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Renter's Guide to Chicago
If there is just one thing Chicago is known for, it most certainly is its spectacular lakefront. It’s the essence of Chicago, affecting not only the weather but also distinguishing the city from anywhere else in the world. The 3rd largest city behind New York and Los Angeles, Chicago is nevertheless the largest city on the largest body of fresh water on the planet - the Great Lakes.
Its location in the middle of the country has always been a factor in its role as the country’s transportation hub - first as a port, then a railroad hub, and now home to the 2nd busiest airport in the US. As much as the weather’s unpredictable nature can be challenging, so too can its lakefront tempered climate create absolutely perfect weather conditions on countless days of the year. Many complain about the weather but few ever leave Chicago because of it.
Chicago, IL Demographics
- Total Population2,722,586
Female 1,321,621Male 1,400,965
- Median Age34.1
Cost of Living in Chicago, IL
With one of the best public transportation systems in the country, there truly is no need to own a car in Chicago. As of 2016, the cost to ride the train in the city was $2.25 and the bus was $2.00, though buying any number of day passes reduces that cost significantly. Taxicabs and Uber blanket the city and are easily hailed on the street or simply by cell phone app. The City of Chicago regulates and sets all taxicab rates, so it doesn’t matter which company one uses. Uber fares will vary depending on the type of vehicle selected and times of intense demand, though rates in Chicago are some of the lowest in the country.
Thinking of taking the train from Chicago to NYC? Amtrak is a good option, with rail fares, good for one coach seat, ranging from $106 to $134 a person. If you’d rather drive, the Big Apple is about 800 miles away. Depending on traffic, it will take you approx. 12 hours to get from Chicago to New York City.
Overall cost of living in Chicago (103.4%) is on par with the national average and far less expensive than other large cities like New York. Monthly utility costs for a 900 square-foot apartment average about $120. With three major cable providers - Comcast, AT&T, and RCN - average monthly Internet bills are around $50.
Average Rent in Chicago, IL
- Chicago, IL Average Rental Price, December 2019 $1,947 /mo
Chicago, IL Apartment Rent Ranges
- > $2,00039%
Chicago, IL Rent Trends
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Living in Chicago
Favorable reasons for living in Chicago far outweigh negative factors. Possibly the most underrated reason to live in Chicago is being on the Great Lakes and having access to clean, fresh drinking water that tastes great right from the tap. You’ll never have to buy another bottle of water again!
Chicago offers a plethora of attractions and fun things to do, though, the city’s lakefront parks, trails, and beaches that line its 20-mile shoreline are by far its biggest attraction and it’s all free. Sports lovers may not have a better sports town anywhere, with two major league baseball teams (Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox), a storied football franchise (Chicago Bears), a basketball team that was home to Michael Jordan (Chicago Bulls), an “original six” hockey team (Chicago Blackhawks), and a major league soccer team (Chicago Fire Soccer Club). This doesn’t even begin to speak to the hundreds of amateur sports leagues for Chicagoans who enjoy playing sports as much as watching them.
All that sports can work up an appetite and there’s no better place to satisfy it than in Chicago’s neighborhoods, where you’ll find every imaginable palette of food. A city of neighborhoods, one could spend a lifetime indulging in the diversity and charm that each offers. Are there negatives to living in the Windy City? Yes, the weather. However, even the unpredictable Chicago weather can be turned into a positive. As the saying goes, if you don’t like the weather in Chicago just wait a few hours and it will change!
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that there are few places with such a diverse population. More Poles live in Chicago than anywhere in the world outside Warsaw and more Mexicans live here than anywhere in the country. From Asian to Ukrainian and every ethnicity in between, Chicago is home to over 500,000 foreign-born immigrants!
Things to do in Chicago
Navy Pier is a big draw as is Millennium Park, in downtown Chicago. Attending a professional sports event is always popular, particularly a visit to the venerable Wrigley Field. Skyscrapers such as the Hancock Center and the Willis Tower offer scenic views of the city and surrounding states from their observation decks. Chicago is also home to one of the nation's oldest and largest zoos - Lincoln Park Zoo - that houses over 1,000 animals representing nearly 200 species, and it’s all free of charge.
Some of Chicago’s more notable annual events include the dozens of neighborhood festivals and nationally recognized neighborhood art fairs; the Chicago Jazz Festival, which features world-class jazz musicians; the Taste of Chicago, which highlights some of the best restaurants in Chicago; parades, parades and more parades, including the Gay Pride Parade and weekend festival that has grown to be one the largest and most well-known LGBT events in the world; and the Chicago Air and Water Show, which showcases some of the most exciting displays of aircraft in the country.
Then, of course, there’s the world-renowned city culture. A few of the more recognized cultural institutions include the Chicago Symphony, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Field Museum of Natural History, and the Museum of Science and Industry.
Chicago has one of the most extensive parks’ systems in the country. Lincoln Park, the city’s largest occupying nearly 5 miles along Chicago’s north lakefront, includes dozens of beaches along that stretch. Grant Park, located in downtown Chicago, includes Millennium Park and the Pritzker Music Pavilion, designed by world-renowned architect, Richard Gehry. Jackson Park encompasses 500 acres along the city’s south lakefront, was home to Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair, and was designed by the father of landscape architects, Frederick Law Olmsted. Humboldt Park, a popular neighborhood park occupying over 200 acres in the heart of the city’s northwest side, is the only park in the city not on the lakefront with its own beach.
Yet, not all fun and activity is limited to Chicago’s outdoor space. Some of the best shopping in the city occurs indoors and one of the most spectacular of those places is Water Tower Place, located along Chicago’s Magnificent Mile - Michigan Avenue. Navy Pier, one of the city’s most popular attractions, includes a variety of stores and restaurants, a theater, 400’ carousel, boat rides, a children’s museum, and much more. If you happen to be in Oak Lawn, do check out Chicago Ridge Mall – it’s home to some great shops, a movie theater, and a food court.
Finally, some of Chicago’s best entertainment venues are in Chicago’s many ethnic neighborhoods. Just to name a few, Chinatown and Little Village, on the city’s near south side respectively highlight Chicago’s Asian and Mexican cultures. Korean culture abounds in the Albany Park neighborhood and you’ll be immersed in Indian culture in Chicago’s West Ridge community.
Employment and Economy
Chicago is not only culturally diverse, it’s also economically diverse, which keeps the city unemployment rate low. No one industry dominates the city’s economy, though some industries stand out. Every major bank in the country and a number of international banks have branches in the city. Chicago is home to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, founded in Chicago as a commodities exchange in the 19th century and now the largest options and futures exchange in the world. The medical industry is also well represented in teaching and research facilities as well as many major hospitals. Finally, the software industry is growing rapidly with most of the major companies, such as Microsoft, Google, and Intel, maintaining offices in a city that has been termed “Silicon Prairie” for all the start-ups that are blossoming in the city’s small business incubators. One of the primary reasons that Chicago is so attractive to 21st-century industries is its highly educated workforce, due mainly to the availability of some of the country’s best schools and universities.
Chicago, IL Households
- Total Number of Households1,046,789
Family 564,210Non-family 482,579
Children 286,783No Children 760,006
- Average People Per Household2.54
- Median Household Income$52,497
- Median Housing Costs Per Month$1,168
Education in Chicago
The Chicago Public Schools is the third largest school district in the US with more than 600 schools providing quality education to approximately 400,000 children. Top universities in the city include University of Chicago, DePaul University, Northwestern University, and Columbia College, to name a few.
Chicago, IL Education Statistics
- No High School7%
- Some High School32%
- Some College20%
- Associate Degree5%
- Bachelor Degree22%
- Graduate Degree13%
Tips for Renting in Chicago
Over a quarter century ago, Chicago passed one of the most all-encompassing renter’s rights bills in the nation. Known as the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance and last updated in 2010, it provides extensive protection to those who rent in Chicago.
The law covers a whole host of safeguards for tenants, such as interest on security deposits and timely return of the deposits, 48-hour notification to enter the apartment, sufficient notice of lease termination, rights to timely repairs, essential services such as water, electricity and heat, and protection against landlord retaliations. These are just a few of many renters’ rights established in the law. Many cities don’t have such legislation in place so it behooves anyone relocating to Chicago to obtain a copy online and review it before signing any lease.
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