Newcomer’s Guide to the Best Neighborhoods in Chicago
What is the first thing that every newbie in Chi-town wants to know? Where is the most flavorful coffee? Where is the most delicious food? Or, where the best neighborhoods in Chicago to settle down are? Well, first things first. When relocating to a new place that is as big as the Windy City, you should keep in mind that the market is vast and that everyone wants to be in this or that posh district. But luckily for you, Chi-town has plenty of excellent neighborhoods, and we know which ones might be perfect for you, whether you want to live in a vibrant, high-end area or you crave peace and quiet.
How to Find the Best Neighborhoods in Chicago?
When scouting for your new neighborhood, there are specific questions you should ask yourself:
- Do you want to rent alone?
- Do you want to find a roommate?
- Are you relocating with a family including kids?
- Do you want to be close to your job or university?
- Do you have a moving budget?
- Can you compromise on size and move into a smaller home?
These are all the factors you need to take into consideration. And also, if you are wondering what is the best time of year to move, we would typically say, anytime is the right time to move if you feel like it. But, since you are moving to Chicago, there are some things to know about moving in winter.
Chi-Town is a place with a population of almost 3 million people, but its metropolitan area, including the suburbs, is home to around 10 million residents. So you can only assume how many neighborhoods this metropolis has. There are 77 community areas, and each of them has at least one neighborhood. Many are overlapping, so the exact number remains undefined, while some claim that there are more than 200 separate communities in Chi-Town. This can also be one of the most important relocation questions to ask your employer because the help of a local is always more than welcome.
Moving to a big city like Chi-Town requires in-depth research about its diverse corners and communities. There are some tools to help you check how safe is your neighborhood, as well. For example, a website called neighborhood scout, where you can check the crime rates in a specific district. You can also search the livability score to check which places are known for having a good reputation and quality of life.
You’re Looking to go North? Check Out River North
Located between the north and east branches of Chicago River, this district is known as the artsy community. With more than 100 art galleries, it attracts photographers, artists, and various agencies looking to settle in this chic district. It is close to Chi-Town’s central business area, and it is packed with restaurants, cafes, and places to go out. It is a perfect location if you do not like to drive, use public transportation, or walk too long because everything you need is just a few steps away from your home. How convenient.
River North is also great for families, and it offers plenty of options for outdoor activities on the river banks. And you also don’t have to stress about commuting. The majority of more than 35,000 residents here, a total of 60% of the population, rents their homes. Keep in mind that the median rent here is higher than the national average, and it is currently at $1,800 per month. This district flourished when real estate developer Alfred Friedman came here and started restoring, selling, and renting properties at a low price to art galleries.
Here’s the Best Place for Families – Roscoe Village
If you are considering going even further north and moving to the suburbs, this small community offers a slow-paced lifestyle, plenty of parks, playgrounds, and nice conditions for raising a family with excellent public and private schools. Here you will find charming streets with casual local taverns, small cafes, and vintage shops. Clean streets, a safe environment for raising children, and affordable cost of living are among the main reasons why people decide to move here.
If You Want to Live in a Trendy Area, Pick West Loop
Often referred to as the culinary capital of this metropolis, West Loop is the place to be if you are into arts, culture, trends, and food. Before this became a prosperous neighborhood, it used to be a district full of warehouses. Now, real estate investors are remodeling old buildings and turning them into masterpieces of contemporary architecture and design. It’s no wonder that the prices here are going up. The median rent is $1,850, and more than half of the residents are renting their homes.
This district has two parks and more parking spaces than you would expect from such a densely populated area. It is a favorite among young families, entrepreneurs, and digital nomads. One of the reasons why so many families are looking to settle right here is the prestigious public high school, Whitney M. Young Magnet High School. This school is continuously at the top among schools in Illinois, and the selection criteria are very demanding. Generally speaking, the residents here are educated since 40% of them have a Master’s degree or higher.
If You Do Not Like It in the West, Try South Loop
Located diagonally from the West Loop, its Southern neighbor has been seriously revamped over the past decade. It attracts mainly the younger population, couples, singles, and families who enjoy living close to Lake Michigan and have easy access to all means of transportation. The famous Museum Campus is also situated here, attracting tourists and locals who like to spend their free time in this 57-acre park. Anyone who wants to be in downtown Chi-Town searches for a property in this area, but the cost of housing here is rather high.
Back in the early 1900s, this was the place where all the main tourist attractions were located, including a Levee District packed with bordellos, and organized crime was blooming. But nowadays, you can find some of the most luxurious buildings, museums, and tourist hotspots here like the Planetarium or Aquarium. South District has its own micro-communities, and together, they all have more than 100,000 residents, whose median age is 32.
A Place to Be for Foodie Lovers – Logan Square
Named after the general John A. Logan, this trendy hipster district is located in the northwest suburbs of Chi-Town. This diverse community is particularly welcoming towards expats, and a significant percentage of residents are from Mexico, Cuba, Poland, and other countries of Eastern Europe. Wide boulevards and a lot of greenery make this place particularly attractive, as well as the intertwined urban and suburban way of living. This is not a small community, but the median rent of $1,180 is still pretty affordable for everything this place has to offer.
Almost two-thirds of residents are renters, mainly younger folks and families. It is well connected to other parts of Chi-Town with public transport, and there are a lot of bars, parks, etc. During the summer months (May-October), there is a farmers market at the square, as well as free outdoor yoga classes on Sundays. But the reason why we consider it a perfect place for foodies is the fact that all the exciting food-related trends are happening right here. Whether it is a new taco, hot new bar, or an acai bowl with a twist, it all happens in Logan Square.
Other Places to Live and Eat Well – Andersonville
This charming small community with around 7,000 residents nurtures a Swedish heritage, which is particularly evident in bakeries and restaurants. Half of the residents are homeowners, and the community is suitable for raising children due to plenty of excellent schools. The busy Clark Street is the place where everything happens and where all the main eateries and cafes are situated. It is also a great choice if you want to be close to Lake Michigan and its beaches without spending all your money on rent.
One of the Hottest Areas – Wicker Park/Bucktown
These two communities are so blended that it is almost impossible to mention one without the other. If you want to be noticed and considered cool or hip, this is the place to hang out. Interestingly, two centuries ago, this place was a meadow where Polish immigrants used to bring their goats to graze. There are still a lot of Polish and other immigrants living here and shaping the culture of this community. In the 80s, the place started evolving into a trendy and artsy community.
The median rent here is $1,700, and half of the residents rent their place in one of the oldest neighborhoods of Chicago. There are a lot of options for outdoor activities, and the concentration of cafes and eateries is significantly higher than in the other nearby areas. This district has some great parks, playgrounds, and schools, but pay attention to bars when you are house hunting because it can be a bit noisy due to late-night venues. For that reason, young and urban people love living here.
Another Location for Social Butterflies – Lincoln Park
A busy nightlife, entertainment venues, trendy cafes, and restaurants on one side, and the lakeshore with parks on the other can mean only one thing. Lincoln Park has the best of both worlds and its the place to be if you’re moving alone to another state. Lincoln is a slightly cheaper location for living in terms of rent in comparison to Wicker Park. It is still a good location for young families, but it is essential to find a quiet area and enjoy the perks of family life in a place like this, where the beach is near, as well as the Zoo with free admission.
Other Excellent Areas We Don’t Want to Omit
As mentioned, Chi-Town has so many communities that it is hard to include and evaluate all of them properly. Hence, before you start wondering how to change your address when you move, here we would like to point out some other districts that also offer excellent life quality and plenty of opportunities:
- Hyde Park – located on the shores of the lake, this beautiful district was the home to Chicago World Fair in 1893, and the most famous resident hailing from here is Barack Obama.
- Ukrainian Village – this chic district continues to nurture the heritage of Ukrainian, Polish, and German immigrants. Although here you can find excellent Ukrainian dishes, the majority of residents are not of Ukrainian descent.
- Old Town/Gold Coast – an exclusive neighborhood with stunning views of Lake Michigan was once Oprah’s home, and Hugh Hefner’s first Playboy mansion was also here. Expensive shops and cafes, old houses, and the proximity of the lake are only some of the perks of living here.
- Pilsen – this unique district is inhabited predominantly by Mexican people who brought their street food culture along, as well as bars with live music.
Information to Consider Before Relocating to Chi-Town
Whether you are moving from one district to another, or you are just settling in your first Chi-Town home, you should keep in mind the cost of your relocation. If you are wondering how to deal with moving stress, relocation depression, or relocation anxiety one of the easiest ways is to hire someone else to do it instead of saving a few bucks and finding the cheapest way to move out of state. Dealing with packing or boxes and packing supplies can take a lot of your precious time if you do not find reputable Chicago movers that offer those moving services as well as international shipping. If you are scouting homes from a hotel, you will probably need storage units to place all your belongings, so keep that in mind when organizing your move.
When you are new in town, or you don’t know anyone who could help you find a place, it is essential that you take some time and research everything thoroughly. You should find your way through the best places to live in Chicago and pick the area that caters to your needs and requirements while fitting into your budget. Sometimes it is better to pay a monthly stay in a hotel or Airbnb and go around the town to see with your own eyes how life there goes than to sign a lease in a rush and condemn yourself to months of living in a district that does not fit you.