Moving to Illinois - Best Places to Live in Illinois | My Move

Illinois is a diverse state, home to one of the nation’s three largest cities, idyllic country living and an ever-expanding ring of suburban areas mostly surrounding Chicago.

Moving Advice

Depending on where you are moving from, moving to Illinois can either be a big adjustment, or a minor one. Here are some tips to figure out how you should prepare.

Be aware of the weather. If you are moving from Miami you may need a new wardrobe. If you are moving to Illinois from Minnesota you are likely already well-equipped. Time your move around the seasons. Make your move between late spring and early fall if it is at all possible. While you have no guarantee it will not be snowing or below zero in May, it is less likely than in February.

If you are moving to one of the larger cities, the days and times you move are important. Traffic congestion will vary from neighborhood to neighborhood, as does the rush-hour congestion in major cities. For example, in Chicago, Fridays see an earlier rush hour than during the rest of the week. Moving to IL outside of Chicago, or other large cities, there is less need to worry about traffic.

If you are moving to Illinois with any sort of moving container or a large truck, you may also need permits to leave them parked on the street. If you are moving to Chicago, for instance, you should contact your alderman’s office to get “no parking” signs. You need to do this several days in advance and should have identification and proof of residency on hand. Choosing the time you arrive and where you plan to park the vehicle with care will help you get the “no parking” signs. You can find who the alderman in your area is at CityofChicago.org. If you are moving to a rural area, you are less likely to need any sort of permit.

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Cities and Metro Areas

Living in Illinois can mean living in a large city or a rural area where the nearest neighbor is out of sight. Chicago is large and sprawling, and yet the city manages to have something of a small-town flavor. There are cities based on industry and transportation. There are others, like the Illinois half of the “Quad Cities,” that have made a reputation with antiques. There are upscale communities on the North Shore (the area north of Chicago) and also college towns like Champaign. As you might expect, it is usually cheaper to live in the smaller cities or villages and towns. Those moving to Illinois will find there is an area for every taste. 

Full City/Metro Area Report

Cost of Living

When it comes to cost of living in Illinois, it isn’t the most expensive state, nor is it the cheapest. Likewise, cost of living in Illinois can vary wildly from one area of the state to another. This is especially true when comparing rural versus city living. Rural is cheaper for some things—like gasoline and housing prices. You can find details about how various locations in Illinois compare to where you live now by using an online cost of living calculator. Cost of living by state can be deceptive because, in large, diverse states, different areas can have different costs.

In-Depth Report

Highways and Public Transport

Chicago is frequently listed as one of the top three or four worst cities for traffic in the USA. Do not fret; the trains are a simple, relatively cheap option in Chicago and nearby areas. The Chicago Transit Authority is the entity responsible for bus and light rail (referred to as the “L”) transportation in the greater Chicago area. The CTA is the second largest public transportation system in the United States. There are currently eight train lines which are fairly easy to navigate, with rail service to both of the city’s airports.

For those in the many of the cities around Chicago, there is Metra. Beginning in 1984, the name “Metra” was used to unify all the previously private passenger rail lines that serviced Chicago and nearby communities. There are 11 Metra lines with 240 stops. Metra services cities like Waugkeegan, Aurora (which is at the very end of one line) and many others. It’s a great way to commute to cities and towns, as well as near neighbors. Those moving to Illinois, especially Northeastern Illinois, should be aware of Metra.

Of course, Chicago isn’t the only Illinois city with public transportation. Aurora, like many other communities outside Chicago, is served by PACE. PACE serves over 280 municipalities and six counties. It covers 3,500 square miles and is one of the largest bus services in North America. It focuses on Chicago suburbs—near and far. It has buses, vanpools and other services available. When moving to Illinois—especially in Northeastern Illinois—check to see if PACE service is available near you.

Other cities have efficient, if small, public transportation. The Springfield Mass Transit District has 17 daytime bus routes, a Saturday-only route to one of the area’s larger parks (Southwind Park), and five night routes. The night routes run Monday to Friday with the first bus leaving the “transfer center” at 6:45PM and the last at 11:45PM. The routes tend to go to major traffic areas like work centers, medical facilities, shopping centers and other similar places.

Chicago has two airports, O’Hare and Midway. O’Hare International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the world. Midway Airport was, until 1997, a small, almost quaint airport. Now it is a full-sized big city airport. You can check flights at these or search for smaller airports in other parts of the state at IllinoisAirport.org.

There are twelve Interstate Highways that traverse Illinois. In Chicago, some of the interstate highways merge with state roads or other highways and toll roads. Sign up for an IPass which will allow you to avoid stopping for tolls.

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Relocation Resources

While there are common themes throughout the state, Illinois jobs differ from city to city. Learn more about the employment opportunities in each of these major cities to help guide your relocation.

Chicago Jobs

Many of Illinois’ jobs are in Chicago for the simple reason that it is the largest city. Jobs in this city are often with the US government—the largest single employer in the city. Close on its heels is the healthcare industry, supplying a large amount of jobs in Chicago. The largest private employers are Advocate Healthcare Systems and AT&T. The former employs over 18,000 people and the latter around 15,000, according to recent statistics published in Crain’s Chicago Business. Abbot Laboratories, J.P. Morgan, Chase, American Airlines, United Airlines (their parent company United Holdings), Illinois Toolworks and Allstate are also major employers. 

Job Search and Relocation Advice

Climate

Illinois gets cold. This fact rarely shocks anyone. The average temperature, for the state, in winter is 28.1 degrees Fahrenheit. Spring is warmer with an average of 51.6 degrees. When moving to Illinois, you should be aware that “spring” doesn’t mean “warm.” In the early part of spring, you may well find temperatures much more in line with winter. Many a resident can also tell tales of heading out to a Cubs or White Sox game in June in shorts and short sleeves only to find temperatures dip into the 30s. While long-time residents and natives take the cold in stride, it is always a good idea to have a jacket on hand, especially after the first warm day of winter when everyone has wishfully convinced themselves the cold temperatures are gone until the Fall.

Moving to Illinois means you are moving into snow territory. Snowfall in the greater Chicago area ranges from 27.1 inches in Aurora to 37.1 inches at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. People from areas where it does not snow will need to familiarize themselves with how to handle driving conditions and snow removal.

Education

According to Northern Illinois University’s Illinois Interactive Report Care (IIRC), 76.50 percent of Illinois students meet or exceed grade level standards on all standardized tests. This score is a composite of all tests and grade levels. After moving to Illinois, you can find a list of schools from the entire state with test scores, demographic information, enrollment number and other rankings at the IIRC website.

Over two million students are enrolled in Illinois public schools and the state has 868 school districts. NIU also maintains an “Honor Roll” which tracks high performing schools in low-income areas, schools making substantial academic gains over three years, and schools that have maintained high academic standards for at least three years. 

There are a number of lists of the “best” schools in Illinois. The state gives out a report card, as do large newspapers. When moving to Illinois, you need to look at the criteria used to compile the lists and the schools. Many will be charter or magnet schools that pick the best students, rather than schools based on geography. Some schools take children with bad academic backgrounds and make them good students. Many of those schools do not choose children to educate but educate the kids who come to them regardless. Nonetheless, there are the lists and schools that appear near the top in all of them include (in no particular order):

Elementary Schools

  • Albers Elementary School, Albers
  • Brook Forest Elementary School in Oak Brook
  • Decatur Classical Elementary School in Chicago
  • Edison Elementary Regional Gifted Center,  Chicago
  • Keller Elementary, Chicago
  • Goodfield Elementary School, Goodfield
  • Lenart Elementary School, Chicago

High Schools

  • Northside Coll. Prep, Chicago
  • Walter Payton College Prep, Chicago
  • New Trier Township, New Trier
  • Winnetka High School, Winnetka
  • Deerfield Township, Deerfield
  • Lane Technical High School, Chicago
  • Young Magnet High School, Chicago

Illinois is also home to a number of world class universities like Northwestern University, University of Chicago, University of Illinois, DePaul University, Loyola University and many others. 

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Government

There are numerous state and local government resources to assist you in moving and settling in to Illinois.

One of the first things you should do after a move is to update your driver’s license. When moving to Illinois you can use your out-of-state drivers’ license for 90 days. If you have a commercial driver’s license, you need to replace it within 30 days. The state requires you take a vision test, a written test and, in some cases, a driving examination. You need proper identification and proof of Illinois residency.

You will also need to get Illinois tags on your car, and the process for this is much the same as other states. In various cities in Illinois, including Chicago, you need a “city sticker.”  These stickers are generally good for a year and are required of all vehicle owners residing in the city. In Chicago, they sometimes allow a resident to park in certain zones near their home. You have 30 days to purchase a city sticker in Chicago without being assessed a late fee. From June 1 through July 15 you can get a sticker online. At other times, you need to make the purchase in person. You will need documentation to show your move date. The city stickers cost is going up in 2012 but the cost can be pro-rated when transferring a vehicle from out of state.