Welcome to the ultimate guide for anyone considering a move to the lively city of Chicago. Moving to Chicago can be thrilling and overwhelming, but fear not – Redfin has you covered. Whether you’re drawn to the mesmerizing skyline, the deep-dish pizza, or the rich cultural scene, you should know some crucial things before calling the Windy City your new home. From navigating the diverse neighborhoods to understanding the unpredictable weather, we’ll equip you with valuable insights to ensure a smooth transition. So, whether you’re moving into your new studio apartment in Chicago or your new house in the city, buckle up and get ready to uncover the essential tips and tricks to make your move to Chicago an unforgettable experience.
1. The cost of living is high
One of the most crucial things to know before moving to Chicago is the the high cost of living in Chicago. The expenses in Chicago can be steep. In fact, the cost of living is 19% higher than the national average. Housing costs in particular are 50% more than the national average and tend to be most expensive in desirable neighborhoods like the Loop, River North, or Lincoln Park. Additionally, everyday expenses such as groceries, transportation, and healthcare are generally pricier in the city. When planning a budget for living in Chicago, it’s essential to consider these factors. Additionally, it’s worth noting that the farther you venture outside the city, the more affordable suburbs you’ll discover.
2. There is a great sense of community in the city
From vibrant neighborhood festivals and local initiatives to a rich tapestry of cultural diversity, the city fosters a welcoming atmosphere that creates lasting connections and a shared sense of belonging.
“What sets Chicago apart is its remarkable sense of community, where people come together, support one another, and create lasting connections,” says Jodie Baudek from Essence of Life Chicago, an integrative wellness company. “If you plan to make this city your home, research and find the neighborhood that resonates with your spirit. That’s where you’ll discover your tribe, your people, and the place where you’ll truly thrive.”
3. Chicago is a food lover’s paradise
The city is renowned for its deep-dish pizza, an iconic staple that has gained worldwide recognition. However, Chicago’s food offerings extend far beyond pizza, and it’s great to know before you move to there. From neighborhood hot dog stands to Michelin-starred restaurants, the city boasts a plethora of culinary delights that cater to every palate. With its rich cultural heritage, Chicago showcases an incredible variety of international cuisines, including Italian, Mexican, Chinese, Indian, and more. The city is also known for its bustling food markets, such as the famous Chicago French Market and the revitalized Chicago Riverwalk, where visitors can savor artisanal foods and local specialties.
4. You’ll find many charming neighborhoods
Chicago neighborhoods are brimming with charm and offer a unique blend of history, culture, and community. From the vibrant and artistic Avalon Park to the picturesque and diverse South Shore, these southern neighborhoods showcase architectural gems, local eateries, and vibrant street life, making them a must-visit for anyone seeking an authentic Chicago experience.
Abbey Brown, a local soap artisan shares, “Walking, biking, and an easy commute by bus or train are how we roll here in Chicago. Once here, make your way to find creative neighborhoods with architectural delights. Each area has specialty shops, unique flavors, and experiences that will draw you in perfectly, making Chicago your home base.”
If you’re in the Beverly neighborhood, start your south-side adventure at the 99th and Wood Street stations district. First stop, fill your belly with the succulent South Side Short Rib Grilled Cheese from Afro Joes’. Next, head straight to the award-winning Five-Star Cakewalk Chicago flagship store, where baking enthusiasts can find essential supplies for mixing up delicious traditions and classes from Chef Lori to elevate your skills.
5. There are hidden gems throughout the city’s architecture
Chicago’s architecture is a stunning testament to the city’s rich history and innovative spirit. From the iconic skyscrapers of the Loop to the grandeur of Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs, Chicago’s architectural landscape is a breathtaking blend of classic elegance and bold modernity.
“Chicago is known for its architecture, but less known is that many of the historic buildings have lobbies open to the public,” says Chicago Private Tours and Productions. “This includes the restored-to-1890s Monadnock Building and the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed atrium of the Rookery Building. Inside the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel lobby, you can easily imagine the wealthy elite drinking Scotch by the fireplaces while they divide the city.”
6. Sports are a huge part of Chicago life
If you’re a sports enthusiast, Chicago is for you. The city is home to several iconic franchises, including the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago White Sox in Major League Baseball, the Chicago Bears in the National Football League, the Chicago Bulls in the National Basketball Association, and the Chicago Blackhawks in the National Hockey League. Whether you’re a baseball, football, basketball, or hockey fan, there is a Chicago team to cheer on. The city’s sports culture is deeply ingrained, and attending a game at one of the historic venues, such as Wrigley Field or Soldier Field, is an experience unlike any other.
7. Chicago is a hub for car enthusiasts
With its bustling auto scene and many automotive events, Chicago is a haven for car enthusiasts. From the annual Chicago Auto Show, showcasing the latest models and innovations, to the thriving car culture and regular meetups, the city offers an exciting haven for those passionate about all things automotive.
“For automotive enthusiasts, you’ll be pleased to know that Chicago offers a thriving car culture,” shares Matt Farnsworth from Vintage Ltd., a men’s clothing company. “You’ll find numerous car clubs, auto shows, and events throughout the year, including the renowned Chicago Auto Show held annually at McCormick Place. Additionally, this year’s NASCAR race will be held in downtown Chicago, providing an exciting opportunity for racing fans to experience the thrill of high-speed action in the city’s heart.”
8. You’ll find the city full of robust history and culture
Chicago’s rich history, from trading post to innovative industry hub, contributes to its robust and captivating legacy. Renowned architecture, world-class museums, thriving music and theater scenes—all contribute to the vibrant cultural legacy of the city.
The Firehouse Dream, a local space for BIPOC creatives, shares, “As a community-centered organization, the robust history and culture is important to know before moving to Chicago. As a diverse city, it provides various cultural experiences through food, art, and community-led projects that bring awareness to each neighborhood, like Humboldt Park, Bronzeville, Chinatown, and more. Consider how you can use food, music, and activities to learn more about all the beautiful culture here.”
9. The weather can be hard to adjust to
The weather in Chicago is famously unpredictable, with rapid changes that can occur within hours. Chicago’s weather demands preparedness year-round as residents and visitors face sudden temperature drops, snowstorms, heatwaves, and thunderstorms.
When you’re ready to beat the summer heat or take a break from the bitter cold, take a sweet retreat at Sat Nam Yoga. Located just 10 minutes west of the hustle and bustle of the lake and shopping district, this quiet oasis provides a perfect escape. Check out a yoga class or sound bath to take a rest at this popular Chicago healing sanctuary.
10. There are various housing options available
Chicago offers diverse housing options to suit different preferences and budgets. From high-rise apartments in the downtown area to charming brownstones in historic neighborhoods like Lincoln Park and Lake View, there are options for everyone in Chicago. Suburban areas surrounding the city provide spacious single-family homes and townhouses, ideal for families or those seeking a quieter lifestyle. Moreover, the city has witnessed a rise in contemporary and upscale apartment complexes, offering amenities like concierge services.
11. Plenty of efficient public transportation can be found
Chicago boasts a robust and efficient public transportation system that caters to the needs of its residents. The city’s trains, buses, and options for commuters create a reliable transportation network covering neighborhoods and suburbs conveniently. The iconic ‘L’ train system, operated by the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), serves as the backbone of the city’s public transit, connecting downtown with various corners of the metropolis. Commuters can easily navigate the city using color-coded train lines, which provide quick and affordable transportation. Apart from the train system, an extensive bus network covers nearly all city areas, providing flexible options. The Metra rail system provides reliable service for those commuting from the suburbs, connecting downtown Chicago with the surrounding areas.
12. There are plenty of parks and beautiful viewpoints
With stunning parks and captivating viewpoints, the Windy City provides residents and visitors a picturesque escape from urban bustle. The city is renowned for its expansive lakefront, boasting a series of interconnected parks along Lake Michigan. Millennium Park’s iconic Cloud Gate sculpture, known as “The Bean,” and Grant Park’s serene Buckingham Fountain offer endless opportunities. The Lincoln Park and Garfield Park Conservatories display breathtaking botanicals, while the Chicago Riverwalk offers a scenic pathway with gardens. With its abundance of green spaces, iconic landmarks, and breathtaking viewpoints, Chicago has a lot to offer.