The Bean sculpture in Chicago, Illinois

The Bean sculpture in Chicago, Illinois (Photo by Sawyer Bengtson on Unsplash)

When you think Illinois, chances are the first place that comes to mind is Chicago. But the Prairie State has so much more to offer. From cities to wetlands to rolling hills, Illinois has it all. Some of the best places to live in Illinois make a great home, thanks to several incredibly different communities that have unique things to offer.

With all the hard work that comes with moving, figuring out where you want to put down roots can be taken off your list. A recent study shows that one in eight Americans consider moving more stressful than jail. That could be a stretch, but if you know you want to check out Illinois as a potential spot, we’ve got you covered on the best communities to call home.

“With a population of over 12.67 million people, Illinois is attracting thousands of young professionals, families, and retirees to the area every year. Home to the city of Chicago, which is one of the largest cities in the nation, Illinois is prized for its abundance of economic opportunities and high quality of life,” says UpHomes. If you’re someone looking to have access to a little bit of everything, Illinois might be the choice for you.

If you don’t really care for all the variety, but do care for rich history and want to boast that you live in the same state that Abraham Lincoln over 20 years in, look no further. “Even though Lincoln was born in Kentucky, most people associate him with Illinois since this is the state where he began his political career. Lincoln was also living in Illinois when he first became the 16th President of the United States in the year 1861. Since the state takes pride in its link to this inspiring historical figure, there are many historical sites and museums in Illinois that are dedicated to President Abraham Lincoln,” adds UpHomes.

Regardless of your reasons, moving can be an overwhelming process, especially if you’re looking to move to a state that has so many great options. If you’re eyeing the Prairie State, StudyFinds set out to do the research for you, visiting 10 expert websites to put together this list of the best places to live in Illinois. If you’ve got your own suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments below!

The List: Best Places to Live in Illinois, According to Experts

1. Downtown Chicago

It’s no surprise that the Windy City takes first place. The dazzling city is the most populated in the state, and third in the United States. It stands out amongst the crowd of other big cities because of its versatility and price compared to ones like New York or Los Angeles.

Chicago Theater
Chicago Theater (Photo by Sawyer Bengtson on Unsplash)

“With a population of over 2.5 million people, Chicago is by far the largest city in Illinois. But for such a big metropolis, the cost of living, especially related to housing, is below what you might expect. There are over 200 neighborhoods in Chicago, and with decent public transportation it’s not a necessity to live downtown. Newcomers can choose between such places as Bucktown, Logan Square and Lincoln Park, which have their own mix of history, culture and scenic views,” adds Touropia.

And if you’re a sports lover, downtown Chicago would be a dream come true. “Chicago is also a hub for sports fans. Both the Cubs and White Sox have deep histories in the world of baseball. Fans also tirelessly support the Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks in good seasons and in bad,” writes UpNest.

Trip 101 likes the affordability: “Chicago made it to this list because of its low cost of living compared to other big cities in the country. It is not even in the 10 highest list. That means if you decide to live here, you will not spend so much on the basic necessities.”

2. Buffalo Grove

About 40 minutes north of downtown Chicago, Buffalo Grove is great for those who want the best of both worlds. A quiet neighborhood still filled with interesting things to do, and not far from downtown for when you want more excitement. “After school and work, all residents enjoy exploring Buffalo Grove. The peaceful neighborhood boasts beautiful architecture, leafy streets and lush parks. The 40,000 locals also make the most of the summer festivals that come into town,” says Touropia.

The peaceful vibes are perfect for those looking for a family-friendly, typical Midwestern area. “Crime rate is extremely low and the public education system is one of the best in the country, with a high school graduation rate of 95% and a solid ranking of 9/10 on GreatSchools. In a state that has been accused of having a fairly high unemployment rate, Buffalo Grove, small as it is, is one of the places that help keep the state average high,” points out the Crazy Tourist.

Trip 101 describes its perfection: “The place is known to be a lovely neighborhood. It has tree-lined avenues, breathtaking landscapes, and beautiful architecture for everyone to see. Add to this, a reliable school system and friendly residents and you have a perfect place to live in.”

3. Naperville

Naperville is another town within greater Chicago, boasting close proximity to downtown. It has plenty to offer for singles and families looking for a high quality of life. “Naperville’s proximity to Chicago is one of its advantages and why it is the best place to live for people who work in the Windy City. The road system makes it easy for you to go to any direction you want to. The roads are intertwined with many bridges that ply along the DuPage River. Naperville is also a great place to raise a family. There are many destinations here that offer children-centric features. One of these is Centennial Beach, which a man-made water attraction meant for families to have fun in. Another is the DuPage Children’s Museum, where exhibits are meant for your little ones,” says Trip 101.

Knoch Knolls Park in Naperville, Illinois
Knoch Knolls Park in Naperville, Illinois (Photo by David Mirabal on Unsplash)

If education happens to be a top priority for you and your family, the system here cannot be overlooked. “This Chicago suburb tied for the best high school graduation rate—96 percent. Of course with a Greatschools score of nine out of 10, it’s clear that a good education starts early here,” writes Movoto.

According to the Crazy Tourist, “Suffice to say Naperville is best suited for those who fancy more upscale quality of life, with a paycheck to match. If you can swing it, the high cost of living is well worth it. This is one of the safest cities in America, with 130 parks and sports complexes located here – not to mention multiple shopping districts.”

4.  Oak Park

This town, you guessed it, right by downtown, gives you the suburban life but with an urban feel. “Oak Park is easily one of the most sought-after places to call home in Illinois, and that is simply because there are no real downsides to living here,” says Placeaholic.

Despite its urban feel, you’re more likely to find a home here rather than apartment, so it’s much more suitable if you’re coming with a pack. “Because it is easy to buy a house here, most residents own their homes. This is a huge plus for those who have families to bring. The residents are open-minded and welcoming of newcomers to the neighborhood,” adds Trip 101.

According to the Crazy Tourist, “If you work in the third largest city in America or love playing there but prefer taking up residence just outside of it, few neighborhoods make better sense than Oak Park. The suburb of 52,080 residents ranks third overall when it comes to low crime rate, and juxtaposing this against Chicago makes this place practically a safe haven.”

5.  Springfield

The state capital is the famous home of Abraham Lincoln before he became President and moved to DC. Outside of the Chicago metro area, it’s the second largest city by population, being home to around 115,000 people. “Everything about Springfield is thriving, including its nightlife and attraction, and we won’t even get into the dozens of amenities that you will never grow bored of while living here,” says Placeaholic.

Illinois State Capitol Dome in Springfield
Illinois State Capitol Dome in Springfield (Photo by Andrew Adams on Unsplash)

If you really want to be close to the state’s history, living here would be best for you. “When living in Springfield, you should take the time to check out the capitol buildings. The Old State Capitol is now a state historic site. This building served as the state capital from 1839 through 1876. The Illinois State Capitol is a historic Greek Revival building that still serves its purpose today. Abraham Lincoln tried several cases in this building,” adds Apartment List.

“But the city’s vast history stretches beyond Lincoln and with a botanical garden and public parks, there’s no shortage of things to do. Locals can enjoy a lively culture and entertainment scene with three universities and a strong economy,” mentions Touropia.

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Sources: 

Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.

About Shyla Cadogan, RD

Shyla Cadogan is a DMV-Based acute care Registered Dietitian. She holds specialized interests in integrative nutrition and communicating nutrition concepts in a nuanced, approachable way.

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StudyFinds publishes digestible, agenda-free, transparent research summaries that are intended to inform the reader as well as stir civil, educated debate. We do not agree nor disagree with any of the studies we post, rather, we encourage our readers to debate the veracity of the findings themselves. All articles published on StudyFinds are vetted by our editors prior to publication and include links back to the source or corresponding journal article, if possible.

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8 Comments

  1. Christopher Callen says:

    You should emphasize THIS post is merely subjective and unscientific. Why? Such lists and rankings tend to reflect inherent biases for and against particular communities as opposed to others Who exactly are the alleged ‘ experts ’ ? What qualifications support their labeling as such and community assessments.

    Random data and statistics are often inaccurate, narrowly-focused, and organized merely to support a preconceived outcome. This post will likely receive lots of disagreement and disputes, for a variety of legitimate reasons, not only from numerous Illinois residents but outsiders too. Anything less than from independent and proven unbiased sources is highly questionable.

  2. D Babassi says:

    This list is a joke downtown Chicago is crime ridden and is completely unaffordable. I knew Oak Park was going to be on this list before I even saw the list because this article was written by somebody who is completely out of touch with the surrounding areas of Chicago. I don’t necessarily have a problem with Buffalo Grove but it wouldn’t even make my top 10 in the state of Illinois but it appears all this columnist is worried about is Northern Illinois. Naperville is pretty iffy it might be in the top 20 but it’s just an oversized shopping district with somewhat decent schools. I suggest finding someone next time who has a better understanding for the entire state of Illinois an Ambiance for neighborhoods and culture as opposed to somebody who’s just looking for a job to write things.

  3. Roger Olson says:

    True

  4. Tom McClennan says:

    Sorry, but this is utter BS. Illinois ranks as the 2nd highest state in the US (with CA as #1)… for people leaving the state! Citizens & businesses.

    I’m sure the author has good intentions… but this clearly is not true.

  5. Jennifer Leber says:

    Thanks for the info!!!

  6. Judy says:

    This list is odd. Chicago has huge crime and pissed off unsupported police force, gangs. Springfield has home valuation issues, Oak Park gang infested and over woke, Naperville is fairly nice but gangs from Aurora seep in and it is off the heroin highway of I88. No comment about Buffalo Grove.

  7. Jerry Budd says:

    Im from Rockford, Since when is Springfield the 2nd largest city in Illinois only at 115k ?!?!🤔🤔👎👎😆

  8. Anna Loveski says:

    How about the further from Chicago the better? People die in the center every day these days just as by-passers to the crime that is only growing lately, completely out of control without any persecutions from the local government who simply seems to adore the fact that innocent people get hurt.
    Suburbs, yes. Try Geneva, Batavia, Carpentersville, Dundee, Algonquin, St Charles, Winfield… And some more. This article is pure lies or perhaps someone wrote it 10 years ago with good intentions but only now it got published because of wait list, bureaucracy and politics that unfortunately work against residents these days.