If you're moving to Chicago, you'll be happy to learn that this change should be pretty easy. Many people think it's an amazing city, and for good reason. It has plenty of amenities, activities, and resources to offer.
Welcome to Chicago! A City Overview
Welcome to the Windy City! This eclectic place is the third-largest city in the U.S and borders Lake Michigan. It has plenty to offer, especially to its population of over 2.7 million residents!
Once home to many 1920s gangsters (like the infamous Al Capone), now known for its Chicago-style hot dogs. Talk about some healthy changes!
Chicago is best known for its amazing architecture. Did you know the world's first skyscraper was built here?
It's also incredibly rich in history and sports. From mob bosses to the Great Chicago Fire to the Cubs- we can understand why this city attracts so many people.
We're going to dive a little deeper into what Chicago brings to the table.
1. Cost of Living in Chicago
This may come as a surprise to many, but living in Chicago isn't that expensive. Now, before you get too excited, it's pricey to live here. It's just not as expensive as other large metro areas like LA or NYC.
The cost of living is around 6.9% above the American average. Not too bad for the third-largest city in the country.
Let's discuss the cost of living in Chicago and how the average income fares with common expenses.
Average Income in Chicago
Since the cost of living in Chicago is moderate, the average income also reflects a similar story.
The median income for a household in Chicago was about $58,250. For all the single individuals out there, the average yearly income was $37,103.
Another great thing about Chicago is its minimum wage rate! It has one of the highest minimum wages in the U.S. at $15 an hour!
Average Cost of Items in Chicago
Chicago's got some pretty reasonable prices all around.
The cost of their utilities, healthcare, and groceries remain below the U.S. average. Housing and transportation are more expensive though.
Keeping that in mind, the city does have a pretty high sales tax of 10.25%. On the bright side, everyone pays a flat income tax rate of 4.95%.
Take a look at our chart down below to see the costs of other items in Chicago.
2. Renting in Chicago
Lucky for you, rent in Chicago is pretty moderately priced. Especially when considering it's a huge metro area.
Over the past year, the rent price did increase by 1.1% (which is pretty mild). With that said, the average cost of the rent in Chicago currently sits at $1,693 per month.
Renting a studio apartment will run you around $1,100. Renting a 1-bedroom apartment will cost around $1,525. A 2-bedroom rent price will be about $1,795.
Navigating the rental market in Chicago can be a little daunting. There are way too many apartments and neighborhoods to choose from. That's why we're on a mission to assist you in finding your perfect home in Chicago. You'll also get cashback on your rent, which is a huge bonus!
3. Best Neighborhoods in Chicago
There are many neighborhoods in Chicago to pick from, all unique in their own way. This acts as both a perk and a drawback.
On one hand, you get the luxury of picking a living location that tailors to your lifestyle. That could be somewhere with quick access to the subway or close to bars and restaurants. On the other hand, with so many options to pick from, it makes your decision all the much harder.
Let's see how many of these locations you've heard about. These are Chicago's best neighborhoods.
Most Affordable Neighborhood: Lincoln Square
Lincoln Square is located in the north of Chicago. It offers the perfect blend between a quiet residential area and an active social scene.
Many singles and young families live in this area. It has many local attractions (like cool music venues and bars) but remains affordable.
A 1-bedroom apartment in this location averages at $1,300.
Most Well-Rounded Neighborhood: Hyde Park
Near the University of Chicago lies Hyde Park, an incredibly well-rounded neighborhood.
Former President Barack Obama used to live here, popularizing the location. Notable historical sites and landmarks also add to its fame.
This neighborhood isn't just suitable for college students, though. Just about anyone can live in this area thanks to its many amenities. Hyde Park has shopping districts, entertainment spots, dining options, and many parks around.
The greatest benefit is that the cost of rent is cheaper than in other Chicago neighborhoods. Rent averages at the $1,500 range, lower than the city average.
Best Neighborhood for Families: Beverly
In the suburbs of Chicago lies Beverly- a family and community-friendly neighborhood. The homes in this area are spacious, and many come with backyards!
Friendly neighbors brighten your day while kids are free to play on the safe streets.
There are also many great schools around Beverly. This location is a bit further, but transportation is still accessible for those who go into the city. The biggest bonus is that rent is pretty affordable.
Trendiest Neighborhood: Wicker Park
Wicker Park is the hub for Chicago's fashion and hipster culture. This trendy neighborhood has one of the city's priciest rents, but all for good reason.
You can find some of the best food, music venues, and entertainment spots here. Vintage shops and artisanal coffee shops are also popular in the area.
Its cool and artsy vibes attract young singles and professionals alike. On a good day, you might even bump into a famous artist!
Best for Young Professionals: River North
River North is the epitome of urbanism with its vibrant nightlife, design scene, and lively arts. Living here means getting daily views of Chicago's majestic skyline.
This part of town is always busy and crowded. That's why professionals of all ages thrive the most here. You get to be close to work while enjoying a bustling (or maybe a little bit of a chaotic) lifestyle.
Best for the Outdoor Lovers: Lincoln Park
Lincoln Park is the perfect neighborhood for those who love the great outdoors.
The park is the biggest and most developed in all of Chicago. It has countless trails, gardens, a free zoo, and many museums to explore. Lincoln Park also has urban roots as the area offers a variety of shopping and dining options.
Many families and professionals find themselves living here. The community atmosphere, great schools, and lively nightlife make it an attractive location.
Another huge perk is that rent prices are below Chicago's average.
4. Job Market in Chicago
Despite being a large city, Chicago has a mediocre job market. Nonetheless, the city has been getting some job growth these past few years.
In 2021, Chicago experienced a 2.7% job growth. It's not as high as the national increase that was 4.4%. Regardless, at least 50,000 new jobs were added in the greater Chicago area.
You can find pretty much any sort of employment in the city. But, the most prominent employment sectors in Chicago include:
- Leisure & Hospitality
- Business & Professional Services
You can find thousands of jobs throughout the city. Here are a few of the largest companies in Chicago.
- Veolia Environmental Services North American
- Jones Lang LaSalle
- Grant Thornton LLP
- LKQ Corporation
- United Airlines
- Ford Motor
5. Culture in Chicago
Diving into Chicago's culture is like discovering a whole new planet. You can experience breathtaking architecture, hospitable people, and a diverse food scene.
Many advancements in the arts came out of Chicago. This includes improv comedy, house music, and jazz music, to name a few.
We can also say that many iconic dishes- like the deep-dish pizza or Italian beef sandwich- were born here.
Chicago still maintains its diverse nature- through its people, neighborhoods, history, and attractions.
Here's a little extra taste of what the culture in Chicago has to offer.
Hidden Gems & Famous Attractions in Chicago
There's no denying Chicago has tons of historical monuments, dining, and entertainment spots. It would honestly be impossible to visit each and every one of them in a single lifetime.
That's why we've picked some hidden gems and attractions in Chicago that are worth your time.
- Gin Alley. This hidden alley can be found in Fulton Market in downtown Chicago. It has delicious local restaurants like Green Street Smoked Meats. Don't miss the opportunity to take pictures of their fun murals. It's also got some great little boutiques for shopping!
- Untitled Supper Club. Located on River North, this speakeasy bar has amazing live music and even shows movies! Each room in this bar has a unique look, but the Bourbon Wall is something you must see. They also have the best food, drinks, and dessert!
- Garden of the Phoenix. This scenic garden is tucked right behind the Museum of Science and Industry. It's a Japanese garden that is free to all the public! It also has tons of cherry blossom trees, so run (don't walk) to see them blossom in the spring!
- Behind-the-Scenes Tour (Harry Caray's). The 33 West Kinzie building has been owned by some of the city's most notorious mob bosses. You can get a peek into its history (which dates back to the 1890s) through its Gangster Tour. The tour is packed with history and hidden areas. You also get to go to the basement of the building where you can roam underneath the streets of Chicago.
- Bordel. This place is a well-kept secret that everyone should know about! Located in Wicker Park, Bordel is a cocktail and live cabaret bar. They also serve punches in quaint Royal Albert tea sets!
- The Morton Arboretum. This stunning arboretum is located just outside Chicago in Lisle. It has an outdoor museum, a Children's Garden, and an outdoor art exhibit. This place is breathtaking all year round but we recommend going in the winter. They have a Holiday Light Trail that is to die for!
- Winter Garden Loop. This one is for those who like quiet and serene spots. On the top floor of the Harold Washington Library (which is crazy beautiful too) is the Winter Garden. It's a public space that is great for studying, reading, anything that requires quiet. Its indoor garden and skylight are also very picturesque!
- The Couch Place. This alleyway was once known as the "Alley of Death". That's because over 600 people died there in the 1903 Iroquois Theatre Fire. Locals claim it's haunted, but we just think it's neat. The entire stretch of the alley is painted with murals and contemporary street art!
- The Old Watertower. Many people don't know that this historical building has free exhibits, open to the public. The exhibits are small, but change seasonally! The water tower is also one of the few buildings that survived the Chicago Fire. A true testament to history!
- The Logan Theatre. This isn't just any kind of movie theatre. The Logan Theatre is an art-deco-styled theatre that opened all the way back in 1915! This theatre also has a full bar and lounge. It's a great spot for film buffs, families, or dates.
Green Spaces in Chicago
Chicago may be a concrete jungle, but it's definitely not lacking in the park department.
The city has followed the motto "Urbs in Horto" ever since its conception. What exactly does that mean? Well, the phrase is Latin for "City in a Garden" and pretty much sums up Chicago for you!
The Windy City has more than 8,800 acres of parkland. You can find preserves, nature trails, and parks all throughout the town. Chicago gives you the perfect opportunity to take up just about any outdoor activity.
Although hundreds of green spaces are present, some hidden parks in Chicago worth mentioning are:
- Columbus Park
- The gardens at Lincoln Park Zoo
- Garfield Park Conservatory
- Secret garden at the top of Lakepoint Tower
- Big Marsh Park
- Burnham Wildlife Corridor
- Garden of the Phoenix
- Exelon Observatory on the 606
- Promontory Point
The Climate in Chicago
There's a reason why people call Chicago the "Windy City".
Its coastal locale makes it prone to a lot of wind and passing storms. Since Lake Michigan borders the city, Chicagoans also get cooler summers.
The greatest part about the climate in Chicago is their winters (just kidding!). Temperatures can drop to as low as 17F, and they get tons of snow.
At least the temperature rises to about 74F at the peak of summer. You can expect warm and sunny days from June to August (with a hint of thunderstorms).
6. Transportation in Chicago
Chicago is one of the largest transportation hubs in the U.S. (and biggest in the Midwest) due to its location.
It's easy to get to other American metropolises from this coastal city. Its high population density also means that public transportation is needed. That's part of the contributing factor as to why Chicago has such an extensive transit system.
Let's go over all the transportation options available in Chicago.
Chicago has an extensive and complex network of expressways that lead to downtown. Although there are too many roads and highways to speak about, the I-90 deserves a notable mention. It makes up many of Chicago's expressways.
I-55 heads southwest from downtown, while the I-290 runs west from the Chicago Loop. On the north end of the city, you can take the I-64 to travel to the west.
The famous Lake Shore Drive, which is US 41, also runs along the shores of Lake Michigan and offers scenic views!
Chicago Transit Authority (CTA)
Did you know that the CTA is the second largest public transportation system in the US?
It's so big that it covers Chicago and another 40 surrounding suburban areas. Through 152 routes, CTA's 2,000 buses service over 12,000 bus stops.
The Chicago "L" (the city's subway system) has 8 different colored lines. The Blue Line connects to O'Hare International Airport. Meanwhile, you can take the Orange Lines to get to Midway Airport.
Metra is a commuter train system that services the greater Chicago area.
You can travel to any of their 242 stations off their 11 train lines. The system runs through Downtown Chicago and many neighboring suburbs.
The price of each fare is based on whichever zones you're traveling to.
Inter-City Bus Services in Chicago
Many inter-city bus companies stop or drive out of Chicago.
Greyhound Lines, Megabus, Van Galder Bus Company are just a few buses that operate in the city.
Another cool thing about Chicago buses is that you can travel to tons of cities throughout the US and even Canada.
Biking in Chicago
The cycling culture in Chicago is huge and with good reason! The city has a 290-mile network of bike routes. These include bike lanes, shared paths, and cycling tracks.
Divvy, a bicycle sharing system in the area, operates over 5,000 public bikes. 580 bike stations can be found across Downtown Chicago, Evanston, and Oak Park.
Chicago's Water Taxis
Chicago's cool in the way that it uses its waterways as a method of transportation. You can hop on one of their commercial water taxis to travel along the Chicago River.
The two biggest water taxi companies are Shoreline Sightseeing and Wendella Boats. They both offer various stops along their routes.
Freight Rails in Chicago
Right at Union Station, you can find Amtrak passenger trains heading in and out of Chicago.
The city is a major destination for Amtrak's transcontinental routes. Most of the companies' voyages actually start in Chicago!
O'Hare International Airport
O'Hare International Airport has been named one of the busiest airports on the planet. And, it's about to get busier as it's currently undergoing massive expansions.
It's located on the northwest end of Chicago. You can catch non-stop flights to 179 U.S. cities or 54 international destinations at O'Hare.
Chicago Midway is another major airport located in the region. You can find it on the southwest end of Chicago serving millions of passengers every year.
It mostly offers domestic flights but does fly to Canada and Mexico.
7. Pros & Cons of Living in Chicago
Even though Chicago has tons to offer, the Windy City still has its flaws.
We’re going to go through a list of the pros and cons of living in Chicago.
These positives associated with living in Chicago are:
- Very clean city
- Cheap public transportation
- Easy to navigate through the city
- Pretty good public transportation
- Good dining selection
These negatives associated with living in Chicago are:
- The weather can be very unpredictable
- Expensive city
- There’s a lot of non-stop traffic congestion
- Some neighborhoods have high crime rates
- Parking can be a hassle
The Windy City has a lower cost of living in comparison to other large metro cities. Sales taxes are pretty high, but residents pay a flat fee of 4.95% in income tax. Rent prices are around the $1,693 mark, although some areas have higher costs. Chicago has a vast array of neighborhoods to live in. Each one offers a different vibe and quality.
The job market isn't the greatest but it's still experiencing some healthy job growth. The coolest part about Chicago is the culture. The architecture, the history, the food scene- it's incredible! The city has adopted the saying "City in a Garden", so it has tons of green spaces, including some hidden parks. The weather is...you guessed it- windy. Expect some harsh winters but breezy summers. If you're a public transportation user, you'll love Chicago. The CTA, Metra, and its trains make it easy to get around town and the US.
If you're searching for a rental home in Chicago, check us out! Lighthouse helps you find a place while giving you cashback.
Leave a comment telling us what you thought was the best Chicago hidden gem.