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Chicago, IL and Lake Michigan

Things to Know About Living in Chicago

Considering a move to Chicago? Nestled on the edge of Lake Michigan, Chi-Town offers affordable living, amazing sports, world-class public transportation, and plenty of fun things to do. Check out these 15 things to know about living in Chicago!

Find Affordable Living in the Windy City

Chicago City Skyline with Blue Sky Photo via Instagram User: @chidrone

Photo via @chidrone

If you’re trying to decide which bustling city is right for your budget, Chicago could be the perfect fit! Though Chicago’s cost of living is higher than the state average, living in Chicago can be more affordable than large cities like San Francisco or New York City, where the cost of living is 105% and 61% more expensive than the national average, respectively. If you’re planning to rent an apartment, the average rental rate is around $2,000, and those looking to purchase a home in Chicago can find a relatively-low median purchase price. To save even more money in the Windy City, Chicagoans can expect to pay less for utilities, public transportation, and dining compared to major U.S. cities.

Grow Your Career in Chicago

WeWork Office Space Chicago Photo via @wework

Photo via @wework

There are plenty of job opportunities in Chicago in industries like business, healthcare, technology, manufacturing, and transportation. Work at Fortune 500 companies like energy giant Exelon or commercial real estate expert Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL). Or make history with industry leaders like Motorola Solutions, Boeing, or United. Need to work from home? Chicago has a flourishing coworking scene, with facilities in several Chicago neighborhoods! Whether downtown or uptown, Chicagoans can comfortably work remotely from spaces like Rent24, WeWork, or Human Citizen Workplace.

Enroll in Quality Higher Education

University of Chicago Gordon Parks Art Hall Photo via @uchicago

Photo via @uchicago

With 54 colleges and universities in Chicago, there are plenty of opportunities to expand your mind and advance your career. Enroll at University of Illinois Chicago for popular programs like healthcare, education, library science, and more. Choose DePaul University, the largest Catholic university in the U.S., for programs like business, communication, and journalism. Prepare for a career in the tech industry at Illinois Institute of Technology. Be part of the legacy of Jesuits encouraging community change at Loyola University Chicago, where the top programs include nursing and biology. Or transform your education in finance, business, accounting, and more at the University of Chicago.

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Get Around Chicago with Convenient Transportation Options

Chicago L Train Photo via @mattcsenge

Photo via @mattsenge

Chicago’s transportation is known for being the second-largest public transit system in the U.S., as well as one of the best. For residents with longer commutes, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) conveniently operates eight “L” train lines. Your personal vehicle can serve you well, too, as there are plenty of public parking facilities. Or residents of Northeast Chicago can use the Metra, which starts and ends at Chicago Union Station. For shorter commutes, the Second City is extremely walkable and pedestrian-friendly! The active metro has over 300 miles of protected bike lanes and a city-led bike-share program, making it one of the most cyclist-friendly cities in the United States. But if you need to go outside the city, you can travel across the country by train with Amtrak, by plane from Midway International Airport, or fly overseas via O’Hare International Airport.

Venture Outdoors in Chi-Town

Ping Tom Memorial Park Chicago with Skyline Photo via @ericwang0086

Photo via @ericwang0086

Chicagoans don’t let the weather stop them, so the Windy City offers plenty of year-round outdoor activities! In winter, go ice skating at Millennium Park, slide down the Soldier Field sledding hill, trek through snow at Northerly Island, or call “dibs” on your parking spot after a blizzard. Take advantage of free spring and summer events in Chicago like outdoor movies, concerts, yoga, and sports at Night Out in the Parks. Race dragon boats at Ping Tom Memorial Park. Get away from the bustle of city life at Garfield Park Conservatory. Bike, jog, or stroll on the Lakefront Trail. Admire public art along the 1.25-mile Chicago Riverwalk. Visit the first-ever floating eco-park, Wild Mile Chicago. Or pedal across the North branch of the Chicago River using the 312RiverRun.

Live in Trendy Chicago Neighborhoods

With 77 diverse community areas, plenty of great neighborhoods to buy or rent houses, and hidden gems scattered throughout the city, there are endless opportunities to explore while living in Chicago! Andersonville is known for its Swedish roots and is one of the largest LGBTQ communities in the city. Lincoln Square offers Old World heritage mixed with modern charm. Chinatown transports you to East Asia with authentic cuisine, beautiful architecture, and locally-owned specialty shops. Across the city, you’ll find a variety of residential architectural styles, including castle-like Chicago Greystones, preserved Workers Cottages, Chicago Bungalows, Art Deco homes, American Foursquares, Prairie-style houses, and Victorian-era mansions.

Support Chicago Sports Teams

Chicago Bears Football Player in Action Photo via @Chicagobears

Photo via @Chicagobears

Wrigleyville is a top sports city, and fans from all over the world flock to Chicago to support their favorite teams or compete on their own. Cross the annual Chicago marathon off your bucket list. Fly the “W” for the Chicago Cubs (MLB) at Wrigley Field, or see the Chicago White Sox (MLB) in action at Guaranteed Rate Field. Watch the legendary Chicago Bulls (NBA) dunk on the competition at the United Center. Support women in the game, too, by cheering on the Chicago Sky (WNBA) at the Wintrust Arena, or go to SeatGeek Stadium for the Chicago Red Stars (NWSL). Tailgate games for the Chicago Bears (NFL), or attend a Chicago Fire FC (MLS) match at Soldier Field! Cheer on one of the “Original Six” Chicago Blackhawks (NHL) at the United Center—or root for International Hockey League Franchise champion Chicago Wolves at the Allstate Arena.

Experience a City with Pride

However you identify, you’ll feel at home in Chicago! The city embraces and celebrates diversity and inclusion all day, every day. Party at one of the largest annual gay pride festivals in the country, Chicago Pride Fest, with a jam-packed lineup of musical artists, vendors, drag shows, and more. Attend Chicago Pride, which features a slew of events, vendors, and a giant parade—attracting over one million spectators, you might even see your favorite drag superstar! Head over to Northalsted—previously known as Boystown—to feel even more welcome. Northalsted is one of the country’s most inclusive LGBTQ communities, not to mention being one of the nation’s oldest officially-recognized gay neighborhoods.

Find Fun for the Whole Family

Looking for something to do that will keep the whole family busy? Chicago has interactive, kid-friendly activities all over the city to keep everyone entertained! Get free admission and let your children experience farm life in the city with the Farm-in-the-Zoo exhibit at Lincoln Park Zoo. Feed the giraffes, interact with penguins, or clap at the Seven Seas dolphin show in Brookfield Zoo. Ice skate, scale the climbing wall, play a round of mini golf, or explore the Alice in Wonderland-inspired Play Garden at Maggie Daley Park. See tiger rays, beluga whales, dolphins, and sea otters at the Shedd Aquarium, located on the shore of Lake Michigan. Gain knowledge while having fun with 15 permanent exhibits like Pet Vet, Water Works, or Turtle Rock at Kohl Children’s Museum. Or take the kids to exhibits like Dinosaur Expedition, Kids Town, or Zoom Room at Chicago Children’s Museum on Navy Pier.

Visit Chicago’s Top Museums & Art Galleries

Front of Adler Planetarium Photo via @alderplanet

Photo via @adlerplanet

Looking for history and fine arts in Chicago? Check out Chi-Town’s amazing museums! The city offers free admission days at its award-winning museums. Experience the beauty and power of artworks from across the world at the Art Institute of Chicago. Discover the richness of Mexican culture at the National Museum of Mexican Art. Visit the nation’s first independent museum dedicated to preserving the history of Africans and Americans of African descent, DuSable Museum of African American History. Get hands-on lab experience or see the world’s largest LEGO art display at the Museum of Science + Industry Chicago. Or stargaze Chicago’s Night Sky in any season at Adler Planetarium.

Party It Up at Events & Festivals in Chicago

Chicago Lollapalooza performer Photo via @lollapalooza

Photo via @Lollapalooza

Chicago has world-class events and festivals that celebrate diverse food, music, culture, and art. On St. Patrick’s Day, attend the celebration parade downtown and snap a picture of the Chicago River after it’s dyed green. Thirsty? Stop by the Chicago Ale Fest for some of the best beer from Chicago breweries. Fill up on cuisine from top restaurants during the 17-day Chicago Restaurant Week. Witness the Lightscape event at Chicago Botanic Garden. Listen to lineups chock-full of indie, rock, hip-hop, pop, and more acts at world-famous Lollapalooza. Or take part in Chicago’s other amazing summer music festivals, including Pitchfork, Riotfest, Chicago Jazz Festival!

Devour Genuine Deep-Dish Pizza

Above view of Pequod's Pizza Chicago Photo via @pequodspizza

Photo via @pequdspizza

Chi-Town’s known for its hot restaurant scene, but one thing stands out—the Chicago deep-dish pizza! With tall, flaky crusts, chunky tomato sauce, thick layers of mozzarella cheese, and a variety of toppings to choose from, a deep-dish pizza will make you fall in love with Chicago even more. Savor caramelized crusts and crispy toppings from Pequod’s. Head to Magnificent Mile to enjoy the Meaty Legend or Italian Beef deep dish pizza at Gino’s East. Find family tradition in a friendly atmosphere at Uncle Jerry’s Pizza Company, where they’ve been perfecting the craft of deep-dish for 15 years. Stop by Burt’s Pizza—a classic deep-dish joint approved by Anthony Bourdain. Grab a slice from The Art of Pizza. Looking for vegan pizza options in Chicago? Check out My Pi for a full vegan pizza menu!

Explore Chicago’s Best Restaurants

Chicago crab and pork belly gumbo Photo via @wgnnews

Photo via @wgnnews

With so many cultures coming together to offer different dishes, you’ll always be able to find something yummy to eat in Chicago! Start your morning with Scandinavian-influenced pastries like Almond Croissants, Tebirkes, and Cardamom Buns at Lost Larson. Head to a modern Filipino bakery and restaurant for fusion dishes like Mushroom Adobo, Lumpia Shanghai, or a Kasama Combo Sandwich at Kasama. Savor tender meats and homemade rubs at Smoque BBQ. Order Southern comfort food like Shrimp and Grits, Chicken Gumbo, and Buttermilk Biscuits at Luella’s Southern Kitchen. Taste authentic and innovative Korean cuisines in an upscale restaurant and bar perfect for date night at Jeong. Warm up with Pho Kobe or Pho Do Bien at Pho Nam Lua in Little Vietnam. Share some sizzling Korean BBQ like Bulgogi or Spicy Stir Fried Squid at Daebak in Chinatown. Sample tacos and margaritas at La Vaca Margarita Bar in Pilsen. Or satisfy your sweet tooth with Mango Burfi, Pistachio Ghari, or Milk Cake from Sukhadia Sweets and Snacks.

Get Hop-Happy at Chicago Breweries

Beer from Revolution Brewery Photo via @revbrewchicago

Photo via @revbrewchicago

Among the top cities in the U.S. for beer, Chicago is home to the third-most breweries in the country. Play arcade games while sipping on experimental brews like Pineapple Sorbaze or Double Jungle Boogie at Marz Community Brewing Co. Fill up on salads, sandwiches, and flights of beer at Corridor Brewery & Provisions. In the mood for rustic beers with a little age to them? Cheers with a Hefeweizen or a Czech Dark Lager at Dovetail Brewery. Sample botanical brews made with stems, flowers, herbs, and spices like the Sparkling Rosé Ale at Forbidden Root Restaurant & Brewery. Plus, all profits on their non-consumable merchandise go to charity! Or check out one of the state’s biggest independent craft breweries, Revolution Brewing—which was also featured in the movie Drinking Buddies with Jake Johnson and Olivia Wilde!

Revel in Chicago’s Nightlife

Chicago DJ at SpyBar Photo via @spybar

Photo via @spybar

Chicago is always bustling, even late into the night—which is part of what makes it one of the best cities for singles! Look for hidden doors that lead to classic speakeasies like The Drifter, The Green Door Tavern, or The Violet Hour. Grab a nightcap while sitting in Al Capone’s favorite booth at Green Mill. Dance your socks off to live music inside 100-year-old balloon-house-turned-bar, The Hideout. See why Rolling Stone called Spybar Chicago the “River North party paradise.” Listen to DJs spin contemporary disco, deep-cuts, and classic party hits while sweating on the wall-to-wall LED dance floor at DISCO. Enjoy bottle service during concerts from Grammy-nominated Bauuer, SayMyName, or VNSSA in the multi-level, upscale nightclub, Sound-Bar. Crack open oysters and bubbly at Dusek’s Tavern, watch piano players and Latin jazz trios perform in the Tack Room, then move to the basement for punchbowl cocktails from Punch House—all without leaving Thalia Hall. Or laugh until you cry at some of Chicago’s top comedy clubs, including The Second City and The Comedy Bar.

Living in Chicago? Extra Space Storage has convenient storage facilities located throughout The Windy City. Find storage units near you!

About Mike Beutler

Mike Beutler is a writer and digital content specialist who transitioned to self storage in 2020 after several years in the airline industry. His travels cultivated a passion for exploring cities across the U.S. and abroad and inspired him to learn more about practical insights for urban living. With 14 moves under his belt, both locally and cross-country, he also has a passion for minimalism and organization, and sharing tips to help others make any space feel like home while staying organized.