What You Need to Know Before Moving to Chicago

See why Chicago isn’t just a city, but a lifestyle that is just dying to meet you. Our guide covers everything you need to know, from the cost of living and best neighborhoods to the job market and top local attractions. Discover why Chicago might just be your perfect new home.

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Moving to Chicago

Welcome to one of the most visited cities in the U.S., home to Millenium Park and world-famous deep-dish pizza. Its history is rich, boasting some incredible architecture and museums that are well worth the visit.

We’ll show you why, despite its high cost of living, Chicago is the place to be in 2024 and beyond.

1. What Does it Cost to Live Here?

Living here doesn’t come cheap. Chicago’s cost of living is 20% higher than the national average, but for good reason. 

Living in Chicago can feel like playing a high-stakes game of Monopoly but with real money. The Windy City might sweep you off your feet with its charm, but it'll also sweep a fair chunk of change from your wallet. 

Why? Well, brace yourself for a 10.25% combined state and local sales tax, which is like adding a hefty tip on everything you buy. Even stocking up on groceries isn’t spared, thanks to a 2.25% sales tax

If you’re dining out, there's a little extra 25% tax, making that slice of deep-dish pizza a bit pricier. And let’s not forget that owning a square on this real-life game board means dealing with the nation’s second-highest property tax. 

So, even the most frugal Chicagoans must strategize financially to thrive.

2. Best Neighborhoods

1. Chinatown

Chinatown in Chicago isn't just big; it's one of the biggest of its kind in the U.S.

Home to over 65,000 Chinese residents, this neighborhood is like a mini trip to China, packed with vibrant public art, authentic eats, and unique shops. Plus, it's home to Chinatown Square, the largest Chinese mall in the Midwest. If you're looking to immerse yourself in Chinese culture without the long flight, Chicago's Chinatown is the place to be.

2. Humboldt Park

Humboldt Park is a lively neighborhood in Chicago that really stands out with its Spanish-style buildings and bright wall paintings. It’s like a piece of Puerto Rico right in the city, with about a quarter of its people being of Puerto Rican descent. You can visit the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture, try some delicious food, and browse unique shops.

The area is famous for two big parties each year: the Puerto Rican People’s Parade and Fiesta Boricua, which fill the streets with music and fun.

If you're thinking of moving here, the houses are pretty affordable, though some might need fixing up. Rent starts at about $800. So, Humboldt Park offers a lot of culture and fun without costing too much.

3. North Side & Gold Coast

Among the most affluent areas for young professionals, the Gold Coast offers a luxurious yet accessible lifestyle. Located just a mile north of downtown, it’s renowned for its historic significance, including the original Playboy Mansion and the bustling Magnificent Mile with its upscale shops and gourmet eateries.

Here, fairy-tale living comes without the royal costs, as you walk tree-lined streets among grand mansions and enjoy breathtaking skyline views from Oak Street Beach.

3. Crime

Chicago sometimes gets a bad rap for its history, thanks to notorious figures like Al Capone and John Dillinger. More recently, it's been dubbed the "murder capital" of the nation. But hold it, things are changing. 

According to a recent Chicago Tribune article, the city has made significant progress in curbing violent crime. In fact, shootings have dropped by about 30% over the last two years. It looks like Chicago is slowly shaking off its old reputation and making the streets safer for everyone.

4. Job Market

Chicago offers its workers countless professional opportunities with over 200,000 jobs created since 2010 in sectors like manufacturing, IT, publishing, healthcare, and tech. Chicago is also the second largest business sector, home to 35 Fortune 500 companies. 

In the city, there’s no shortage of jobs, just put your best foot forward and you’re sure to find employment.

5. Education

Chicago prides itself on excellent educational institutions, both public and private. Notable public schools include:

  • Waters Elementary
  • Poe Elementary
  • Lane Tech High School

On the private side:

  • The Waldorf School
  • The Chicago Archdiocese
  • St. Ignatius College Prep

6. Sports Are Everywhere

In Chicago, sports aren't just a pastime; they're a lifestyle. Whether you're truly passionate or just faking it till you make it, cheering for one of Chicago’s many pro or college teams is practically a local mandate. 

So grab a seat at a game or pull up a barstool at any sports bar in town. Attending games or gathering at a sports bar offers a fantastic way to connect with the community.

Here’s a list of the professional sports teams:

  • Chicago Cubs
  • Chicago White Sox
  • Chicago Bears
  • Chicago Blackhawks
  • Chicago Bulls
  • Chicago Sky
  • Chicago Fire

7. Food

Regarded as one of America’s food capitals, Chicago’s culinary scene rivals that of NYC. Must-try local specialties included deep-dish pizza and Chicago-style hot dogs. 

Don’t miss out on the Tastes of Chicago, the world’s largest food festival, held in Grant Park.

8. Things to Do

1. Chicago St. Patrick’s Day

Every St. Patrick's Day in Chicago, the river turns a shade of emerald green, and it feels like the whole city shows up to see it. This weird tradition started back in 1962 with Mayor Richard J. Daley, and it's been famous ever since. Whether you're a local or just visiting, watching the Chicago River go green is a must-see. 

2. Chicago Music Festivals

Chicago is a music lover's paradise with a vibrant lineup of open-air music festivals accessible via public transit, so you can skip the parking drama.

  • Lollapalooza: The grandfather of all music festivals in the heart of Grant Park. It's a citywide party with a diverse range of artists that keep the vibes high.
  • Riot Fest: Think of it as Lollapalooza's punk rock cousin in Douglas Park. It's where international rock bands come to play, and fans come for a wild time.
  • Spring Awakening: This festival is your go-to for all things electronic and dance.
  • Pitchfork: Indie music fans, this one's for you. Held in Union Park, it's the prime spot to catch established acts and discover new favorites.
  • North Coast: Known as "Summer’s Last Stand," this EDM festival at Labor Day wraps up Chicago’s warm season with one last blast of dance.

No matter your taste, Chicago’s festivals are music to everyone’s ears.

3. Garfield Park Conservatory

In Chicago, there's more to life than just deep-dish pizza and towering skyscrapers. For those who live here, forget the typical tourist traps and head to Garfield Park Conservatory.

It's a warm escape during those bone-chilling winters and one of the largest conservatories in the nation. Imagine a green paradise with thousands of plant species. Plus, they offer free yoga classes, engaging monthly lectures, and a bi-monthly concert series for kids—all for free. It’s the perfect spot to unwind during the weekend.

Your New Home

Are you falling head over heels for the Windy City yet? Well, whether you’re moving here for work or just for a new environment, there’s something for everyone in Chicago. 

Our number 1 piece of advice is to just start exploring, and before you know it, you’ll have a list of go-to spots and activities to do every weekend.

Nik Watson

Meet Nik, a writer specializing in real estate and moving. Over the past two years, he's written for various real estate firms and e-commerce companies, gaining expertise and a solid reputation. Nik has moved several times recently, experiencing both DIY and professional moves. He recommends using professional movers to reduce stress significantly. When not writing, Nik explores other business opportunities in real estate and moving

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