Moving to Chicago? The Windy City is well-known for its culture, its sports, and for a bustling city vibe, but it also has a lot to offer to families who are seeking both family-friendly neighborhoods as well as the benefits of city life. There are top-notch universities to start, play dates can be held at amazing places like a world-class zoo or at the imaginative Little Beans Cafe– where parents can plug into the wifi, sip some coffee, AND watch their kids play on the imaginative indoor equipment. To help narrow down your search (there are 77 distinct neighborhoods in Chicago!), here is our list of the 5 best Chicago neighborhoods for families in 2016.
1. Downers Grove
Rated by Forbes as one of America’s friendliest towns, Downers Grove has gotten its fair share of attention for being wonderfully livable. There are plenty of playgrounds and public green spaces to keep the kids entertained, and the excellent schools here were rated a 9 out of 10 by GreatSchools.org — meaning a top-notch education with year-round school programs available, whether you choose the public school system or one of many private or charter schools.
There are around 150 restaurants in the neighborhood to make date nights fun and interesting — everything from the family-friendly diners to the more modern and upscale Barbakoa, a “tacos and tequila bistro”. And with a high safety ranking for this neighborhood, you’ll feel comfortable strolling the streets or heading to the park after your dinner, too.
The cost of living in Wheaton is a bit higher than some of Chicago’s other suburbs, but what you get for the price tag is worth it. With extremely low crime rates, a stellar school system (also a 9/10 from GreatSchools.org), and one of the best public libraries in the country, Wheaton ranks highly among the best neighborhoods in Chicago. In fact, the top four schools in the neighborhood are public — but there are plenty of private options too, including Montessori and religiously-affiliated schools.
What’s more, there is over 800 acres of green space and 52 parks, as well as a bustling “downtown” of boutiques and restaurants. Try the Gia Mia Pizza Bar. They have gluten free crusts and a host of options besides pizza, too.
3. Buffalo Grove
Even though it is one of the fastest growing neighborhoods in Chicago, Buffalo Grove still maintains its small-town character with tree-lined streets, summer farmers’ markets, and plenty of family-friendly housing available. The school systems in Buffalo Grove also get a sky-high score of 9/10, and this part of Chicago has an abundance of both excellent public schools as well as private options — including the Buffalo Grove Montessori School as well as the Jewish Torah Academy. The LimeLight Cafe is also an Arts Council-sponsored event where teenagers can perform at the Buffalo Grove Town Center — so if your kids have talents they can show them off in their neighborhood.
There are a fair number of restaurants in downtown Buffalo Grove, but you won’t see quite as much of a city buzz there — so expect more mom and pop family-style restaurants and smaller-scale shopping.
Dubbed “The Arboretum Village” for all of its green spaces, as well as an actual Arboretum, living in Chicago doesn’t mean leaving the trees behind. Lisle is a perfect neighborhood for families who want access to natural landscapes as well as the energy of the city. This neighborhood is home to a good mix of both families as well as Chicago young professionals, and its downtown area shows it — with a bustling nightlife and a breadth of successful businesses, it’s highly walkable with its eco-friendly prairie landscaping. Have some authentic family tradition Mexican on the patios at Yerbabuena, and then satiate the family’s cravings for sweets at the Traviata Chocolate and Gelato Cafe.
Beautiful family homes spread out over large, luxurious lots make this neighborhood an excellent destination if you’re relocating to Chicago but still want your sense of space. There are ample parks and trails for recreation, including the Florsheim Nature Preserve and the Rivershire Nature Center, the schools here recently earned the neighborhood “one of the best places for education in the Chicago area” based on test scores and money spent per student. Downtown Lincolnshire is a bustling family-friendly village, with plenty of restaurant options for the whole family. Many of the restaurants here are Chicago favorites with a few locations throughout the city, like Potbelly Sandwich Works or the Walker Bros. Original Pancake House.
If you’re moving long distance to Chicago and need some insight on finding an apartment, check out our other blog post. To help you with your move, check out the most recommended moving companies in Chicago.