Moving to Chicago

techedFebruary 10, 2011

Hello all,

I am new to this list, but it looks like some great info. DH landed a job in Chicago last year, and the kids and I are selling the house in DC and moving west. Would anyone be willing to weigh in on their favorite neighborhood/town? We are hoping to buy a vintage home (bungalow or colonial) in an active town walkable to shops, train, library, coffee. I will have two kids in high school and one in middle school. We have been looking at Evanston and Oak Park. Any other suggestions? Would anyone recommend living in the city proper?

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Try Wilmette -- New Trier High School is an outstanding school. I also like Lake Forest and Barrington. Don't know how close you want to live or what it is you are looking for besides a quaint home, but these are beautiful towns.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2011 at 1:49AM
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I've lived 1 block from Evanston for 6 yrs, in Chicago for about 15, and have 6 yrs in Oak Park.

For a family that has school considerations, and assuming you're going to go with public schools, I'd recommend Oak Park. Oak Park has 2 jr highs and 1 high school. The northeast and southwest quadrants of OP populate one school. The northwest and southeast populate the other jr high. This was done on purpose for diversity. The high school is fed from both OP and River Forest. There are Catholic high schools as well. All schools are good.

Both Evanston and OP are very diverse. OP has a smaller population. Both are very convenient to downtown Chicago with public transit. Both have vintage homes - we're now in a 1919 bungalow and are active in historic preservation.

I think housing costs are a bit higher in Evanston, largely because it's on L. Michigan. The higher housing prices have lessened the diversity of the community.

OP has the oldest Farmer's Market in the state - 35+ yrs. OP is very much a community that encourages volunteerism, it's very green and will be one of the first in the state to go on the Smart Grid for power. OP is very walkable and has shops, but the better quaint shopping is in the next town over, Forest Park. OP welcomes all shapes and sizes of people, AND is pretty safe.

We loved living in the city and will move back into Chicago later in life for the convenience, but for kids/school considerations I'd recommend either town you mention. If you go into the city, you are absolutely want to try to get your kids into one of the top 5 public schools (Peyton, Northside Prep, Lindbloom, I forget the other 2). Jr high needs equal scrutiny.

I'm partial to OP, though.

The best website for OP housing is Good luck with the coming move.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2011 at 12:48PM
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Thanks so much for the information! I think we will be leaning toward living in the city once kids are out of the house. I want to make sure we can enjoy the best of the city with them. I feel like we never do anything in Washington any more!

    Bookmark   February 12, 2011 at 8:46PM
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Congrats on your upcoming move! Chicago is a wonderful, friendly and very livable city. (OK, maybe I'm biased, being a lifer here. But one recruiter I met said the hardest parts of his job were 1) getting people to move here if they'd never been, and 2) getting people to move away once they'd lived here.)

There are many neighborhoods that would work for you including those mentioned above (although IMO Barrington, though lovely, is a bit far from the city.) I'd recommend looking into towns with walk-to accessibility to the train. Is your DH's office in the city? He'll definitely want to train, not drive, to work. And walking to the train is so much better than having to get a parking pass and driving to the train. Having access to the train gives older kids some flexibility too. We loved going downtown to Oak Street Beach as teenagers. As a parent I love training in to take the kids to restaurants, China Town, shows, the zoo, etc.

I linked to the Metra map below. BNSF runs out to the western 'burbs, where there are many lovely towns: older neighborhoods, big trees, walk-to downtown business districts. (Some I really like are Western Springs, La Grange, Hinsdale, Clarendon Hills.) Great schools in all these towns. (OK I'm biased, we're in CH and all our grade schools made the top 10 list in Chicago Mag's review last year.) Riverside is also on this line - it's a lovely older area close to the city, but unfortunately has been in the news lately for some monkey business in the local government.

Union Pacific train line runs north from the city to the beautiful North Shore suburbs -- Evanston, Wilmette, Winnetka, etc. Very lovely area with, again, great schools, walk-to towns, and the added (huge) bonus of being close to the lake.

Oak Park was mentioned above. It, too, is lovely, historic, with a very active downtown and great public trans to the city. Definitely worth checking out.

Do either you or your DH travel frequently for work? If so, access to O'Hare will be important too (e.g., proximity to a major highway like 90 or 294.) We loved Glen Ellyn when we were house shopping, but I was traveling alot and it's a bit farther from the airports.

If you're looking for access to the city, I think it would be great to spend some time here. Stay in the city, and take the train lines out to towns that interest you. Walk around the neighborhoods, go to the coffee shops, see what feels like 'home'.

Pre-kids I lived in the city (Lincoln Park) for about 8 years. LOVED it but haven't experienced it as a parent. Our friends who stayed there after having kids sent their kids to private schools.

Congrats on your upcoming move and I hope you all enjoy it here!

Here is a link that might be useful: Metra Rail Map

    Bookmark   February 14, 2011 at 10:48AM
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Downers Grove is a western suburb with a lovely downtown (restaurants, vintage restored movie theater) and right on the BNSF Metra train line. Hinsdale is nice, too, but much more expensive. Both have good public schools. My understanding is that DG North is a bit better than DG South, and Hinsdale Central might well be the best high school in the state -- but Hinsdale South is also a fine school. I know LaGrange has a lot of nice restaurants, but I'm not familiar enough with it to make a strong recommendation.

Arlington Heights is a nice northwestern suburb on the UP-NW Metra train line and has the biggest library I've ever seen outside of the University of Illinois. It's enormous and close to the downtown area (walking distance).

These 'burbs are further out than Oak Park and Evanston, which I think are both great choices, too. I would love to live in either of those towns.

There are some great neighborhoods in the city and the restaurants/shops/coffee are better -- the suburbs tend to have a lot of chains -- and the public transportation is much better, but I don't know anything about the schools there. I lived in Lakeview for many years and loved it.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2011 at 3:34PM
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I grew up in LaGrange so know it very well. It is a lovely older suburb with a wide range of housing--from modest to huge--and, to my surprise (it sure wasn't like that in my youth!) now seems to be "restaurant central." Riverside is also lovely and, if I were attracted to a suburb, I'd settle in either of these in a heartbeat. Both are on the Burlington line so very convenient to downtown. I also recommend Oak Park and parts of Berwyn.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2011 at 1:32PM
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