The author, Lea Rose Allbaugh looking out at the river in Chicago

Moving to Chicago? 25 Tips & Things to Know (By a Local)

Are you thinking about moving to Chicago? You’ve come to the right place. 

I’m a Chicago local who ended up moving here after just one visit. In this article, I share all the top tips and information about Chicago I think you should know before moving. 

Chicago is a vibrant city filled with diverse people, places, and things to do. The people here are friendly and there’s a fun, yet down-to-earth energy that makes it the perfect city to call home.

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25 Tips for Moving to Chicago

There Are Tons of Things to Do

Colorful show during the Art on The Mart at night in Chicago
ART on THE MART—a free event that takes place along the Chicago River

Thoughts of the Chicago Cubs, deep-dish pizza, and images of “the bean” may come to mind when considering moving to the Windy City. But trust me, there’s so much more to Chicago than meets the eye. 

You’ll find a diverse range of things to do in Chicago. Think art and theater performances, comedy shows, sporting events, recreational activities, festivals, museums, and so much more. 

Chicago also has its fair share of free and budget-friendly activities like the attractions in Lincoln Park, ART on THE MART, and others. You’ll never be bored living in Chicago.

The People Are Friendly

People wandering on a market in West Loop
People milling about at a market in the West Loop (photo: Page Light Studios / Shutterstock)

Friendly, midwestern hospitality is one of the main things that sets Chicago apart from other large cities. Most of the people here are nice and down-to-earth. 

You can expect friendly small talk with locals at restaurants, grocery stores, and other places. This friendly atmosphere is amazing considering the culture of similar large cities.

Chicago’s Cost of Living is Lower Than Comparable Cities

Don’t get me wrong, the cost of living in Chicago is still higher than the national average. However, the cost of living in Chicago is cheaper when compared to cities like New York City or Los Angeles

Average annual salaries in Chicago are anywhere between about $50,000 and $75,000. The average rent hovers around $2,000/month. This being said, rent prices vary by neighborhood and there is a decently wide range of housing options.

Chicago Has a Great Food Scene

A plate of hamachi crudo served in Girl and the Goat
The hamachi crudo at Girl and the Goat, one of Chicago’s best restaurants

Chicago’s food scene is truly awesome. Chicago restaurants offer cuisines from around the world that are varied and diverse. You’ll find everything from classics like deep-dish pizza and Garrett Popcorn to Michelin-Star restaurants and everything in between. 

The West Loop is Chicago’s go-to foodie neighborhood. Neighborhoods like Wicker Park, River North, and Logan Square are great food neighborhoods, too. 

Chicago is Diverse

People sitting on a staircase along the Chicago River
People gathered downtown along the Chicago River (photo: Thomas Barrat / Shutterstock)

Chicago is a diverse city. Chicago’s population is about 45% White, 30% Black or African American, 29% Latino or Hispanic, and 7% Asian, as reported by a recent census. The age breakdown is pretty balanced and dispersed as well. 

You can meet people from all backgrounds and walks of life in Chicago, and this cultural diversity helps make the city culturally rich and unique.

Chicago is Walkable and Bikeable

Bikes parked along the Lakefront Trail in Chicago
Biking along the Lakefront Trail is one of the best things to do in Chicago

Chicago has a walk score of 77 and a bike score of 72. 

It’s safe to say the Windy City is a walkable and bikeable one. Some of the most walkable neighborhoods include the Loop, Lincoln Park, the near North Side, Wicker Park & Bucktown, and Ukrainian Village. This being said, the majority of Chicago neighborhoods are walkable once you’re in them. 

Bike lanes are also located across the city. You can definitely bike to get around the city, just be mindful of cars and other safety precautions. 

Public Transportation in Chicago is Good

View at the Damen train stop in Wicker Park during a sunny morning
The Damen train stop in Wicker Park

Chicago has excellent public transportation overall, and taking it is one of the easiest ways to get around Chicago

Local trains and buses are operated by the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and train lines and bus routes are well spread throughout the city. The train is commonly referred to as “the L” and there are eight lines in total, all of which reach the downtown Chicago “Loop.”

Chicago is Driveable

View of cars driving at the Lake Shore Drive
Driving on Lake Shore Drive

Chicago’s overall driveability is another reason to love living in Chicago. Driving in cities can be a nightmare, but driving in Chicago isn’t too bad, especially once you get the hang of it. 

We have some hectic highways and drivers are a bit impatient, but Chicago is still pretty driveable in terms of things like day trips, running errands, and visiting Lake Michigan beaches. Basically, just know that you can get by in Chicago without a car, but it comes in handy to have one. 

👉 Pro Tip: Most street parking in Chicago can be purchased through the ParkChicago app. Be sure to download this app beforehand if you plan on scouting Chicago and having your car.

There Are Tons of Great Chicago Neighborhoods

View from a boardwalk in Lincoln Park
The nature boardwalk in Lincoln Park

The range of diverse neighborhoods is one of the best parts of living in Chicago. There are 77 designated community areas and each one has a different vibe. The downtown Chicago Loop is where most visitors spend their time, but I urge visitors and potential residents to venture outside of this area. 

Lincoln Park and Gold Coast are affluent neighborhoods on Chicago’s north side. West Loop, West Town, and Wicker Park are trendier neighborhoods to the west. South Loop and Hyde Park are good neighborhoods to the south.

Chicago Has a Rich History and Sense of Community

Piggybacking off the last tip, Chicago offers a welcomed sense of community in most neighborhoods. The kind of vibe where you become a regular at your local coffee shop and local farmers market vendors know you by name. Much of this sense of community comes from the history that each neighborhood has, and continues to hold on to. 

The Chicago Housing Market is a Little Tight

View oh houses at the Wicker Park & Bucktown neighborhood
Brownstones in Wicker Park & Bucktown

Anyone moving to Chicago should know that the housing market here is competitive, but it’s not quite as cutthroat as New York City. 

Winter is the best time to move to Chicago if you’re looking for the cheapest prices and the least amount of competition. Summer tends to be the busiest time to move to Chicago. 

My tip for those looking to rent when moving to Chicago is to know what you’re looking for, be decisive, and have all your documentation ready. This way, you can move quickly if you find a place you like. 

There Are Different Ways to Find Housing

The homepage of Domu website
Domu, an apartment website for Chicago

Looking for a place to live in a new city can be stressful, but you should know that there are a variety of ways to look for houses and apartments. is a popular site, but you should check out and as well. 

You can also check property management sites like Peak Properties, directly. Another option is to check Facebook groups for different neighborhoods to see if anyone is looking to sublease, searching for a roommate, etc. And if you can tour a property in person, do so. 

👉 Pro Tip: Figure out what neighborhood you want to live in, and then go from there. Our Where to Stay in Chicago guide is a great resource for scouting. 

Chicago Has Two Airports: O’Hare and Midway

View of the Hall of Flags in Terminal 3 on an international airport in Chicago
The Hall of Flags in Terminal 3

Chicago is home to two international airports: Chicago O’Hare International Airport and Chicago Midway International Airport. “The L” has lines that go to both. The Blue Line will take you to O’Hare and the Orange Line will take you to Midway. 

O’Hare is a bigger airport and services more airlines, but Midway is a good option for regional flights. Regardless, having access to both airports is convenient. 

Chicago is a Sports City

View during a game at Wrigley Field in Chicago
Wrigley Field (photo: Steve Broer / Shutterstock)

Chicagoans love their sports. And it’s easy to see why with seven professional teams and over 100 college sports teams. Chicago has two major league baseball teams: the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago White Sox. The Chicago Bulls are another household name for basketball. 

Other popular sports teams include the Chicago Blackhawks hockey team and the Chicago Bears football team. 

Chicago Has Great Recreation and Access to Nature

People enjoying their day under the clear blue sky in Ohio Street Beach
Ohio Street Beach—one of many beaches that makes living in Chicago so great

Chicago offers some truly unmatched opportunities for outdoor recreation and access to nature within the city. Lake Michigan and the Chicago River have pedestrian pathways like the Lakefront Trail and the Chicago Riverwalk. You can enjoy activities like boating, kayaking, and paddle boarding in the warmer months. 

There are also numerous parks in Chicago, which offer a peaceful escape from the hustle of the city. Grant Park and Lincoln Park are the two largest parks. 

Chicago Events Are Aplenty

People watching Cautious Clay performing at the Taste of Randolph Street Festival
Cautious Clay performing at the Taste of Randolph Street Festival
People gathered to watch Chicago Air and Water Show
People gathered for the Chicago Air and Water Show

Chicago has events going on throughout the city and the year. Some are major events that take place in Millennium Park and Grant Park are Lollapalooza and the Chicago Blues Festival. The Taste of Chicago is another major event and the world’s largest food festival. 

Aside from these big-name festivals, Chicago hosts smaller music festivals, cultural festivals, holiday festivals, and more. Many of these festivals and events take place across the city, and attending is a great way to get involved in the community and explore different neighborhoods

Chicago Has World-Class Museums

A T-Rex skull displayed at the Field Museum
T-Rex skull at the Field Museum

The museums in Chicago are truly amazing, and there’s something for everyone. Places like the Art Institute, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and Pilsen’s National Museum of Mexican Art are perfect for art lovers. 

The Museum of Science and Industry, Field Museum, and Adler Planetarium are fantastic for those interested in all things science and history. Families will love the Shedd Aquarium, the Lincoln Park Zoo, and the Chicago Children’s Museum at Navy Pier.  

The Architecture is Amazing

The Tribune Tower from the Chicago Riverwalk
View of Tribune Tower from the Chicago Riverwalk

Chicagoland is home to incredible architecture that breathes character and life into the city. Factors like the Great Chicago Fire contributed to the city attracting architects from around the world during the 19th century and after. The world’s first skyscraper was even built in Chicago. 

Everything from towering skyscrapers to ornate museums and quirky houses makes up Chicago’s urban landscape. Some examples are the Willis Tower, Tribune Tower, Art Institute, and Robie House. The city’s architecture is just one more thing to admire about living in Chicago.

Winter is Harsh

View of the frozen Lake Michigan during winter season in Chicago
Lake Michigan, iced over

Chicago has some seriously cold winters, there’s no way to sugarcoat it. December through February are the coldest months. Snow typically covers the ground and the sky is often white or gray for days on end during this time of year.

The harsh Chicago winters are unfortunately unavoidable. The best way to combat them is with some warm clothing and planned activities to help beat any winter blues.

Summer Makes the Winter Worth it

People enjoying their summer at Montrose Beach
Swimming at Montrose Beach

Almost any Chicagoan will tell you that the summers make the brutal winters worth it. The energy in Chicago is unmatched during the summer, and the city really comes alive. 

People spill out onto the streets to soak up the sunshine and outdoor patios and rooftop bars are buzzing. The beaches along Chicago’s lakefront are also a huge bonus. I truly think summer is the best time of year in Chicago

Chicago Has Good Educational Institutions

Colorful flowers at the University of Chicago in Hyde Park
The beautiful campus at the University of Chicago in Hyde Park (photo: EQRoy / Shutterstock)

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) currently rank as an above-average school district. Over 300,000 students are enrolled throughout CPS’ more than 600 schools. Some of the nation’s top high schools are located in Chicago, and a variety of private schools, charter schools, and other educational institutions can be found here. 

Aside from K-12, the city boasts top-notch universities like the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, Loyola University Chicago, and others. Overall, Chicago offers good education options for pre-K through college students.

Chicago Has a Good Job Market

View of commuters in Chicago after their work hours
Commuters heading home for the day (photo: Page Light Studios / Shutterstock)

Chicago has a large and strong economy with a diverse number of industries overall. Manufacturing, transportation, information technology, and healthcare are some of the top industries, but there are so many other popular industries like food, finance, and hospitality. 

Numerous corporate headquarters, top universities, and Fortune 500 companies are located in Chicago, and these employers offer many opportunities. Lastly, Chicago is home to countless small and independently owned businesses that provide opportunities for the community. 

Crime in Chicago is High, but Chicago Isn’t Unsafe Overall

Chicago gets a bad reputation for being a crime-ridden city, but this should be taken with a grain of salt. Chicago does have crime problems. The crime rate is 33 per one thousand residents, which is higher than the national average. However, it should be noted that the majority of Chicago crime takes place in outlying neighborhoods to the west and south of the downtown Loop. 

You Should Always Follow Basic Safety Precautions

View of an empty street in Chicago at night
Be mindful of not walking alone at night (photo: R. Wellen Photography / Shutterstock)

Chicago is a huge city at the end of the day, so you should always follow basic safety rules as a precaution. For example, be mindful of your surroundings, don’t walk alone at night, and avoid public transportation at night if you can. 

You don’t need to be paranoid in Chicago, but you should always be vigilant. For more, see our full guide to safety in Chicago.

You Should Have Layers in Your Wardrobe

The author, Lea Rose Allbaugh wearing a puffer jacket during winter season in Chicago
A warm puffer jacket is a must in the winter

I highly recommend packing and having layers if you plan on living in Chicago. 

The weather here can be super varied, with winters being brutally cold and summers being sweltering and hot. Spring and autumn fall somewhere in between but it’s also common to get random days of warmth or cold throughout the year. 

The best thing to do is to have layers on hand for the warmer months and be prepared with heavy-duty gear for the winter. 

FAQs About Moving to Chicago

Is it a good idea to move to Chicago?

It is a good idea to move to Chicago if you’re a city person and can withstand harsh winters. Chicago is the third largest city in America and it offers many amenities and advantages that other major cities lack. For example, Chicago has friendly locals, a lower cost of living, and well-connected public transportation.

What salary should you make to live in Chicago?

Chicago residents make an annual salary between $50,000 and $75,000, on average.

What you should know before moving to Chicago?

Before moving to Chicago, you should know about the general cost of living, be prepared for a semi-tight housing market, and be aware of the cold winters. However, you should also know that Chicago is a really diverse city with so many fun things to do. 

Is it expensive to live in Chicago?

The cost of living in Chicago is higher than the national average. However, it is lower than comparable large cities like New York City or Los Angeles. Housing costs can vary largely by neighborhood, but they tend to be lower than in comparable cities. 


Did you find this moving to Chicago guide helpful? I hope so! If we missed anything, or you have moving tips of your own, share them in the comments below! Be sure to also read our Chicago itinerary if you want to plan a visit and get a good feel for Chicago before any potential move.

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  1. We moved to Chicago after 18 years of Sydney, Australia. Winters are no harsh here at all and summers are gorgeous. Once again, comparing to Sydney, public transportation here is quite awful but Uber is so cheap.

  2. As a Chicagoan, I would include “The Chicago History Museum,” located next to Lincoln Park Zoo. Inexpensive & packed with our history, various Special Exhibits, and a floor that is a map of the every neighborhood in The City! The perfect size to enjoy the entire museum and lunch, or the Zoo afterwards without feeling exhausted.

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