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Best Neighborhoods in Chicago

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
What neighborhoods in Chicago would you recommend for a young family? We'd like to find a 3 bedroom for no more than $1500 a month. Needs to be close to public transportation and within walking distance to grocery stores, coffee shops, and parks/playgrounds. I've heard Wicker Park may be a good fit... any thoughts? TIA!
post #2 of 15
I just moved away from Hyde Park and I miss it! There are so many parks within walking distance. You can get down town on the bus or the metra. You have proximity to the lake, a library, the Museum of Science and Industry, DuSable Museum and 2 grocery stores as well as family friendly restaurants and a wonderful produce store.

Good luck with your decision!
post #3 of 15
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the suggestion! How long does it take to get into the city on the el from Hyde Park? We homeschool, so I'd like to take advantage of the museums and aquarium frequently. I noticed on the map that all the Whole Foods seem to be further north... are there any co-ops, farmer's markets, or independent organic stores in the area within walking distance?

Also, my DH is looking at a position in DesPlaines... I think he'd only have to be in the office twice a week and then he'd be on the road the other three days. We're used to Boston traffic, but how does Chicago compare? Should we just focus on the neighborhoods in the northern part of the city?

Looking at Chicago compared to Boston it seems so spread out and huge! We used to go into the city from time to time when we lived back home, but just stayed in the central downtown area. I never realized how spread out the entire city is before. Does this pose a problem as far as getting around without a car? How is the public transportation system overall?
post #4 of 15
We lived in the "south loop" area (but it was really the new construction near UIC) for a year. I understand the neighborhood has improved since we were there, but I wouldn't recommend it as a family friendly area.

If you do want to live near there, the few blocks that are family friendly will be out of your price range. We were paying 1500 for a 2 br.

There are LLL groups in Hyde Park and Lincoln Park and one on the NW side. There is an AP group and a babywearing group on the north side as well (the bw group meets at Sheil park in the warm months and at BeBy Baby in winter). there is also a "northside" unschoolers group with lots of great families involved.

As far as living IN the city, it'll be an hour commute for your dh to DesPlaines I'd guess. It's not exactly close. I would hate the commute from Hyde Park because he'd have to go through/around downtown. Hyde Park is a really neat community though, and the people who live there love it.

Will you have a 2nd car? We moved to the NW suburbs after a year in the city, and I regularly take the kids to the museums (2-3x/month) and such, as well as other outings in the city, using the car or the commuter train. Housing is a little more affordable out here.

Other suburbs - Park Ridge is nice, you would also find a very crunchy, family friendly space in Oak Park/Forest Park. In the city we also looked in Lincoln Park, Roscoe Village, Logan Square. I kick myself for not picking an apartment in those areas. Also, parts of the city can change very quickly - within a few blocks - so just naming a neighborhood might not necessarily get you into a family friendly or super safe area.

There are plenty of realtors and apartment hunting services that will help you as well. But you need to narrow down your area a little OR have extra time after seeing the different homes to go back and explore the neighborhood a little.
post #5 of 15
Thread Starter 
Great things to consider, thank you!!

I've heard Lincoln Park isn't too culturally diverse. Is this true? I've also heard it's rather pricey. How about Lincoln Square? I've found a couple of nice apartments on craigslist within our price range there. I'll check out Roscoe Village and Logan Square, too. When you say "north side" do you mean the northern neighborhoods of Chicago?

We'd like to stay in the city. We may keep two cars, especially at first and see how it goes, but we'd ultimately like to be a one car family and utilize public transportation as much as possible. We want to be able to walk to coffee shops, restaurants, parks, grocery stores... total urban living!

We lived just outside of the city of Boston for a couple of years and loved it! Walked everywhere, took the T or buses where we needed to go, were just minutes from all the city had to offer. We've spent the last few years living south of the city and absolutely hate it. I don't think I'm cut out for suburban living.
post #6 of 15

I would stick with the North Side neighborhoods. Lincoln Square/Ravenswood is very nice. The closer you are to Lincoln Square proper, the more there is to do (parks, library, movie theater, restaurants, etc.) The Ravenswood/Brown Line is right there as well (I'd look around the Francisco, Rockwell, and Western stops. And maybe Damen.)
Otherwise, I'd suggest Edgewater or Rogers Park. Be careful, though. Lots of places advertise as Edgewater when they are really in Uptown, which is a bit sketchy.
Andersonville is great as well, but there is no el stop nearby, which is difficult in the winter.
You shold be able to find something in your price range, check The Chicago Reader (it's a free weekly paper, you can also find it online.) I've never looked for a place in Chicago on Craigslist, but I know people who have, so maybe try there as well.

I would stay away from Lincoln Park. It isn't a very integrated area, lots of college students who like to party (and lots of bars to accommodate them.) Also, the apartments are tiny compared to the other neighborhoods I've suggested. This also goes for Wrigleyville.

The Chicago public transit system is actually really good (ok, Chicagoans love to b$%^# about it, but it really is one of the best systems in the country.)

Good luck!

~ Aradiana
post #7 of 15
FWIW, find a place with parking if you can

We had to use street parking and between license plates and city tags and permits, we needed about 300.00 per car to get them legal in the city to park on the street in our neighborhood.
post #8 of 15
Bucktown is nice but expensive.

I'd maybe do a suburb close to Des Plaines if that is where your dh is looking. Check out Craigslist for houses. That's where we found this one. We are in the NW burb of Antioch, about 40 mins from Des Plaines and our house is 3200 sq ft- 4 bdrms, a huge loft, office, dining room, livingroom and big kitchen and we pay $1700/mo.

Chicago is really hit or miss. Its also super expensive. They have high taxes on food, license plates, city stickers.
post #9 of 15
While you might find cheaper housing in the far 'burbs, you aren't going to have much in the way of places to walk to, public transportation options, etc. You said you wanted "total urban living."

We live in West Lakeview, and can walk to the Whole Foods, public library, Brown Line L train stop, many restaurants, Starbucks, three or four different parks, pharmacy, etc etc. However, I think 3-bedrooms are higher than $1500 here (maybe more like $2K?). I would second trying in Lincoln Square or west of it.

On the other hand, Roscoe Village, Lakeview, and Lincoln Square are not diverse. They are predominantly white, just like Lincoln Park or Wrigleyville. Depending on how important diversity is to you, you might want to look at Rogers Park or Logan Square. Chicago is not the most integrated city, unfortunately. I second the recommendation on staying out of Uptown.
post #10 of 15
Yah, depending on where you are out here, it's not always much cheaper.

While we don't live anything near a "total urban" experience, we can walk to a local grocery (not the big chains), the rec center, several parks, library, doc, chiro, and more. The train to the city is 2 miles away (no bus, so we'd have to drive to catch it), and we are paying the same in rent, with double the living space here.

There are some extremely walkable suburban areas, and some that are walkable to the trains, but not an urban life at all
post #11 of 15
It sounds like DesPlaines might be a northern suburb? I don't know. So, that commute might not be fun for your dh. If there is a train near his work, perhaps you could drop him at the train on the days he has to go into the office? In any event, from Hyde Park, the Metra can get you to the museum campus in about 10-15 min depending on whether you are on the express train. And this is the Metra not the el. This train has a schedule. When traiffic is clear (not normally the case any time in the summer), you can whiz down Lake Shore Drive from HP in about 7 minutes. So, you could get to Whole Foods in about 10-15.

In walking distance around Hyde Park are two grocery stores and a produce store. The 2nd grocery just opened, so, I don't know what they carry, but the other two do carry organics. Plus, there are independent local organic produce co-ops with Hyde Park co-ops. There is also a farmer's market (there are tons all over the city, just visit the City's home page and search Farmer's Market and you'll see) on Thursdays from May-Oct. Plus you have easy access to the lake.

Traffic sucks. Thankfully, I work down town, I don't think I could handle it otherwise. I'd definitely be on the train. And there is a good commuter train service. As you may have read, Chicago has had a lot of cut backs in its public transportation system. It is definitely stressed since having had some routes cut back. However, between the Metra, the El and the bus service - and the free trolley around down town - getting around is fairly easy. Oh, and the bike path along the lake front is great, too. I biked from HP to Grant Park (down town lake front park) with my kiddo in a trailer.
post #12 of 15
Sorry - this turned out way longer than I expected!

I've lived in Des Plaines (about 6 years ago or so), Lincoln Square, Logan Square, and now Jefferson Park. If your DH ends up working in Des Plaines (yes, that's a suburb), and the office is in walking distance of the metra station I would look at what communities are on that Metra train line and possibly start from there. The train ride between the heart of the city and DP is very quick and much better than driving if that's an option. http://metrarail.com/content/metra/e...ystem_map.html

I do not think of Wicker Park as family friendly, though that assessment could be off. I think of WP as the Milwaukee/Damen/something intersection, and I absolutely despise driving through there. It's a madhouse with so many name brand/high end stores. To DP and I it looks like an up-and-coming Lincoln Park. But my opinion of WP is decidedly biased and I never lived there. It does have el/bus/highway access.

I LOVED living in Lincoln Square. There are several local coffee shops as well as Starbucks. Lots of independent stores and restaurants, a great park (Welles on Montrose between Western and Lincoln), a great (for Chicago) library, 2 brown line stops (Western and Damen), several bus lines, the Metra line that runs straight north/south isn't too far and could be walking distance depending on how you define it and where you are. Grocery shopping is better done by car, but there is a local grocery where you can get produce very inexpensive (we still go there). It is true that it is not the most diverse, but it is more diverse than Lincoln Park. That said, when I lived there I had a great 1 bed around $900 a month, the only utility I paid was electric. That was over 3 years ago.

Logan Square is up and coming. We left there because 1. We couldn't afford a house and 2. We weren't in walking distance of a park. To be 100% honest, we didn't feel comfortable letting my DSD (who lives in the far burbs) run around the neighborhood by herself either. However, the boulevard (Logan) is beautiful, there are some nice shops and restaurants, Starbucks (not sure about local coffee house), the el and buses and highway access. I can't remember how accessible grocery shopping was. Our 2.5 bed apt with garage space was $1,275 2 years ago. We paid electric and gas heat.

Jefferson Park - don't move here if you want urban living. My biggest mistake. It's a great family area, the schools are decent for Chicago, and I have my pick of pub trans and highway access. That's it Really, it's ok, but not what you are looking for.

Roscoe Village I LOVE but again, not very diverse, and expensive. Rogers Park/Edgewater you have to be really careful what block you are on. My coworker (and his wife and small daughter) have a condo in Rogers Park. He occasionally entertains us with stories. Not the kind of stories most people want when they are raising kids. However, he stresses that if you are on a good block and get to know your neighborhood, people really look out for eachother.

Because it's been mentioned - Park Ridge. I wish I'd moved here, even though it's not in the city. It has more of a city feel then JP. We go to the Trader Joe's here. Recently on a Sunday we had dinner before shopping. Watching out the window we were stunned by how walkable/family friendly it was. There were couples, singles, groups of kids, all different age ranges. PR has the metra, maybe bus?, and highway access. Metra gets you downtown easily, but you still need to figure how to get where you are going once you get downtown. I would expect PR to also have a decent park district/library/etc but I don't actually know.

If you have a car in the city expect to pay for the city sticker, and a zoned sticker if you have zones where you live (I never have). If you choose not to because you have a garage, you are taking a chance every time you park on the street for a store, restaurant, etc. Also expect you'll probably get some type of ticket at some point And yeah, traffic sucks.
post #13 of 15
Thread Starter 
I just got back from vacation and loved reading all the detailed responses!! It is incredibly helpful to hear from other mamas who live in the area. I'll be sharing all this info with DH and I'm sure I'll be coming back with more questions. Thank you all for taking the time to reply!
post #14 of 15
Hoping to revive this discussion because we are about to move to Chicago (also from the Boston area) and are looking for similar things as mija y mijo (aka, "total urban living"... being able to walk to food, parks, library, etc.).

What are people's thoughts on Oak Park or Evanston? I will be working downtown & DH will be with DS. We have one car but hate driving, so public transportation is a must.

We're also hoping to settle someplace long-term and are thinking ahead to where we'd like to send DS to school & schools (public) seem better in Oak Park & Evanston than anywhere in Chicago. Anyone raising their family in either 'burb?

PS - Mija y mijo, did you settle on a place to live? I heart Somerville & will be sad to leave it!
post #15 of 15
I love the Evanston area. I live just south of it in Rogers Park, which I think is an awesome neighborhood. It's the most diverse neighborhood in the city and there is tons to do and lots of amazing food. Some areas of it are considered less safe than others, so you should make sure you're in an area that you're comfortable with, but don't let that deter you! I've lived in most of the neighborhoods mentioned here--Lakeview, Wicker Park, Lincoln Square, and Logan Square. Rogers Park is by far my favorite, although Lincoln Square is pretty cool too.
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