This historically Polish neighborhood packed with classic Chicago bungalows contains terrific housing deals for first-time buyers, especially given the fact that the cool factor here is on the rise. You can dine at the Portage, a three-year-old restaurant praised by foodies. Catch a flick at the Patio, a restored art deco movie palace on Irving Park Road. Or sip a coffee at City Newsstand while paging through thousands of publications from around the world.

Crime, once a problem in the neighborhood and in the 36-acre park that shares its name, has lessened considerably. “Ten or 15 years ago, the park was not considered the greatest place to spend time,” says Liz Miller, a former teacher and mother of two teenagers, who has lived in Portage Park since the late 1990s. Now families flock to the green space, with its recently refurbished playground. Adds Miller: “Three of the four neighborhood elementary schools here are Level 1”—the highest-performing level in CPS.