Chicago is the US’s third-most populous city, famous for skyscrapers, deep-dish pizza and fabulous architecture. An international hub of culture, education and many industries, the city offers a wide array of employment, housing and recreational opportunities. Dynamic and exciting, with a rich history and culture and a dash of Midwestern politeness and warmth, Chicago makes for an interesting and popular moving destination. If you’re considering that option yourself, here are some of the main things you need to know before moving here:

How big is Chicago?

Well, Chicago is pretty big. It is only exceeded by New York City and Los Angeles in terms of population, and it covers about 234 square miles, which makes it as big as D.C., Boston and Portland combined. It is the biggest city in the Midwest, its nearest rivals in the region being Detroit, MI, and Columbus, OH. Cook County encompasses almost all of Chicago, making it the nation’s second-most populous county. The city’s center divides into The Loop and the North, South, and West sides. The wider metropolitan area — covering more than 10,000 square miles, and often known as Chicagoland —includes Aurora, Naperville and Joliet, which are some well-regarded suburban areas.

What is the weather like in Chicago?

Its nickname, the Windy City, gives you your first clue. Apart from that, Chicago experiences four distinct seasons. Winters are generally cold and snowy with temperatures influenced by windchills. Snowstorms can also occur during winters.

Spring is the most unpredictable season in Chicago, ranging from cold and almost winter-like in some years to rather warm and pleasant in others. The summers are generally enjoyable, although heat waves and high humidity do occasionally happen. Autumn is the calmest and nicest season in Chicago, with warm weather sometimes occurring late into the fall months.

Local economy and jobs

Chicago and its surrounding metropolitan area boast the third-highest GDP in the U.S. after the New York and LA metro areas. It’s also one of the highest in the world. Interestingly, no single industry completely dominates the job market, and this diversity adds some economic stability. Major industry sectors in the Windy City include finance, science, manufacturing, and food processing. Chicago’s central location in the country has also made it a major transportation hub.

Several Fortune 500 companies call Chicago home — and we’re talking about the likes of Boeing, McDonald’s, and Motorola. The city has become something of a hotspot for relocations and startups, with information technology being one of the fastest-growing sectors in the city. In other words, Chicago has a very diversified and dynamic economy and, consequently, job market. One that provides employment opportunities for wide categories of people, from blue-collar workers to highly specialized professionals.

Housing options and best neighborhoods

Lakefront living is highly valued in Chicago, and several neighborhoods offer properties with this benefit. For instance, you can find desirable co-ops and condos in the central districts. The North Side offers fashionable restaurants and accommodations popular among young professionals. The South Side tends to have a more diverse ambiance, and many people commute Downtown. For single-family housing, Bridgeport has historic row houses and suburban Beverly offers plenty of space.

Homes in Chicago, particularly recently built homes, tend to be pretty large — the average size of Chicago homes constructed since 2015 onward is over 3,000 square feet. However, you can obviously shop around for smaller homes if you need a smaller space or experience budget constraints. Apartments in the city, on the other hand, don’t offer quite as much space — the average size of new ones built since 2010 hovers around 800-850 square feet. Fortunately, apartment dwellers can make up for the lack of space by using self storage. There are about 120 self storage facilities in Chicago, so you can easily find storage units located close to your home.

If you’re looking a bit further than the city proper for housing, various suburbs in the Chicago metro area provide an excellent mix of amenities and relatively affordable prices. Check out suburbs such as Crystal Lake, Algonquin, or Elk Grove Village, to name just a few.

Entertainment and outdoor recreation

Being one of the most important urban hotspots in the country, and a very diverse, vibrant city, Chicago offers pretty much everything you might wish for in terms of access to culture and entertainment, restaurants, shopping, and so on. Eating out in Chicago can be anything you want, from fine dining at a Michelin-rated restaurant such as Alinea or Ever to delicious and cheap street food such as the famous Chicago-style pizza or hot dogs.

Chicago also hosts some world-class music festivals, including Lollapalooza and the Chicago Blues Festival. If you’re looking for local flair, then you’ll love the Pitchfork Music Festival, where Chicagoans go to enjoy carefully curated musicians in Union Park without having to deal with tens of thousands of tourists, as this festival is not quite as famous as the previous two. If you’re the artsy type, Bucktown Arts Fest will be right up your alley. As for foodies, who can say no to Chicago’s Ribfest?

Outdoorsy persons will enjoy Chicago because the city has numerous biking and hiking trails, such as Lakefront Trail or North Shore Channel Trail. With Lake Michigan lapping Chicago’s shores, and the Chicago River traversing the city, there are ample opportunities for water sports like kayaking, jet skiing, fishing, and more. Chicago is also a city of many gardens. Back in the 19th century, the local government decided on “urbs in horto” (city in a garden) as the official motto, and Chicago certainly lives up to it. From the expansive Botanic Garden to Lincoln Park, Jackson Park, or Lurie Garden, there are plenty of amazing nature spots right in the middle of the city, where you can practice various sports and games or simply relax.

Education and universities in Chicago

One important criterion for families planning to move is whether their destination city provides access to good quality education for children and young people — and Chicago delivers. The city has over 630 district-run and charter schools, so you have your pick. Some of the best schools in the city include Northside College Prep High School, Whitney Young Magnet High School, Lenart Elementary Regional Gifted Center, Decatur Classical Elementary School, and many others.

In terms of universities, Chicago has been a center of educational excellence for more than a century and a half. Highly regarded private colleges in the city include the University of Chicago and the Illinois Institute of Technology. The University of Illinois at Chicago is a public university, centrally situated near the Loop, while Loyola University Chicago and DePaul University are both private Catholic universities.

Self storage for an easy move to Chicago

People moving to Chicago from another state may pay a few thousand dollars to hire a professional moving company, and this can be worthwhile to avoid stress. If you’re on a budget, you can complete the moving process yourself with the help of friends or family, especially if the move is not long distance. However, professionals know better how to move fragile items and are better equipped at handling unexpected and challenging situations.

Either way, renting a storage unit in Chicago streamlines the entire moving process and gives you more flexibility. You can move into your new place on a date that suits you, taking your time if necessary, ensuring you don’t start life in your new home surrounded by packing boxes. And once you’ve settled in, hanging on to your storage unit offers several long-term benefits: It can help keep your home clutter-free, offers an excellent backup plan in case you need to relocate again, and can even double up as a workshop.

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Maria Gatea is a creative writer for StorageCafe and RentCafe with a background in Journalism and Communication. After covering business and finance-related topics as a freelance writer for 15 years, she is now focusing on researching and writing about the real estate industry. You may contact Maria via email.

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