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Chicago, Illinois is the third most populous city in the United States, behind only New York and Los Angeles. With approximately 2.7 million residents, Chicago can be a daunting place to move to. In fact, the city of Chicago is home to 77 district community areas and neighborhoods. That's 77 places to choose from when looking for a home. What an intimidating number! Here, we will try to make your decision a little easier by reviewing 12 of the neighborhoods, including some of the most popular.
Named after Thomas Edison, this neighborhood was the first to have electric streetlights in Chicago. Edison Park has a fairly good mix of those in the working class and the more affluent. Therefore, there's a combination of single-family homes, condos, bungalows, and flats. There's an overall vibe of friendliness, and shops and amenities are within walking distance. In fact, the neighborhood is knows for its restaurant row, and people come from all over the nearby area to eat there. There is also a nice park, and a couple of private and public grade schools in the area.
A very small neighborhood, Rockwell Crossing has a quaint feeling to it. It is bordered on the west side by the pretty Chicago River, which creates an escape from paved city blocks. Transportation is pretty easy, as the neighborhood is right on the Brown Line, and other lines are nearby. Apartments, single-family homes, and bungalows, many with 1920s to 1940s details, make up most of the area, with just a few shops and cafes. Shoppers, don't worry! Rockwell Crossing is near the Lincoln Avenue shopping district. Like Edison Park, there is a good private as well as public grade school in the area.
The Lakewood Balmoral neighborhood is a portion of the larger Edgewater area. It is made up mostly of residences that are very fun to look at. Many of them date back to the 1890s, and were considered to be modest alternatives to the big mansions on the lakeshore. The homes were built in several different styles, giving the area a very unique look. It has more of a suburb feel, even though it's in the city. Shopping is nearby, with stores, boutiques, and restaurants on Clark Street. There's one grade school in the area, and the Red Line and several bus lines make transportation accessible.
Settled by German immigrants, this neighborhood is a shopper and diner's dream. Roscoe Street is lined with different and interesting shops and restaurants, selling all sorts of different things. Homes in the area can get pricey, as many of the old homes have gotten expensive replacements. There are some apartments as well, though, and some good opportunities to buy a fixer-upper. The area is only 4 blocks from what used to be Riverview Park – an amusement park that closed in 1967. In fact, folks can visit Riverview Tavern, which is themed after the amusement park. The Brown Line runs through the area, and the Kennedy Expressway is about two miles away, making transportation easy enough. There's also an above-average elementary school in the area.
You won't find old houses here. In fact, the Lakeshore East neighborhood has been created only over the last decade. Made up mostly of high-rise condos and apartments, the area definitely represents urban life. The home of Millennium Park, there is plenty of access to the lakefront. As you can imagine, the views from some of the buildings can be wonderful. Every kind of transportation can be accessed nearby. However, the area could use some shops. While Michigan Avenue isn't too far away, there's not much for groceries and necessities close by. There's also not much for schools in the area, other than an upper-tier high school about a mile away.
During the building boom, Bridgeport, a working-class neighborhood, swelled with new housing. With the slowdown of the market, much of this new housing remains empty. The area is great for bargain-hunting homeowners, as well as young people and artists. There's a good mix of old ethnic restaurants and shops and younger places, and there are some more artsy places popping up. Even though the old neighborhood is full of old buildings and old traditions, it's becoming new again. The area also includes the old Stearns Quarry, which is now 27 acres of park. There are several schools in the area to choose from, and transportation is close by.
The small, curvy neighborhood of Marynook is located in the larger area of Avalon Park. A middle-class neighborhood, houses date back mostly to the 1950s and '60s. The curvy streets give it a more suburban feel, and it is home to a slightly famous skating rink. Called "The Rink," it is decorated with neon lights and banners featuring President Obama and Dr. Martin Luther King, and was featured in the 1997 movie Soul Food. Scenes from another movie in 2005, Roll Bounce, were shot at a house in the neighborhood. Transportation is not bad, and there are schools in the area.
This neighborhood is famous for its architecture (including a castle) and its Irish heritage. It is a neighborhood full of families, as houses range from large older mansions to small bungalows. There are many houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, so the area draws people who are interested in architecture from all over. There's a variety of things to do, from visiting the free Vanderpeel Art Collection to grabbing a five-flavor ice cream cone from the Original Rainbow Cone, which originated in 1926. Transportation is easy to find, and there is a plethora of schools around.
This neighborhood is home to the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field. Therefore, there's a lot of dining and entertainment around the area, both on game days and off. Some shopping can be found, but a lot of it is Cubs related. However, continue on down the streets and you'll find rows of pretty houses lined with trees. Since transportation is important for fans getting to the field, it is easy to find in Wrigleyville. There are also several schools in the area.
If you live more of a life of affluence, the aptly named Gold Coast neighborhood is for you. The area is home to the Magnificent Mile, which is known for high-end shopping and beautiful architecture. It is also home to the famous Navy Pier and John Hancock Building. Full of trendy bars and restaurants, the area commonly sees new mansions being built alongside the old ones. Many famous mansions, in fact, including that of Hugh Hefner, are in this area. Oh, and don't forget the coast, featuring long beaches and magnificent views. There are a couple of schools in the area.
Shoppers and diners are sure to find their fill in this neighborhood, where restaurants, shops, and entertainment is plentiful. The 1871 Great Chicago Fire affected this area, so everything was built after that. There are plenty of theaters, and festivals and fairs are not scarce in the summer. Shopping is also plentiful, with mostly boutiques and original shops rather than chain stores. If you're looking for a neighborhood where there's always a place to be and fun to be had, this is the one for you. Properties can be geared toward the more affluent, but not quite as much as the Gold Coast. Mostly professionals and families live in the area.
Wicker Park gets its name from the 4-acre park, created with land donated to the city by Charles and Joel Wicker. It is a great neighborhood for families, as it has lots of restaurants and shops, health care centers, day care centers, schools, and churches. It is full of buildings that date back to many years ago, as well as new ones. It is affordable for young professionals, families, and students. It also holds many great spots for entertainment, including galleries and theaters. The Kennedy Expressway runs through the neighborhood, so getting around isn't a huge problem.
Want to learn more about Chicago? Check out our Chicago Suburbs article.