The Best Places to Live in Illinois (A 2019 Guide)

An in-depth exploration of some of the best places to live in Illinois

We’ll be honest, for most people who aren’t from Illinois, what puts the state on the map is its prized gem… Chicago.

With that said, Illinois is known for other things, too. For example, it was the first state to abolish slavery, which was and still is a beautiful thing (oh, and by way of introduction, we’re Bellhops—movers in Illinois and throughout the country).

It’s also home to the very first McDonald’s. We’re not sure if McDonald’s is your jam but if it is, you can see an exact replica of the original (built in the exact spot of the original) in a small suburb outside of Chicago called Des Plaines.

Illinois is also home to the first Twinkie. And, the small town of Morton in Illinois is responsible for supplying 85% of the world with canned pumpkin.

Anyway, Illinois is a quirky state rich with interesting history and a city that can go head to head with just about any city in the world.

If you’re looking to move to Illinois, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve got the low down on this wildly interesting state and we’re about to share with you the best places to call home.

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Let’s kick things off with the king (or queen) of Illinois… Chicago.

Chicago is a fascinating city in nearly every regard. The state of Illinois is nearly made up completely of corn. Seriously. 85% of the state is covered in corn fields. It’s corn from head to toe.

Yet, somehow, someway, in this great sea of corn, a city was born so large and so vast you’d have to see it to believe it. That city is Chicago.

After skyrocketing past St. Louis, becoming the fourth largest city in America, it was burnt completely to the ground in 1871… almost overnight.

In The Great Chicago Fire that swept through the city, 300 people perished and 100,000 homes were consumed by scorching waves of flame… two nights after the fire had finished its massacre of the city, roughly a third of Chicago’s residents didn’t have a bed to sleep in.

When you consider that little over a century ago, Chicago was ash and dust you gain a deep amount of respect for the Midwestern gem that sits like a king, overlooking Lake Michigan.

Today, Chicago has a gargantuan population of nearly 2.7 million, making it the third largest city in the United States… through resilience and heart and a level of tenacity that can only be found in Chicago natives… the city has grown at a break-neck pace despite the inferno. Some might call Chicago a Pheonix. But, we’ll let you decide that for yourself.

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Awesome history aside, what makes Chicago one of the best places in Illinois to call home?

At just a stone’s throw away from the 3 million mark, Chicago is the largest most compact city in the midwest.

But, unlike it’s larger brother and sister, New York and Los Angeles, Chicago has a down to Earth, humble, hardworking vibe that the Midwest is known for.

If you’ve ever lived in a large city, you just breathed a sigh of relief.

Unfortunately, with bigger cities, you get some stuffiness, some attitude, some arrogance and some entitlement. Every city is like this to a certain extent but perhaps it’s more concentrated in the larger ones.

But, with Chicago, you get the best of both worlds –– a huge city with a small town type of friendliness. We can’t say a small town “feel” per se, because the city is just so dang big. But, certainly a friendliness.

In addition to this, Chicago is easily one of, if not the most, diverse cities in the Midwest with a vast array of wonderful cultures and ethnicities. This diverse culture gives newcomers a more worldly experience that perhaps isn’t present in other Midwestern cities.

In addition to this, no matter what your cuisine of choice is, you won’t have any trouble finding it in Chicago. No trouble at all.

Many people are scared to move to Chicago because of the price, which is a very fair concern. But, when you compare Chicago to other larger cities in the United States –– Los Angeles, New York City and San Francisco –– it is extremely reasonable. The average apartment rent in Chicago clocks in at around $1,800 a month. Before you pass out, hear us out. The average rent in Los Angeles is $2,371… the average rent in Manhattan, New York City is $4,100the average rent in San Francisco is $3,600. So, Chicago offers an interesting and very affordable opportunity for someone to live in one of America’s greatest cities without spending an arm and a leg.

Now, with that said, Chicago isn’t perfect. The traffic in this big city can be out of control at times. Fortunately, Chicago has some of the best public transportation in the nation. The Blue Line runs 24/7 making every part of the city easily accessible. So, while the traffic can be pretty nasty, you don’t necessarily even need a car to live in Chicago.

The winters are cold… bone-chillingly cold. This past winter for example (depending on when you’re reading this, we’re referring to the winter of 2019)… the temperature in Chicago dropped to negative 23 degrees. That’s cold.

For as cold as the winter gets, Chicago summers are something like a dream. Natives brag about how the summertime is the most magical season of the year as the whole city seems to crawl out from under a rock to cook-out, party, dance at music festivals, sip something strong and refreshing on rooftops.

But, to experience the wonder that is a Chicago summer, you have to earn it by making it through a Chicago winter. We think you’re tough enough to do it.

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If you’re looking for something smaller, take a hard look at Springfield.

Springfield, Illinois is the state’s capital and it is perhaps most famous for the fact that Abraham Lincoln, America’s most iconic president, spent two decades of his life there. While it’s much much smaller than Chicago, it’s a good and affordable option for folks moving to Illinois who aren’t interested in taking on the behemoth on Lake Michigan.

With Springfield being a much smaller city, you get to enjoy the perks of living in a smaller city… like not having to constantly wrestle with crazy congested traffic. Not to mention, if you enjoy the outdoors, Springfield boasts 57 miles of shoreline along a massive reservoir located within the city… making it perfect for biking, hiking, fishing, and swimming.

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If you’re raising a family… head to Wheaton.

Founded by a group of abolitionists in the 1850s, Wheaton’s newspaper, The Wheaton Flag became an important anti-slavery newspaper. Today, by simply walking through the city’s streets you get a feeling of the history that surrounds you and the close-knit community vibe that gives the city a warm feel.

At a population of 53,585, Wheaton, IL is under half the size of Springfield. However, it might be an even better option to raise a family. Not to mention, there are trees (literally everywhere) in Wheaton… this truth has given the city its nickname… “Tree City”.

Wheaton is the perfect place for folks who don’t want to live in the big city of Chicago but want to be within driving distance. The heart of Chicago is just a 25-minute train ride which both residents and students of the Wheaton College adore.

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Final thoughts on the best places to live in Illinois.

If you’re moving to Illinois, move to Chicago. While there are plenty of other wonderful cities in towns in Illinois, we can’t make a strong argument in not moving in or around Chicago. We just can’t. It’s big. It’s diverse. It’s accessible. And, while the winters will send chills down your spine the summers will be like nothing you’ve ever experienced.

With that said, if a multi-million person city just isn’t your jam, we would encourage you to take a strong look at other states in the midwest that offer a greater selection of smaller cities. Ohio is a great example, with wonderful mid-sized cities to choose from like Cincinnati, Colombus and Cleveland.

If you decide to move in or to Illinois, don’t hesitate to reach out. We coordinate local and long-distance moving services in Tucson and we would love to help!

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