Average house price: $351,942
Transportation * (out of 4) Expressway access is OK, but there is no Metra connection.
Schools * * * Lincoln-Way East High School, which serves a number of communities, does not perform at the same level as the superior public grade schools, which primarily serve only Frankfort.
Shopping * * There is an assortment of stores and restaurants along La Grange Road and Lincoln Highway.
Plus: Because they live at the southern reaches of the metro area, residents can easily reach the Midewin prairie and the Illinois River country.

Bicyclists traveling the 21-mile Old Plank Road Trail through northern Will County know they can expect a warm welcome at a tavern in downtown Frankfort that’s named for the trail. This onetime post office with a broad front porch stands among the vintage storefronts and houses along Kansas Street, a snapshot of a pioneer town’s center. Providing an urbane counterpoint, the tantalizing aroma of garlic and olive oil wafts out of nearby Francesca’s Fortunato on most afternoons and evenings.

The same blending of old and new characterizes the blocks around Kansas. Handsome homes from the early decades of the 20th century cluster just to the south, while on the newer blocks to the north, homes built in the past ten or so years combine Victorian styling with attached garages. Founders’ Place and a few other subdivisions close to downtown also evoke that historical ethos, but conventional styles take hold farther south, in the new subdivisions that currently adjoin cornfields. (Those southern reaches will likely stay somewhat isolated during this fallow period in homebuilding.)

On the eastern end of Frankfort, near Harlem Avenue and Lincoln Highway, Hickory Creek rambles through Prestwick Country Club and Camp Manitoqua, a religious retreat with a scattering of barn-red buildings nestled in the woods and gardens. These and two tracts of forest preserve—Sauk Trail and Hunters Woods—lend a sylvan character to this part of town.

Students in Frankfort’s three grade schools consistently score well before moving on to Lincoln-Way East High School. (Some students in the northeastern part of town attend classes in the Summit Hill School District, where test scores are not quite as stellar.) Shopping centers extend along Lincoln Highway and La Grange Road.

Back on Old Plank Road Trail, two of the town’s tallest structures represent the local aesthetic as well as anything. To the east, a rebuilt grain tower, a remnant of the town’s agricultural past, rises like a sentinel over Kansas Street. Less than a mile to the west, the soaring white Arrowhead Bridge, built in 1998, carries cyclists above the La Grange Road crossing. That’s all you need to know about Frankfort: Old and new balance each other.