Moving to Chicago, IL
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In this moving guide:
- Chicago At-A-Glance
- What it’s like to live in Chicago
- Economy and job outlook in Chicago
- Real estate, cost of living in Chicago
- The top neighborhoods in Chicago
- How to get around in Chicago
- School and education snapshot
- Weather and climate in Chicago
- 10 can’t-miss things to do in Chicago
Well, we can’t blame you. The nation’s third-largest city boasts some of the country’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.
City of Chicago website Everything you need to know about living in Chicago. Chock full of useful resources, including information about the City of Chicago government, calendars of city meetings and events, important city terminology and more. Voter registration Register to vote in the state of Illinois. Vehicle registration and license Everything you need to […]
A World-Class City with Midwest Charm
In Chicago, you’ll find more than just Michelin-starred restaurants, nationally-recognized business sectors and pockets of neighborhoods that all have a distinct vibe and character.
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. It’s also oozing in Midwestern values.
That rich heritage is also what makes the Chicago food scene especially noteworthy. 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.
And if you’re ready to see what else the city has to offer, 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.
Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t touch on how big of a professional sports town Chicago is. The classic “Bill Swerski’s Superfans” SNL sketch isn’t based totally on stereotypes. Home to the Sox and the Cubs, plus the Blackhawks, Bulls and Bears (oh my!), the major professional sports are well-represented around town
What Kind of Jobs are in Chicago?
Because Chicago is a large city, it has become a regional leader in a number of different industries. Finance and business giants JPMorgan Chase and Deloitte have offices there. Boeing and United Airlines are headquartered in Chicago while residents also work for Exelon, Jones Lang LaSalle, Motorola Solutions, Ford Motor Company and Nestle. Engineering, health care, government, pharmaceuticals and transportation are other significant employment sectors. Chicago also has a flourishing entrepreneur scene with several coworking facilities in downtown neighborhoods. You can comfortably work remotely if you want to expand your network and benefit from a trendy office space that isn’t your home.
Chicago Unemployment rate: 4.2% (as of May 2022)
Average weekly wages for all industries: $1,198 (August 2022)
A Bustling City With Affordable Living
While the cost of living is 23 percent higher than the national average, people flock to Chicago for a big-city feel that won’t break the bank compared with more expensive cities (we’re looking at you San Francisco and New York City). At $62,097, in 2020 the average annual income in Chicago is slightly higher than the national average of $60,996, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (updated April, 2021).
Chicago is a bustling city that also has budget-friendly options for living. You’ll pay an average of $2,200 for a 750 square foot apartment. The most affordable neighborhoods for renting are The Island, Avalon Park and Burnside and you’ll pay the most in River North, East Side Chicago and Streeterville. Other popular neighborhoods include Lakeview, Ravenswood, Rogers Park and Bucktown.
Chicago is also an ideal spot for first-time home buyers and families looking to upgrade to a new space. On average, homes are selling for a median price of $325K. These are the best neighborhoods for buying a home:
- Edison Park
- Lincoln Park
- Mount Greenwood
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There’s a Trendy Neighborhood for Everyone
With 77 different diverse neighborhoods to choose from, there’s a vibe for literally anyone. Which isn’t to say there aren’t a few hidden gems scattered throughout the city.
The Near North Side of Chicago boasts a higher quality of life (and a high cost of living), while Lincoln Park’s streets are lined with trees and old brick houses. If you’re a baseball fan (specifically, a Cubs fan), you need to be in Lake View, which also has the sixth most amenities per capita in the city. North Center is a family’s dream neighborhood, while Edison Park is also great for families and people who happen to love food.
West Town is artsy and home to musicians, performers, and artists of all types. You’ll find plenty of hip restaurants in the Wicker Park area and Bucktown. This is also one of the city’s safest areas. Lincoln Square (closer North) and Near West Side are a great melting pot of different cultures and lifestyles, including some of the best food you’ll ever encounter.
The Near South Side is a little more affordable and full of condos. And, the Beverly neighborhood has some of the oldest homes in the city surrounded by large lots and plenty of trees.
The L: One of the Best Public Transit Systems for Getting Around
Like any large city, traffic can be a frustrating part of life in Chicago, and in fact the commute is now synonymous with cities like LA and San Francisco. U.S. News and World Report ranked Chicago second in its latest list of the nation’s worst traffic cities, reporting that Chicago commuters spent an average of 145 hours in traffic in 2019. That’s compared to 103 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, known as the “L” to locals, 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.
Learn at Renowned Universities and Notable Public Schools
There are plenty of opportunities to enrich your mind and get a high-quality education in Chicago. The city is home to The Art Institute of Chicago, Columbia College, Northwestern University, Loyola, the University of Chicago and DePaul University to name a few. With so many universities to choose from, there’s a degree for everyone. Chicago also has notable public and private options for families of school-age children.
Expect Four Seasons and Very Cold Winters
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 F°. 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° F high, 62° F low
Winter average (Dec — Feb): 38° F high, 22° F low
10 Can’t Miss Things to Do in Chicago
Because Chicago is an all-weather city, there’s always action to be a part of during every season. Here’s a list of the top 10 things to do in Chicago that you don’t want to miss.
- Attend one of Chicago’s 36 annual parades, including the popular Bud Billiken Parade and Picnic, the Pride Parade and the Puerto Rican Parade and Festival.
- Take a picnic basket and explore the city’s 552 different parks, plus 15 miles of beaches along Lake Michigan.
- Visit Chicago’s tallest building, the 110-story-tall Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower, though most locals still call it that). It is also the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.
- Catch a Cubs baseball game at historic Wrigley Field or head south to see the White Sox play.
- Take in masterpieces at the Art Institute of Chicago, which houses a permanent collection of more than 300,000 artworks.
- Hop aboard Chicago’s First Lady for an architectural tour, the breeziest way to survey the city’s famed architecture.
- Hang out with a mummy at the Field Museum, a massive natural history museum with 350,000 square feet of permanent exhibitions to explore.
- Step foot inside 360 Chicago, formerly known as the John Hancock Center, which offers 360-degree views of the city from 1,030 feet above the streets.
- Grab a picture in front of the iconic Bean in Millennium Park, which is one of the most popular gathering spots in the city.
- Down a slice of Chicago-style pizza at any number of restaurants, or embark on a culinary adventure at a Michelin-star restaurant nestled in the city.