Most tenants looking for a place to rent will spend much of the time looking at what kind of space they’ll have inside the four walls of an apartment. That makes sense, since it’s what you will see daily, and there’s an important connection that needs to be made.
But the space outside those walls will be just as important. Picking the right neighborhood can easily transform your entire rental experience.
Luckily, we’ve done the legwork for you in identifying the highlights of some of the major areas in Chicago and its surrounding suburbs. Use this guide to help you identify which neighborhood makes the most sense for you.
Before you start your analysis, take time to determine the things you consider most important in a neighborhood, such as its walkability, safety, nightlife, shopping, and other amenities that make life easier and more fun.
Fortunately, there are many tools available to help you learn more about potential neighborhoods. Here’s what you need to know:
You love your potential new place, but how about the neighborhood that surrounds it? Make sure you figure out if the new area also matches your priorities!
When thinking about how it would be to live in your new neighborhood, walk around it with a purpose, with your eyes and ears wide open. Look for well-kept yards, clean streets, interesting shopping, restaurants with sidewalk seating, and people out and about, walking from the train or bus, catching up with friends at the local coffee shop, or wheeling their kids in strollers.
Most healthy neighborhoods will have lots of activity, with people of all ages out and about, whether they’re at the local grocery store, cafe or coffee shop, doing the school run, or walking their dogs.
Are you a foodie? Take a virtual tour on Yelp and see the restaurant hotspots near your building, or simply walk around and see what catches your eye! Also familiarize yourself with the grocery stores around you — there are often a variety of options with different price points.
While all neighborhoods in Chicago provide access to a vibrant nightlife scene and loads of recreational activities, some areas center their identity around a particular calling card. There are places centered around Chicago’s sports teams as well as neighborhoods with a heavy focus on nightlife
When thinking about the things you’d like to do in your new neighborhood and the places you’ll want to go, you need to keep in mind how you’ll get there. Each area has different options available to get around, and choosing one that aligns with your preferences can go a long way in leaving you satisfied.
If you love to drive, make sure you understand the parking situation in your area — it can sometimes be hard to find a parking spot on the streets, and you may also need a city-issued permit if you want to avoid a fine. Be sure to check with your landlord to see if they have building-specific parking spots available for tenants.
If you prefer to get around on two wheels, you’re definitely in luck. Chicagoland has a bevy of bike lanes scattered across the city, as well as the Divvy bike sharing system, which allows users to rent bikes from stations across the city and return them to ports near their destinations.
The city also has a variety of public transit options, ranging from the CTA network of elevated trains that span the city sprawl to the buses that fill the gaps in between. The Metra train system is the perfect choice to commute between the suburbs and the city.
If you’re looking to take a trip outside the city, Chicago is fortunate to boast two airports you can fly out of at your convenience. The North Side of Chicago and its surrounding suburbs are best served by O’Hare International Airport, but if you’re in the Gold Coast, Lincoln Park or Lake View, you can hop on the “El,” and get over to Midway Airport quickly.
The website walkscore.com can give definition to your research. It provides scores by address for various modes of travel, including scores for being car-dependent (or your walk score), availability of buses, trains, and routes available for biking.
Whatever neighborhood you choose, get out and explore the new community you live in. The city has a lot to offer outside of your apartment’s four walls!