11 Things to Know BEFORE Moving to Chicago

Planning a move to Chicago? Before you pack your bags and set off on your new adventure in the Windy City, there are a few essential things you need to know. Chicago is a vibrant and bustling city, but it also comes with its own unique set of challenges and considerations. To ensure a smooth transition and make the most of your experience, here are 11 key things you should keep in mind before relocating to Chicago.

Key Takeaways:

  • Chicago has a higher cost of living compared to the national average.
  • The city is known for its diverse and distinct neighborhoods.
  • Renting or buying a home in Chicago requires careful consideration.
  • The job market in Chicago offers plenty of opportunities.
  • Chicago has a reliable public transportation system.

From the cost of living to the job market and neighborhood options, being well-informed is key to making a successful move to Chicago. So, let’s dive into the essential information and tips you need to know before starting this exciting chapter in the Windy City.

The Cost of Living in Chicago

When considering a move to Chicago, it’s essential to understand the cost of living in the city. Chicago is known for its vibrant urban lifestyle, cultural attractions, and career opportunities. However, it comes with a higher price tag compared to the national average.

The overall cost of living in Chicago is 23% higher than the national average, making it the 11th most expensive city in the United States. One of the significant contributors to this higher cost is housing. Housing costs in Chicago are 56% higher than the national average, making it a significant factor to consider when planning your budget.

In order to afford living in Chicago comfortably, it is recommended to have an average annual salary of at least $46,222. This takes into account the higher housing costs, as well as other living expenses such as transportation, food, and healthcare.

Additionally, it’s important to be aware of the sales tax in Chicago, which is 10.25%. This applies to most goods and services, adding to the overall cost. It’s crucial to factor in these additional expenses when budgeting for your life in the city.

To get a better understanding of the cost of living in Chicago, here is a breakdown of the average prices for some essential goods and services:

Item Average Price
Rent (1-bedroom apartment in the city center) $1,800
Gasoline (1 gallon) $3.00
Groceries (basic items) $40
Restaurant Meal (for one person) $15
Movie Ticket $12

Despite the higher cost of living, Chicago offers a dynamic and culturally rich environment that attracts residents from all walks of life. By understanding and planning for the cost of living in the city, you can make informed decisions about your move to the Windy City.

Chicago Neighborhoods

Chicago is a city known for its diverse and distinct neighborhoods. With 77 communities spread across nine districts, there is a neighborhood to suit every preference and lifestyle.

North Chicago Neighborhoods

One of the most sought-after areas in Chicago is the North Side, which is considered one of the safest parts of the city. This region attracts young professionals and college students, offering a vibrant and dynamic atmosphere. Neighborhoods like Lincoln Park, Lakeview, and Old Town are known for their tree-lined streets, lively entertainment options, and proximity to Lake Michigan.

South Chicago Neighborhoods

The South Side of Chicago offers a variety of cultural attractions and vibrant communities. Hyde Park, located near the University of Chicago, is home to intellectual and artistic communities. The South Side is also where you’ll find Chinatown, where you can enjoy authentic cuisine and experience the rich Chinese culture.

West Chicago Neighborhoods

The West Side of Chicago is known for its trendy neighborhoods and top-rated restaurants. Neighborhoods like Wicker Park, Bucktown, and West Loop are popular among young professionals and food enthusiasts. Here, you can find a mix of historic architecture and modern developments, creating a unique and eclectic atmosphere.

The Chicago Loop

The Chicago Loop is the heart of Downtown Chicago and offers a glimpse into the city’s iconic architectural history. This area is known for its skyscrapers, including the Willis Tower and the iconic Chicago Theatre. The Loop is also home to a thriving arts and entertainment scene, with museums, galleries, and theaters lining the streets.

If you’re interested in exploring the different neighborhoods in Chicago, here is a list showcasing some of the best neighborhoods in the city:

Neighborhood Description
Lincoln Park A charming neighborhood with beautiful parks, historic Victorian homes, and a variety of shops and restaurants.
River North An art-centric neighborhood known for its vibrant nightlife, trendy galleries, and upscale dining options.
Gold Coast A luxurious neighborhood with stunning mansions, high-end boutiques, and prestigious dining establishments.
Logan Square A hip and multicultural neighborhood with a bustling food and bar scene, as well as beautiful green spaces.
Streeterville Located near Lake Michigan, this neighborhood offers stunning lakefront views, upscale shopping, and cultural attractions.

Whether you’re looking for a neighborhood with a rich cultural heritage, a vibrant nightlife, or a peaceful atmosphere, Chicago has a neighborhood that will suit your preferences and lifestyle.

Renting and Buying a Home in Chicago

When it comes to finding a place to live in Chicago, you have the option to either rent or buy a home. Despite housing prices being higher than the national average, Chicago offers various opportunities to find a home within your budget. Whether you’re looking for a cozy apartment in the heart of downtown or a spacious house in the suburbs, there are plenty of options to suit your needs.

Renting a Home in Chicago

If you’re considering renting a home in Chicago, you’ll find a wide range of options in terms of price, location, and amenities. The city has a diverse rental market, offering apartments, condos, and single-family homes to cater to different preferences. Rent prices vary depending on the neighborhood and property type, with downtown areas typically being more expensive.

If you’re looking for a vibrant urban lifestyle with easy access to amenities and entertainment, renting an apartment in the Chicago Loop or River North might be a great choice. These areas offer a bustling atmosphere, proximity to shopping, dining, and cultural attractions.

  1. Pros of Renting a Home in Chicago:
  • Flexibility: Renting allows you to have flexibility in terms of moving locations and exploring different neighborhoods before making a long-term commitment.
  • Less Responsibility: As a renter, you are not responsible for property maintenance and repairs, which can save you time and money.
  • Amenities: Many rental properties offer amenities such as fitness centers, swimming pools, and communal spaces that enhance your living experience.
  • Cons of Renting a Home in Chicago:
    • No Equity: Rent payments do not contribute to building equity or ownership in the property.
    • Potential Rent Increases: Landlords have the right to increase rent at the end of a lease term, which may affect your budget.
    • Less Control: Renting means you have less control over customizing the living space according to your preferences.

    Buying a Home in Chicago

    If you’re ready to make a long-term commitment and invest in a property, buying a home in Chicago can be a rewarding experience. The city’s real estate market offers a variety of options for buyers, ranging from historic houses in established neighborhoods to newly constructed condos in up-and-coming areas.

    If you’re looking for a spacious home and a quieter neighborhood, consider exploring North Side locations like Lincoln Park or Lakeview. These areas offer beautiful tree-lined streets, parks, and excellent schools.

    1. Pros of Buying a Home in Chicago:
    • Equity and Investment: Buying a home allows you to build equity over time and potentially benefit from property value appreciation.
    • Customization: As a homeowner, you have the freedom to personalize and renovate your property according to your taste and needs.
    • Stability: Owning a home provides a sense of stability and belonging in a community.
  • Cons of Buying a Home in Chicago:
    • Responsibility and Maintenance: Homeownership comes with responsibilities such as maintenance, repairs, and property taxes.
    • Higher Upfront Costs: Buying a home requires a down payment and closing costs, which can be a significant financial commitment.
    • Market Fluctuations: Property values can fluctuate, and it may take time to recoup your investment in a changing real estate market.

    In summary, the decision to rent or buy a home in Chicago depends on your lifestyle, financial goals, and personal preferences. Consider your long-term plans, budget, and desired level of commitment when making this important decision.

    Average Rent Prices Average Home Prices
    Studio Apartment $1,200 – $2,000 per month N/A
    1-Bedroom Apartment $1,500 – $2,500 per month $200,000 – $400,000
    2-Bedroom Apartment $2,000 – $3,500 per month $300,000 – $600,000
    Single-Family Home N/A $400,000 – $1 million+

    Job Market in Chicago

    When it comes to employment opportunities, Chicago offers a thriving job market with a wide range of options. The city is home to 36 Fortune 500 companies, making it a hub for corporate careers. From finance and healthcare to technology and manufacturing, Chicago’s diverse economy caters to various industries.

    Whether you’re looking to work in an established company or explore exciting startup opportunities, Chicago has something for everyone. The city’s job market is known for its stability and growth potential, providing ample chances for professional advancement.

    Chicago’s GDP is almost $700 billion, cementing its status as a major economic powerhouse. This robust GDP reflects the city’s strong economy and the abundance of job opportunities it offers. With a wide variety of industries driving its growth, including manufacturing, hospitality, transportation, and information technology, Chicago provides a favorable environment for career development.

    Key Highlights Data
    Number of Fortune 500 companies in Chicago 36
    GDP of Chicago $700 billion
    Popular Industries Manufacturing, Hospitality, Transportation, Information Technology

    Transportation in Chicago

    When it comes to getting around in Chicago, residents have a variety of options to choose from. The city boasts a reliable public transportation system, including trains and buses, that can take you to almost any destination. The elevated train system, known as the “L,” is an iconic part of the city’s landscape. It provides convenient and affordable transportation throughout the downtown area and the surrounding neighborhoods. Buses are another popular mode of public transportation, offering extensive coverage across the city.

    However, despite the availability of public transportation, many Chicagoans still prefer to drive. Driving in Chicago can be more convenient, especially if you have a lot of belongings to transport or need to travel to areas not easily accessible by public transit. Having a car also gives you the flexibility to explore the greater Chicago area and take spontaneous road trips.

    But it’s important to note that traffic in Chicago can be quite challenging, especially during rush hour. The city is known for its congestion, and you might find yourself spending a significant amount of time stuck in traffic. It’s always a good idea to plan your trips accordingly and allow for extra travel time, especially if you have time-sensitive appointments or commitments.

    Parking in Chicago can also be a headache. Limited parking spaces and high parking fees make finding a spot a real challenge, especially in busy downtown areas. Some neighborhoods may require residential parking permits, making street parking difficult for non-residents. If you do choose to drive in the city, be prepared to navigate parking garages and potentially pay a hefty price for parking.

    The Benefits of Public Transportation

    While driving offers convenience, opting for public transportation in Chicago comes with several advantages. Here are a few benefits of using public transit:

    • Cost-effective: Public transportation is generally more affordable than owning a car, especially when you consider expenses like gas, parking fees, and maintenance.
    • Eco-friendly: Using public transit reduces carbon emissions and helps promote cleaner air and a greener environment.
    • Avoiding traffic: On busy days, taking public transportation can be faster and less stressful than sitting in traffic, especially during rush hour.
    • No parking hassle: With public transportation, you don’t have to worry about finding parking or paying for expensive parking fees.

    Whether you choose to rely on public transportation or navigate the city by car, Chicago offers a range of transportation options to suit every lifestyle. Just be sure to plan ahead, be aware of the traffic conditions, and consider the pros and cons of each mode of transportation based on your daily commuting needs.

    Weather in Chicago

    Chicago experiences a humid continental climate, characterized by hot and humid summers and cold winters. The city is famously known as “The Windy City” due to its strong winds that blow off Lake Michigan. Summers in Chicago are generally pleasant, with temperatures ranging from 70°F to 90°F (21°C to 32°C). It’s the perfect time to explore the city’s parks, beaches, and outdoor festivals.

    However, winters in Chicago can be harsh, with temperatures dropping below freezing and heavy snowfall. Lake effect snow from Lake Michigan often blankets the city, creating picturesque winter landscapes. It’s essential to bundle up and be prepared for the cold temperatures during the winter months.

    Despite the challenging winters, Chicagoans find ways to embrace the cold weather. Ice skating in Millennium Park or enjoying a cup of hot chocolate at one of the city’s cozy cafes are popular winter activities. And once spring arrives, the city comes alive again with blooming flowers and milder temperatures.

    Chicago Climate Overview:

    Summer in Chicago: Hot and humid with temperatures ranging from 70°F to 90°F (21°C to 32°C).

    Winter in Chicago: Cold with temperatures dropping below freezing and heavy snowfall.

    Lake Effect Snow: Snowfall caused by the cold air passing over the relatively warm waters of Lake Michigan.

    Despite the weather extremes, Chicagoans adapt and enjoy the city throughout the year. So whether you’re strolling along the lakefront in the summer or building snowmen in the winter, Chicago offers a unique experience in every season.

    Safety in Chicago

    When considering a move to Chicago, it’s essential to be aware of the city’s crime rate. Unfortunately, Chicago has a higher crime rate compared to the national average. The violent crime rate is 164% higher, and the property crime rate is 45% higher.

    However, it’s important to note that Chicago is a diverse city with safe areas and neighborhoods. By taking some precautions and being aware of your surroundings, you can still enjoy a relatively safe living experience in the city.

    Safe Areas and Neighborhoods

    While Chicago has its share of crime, there are several safe areas and neighborhoods that provide a secure living environment for residents. These areas often have lower crime rates and offer a sense of community and peace of mind. Some safe neighborhoods in Chicago include:

    • Lincoln Park
    • Streeterville
    • Old Town
    • Edgewater
    • North Center

    In these neighborhoods, residents can enjoy amenities such as parks, schools, and restaurants while feeling safe and secure.

    Precautions to Take

    While living in Chicago, it’s important to take certain precautions to ensure your safety. Here are some tips:

    1. Avoid walking alone late at night, especially in unfamiliar areas.
    2. Keep your personal belongings secure and be vigilant of your surroundings, especially in crowded places.
    3. Utilize public transportation, especially during late hours, to avoid potential risks associated with driving and parking.
    4. Stay informed about the latest safety guidelines and news in the city.

    By following these precautions and staying alert, you can navigate Chicago’s urban environment confidently.

    Crime Rate Comparison

    Crime Type Chicago National Average
    Violent Crime 164% higher
    Property Crime 45% higher

    Table: Comparison of Crime Rates in Chicago and the National Average

    It’s important to understand the crime rates in Chicago to make informed decisions about your safety and well-being in the city.

    Food Scene in Chicago

    The food scene in Chicago is a culinary adventure that will delight your taste buds. The city is renowned for its diverse and exciting gastronomic offerings, featuring cuisines from all over the world. Whether you’re craving deep-dish pizza, mouthwatering Chicago-style hot dogs, savory Italian beef sandwiches, or indulgent Chicago-style popcorn, you’ll find it all here.

    Chicago’s deep-dish pizza is an iconic dish that has gained worldwide recognition. With its thick, buttery crust and generous layers of cheese, sauce, and toppings, it’s a must-try for any pizza lover. Don’t forget to stop by renowned pizzerias like Lou Malnati’s or Giordano’s for an authentic deep-dish experience.

    Another local favorite is the Chicago-style hot dog. This tasty treat features an all-beef frankfurter served on a poppy seed bun and topped with yellow mustard, relish, chopped onions, tomato slices, a pickle spear, sport peppers, and a sprinkle of celery salt. It’s a true Chicago classic that you can enjoy at hot dog stands and casual restaurants throughout the city.

    Chicago is also home to a vibrant restaurant scene, offering a wide range of culinary options. From Michelin-starred establishments to hole-in-the-wall gems, there’s something for every palate. Explore neighborhoods like West Loop, River North, and Wicker Park for an abundance of trendy and renowned dining destinations.

    In addition to restaurants, Chicago boasts a thriving street food culture. Food trucks and outdoor food markets offer a variety of delectable dishes, allowing you to experience the city’s culinary delights on the go. Whether you’re in the mood for tacos, gourmet burgers, or fusion cuisine, you’ll find plenty of options to satisfy your cravings.

    Immerse yourself in the flavors of Chicago and discover why the city is a food lover’s paradise. With its famous dishes, diverse restaurants, and unique food traditions, Chicago’s food scene is not to be missed.

    Chicago Traditions and Events

    Chicago is a city known for its rich traditions and exciting events that attract both locals and visitors. From annual celebrations to cultural festivals, there’s always something happening in the Windy City.

    St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago

    One of the most anticipated events in Chicago is the St. Patrick’s Day celebration. The city dyes the Chicago River green, and a lively parade takes place, attracting thousands of spectators. It’s a perfect opportunity to embrace the Irish heritage and enjoy the festive atmosphere.

    Chicago Air and Water Show

    The Chicago Air and Water Show is a thrilling event that showcases breathtaking aerial displays and water performances. Held annually at the beautiful Lake Michigan waterfront, this show attracts aviation enthusiasts and families alike. Witnessing the skilled pilots and impressive water stunts is truly an unforgettable experience.

    Chicago Blues Festival

    For music lovers, the Chicago Blues Festival is a must-attend event. Recognized as the largest free blues festival in the world, this event celebrates the rich blues heritage of Chicago. The festival showcases talented musicians from around the globe and offers a vibrant atmosphere filled with soulful melodies.

    Chicago Marathon

    The Chicago Marathon is a significant event that draws athletes from all over the world. Runners take on the iconic course that winds through the city’s neighborhoods, attracting enthusiastic spectators along the way. Whether you’re a participant or cheering from the sidelines, the Chicago Marathon is an inspiring event that embodies the city’s spirit of resilience and determination.

    These are just a few examples of the many traditions and events that make Chicago a vibrant and dynamic city. From cultural celebrations to thrilling performances, there’s always something happening in this bustling metropolis.


    Moving to Chicago can be an exciting opportunity, but it’s important to carefully consider all the factors before making the decision. On one hand, Chicago offers a vibrant culture and food scene, with diverse neighborhoods that cater to different preferences and interests. From deep-dish pizza to Chicago-style hot dogs, the city’s culinary scene is sure to satisfy any foodie.

    On the other hand, Chicago has its drawbacks. The high cost of living, including housing prices, can be a significant consideration for those on a tight budget. Additionally, the city’s crime rate is higher than the national average, so it’s crucial to be aware of your surroundings and take precautions to ensure your safety.

    Ultimately, whether Chicago is the right city for you depends on your personal preferences and priorities. Consider factors like cost of living, job opportunities, weather, and safety, along with the city’s unique offerings. By weighing these factors and conducting thorough research, you can make an informed decision about whether moving to Chicago is the best choice for you.


    What is the cost of living in Chicago?

    The cost of living in Chicago is 23% higher than the national average. Housing costs in the city are 56% higher than the national average, and the average annual salary needed to afford Chicago is at least $46,222.

    What are some popular neighborhoods in Chicago?

    Chicago has 77 diverse neighborhoods spread across nine districts. Some popular neighborhoods include the North Side, known for its safety and attraction to young professionals and students; the South Side, offering cultural attractions and Chinatown; and the West Side, known for trendy neighborhoods and top-rated restaurants. Downtown’s Chicago Loop is also popular for its historic architecture and entertainment.

    Is it easy to find affordable housing in Chicago?

    Despite higher housing prices than the national average, it’s relatively easier to find a home within budget in Chicago. The current housing market is a seller’s market, with a 3.1-month supply of homes, making it a good time to buy or rent a home in the city.

    What is the job market like in Chicago?

    Chicago is home to 36 Fortune 500 companies and has a diverse economy, including industries like manufacturing, hospitality, transportation, and information technology. The city offers plenty of employment opportunities in both established companies and startups and has one of the highest GDPs in the world, amounting to almost $700 billion.

    What is the transportation like in Chicago?

    Chicago has a reliable public transportation system, including trains and buses. However, many residents still prefer to drive due to convenience. It’s important to note that traffic can be heavy, especially during rush hour, and parking can be challenging and expensive in the city.

    What is the weather like in Chicago?

    Chicago has a humid continental climate with hot and humid summers and cold winters. The city is known for its strong winds, earning it the nickname “The Windy City.” Winters can be particularly harsh, with frigid temperatures and heavy snowfall due to lake effect snow from Lake Michigan.

    Is Chicago a safe city to live in?

    Chicago has a higher crime rate compared to the national average. The violent crime rate is 164% higher, and the property crime rate is 45% higher. While it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and take precautions, there are still safe areas and neighborhoods in the city.

    What is the food scene like in Chicago?

    Chicago offers a diverse and exciting food scene with cuisines from all over the world. The city is famous for dishes like deep-dish pizza, Chicago-style hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches, and Chicago-style popcorn. It is home to numerous popular restaurants and street food vendors.

    What are some unique traditions and events in Chicago?

    Chicago has many unique traditions and events that attract both locals and visitors. From dyeing the Chicago River green on St. Patrick’s Day to the Chicago Air and Water Show, there are plenty of opportunities to celebrate and participate in cultural events. Other notable events include the Chicago Blues Festival and the Chicago Marathon.

    Is Chicago the right city for me to move to?

    Moving to Chicago comes with its pros and cons. It offers a vibrant urban lifestyle, diverse neighborhoods, and numerous employment opportunities. However, it’s important to consider the high cost of living and the city’s reputation for crime. It’s essential to weigh these factors and consider your preferences before making the decision to move to the Windy City.

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