Moving to Chicago
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Moving to Chicago
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My husband and I are contemplating a move to Chicago. My husband
is orginially from the mid-west and I from the east coast, so we
figure this would be a good compromise for our young family
since we feel very exposed financially here with the high cost
of living although we love everything else about the bay area!!
I am looking for any recommendations of any areas similar to
that of Oakland/Berkeley which are somewhat urban/suburban but
also have diversity, liberal, in a safe area in addition to any
good information about school districts or access to good
private schools. We would prefer to stay within the city limits
but open to exploring northern city-type suburbs like Evanston.
Also, if there are any good network sites like this one. We have
a son who will be 3 next fall when we are thinking about moving
and I want to be sure I have a good pre-school spot for him when
we move so any advice on how to find resources would be great.
Lastly, any general impressions of the city itself, weather
(yes, I know it is cold), outdoor activities- we are hikers and
bikers and lastly general impressions about attitudes of people
in the city or surrounding areas.
Thanks in advance!
Oak Park is a town minutes outside of downtown Chicago. Several of our friends
have bought homes there. They are happy with their homes, neighbors, schools,
etc. Most of their kids are still preschool age however. I don't know the politics of
some of our friends, but they are all worldy and life long learner types. My husband
has visited several times and was very positively impressed. It's also connected by
the 'EL' to downtown.
Chicago has everything--culture, sports, great food-- and a very unpretentious
While I was born and raised in SF (3rd generation San
Franciscan) we have just returned to Berkeley after living in Chicago for
14 years. While I'm thrilled to be closer to family and won't miss those
Chicago winters, I do miss Chicago. So here goes...
We lived in the City of Chicago in Bucktown. Very groovy area and fun--
but in my opinion, not good for public school.
In Chicago, the best elementary public schools are in the Bell School
district (part of Roscoe Village will get you there--very fun, and urban),
Lincoln school in Lincoln Park, LaSalle Language in Old Town....just to
name a few-- I know there are others but do your research!
As far as pre-schools in the City, the 3 most talked about are
1. Mary Meyer 773-549-0870 enroll the Sept before your child turns 3.
(although very hard to get into--I've heard you either have to know
someone or be a legacy kid/family)
2. Park West Co-op (in a church (although not affiliated with the church)
behind Children's Memorial Hospital in Lincoln Park...supposedly a true
3. Lincoln Park Co-op. 312-944-5469 in Old Town.
Eligible when child turns 3. Call the Sept before turning 3 then they have
tour and applications must be in by March 1st
My son went to Near North Montessori, which was wonderful! They have
an AMAZING 2 year old program and the school goes until 8th grade.
There are also many Catholic or other religously affiliated schools
although I don't know much about them. I've heard people have been
very happy with the JCC.
As far as the suburbs go--Evanston is FABULOUS. I have many friends
all from Evanston and it's a wonderful and diverse community. I'm told
you can also go to public school there--my friends who are from there all
send their kids to the public school. It's near the lake, not far from
Chicago and just an all around great community.
Oak Park, which is West of the City is also very diverse and probably not
as expensive as Evanston (I've been told that Evanston taxes are very
high), and yet still close to the City. I never hung out there much but
people like it and I think the schools are pretty good.
Actually most of the suburban public schools are quite good--so I've
A few important things if you're going to live in Chicago:
1) Northside Parents Network is similar to Berkeley parents network
although there is an annual fee. I would encourage you to check it out
and join. They also have a FABULOUS school booklet for purchase that
will tell you everything about all of the schools and they'll let you know
when they're having a school fair.
2) Definitely check out the Chicago Park District website. They have
wonderful programs and they don't cost much. The ''moms, pops and
tots'' class was great especially the ones at Holstein park, Adams, Shield
Park, the cultural center park district, and I think wicker park was ok. I'm
sure there are many others but definitely check them out as well as the
other classes they offer.
3) In the summertime don't miss the water park at Adams Park
playground in Linclon Park--an absolute gem!!
4) Many of the park districts have camp although you have to camp out
to sign up, some better than others. But, we belonged to LakeShore
Athletic Club which has classes for kids as well as Pee-Wee camp. I
wasn't thrilled about the staff but my son had a blast. People aslo rave
about the camp at Parker school--although pricey.
Speaking of Parker, there are 3 main private schools in Chicago--
Parker, Latin and The Lab School. The Lab School is AMAZING, near
the University of Chicago....if you end up living on the South Side and
can afford it, it's one of the best.
Sorry I can't offer more about the suburbs. I personally like the Northern
suburbs best because it's along the lake, but you'll have to check it out
In the City, the Lincoln Park Zoo is free, but if you become a member you
get free parking and that therefore gives you free parking right on the
lake front if you like to run or bike. The Children's Museum is fabulous as
is the Museum of Science and Industry. The Nature Museum is good, my
kids really liked it...and if you become a member of the Nature museum,
there is reciprosity with the Museum of Science and industry. The
aquarium is great....actually the museums in general are wonderful in
Also, the libraries offer free passes to the museums if they haven't run
out....if I remember correctly, one pass groups together a bunch of
museums and you can go check them out...I think you can check the
pass out for the weekend.
Many of the libraries as well as the Barnes and Noble (on Webster and
Clybourn) have story time for kids, and the Barnes and Noble is a must
in the winter as they have a train table in the kids section--a good place
to pass the time when it's cold.
The Old Town School of Folk Music (main one on Armitage but have
also opened locations throughout Chicago) is great for music classes for
kids young and old, and there's also the usual ''Music Together''
If you're looking for AMAZING gymnastics classes I highly recommend
Lakeshore Academy of Gymnastics on Chestnut (an absolute BLAST
and has a fabulous class for little ones) and they also have ''Hidden
Peak'' Climbing Gym there for I think 5 year olds and up.
Ok, I think my fingers are about to fall off. Feel free to email me if you
have any specific questions or just want more info. The winters are
tough there (make sure you have a little room in your house as a play
space because you'll be spending a lot of time there....but don't worry,
you'll be able to afford it, if you've been living here) but the people are
VERY friendly and it's a wonderful, fun city.
Take care and good luck.
I grew up in a Northern suburb of Chicago and still have family
and friends there and visit often. Evanston will likely be the
closest thing to what you want.LIke Berkeley, university town,
beautiful old homes, lots of trees and great beaches and lots
of places to walk to. The schools are good and diverse. And it
is beautiful. Living in the city is doable but you will likely
have to pay for private school. And houses are now very
expensive in the city. My friend lives near Wrigley Field and
homes are going for $800,000 plus, with many homes being sold,
knocked down and rebuilt. Evanston will likely be more
affordable, and you will get a yard. There are many things to
do in Chicago and its set up for winter, both with outdoor and
indoor activities. The museums are many, varied, fabulous and
great for kids. They have something we don't here - dinosaurs
and mummies (Field Museum), there is the original children's
museum, but on a grand scale (Museum of Science and Industry),
lots of indoor sports, etc. And of course beaches in summer,
lots of bike paths (flat!), lots of hiking, great camping, etc
in Wisconsin. I could go on. The skiing is far and not so great
(think bunny hills)and very cold. The one thing about winter
in Chicago compared to the bay area is that there is sun and
lots of it, even when its snowing the sun can be shining and
you aren't sopping wet when you get somewhere. And the homes
are insulated and heated properly (not like here, where
builders believed the myth that they lived in California so it
didn't get cold enough to actually insulate your homes
adequately). The schools also have something we don't have,
GYMS! I don't know one grammar school in our district here with
a gym, my nephews school in a northern suburb has 6 gyms! I
love Evanston, and some of the closer suburbs, they are still
close to the city, have great transportation into the city (and
unlike the bay area, the systems are more connected, you don't
have to pay 2 or 3 different transit fares to get somewhere)
and the transit goes directly to Ohare (I fly in, hop on the
train and go right to my friends house). There are many city
festivals, all free, lots of free music, there is a new
fantastic city park (Millenium Park) right downtown that my
kids loved on the last visit, complete with a Frank Gehry
designed band shell. If I could work there, I'd go back in a
flash. Good luck.
always a Chicagoan
I went to school in Chicago and still have many friends in the
area. One family I know lives in the Beverly area (sometimes
called Beverly Hills - not, however, because it resembles
Beverly Hills, CA) on the south side of the city. Beverly is
still in Chicago proper but it feels more suburban to me. It is
quiet, nice neighborhood with good schools and proximity to
some really good private schools. I understand that it is hard
to find a house in the area because it is in demand and the
homeowners mostly advertise in local papers and through word of
mouth. My friend said that if you are really interested in
Beverly you need to find a ''local'' Beverly realtor to help
A final thought on quality of life in Chicago. As a Bay Area
native I moved to Chicago for 6 years, came back to SF for 3
years, moved back to Chicago for 2 more years and then finally
returned to Oakland! I love Chicagoans. They are very friendly.
The city has much to offer. My main complaints were 1) the
weather - not only too cold in the winter but too hot in the
summer too. and 2)Lack of outdoor activities - maybe this is
because the weather and maybe because of the flat topography
but I felt that in general Chicago is a city of people who
WATCH sports and the Bay Area is a place were people DO
sports. That being said, you can always nurture your passions
wherever you go, you just have to seek out the right companions
My husband is considering a job offer in Chicago. I am
very reluctant to move. We wil be flown out in April to
check neighborhoods and schools. Iwould like my three
children to shadow a day of classes there to compare.
If you have lived there recently or have friends in the
area would you kindly suggest a good school
district/neighborhood in vicinity of Chicago?
I don't see any good reasons to move (except money and
that isn't a strong enough reason for me)Do you know of
anything that would entice me to go there? (No, I don't
miss the snow and cold.)
happy in the Bay Area
I am both in the same boat with you, yet have also lived in
Chicago. My husband's work has ''asked'' him to consider a
move to Chicago recently, and we have been grappling with
the decision. We lived in different areas of the city and
suburbs as single and married people, but with no kids at the
time. We both LOVED the city -- very young, vibrant, friendly
and LOTS to do! The biggest thing holding us back right now is
that we want our next move to be to a more rural, quiet
setting rather than trading like for like -- which is
how we see living in Pleasant Hill/SF Bay Area vs. Chicago
suburbs. We are weary of ''big city suburban life'' (especially
traffic, which we definitely have in common with Chicago!).
Another drawback is that we would be far from our support
network -- I'm a 4th generation Californian and my husbands
parents are in NY. As for a suburb we have considered should
we move? We really like Elmhurst or Arlington Heights -- both
have excellent public schools and are far enough out of
the bustle of the city, but on train routes right into the city.
Arlington Hts. is a bit further out. I lived in Glencoe, a
town just to the north of the city by about 20 min. -- loved
it, right on the lake, but very expensive for a family. Some
real positives? The great aquarium, waterfront parks,
Navy Pier (!!!), Michigan Ave. shopping and beautiful Wildlike
Preserves with miles of biking trails. It is a fabulous
city -- cold in winter, yes, but the life that springs forth
as soon as that barometer hits 50 degrees is a thrill! I love
the city and only wish we could live close enough to it to
end of the day. Don't know if this helps, but I hope so!
I forwarded this question to a friend who has moved to chicago within the
last couple of years:
Chicago and suburbs are great places to raise kids. The public schools in
most suburbs near the city are quite good and there are lots of activities,
sports, etc. for kids in all these towns. We live in Glenview and really
like it, other nice suburbs are Wilmette, Park Ridge, Oak Park,
Schaumberg. It depends how far away you want to live from Chicago. It is
different here from living in the Bay Area: the scenery is pretty
ugly(with the exception of Lake Michigan) and the weather, of course, can
be horrendous. However, the past 4 winters have been relatively
mild. There aren't nearly as many nice weekend getaway places as in
California, most people go to Wisconsin or Michigan to their
It is cheaper to buy houses here, but not much cheaper in some of the most
desirable suburbs. People are friendly and probably a little less
materialistic than in SF. Family values are very strong - most people I
have met here, grew up here and wanted to stay near their families. That
is nice - different from all the transplanted people in SF, I loved SF
and miss it a lot - but both areas have a lot to offer Good Luck with
this page was last updated: Apr 19, 2005
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