These 12 city neighborhoods and 12 suburbs have low crime, great homes, and much more.

Chicago’s Best Suburbs
Chicago’s Best Neighborhoods
 
 
Click any of the suburbs or neighborhoods for more information about why we love them, or use the full list below.

Chicago is famously a city of neighborhoods, each with its own charms and challenges. But which offer fewer of the latter and more of the former right now? Things like safe streets, decent schools, convenient transportation, solid housing values, plentiful restaurants and shops, and friendly neighbors?

Advertisement

Chicago set out to identify 12 of them, plus 12 towns in the six-county metro area with similarly stellar advantages. The first step: poring through reams of information.

My editors and I analyzed statistics from Midwest Real Estate Data, the U.S. Census Bureau, the Illinois State Board of Education, and the police departments of Chicago and Illinois for every town in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, and Will Counties and every community area in Chicago for which the city collects statistics. (Community areas typically correspond to the neighborhood names that most Chicagoans use, but not always. Some large community areas include several different neighborhoods. For example, West Town includes Wicker Park, Ukrainian Village, East Village, Noble Square, Smith Park, and—as if you weren’t already confused enough—West Town. Don’t worry: We’ve indicated which neighborhoods fall within a community area.)

First we looked at the factor that tends to be uppermost in the minds of families these days: safety. We eliminated from contention all community areas that notched violent crime rates higher than 7.0 offenses per 1,000 inhabitants last year (the city average: 9.3 per 1,000). That meant tossing out the Loop (9.9 per 1,000) and the historic South Side neighborhood of Pullman (11.2 per 1,000), for example. And we eliminated suburbs with violent crime rates above their county’s average—which removed from contention such otherwise appealing places as Evanston (2.2 per 1,000) and Oak Park (2.7 per 1,000), both in Cook County (2.1 per 1,000).

Then we turned to education. If a town or community lacks a public school whose students score above average on standardized tests, we dinged it. And because raising kids in an area that’s at least somewhat diverse is a goal of most parents, we nixed spots where more than 92 percent of residents are of any one race. (Bye-bye, Kenilworth, Western Springs, and Winnetka.)

For the places that remained, we looked at ease of transportation downtown, giving extra points to those that have several el stops and at least one Metra stop. (Places with outstanding schools and low rates of property crime also got bonus points.) And we considered how home prices in these places have fared in recent years compared with prices in neighboring areas, as well as whether buyers there can get good value for their money—which is not the same thing as paying the smallest amount. (For detailed price charts covering all Chicago suburbs and neighborhoods with at least 20 home sales in 2013, see this page with all the housing data.)

Finally, I hit the pavement to assess which spots possess those hard-to-define qualities that matter hugely when you’re looking for somewhere to live. Things like vibrancy (are there lots of bustling restaurants and shops?). Beauty (are there architecturally interesting buildings or just cookie-cutter developments?). Friendliness (does the community have a natural center that brings people together?). Is it, quite simply, a great place to call home?

We crowned four champions each in the North, West, and South Sides of the city. For the rest of the metro area, we chose towns based loosely on county population. In suburban Cook County, we chose five places; in Lake and DuPage Counties, two each; and in Will, Kane, and McHenry Counties, one apiece. On to the winners!

 

Share

comments
4 months ago
Posted by Sueintheop

Interesting!

4 months ago
Posted by Erniedog

No Oak Park? Oh Well can't win them all. Huffington Post had it right.

4 months ago
Posted by Mistur Fewts

What up

4 months ago
Posted by granny65

Edison park and Portage Park a part of the NW side not the west side

4 months ago
Posted by uknowit

Who said edge water is a nice neighborhood? They have as many blue light cameras as Rogers park. Edison park, portage park, and Logan square are not the west side. Logan square has a lot of gangbanging. Whoever wrote this must have not left the blue line station on Milwaukee

4 months ago
Posted by Brent Gibson

This is a very helpful article; however, as West Town residents we take exception to the comments regarding the public schools here. All of our school aged children attend CPS. To mention a few examples of quality local programs: Primary schools such as Pritzker, Pulaski, and Columbus offer excellent, rigorous curricula for local children. Furthermore, special options such as the Montessori program at Drummond and the fine and performing arts magnet and regional gifted programs (both at Pritzker) draw talented and aspiring children from all over the city. The neighborhood high schools (Wells and Clemente) are up and coming. Stay tuned for the launch of the IB program at Clemente and don't miss the broadcast journalism offerings there as well.

4 months ago
Posted by JohnnyDont!

You chose Frankfort and Orland Park over Naperville? You need to learn more about Chicagoland, my friend. And evidently you need to learn more about Chicago too, as your geography is off (Portage Park is the northwest side, not the west side), and Edgewater is not nearly as nice nor as safe as North Center or West Town, and Lincoln Park has one of the highest rates of violent crimes against women in all of Illinois and is the highest in Chicago.

I agree with most of yer suburban choices, but omitting Naperville is a serious oversight, especially when you included Frankfort (no train!) and Orland Park (a seriously bad case of suburban commercial sprawl). Palos Park is much nicer than Orland Park but I'm assuming it didn't meet some of yer requirements.

Just my two cents, which ain't worth much. ;)

4 months ago
Posted by Greenmommy

I'm sorry-- we are eliminating towns because of lack of diversity? Pretty sure hinsdale and Wheaton are some of the whitest most Christian towns around..

4 months ago
Posted by zinger85

Wow, way to go out on a limb Chi-Mag! White, upper middle class to wealthy suburbs are great places to live and raise a family!?

Who would of thought.

4 months ago
Posted by Anonomom

Hi, Greenmom, it is a common misconception that Wheaton is homogeneous. For example, District 200 schools have 24.9% low income students, and about 32.3% are non-white. We also have a large limited English proficient group of students, about 8.5%. This number is higher at the elementary level because students exit the program as they become proficient. Wheaton is also home to a large refugee population from all over the world. Thought you might find this interesting. The makeup of many suburbs and school systems has changed a lot over the years.

4 months ago
Posted by mountgreenwoodchick

Sorry,your all wrong. Mount Greenwood is the best place to live. Nothing but police and firemen live here. One to the left. One to the right. And a german shepherd attack dog in every yard. What a great place to live!!!!

4 months ago
Posted by frankfortguy

I live in Franfort and just want to comment the lack of a train in the city isn't an issue. I have a 12-minute drive to Richton Park to catch the Metra Electric to Millennium station. In many parts of Naperville the drive would be even longer and the train much more crowded … and parking very difficult. Also, we can drive to Tinley Park in less than 15 minutes and catch the Metra Rock Island to the financial district. Two good choices, easy to get to even though Frankfort technically doesn't have a train station. With that said, think highly of Naperville and surprised it didn't make the cut.

4 months ago
Posted by MXC

A few months back Money magazine named the top 100 best places to live and Buffalo Grove was the only Illinois city to make the list. Funny that I don't see Buffalo Grove on this list.

4 months ago
Posted by Troylady

Not so fast!!! Ever since they opened the new runway at O'hare and rerouted all incoming planes over the north side, residents in. Lincoln Square, Portage Park and other neighborhoods now find themselves under a superhighway of airplane noise. The noise is 24/7 and intolerable. Way to ruin the city, politicians! Thanks for nothing!

2 months ago
Posted by chemgirl27

I found Evanston to be very nice when I visited. I felt safe walking around, even at night. Lovely area!

Submit your comment