Chicago is famous for its long and brutal winters. However, if you’re planning to move to the city in the coming weeks, don’t worry! Chicago is nicer in the autumn than in the summer or winter, so you’re in luck!
With crisp and sunny weather, mild temperatures and less rain than you might think, you chose just the right season for your move! Let’s take a look at what other things about Chicago you should know – including getting around town, the cost of living and entertainment options.
1. Although Chicago is Expensive, You Get a Lot for Your Money
The average rent in Chicago in August 2019 was $2,007, according to the Yardi Matrix. This is significantly above the national average of $1,472, but lower than the monthly rent in other sought-after cities around the country. For example, in Washington, DC, apartments go for more than $2,227 while those in Los Angeles have gone beyond the $2,500 mark.
There is good news on the self-storage front. To make up for the lack of space at home, you can easily rent a storage unit in Chicago that costs about $100 per month for a standard 10X10 storage unit – significantly less than what people pay for self-storage in other big cities. In fact, self-storage street rates in Chicago are lower than the national average, at an average of $116 in September, according to Yardi Matrix.
One other important factor that you should be aware of when it comes to the cost of living in Chicago are taxes. According to a report from the Tax Foundation, the city of Chicago has the highest sales tax rates in the country with Chicagoans paying a combined state and local sales tax rate of 10.25%. The only other two cities in the nation with a similar level of sales taxes are Glendale and Long Beach in California.
As for other living costs, you can expect a meal at a mid-range restaurant to set you back an average of $65, a public transportation monthly pass is $105, and average monthly basic utilities (electricity, heating, cooling, water) for an apartment in Chicago are about $130, according to Numbeo.com.
2. When is the Best Time to Move Chicago?
You probably assume that the Windy City moniker is related to weather, but it’s not. Apparently, it refers to Chicago’s politicians during the 19th century, who were said to be full of hot air. The nickname was popularized by journalists and it really stuck – probably because, once the association with the politicians disappeared from the public conscience, the expression continued to hold some truth. Chicago is, indeed, quite breezy, due to its proximity to Lake Michigan, which is massive. Lake Michigan is also responsible for high humidity during summers.
If you’re moving to Chicago, expect a large seasonal contrast between the hot and humid summers and the cold and snowy winters. Springtime is cool and rainy, while autumn has gloriously sunny and mild days with less rainfall than the other seasons. It’s the perfect time to move in!
3. Getting Around Town is Easy and Fun
Chicago is a very walkable and bikeable city, and it has an extensive public transportation network. It might just be one of the few US cities where not owning a car is not a big deal, as you can get by perfectly well without one. There are eight L train lines and 129 bus routes in the city, plus the high-speed Metra rail that connects the suburbs to downtown Chicago.
Chicago is a biker’s paradise, with over 200 miles of bike lanes and the bike-sharing program Divvy that provides about 600 bike stations and 6000 bikes available for rent 24/7. You can commute to work by bike, or simply use them leisurely to enjoy fresh air and the nice views of Lake Michigan.
4. Chicago Neighborhoods are Filled with Character
The best part about Chicago neighborhoods is that most of them have easy access to parks and nature. Whether you’re moving to the city for school, for a job or simply for a new start, you’ll be able to gather your thoughts in a lush, green park near your home (or in a snowy, frozen one, obviously, depending on the season.) Either way, the parks are amazingly invigorating!
“There are almost 80 distinct neighborhoods in the city, each with its own personality and vibe. To make your transition easier, we identified a few of the best neighborhoods in town for newcomers.
- North Side – includes diverse neighborhoods and a cool atmosphere. Lincoln Park features plenty of apartments, charming brownstones, the namesake park and a zoo. Lincoln Square and Roscoe Village are home to many single-family residences and, naturally, attract many families with children. The brick homes and numerous green spots lend a distinct small-town feel. Lakeview, another neighborhood near the downtown area, offers plenty of bars, a flourishing theater and comedy scene, and a beautiful view of Lake Michigan.
- Downtown – this neighborhood, particularly the Loop area, is the place to be if you have a higher-than average income and love shopping. It’s Chicago’s financial and governmental hub, and there’s plenty to enjoy, from bars, restaurants and luxury shopping on Michigan Avenue to spectacular architecture.
- South Side prides itself on cool and hip neighborhoods such as Pilsen, where you’ll be surrounded by colorful street art, a plethora of vintage shops and spectacular Mexican street food. It’s an affordable neighborhood popular with aspiring artists and students.
- West Side – another less expensive Chicago area, with neighborhoods such as Logan Square popular among working class Chicagoans as well as transplants. From locally owned coffee shops and restaurants to an animated live music scene, it’s the place to be if you love going out and meeting interesting people on a daily basis.
5. Chicago on a Platter: Enjoy Fine Arts and Fine Dining at Every Corner
There are two types of food that embody Chicago: deep-dish pizza and the Chicago-style hot-dog. Pizza purists might argue that the deep-dish one is not even pizza – as they would say it is actually a pie. But it really doesn’t matter how you call it. By any other name, the deep-dish pizza would taste as delicious as it already does. It features a deep, buttery crust, loaded with layers of cheese, meat (usually pepperoni or sausage) and tomato sauce. Really, what’s not to like?
The namesake hot-dog is a pork-beef sausage in a poppy-seed bun, topped with white onions, sweet pickle relish with its typical neon green color – which, interestingly enough, comes from adding blue dye to regular relish– dill pickle, tomato slices, pickled peppers, a dash of celery salt and absolutely no ketchup. Chicagoans are very firm about the no ketchup on hot-dog rule, and many vendors don’t even carry the condiment.
But there’s more to Chicago than street food. If fine dining is your thing, you definitely have a wide array of choices. Just a few of the many upscale restaurants in the city include famous chef Andrew Zimmerman’s Proxi and Sepia, Monteverde and its delicious pasta dishes, and Elske, an unconventional American-Danish restaurant whose name means “love” in Danish.
When it comes to entertainment, Chicago has a ton to offer. From street festivals, beaches and hiking trails in the summer to museums, film festivals, art exhibits, theater and live music, there’s something for everyone. You shouldn’t miss the Art Institute of Chicago or the historic and award-winning Chicago theaters such as Steppenwolf Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Chopin Theatre or Athenaeum Theatre.
Chicagoans are really enthusiastic about street festivals, so you’ll have new entertainment opportunities every week. With the world-famous Lollapalooza Music Festival, Hyde Park Jazz Festival, Artfest Michigan Avenue, Chicago Craft Beer Festival and Oktoberfest Chicago, your social calendar will be full year-round. You can even register for a charity Polar Plunge in Michigan Lake at the end of January – you definitely can’t complain about monotony while living in Chicago!
What else is left to say than happy moving, pack all your winter clothes, and forget all about ketchup and thin-slice pizza? Enjoy your new life in the Chi-city!