There’s no doubt about it, moving houses is one of the most stressful things a person can do. There’s so much to consider - hiring movers, getting settled, finalizing legal arrangements, selling your old home (or dealing with your soon-to-be ex-landlord), and of course, the horrible task of packing.
For families, the task of moving is much more complicated. Not only do you have your children’s endless supply of toys and clothes to pack up, but there’s so much more to consider.
Is there a good school nearby? What kind of activities will you be able to do with your children? Most importantly, is your new neighborhood safe and child-friendly?
These are serious questions, and it’s something you should consider long before you start packing up. Your house isn’t just a building, it’s going to be your home. The location you choose is where you’ll be raising your family for at least a few years. Thus, you should make sure you pick the best location possible.
Especially in large cities like Chicago, not everywhere will be suitable for children. Even nice-looking suburbs can be dangerous, or simply not particularly child-friendly. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the best Chicago suburbs for families, safe neighborhoods in Chicago, and other crucial considerations, like schools and family events in Chicago.
Table of Contents:
- Best Chicago Suburbs for Families
- Safe Neighborhoods in Chicago
- Schools, Events, and Family-Friendly Activities
- Red Flags: Warning Signs You Shouldn’t Ignore
- The Bottom Line
Best Chicago Suburbs for Families
Not every suburb is ideal for families. You’ll have plenty to think about, such as the cost of living, proximity to work, as well as local events and attractions for your family. Raising a family in Chicago or any other big city is going to bring unique challenges.
Some suburbs are geared more towards singles and professionals, rather than families and children. While this may not be a dealbreaker for you, it’s something you should consider before purchasing a new home.
Let’s take a look at five of the best Chicago suburbs for families.
As a small town with a population of around 7,963, Long Grove isn’t breaking any records with its nightlife. Fortunately, this makes it a great choice for families with children, or anyone who likes a peaceful life.
Set in a rural area, you can expect plenty of beautiful walks and peaceful scenery from Long Grove. It’s ranked as the best and safest area in Illinois to raise a family.
Coming in as a close second to Long Grove, Clarendon Hills is another perfect location for raising a family in Chicago. Clarendon Hills has a slightly larger population of around 8716, but a significantly lower average house price.
The median monthly price of a rented home in Clarendon Hills is $978, compared to the national average of $1,062. So, if you’re planning to rent a home rather than buy, Clarendon Hills could be a more cost-effective choice.
If you’re looking for a tiny rural town where you can own your own house, Kildeer could be perfect for you and your family. With a population of only around 4,024, Kildeer is a small, cozy suburb, and set in the beautiful location of Lake County.
You can expect plenty of parks and stretches of countryside in Kildeer. If you’re a family of hikers, or your family loves nature, Kildeer is ideal. Unfortunately, Kildeer isn’t as diverse as some other areas.
Kenilworth is another beautiful, rural suburb, with a tiny population of 2,460. However, Kenilworth is only fourth on the list of the best Chicago suburbs for families. This is because the average price of a home in Kenilworth is around $1,121,100, putting the prospect of buying a house far out of reach of the average family.
However, if you are able to afford to live in Kenilworth, the area is outstandingly beautiful and boasts excellent public schools.
If small towns aren’t your thing, Buffalo Grove provides much more scope. The population of Buffalo Grove is around 41,062. However, you can find plenty more to do in Buffalo Grove than in some smaller suburbs.
For example, you can expect to find plenty of coffee shops, restaurants, parks, and other entertainment venues. If you and your family like eating out and trying different activities, you might enjoy living in Buffalo Grove.
While the average house price and monthly rent are a little higher than the national average, the cost of living in Buffalo Grove is manageable. More residents rent their homes, although the majority of locals own their homes.
Safe Neighborhoods in Chicago
Safety is always an important consideration, no matter where you move. For families or individuals living alone, safety is something you should think about first.
Chicago itself is not known as a safe location, with worryingly high crime rates. However, individual areas and suburbs can be safe, presuming you choose the right suburb. Let’s discuss four safe neighborhoods, which are perfect for raising a family in Chicago.
Edison Park feels like a real suburb, with the perfect mix of rural scenery and close-knit communities. More importantly, the crime rate in Edison Park is 77% lower than the Chicago average.
While the median house price is a little higher in Edison Park than the national average, the cost of living is still affordable for most families. There is a beautiful park nearby, offering plenty of things to do for families.
With a crime rate of 71% lower than the Chicago average, Forest Glen is ideal for raising a family in Chicago. Unfortunately, the high house prices mean that Forest Glen may be too expensive for the average family, and so isn’t rated as one of the best Chicago suburbs for families.
If you can afford to live in Forest Glen, however, it’s a perfect location for an active family. Forest Glen is a safe and diverse location, with restaurants, bike trails, walks, and parks. Forest Glen also boasts some of the best schools in Chicago.
Norwood Park has a crime rate of 72% lower than the Chicago average, but there are fewer activities and things to do than in areas such as Forest Glen.
Norwood Park is very popular among retirees, and boasts activities such as parks, pools, and even a golf course - which probably won’t be popular with the kids! If beautiful scenery and green spaces are a must-have for your new home, Norwood Park could be perfect for you. Most importantly of all, it’s a very safe area.
Many suburbs are geared toward families who own their own homes, with hardly any renting options. Lake View is a suburb that caters to renters, and also offers plenty of activities.
Lake View may not be ideal for families with small children, or who prefer a quiet countryside life. There are restaurants, parks, dining options, shops, and even nightlife options. If a classic suburb isn’t right for you and your family, Lake View manages to split the difference between a bustling city and a quiet suburb.
It’s also best for families who prefer to rent. What’s more, the crime average is 40% less than the Chicago average, making Lake View a safer choice than many other areas.
Schools, Events, and Family-Friendly Activities
One of your first considerations for a move will likely be your children’s schools. Not every child is thrilled about leaving their friends behind and moving to a new area, so it’s important to help ease the transition as best you can.
Additionally, you’ll need to think about what you and your family will do for leisure. After all, there’s more to life than working and watching TV! The area you choose will depend on your family’s dynamic - your likes, dislikes, and hobbies.
The school you choose for your children will be influenced by other factors, such as their age, and how close you need to be to work. Let’s take a look at four of the best schools in Chicago:
Offering a fantastic level of academics, plenty of clubs and activities, and college prep, the Adlai E Stevenson High School is top of the list of Chicago schools for a reason.
Community High School is another highly rated school, offering many of the same benefits as Adlai E Stevenson High School. It has fewer students than Adlai High School, meaning that your children may receive more attention from the teachers.
New Trier Township High School boasts high graduation rates, as well as better performance from the average student. However, it isn’t as diverse as some other schools, like Adlai E and Community High.
Over the years, Glenbrook High School has consistently provided good results. Its ratings can keep up with the higher-rated schools, and Glenbrook also has a higher level of diversity than New Trier Township High School.
Some of the best Chicago suburbs for families, like Long Grove, also have their highly-rated local schools. Going to school locally may help your children feel more at home in their new suburb, as well as making friends that live nearby.
Family Events and Activities
Most suburbs offer beautiful scenery and decent walks. However, if you’re a family that loves hiking, a more rural area might suit you better.
Fortunately, there are plenty of family events in Chicago. Let’s discuss a few activities you can look out for in the Chicago area:
Edison Park Community Festival
Aside from being one of the safest locations in Chicago, Edison Park also has an annual community festival. If you live locally, this can be a fun day out for you and the family. It’s designed to be child-friendly and can be a fun experience for children of all ages.
Chicago Botanic Gardens (Glencoe)
If your children are interested in nature and gardening, the Chicago Botanic Gardens are a must-see. Located near Glencoe, the Botanic Gardens are spread over a staggering 385 acres. There are plenty of child-friend elements, making it a fun day out for children and adults alike.
Norwood Park: Pools, parks, and hiking
Norwood Park is the perfect location for active families. There are plenty of walks and hikes, as well as a community pool and a huge park. If your family prefers a quiet but energetic lifestyle, Norwood Park is the perfect location.
Maggie Daley Park (The Loop)
One of the benefits of living in a suburb is that you can take a day trip into town at a moments’ notice. The Maggie Daley Park, located in The Loop, boasts an outdoor climbing park and ice skating during the winter.
Perfect for a family picnic, the Maggie Daley Park also has an Enchanted Forest, play areas, and other attractions. The Loop may not be the safest or most convenient area to raise a family, but that shouldn’t stop you from living in a comfortable suburb and taking day trips into the city.
Shedd Aquarium (Lake Shore)
Aquariums are the perfect educational day out. Children will be fascinated and excited, and the Shedd Aquarium is designed with kids in mind.
Adler Planetarium (Lake Shore)
While you’re at the Shedd Aquarium, why not stop by the Adler Planetarium? It’s both educational and exciting, and can perfectly round off a day trip.
How to Choose a Good Neighborhood for Children
Raising a family in Chicago can be tricky. Visiting a neighborhood once may not give you a proper overview of what it will be like to live there. Here are a few tips to pick a safe neighborhood:
1. Visit the neighborhood several times.
Your neighborhood may look very different on a grey, dull day than it does in the bright sunshine. What about when your neighbors are home, or when the local kids are on their school holidays?
If you can, try and visit the neighborhood several times. Drive and walk around, keeping an eye out for vandalism, graffiti, empty houses, or gangs of youths gathering. This could indicate trouble later.
2. Check out the crime rates online, and talk to the local police station.
Low crime rates aren’t a guarantee that you’ll live a trouble-free life. However, areas with lower crime rates are obviously safer than high-crime areas.
Why not visit or call the local police station? They can provide the most up-to-date information about the town, and may even offer advice about the area you’re considering moving to.
3. If you have friends or family living in the area, talk to them about what it’s like to live there.
Remember that online crime rates are average numbers. That means that certain areas of the town may be less safe than others. If you know some of the locals, ask their advice. They’re likely to know which areas you should avoid.
4. Think about what your family needs.
This may seem obvious. However, in all the chaos of getting a new job or relocating to a new branch, picking the kids’ schools, and trying to find a safe area to live, you may lose sight of what you need as a family.
For example, what are your hobbies? Are you a family of hikers, or do you prefer the conveniences of city life? What about your commute, and the kids’ trip to school?
Not all suburbs have good public transport. So, if your family will be relying on the bus or train to get to work and school, make sure you’re in an area where public transport is regular and reliable.
Another point to consider is how involved you want to be with your local community. You might be thrilled by the idea of a close-knit community, but some families prefer to keep to themselves. Some small suburbs have a strong sense of community and will expect new families to be involved with local activities.
Red Flags: Warning Signs You Shouldn’t Ignore
During your inspection of your prospective new community, keep an eye out for signs that the neighborhood isn’t family-friendly. For example:
- Vandalism, graffiti, etc
- Empty, boarded-up houses
- Deterrents on homes, such as barred windows, high fences, “Beware of Dog” signs, etc
- A poorly performing school
- Unfriendly neighbors and locals
Any or all of these signs are red flags, indicating that the neighborhood has a higher crime rate than the rest of the suburb. This isn’t an ideal environment for raising a family.
The Bottom Line
Moving is stressful, and it’s common to keep wondering whether you’ve made the right decision. Thoroughly researching the area you plan to move into and seeking advice can help you to make the right decision, and choose the perfect Chicago suburb for you and your family.