Moving to Chicago, IL

Thinking about moving to Chicago?

Well, we can’t blame you. The nation’s third-largest city boasts some of the nation’s finest museums, theater, restaurants, bars and so much more. Nestled along the shores of the stunning Lake Michigan and home to iconic architecture, Chicago serves as a picturesque backdrop for life in the city.

The Windy City is also a city made up of many distinct neighborhoods and enclaves, each of them home to a slightly different flavor of Chicago life. Whether it’s the taquerias and art galleries of Pilsen or the sports bars and boutiques of Lakeview, the city has a little something for everyone. Our guide to Chicago’s top neighborhoods will help you find the right match for you, and our list of Chicago’s best realtors will help you find the home of your dreams.

Chicago Essential Resources

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Moving to Chicago Checklist

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Traffic

Like any large city, traffic can occasionally be a frustrating part of life in Chicago, though nowhere near as bad as the sort of commutes synonymous with cities like LA and San Francisco. U.S. News and World Report ranked Chicago eighth in its latest list of the nation’s worst traffic cities, reporting that Chicago commuters spent an average of 60 hours in traffic in 2015. That’s compared to 81 in LA.

To avoid rush hour traffic, many Chicagoans rely on public transit to get to work, particularly if they work in the Loop or within city limits. The Chicago Transit Authority operates eight rail lines and 140 bus routes to get you around town, while the Metra offers 11 lines that connect the Chicago suburbs to the city. Other Chicagoans use the city’s bike lanes — and 19 miles of lakefront bike paths — to get to work.

Weather

If you’re moving to Chicago, you should be prepared for the city’s weather. As you’ve probably heard, winters in the Windy City can occasionally get very cold, though probably not as brutal as you might think. The city averages seven days a year where the temperature doesn’t climb above zero degrees. As for the white stuff, Chicago typically records its first snowfall of at least an inch in early December and the average annual snowfall clocks in at just under 40 inches.

On the flip side, summers in the city can get very humid, particularly in July and August. But toward the early and latter parts of the season, Chicago’s weather is tough to beat. Those are the days you’ll want to be sure to spend as much time outdoors as you can get away with.

Summer average (June — Aug): 82 ℉ high, 62 ℉ low
Winter average (Dec — Feb): 38 ℉ high, 22 ℉ low

Economy

Chicago’s economy has seen better days, though there are some signs of optimism.

In recent years, employment figures in the Loop, the city’s central business district, have been improving significantly — to the extent that Crain’s called it the nation’s “hottest urban center.” A number of major Chicago-area employers including Motorola Solutions, Kraft Heinz and ConAgra have been relocating their businesses from the suburbs to downtown. In 2016, McDonald’s announced they would be following that trend.

Other major employers in Chicago include Fortune 500 headquarters like United, Walgreen, Boeing, Archer Daniels Midland, Exelon, Abbott Laboratories and Allstate.

Unemployment rate: 6.9% (as of April 2016)
Average weekly wages for all industries: $1,267 (fourth quarter 2015)

Chicago, IL Arts and Entertainment

Art Institute of Chicago

Art Institute of Chicago, South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL, United States

Field Museum of Natural History

Field Museum Of Natural History, Lakefront Trail, Chicago, IL, United States

Museum of Science and Industry

Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL, United States

Shedd Aquarium

Shedd Aquarium, South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL, United States

Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago

Museum Of Contemporary Art Chicago, East Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL, United States

Adler Planetarium

Adler Planetarium, Chicago, IL, United States

DuSable Museum of African American History

DuSable Museum of African American History, East 56th Place, Chicago, IL, United States

National Museum of Mexican Art

National Museum of Mexican Art, West 19th Street, Chicago, IL, United States

Chicago History Museum

Chicago History Museum, North Clark Street, Chicago, IL, United States

Chicago Children's Museum

Chicago Children's Museum, East Grand Avenue, Chicago, IL, United States

Museums

Chicago’s museums are tough to beat, so you’ll never be bored.

Art Institute of Chicago
Field Museum of Natural History
Museum of Science and Industry
Shedd Aquarium
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
Adler Planetarium
DuSable Museum of African American History
National Museum of Mexican Art
Chicago History Museum
Chicago Children's Museum

Steppenwolf

Steppenwolf Theatre, North Halsted Street, Chicago, IL, United States

Goodman Theatre

Goodman Theatre, North Dearborn Street, Chicago, IL, United States

Chicago Shakespeare Theatre

Chicago Shakespeare Theater, East Grand Avenue, Chicago, IL, United States

Court Theatre

Court Theatre, South Ellis Avenue, Chicago, IL, United States

Lookingglass Theatre

Lookingglass Theatre Company, North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL, United States

American Blues Theater

American Blues Theater, North Ravenswood Avenue, Chicago, IL, United States

Victory Gardens Theatre

Victory Gardens Biograph Theatre, North Lincoln Avenue, Chicago, IL, United States

American Theater Company

American Theater Company, West Byron Street, Chicago, IL, United States

Black Ensemble Theater

Black Ensemble Theater, North Clark Street, Chicago, IL, United States

Theaters

Chicago has long been recognized as one of America’s premier theater towns. Ranging from big-budget blockbusters to scrappy storefront productions, the performing arts come in all shapes and sizes at the city’s 200 different theaters.

Steppenwolf
Goodman Theatre
Chicago Shakespeare Theatre
Court Theatre
Lookingglass Theatre
American Blues Theater
Victory Gardens Theatre
American Theater Company
Black Ensemble Theater

Millennium Park

Millennium Park, Chicago, IL, United States

Lincoln Park

Lincoln Park, Chicago, IL, United States

Grant Park

Grant Park, Chicago, IL, United States

Jackson Park

Jackson Park, Chicago, IL, United States

Maggie Daley Park

Maggie Daley Park, East Randolph Street, Chicago, IL, United States

Humboldt Park

Humboldt Park, Chicago, IL, United States

Garfield Park

Garfield Park, Chicago, IL, United States

Washington Park

Washington Park, Chicago, IL, United States

Ping Tom Memorial Park

Ping Tom Memorial Park, South Wentworth Avenue, Chicago, IL, United States

Burnham Park

Burnham Park, South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL, United States

Parks

If the daily grind starts to wear you down, Chicago offers plenty of spots to reconnect with nature — it’s home to some seriously beautiful and relaxing parks, many of which offer a plethora of free activities including concerts, movie screenings and more.

Millennium Park
Lincoln Park
Grant Park
Jackson Park
Maggie Daley Park
Humboldt Park
Garfield Park
Washington Park
Ping Tom Memorial Park
Burnham Park
Nightlife

Chicago is recognized as the birthplace of a number of distinctive genres, including Chicago blues and house music, and its musical roots carry on today with jazz clubs, nightclubs and live music venues spread throughout the city to this day. There’s always a concert or DJ night to be found.

The City That Works, as Chicago is sometimes called, also knows how to kick back at neighborhood bars that range from swanky, award-winning craft cocktail bars to beloved dives.

Food

Feeling hungry? You will never be short on dining options in Chicago. Home to more than 7,300 restaurants, Chicago offers a wide range of cuisines that reflects its diverse population. Whether it’s the city’s iconic fare like deep-dish pizza, hot dogs or Italian beef sandwiches or more adventurous fare like the Puerto Rican jibarito fried-plantain sandwich, Greek saganaki or Vietnamese pho, it will be tough to choose which craving you’ll want to satisfy on any given night.

It’s not all street food either — the city also boasts many Michelin-starred restaurants that offer tried-and-true, sophisticated fare.

Sports

The classic “Bill Swerski’s Superfans” SNL sketch isn’t based totally on stereotype. Chicago is a big sports town. Home to the Sox and the Cubs, plus the Blackhawks, Bulls and Bears (oh my!), the major professional sports are well-represented around town. In addition, the Fire soccer team is based in the suburb of Bridgeview and the Sky women’s basketball team is based in nearby Rosemont.

Events

Here is where Chicago will really pull on your heartstrings. The festival season kicks off just after Memorial Day every summer with each weekend packed with sometimes a dozen or more offerings of events focused on art, music, food and more. Some of the more popular annual offerings include Blues Fest, the Taste of Chicago, the Pitchfork Music Festival, Lollapalooza, Northalsted Market Days and the Air and Water Show. You’ll want to be sure you stick around in the city as much as possible during the summer to take it all in.

Culture

Drawing on a legacy of many waves of immigration from Europe, the American South and Mexico over the past several centuries, Chicago is a true melting pot of different cultures and ethnicities today, including significant German and Polish populations.

A few other points of Chicago pride, per the City of Chicago’s website:

  • The city’s tallest building, the 110-story-tall Wills Tower (formerly the Sears Tower, though most locals still call it that) is also the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.
  • Chicago boasts 36 annual parades, including the popular Bud Billiken Parade and Picnic, the Pride Parade and the Puerto Rican Parade and Festival.
  • The nation’s first African-American U.S. senator (Carol Moseley Braun) and president (Barack Obama) both originated from Chicago.
  • The city has 552 different parks, plus 15 miles of beaches along Lake Michigan.

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