, is one of the city’s most expensive. As one of the oldest communities in Chicago, the area is steeped in history. This is reflected in the architecture of its buildings.
  • Pilsen – This up-and-coming neighborhood is where you’ll find cheaper deals for places to rent or buy. Pilsen is also home to a vibrant arts scene, hosting regular live music shows and LGBTQ events.
  • Lakeview – Most houses in this neighborhood live true to its name, with stunning views over the shores of Lake Michigan. Lakeview has excellent restaurants, bars, and a lively  nightclub scene. It’s also very convenient for commuting and is therefore popular with young professionals. 
  • Streeterville – This vibrant lakeside Chicago neighborhood is home to art museums, restaurants, bars, and Lakeshore Park. Budding residents can choose from high-rise condos and luxury apartment complexes. 

If you’d like to enjoy the city’s perks without being in the midst of the hustle and bustle, why not think about searching for a house or apartment in the suburbs?

  • Buffalo Grove – This family-friendly suburb is the perfect place for those looking for easy access to outdoor space and activities. It also has a great selection of schools for families with children.
  • Clarendon Hills – Located on the Southwestern side of Chicago, this suburban community has its own vibrant downtown while also being home to good public school options. House prices are slightly higher than average.
  • Western Springs – With low crime rates, great private and public school options, coffee shops, and parks, Western Springs is a great spot to relocate to with a young family.

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Employment in Chicago

Chicago’s economy is one of the world’s most diverse and balanced, with no single industry employing over 14% of the workforce

However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the city has experienced many job losses. According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, leisure and hospitality have been hit the hardest.

The city’s largest non-farming employment sector is trade, transportation, and utilities. This is closely followed by professional and business services, and then by education and health services. 

The unemployment rate for the city of Chicago is just above the national average at 11.7%.

Cost of Living in Chicago, Illinois

The cost of living in Chicago, Illinois, is 23% higher than the national average. This is based on the price of housing, groceries, utilities, and transportation. 

Furthermore, if you’re renting in the city, you can expect to pay an average price of $1,691 per month. The median home value in Chicago is $249,152, which is just below the national average. 

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Food and Restaurants in Chicago

The food scene in Chicago, Illinois, has been recognized by publications such as Conde Nast Traveler, USA Today, and Bon Appetit. 

If there’s one piece of advice for moving to Chicago, it’s to try the city’s famous deep-dish pizza. The most famous of its kind can be found at Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria. The Chicago Italian Beef Sandwich, which can be found at Al’s Italian Beef, is also a must. For fried chicken, Harold’s Chicken Shack is unmissable. 

However, if it’s a more upscale dining out vibe you’re after, be sure to check out Virtue in Hyde Park, Lula Cafe in Logan Square, Tzuco in River North, or avec in West Loop.

How to Get There – Moving to Chicago 

Given that the city is a Midwestern hub, it’s pretty easily accessible from wherever you are in the US.

  • By car – Chicago is accessible via several major interstates and highways, including the I-80, I-190, I-94, and I-55, I-290, and I-294, depending on whether you’re coming from the east, west, north, or south. Luckily, once you get there, the city is built on a grid system, making it easy to navigate. 
  • By plane – Chicago is home to two international airports, the Chicago O’Hare International Airport, approximately 16 miles from Downtown Chicago, and the Chicago Midway Airport, which is located just 11 miles from Downtown.
  • By train – Union Station, Chicago’s iconic train station, makes the city accessible by Amrak and Metra, the city’s two commuter rail lines. 
  • By bus – The city has four intercity bus stations: Chicago Greyhound Station, Union Station, 95th, and Dan Ryan Greyhound Station. Bus companies that operate routes to the city include Greyhound, Barons Bus Lines, Prime Ourbus, and Turimex International. 

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Is Chicago a Good Place to Live? Final thoughts

On the whole, if big city life is what you’re after and your budget is reasonably sized, Chicago could be the perfect place for you. 

You’d be in good company: it’s the birthplace of the Obamas and the adopted home of NBA hall of famer Michael Jordan.

In addition, Chicago’s stunning landscapes and lakeside views make it a metropolis haven for those torn between urban and rural living. 

So what’s stopping you? Your new home in the Midwest’s largest city awaits!