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Moving to Chicago: Six Things You Need to Consider

Moving to Chicago can be an exciting and daunting experience at the same time. With a population of over 2.7 million, Chicago is the third-largest city in the United States, offering a diverse and vibrant culture. However, before packing up and moving to the Windy City, it's essential to research and understand what to expect.

We want to help you enjoy a seamless and stress-free relocation, no matter how far your travels take you. Not sure how to get started? Read our guide for moving to Chicago to discover six essentials you need to know before starting your journey. 

Downtown Chicago

Why Move to Chicago?

Chicago boasts a range of neighborhoods, each with its unique character and charm. From the trendy and upscale areas like River North and the Gold Coast to the more laid-back and family-friendly neighborhoods like Lincoln Park and Lakeview, a neighborhood suits every lifestyle and budget. However, with such a vast city, it's crucial to research and choose a neighborhood that aligns with your needs and preferences.

Here are six reasons why many individuals, families and businesses consider moving to the Chicago area:

  • Chicago is a vibrant city with a lot to offer.
  • A diverse and thriving job market with Fortune 500 companies and a strong economy.
  • A rich cultural scene with world-class museums, theater, and music.
  • Beautiful architecture and stunning skyline, including iconic buildings like the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) and the John Hancock Center.
  • Plenty of parks and public spaces, including Millennium Park and Grant Park.
  • An exciting sports culture with several professional sports teams, a passionate fan base, and historic venues like Wrigley Field and Soldier Field.

Six Things You Need to Know Before Moving to the Chicago Area

Ready to make this vibrant city your new forever home? Here’s what you need to consider when researching how to move to Chicago:

1. Housing

When moving to Chicago, finding a place to live is one of the most important things to consider. This section will cover the different neighborhoods in Chicago, the cost of living, and tips for finding an apartment.


Chicago is a city of neighborhoods, each with its unique character and charm. Some popular neighborhoods for newcomers include:

  • Lincoln Park: Known for its beautiful park and zoo, Lincoln Park is a great neighborhood for families.
  • Wicker Park: A trendy neighborhood with many bars, restaurants, and nightlife.
  • West Loop: A former industrial area revitalized with new restaurants and shops.
  • South Loop: Close to downtown with easy access to public transportation.

Of course, there are many other neighborhoods to choose from, depending on your budget and lifestyle.

Cost of Living

When it comes to the cost of living, Chicago is relatively affordable compared to other major cities like New York and San Francisco. However, it's important to keep in mind that the cost of living can vary significantly depending on the neighborhood you choose. 

The cost of living is about 21% higher than the national average, with housing being the biggest expense. The median home price is $320,000, and the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,600 per month. However, salaries in Chicago are also higher than the national average, so it can balance out.

It's important to budget carefully and consider all expenses, including transportation, utilities, and groceries.

Finding an Apartment

When looking for an apartment in Chicago, it's important to start your search early and be prepared to act quickly. Apartments can go fast, especially in popular neighborhoods.

Some popular apartment search websites include:

Working with a real estate agent specializing in the Chicago area is also a good idea.

2. Transportation

Chicago is a bustling city with a variety of transportation options available to its residents and visitors. Whether you prefer to use public transportation or drive your own vehicle, Chicago has something for everyone.

Public Transportation

Chicago's public transportation system is one of the best in the country, with the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) providing bus and train service throughout the city and surrounding suburbs. The CTA operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, making it easy to get around no matter the time.

One of the most popular ways to get around Chicago is by taking the "L" train. The "L" is an elevated train system throughout the city, with multiple lines covering different areas. The "L" is a fast and affordable way to get around, with fares starting at just $2.50 per ride.

In addition to the "L," the CTA also operates a bus system that covers the entire city. Buses run regularly and are a great way to get to areas not covered by the "L."

For those who need to travel to the suburbs, the Metra commuter rail system provides service to over 200 stations in the Chicago area. The Metra is a great option for those who live outside of the city and need to commute to work.

Driving in Chicago

If you’re moving to Chicago, keep in mind that driving can present a challenge, especially for those who are not used to city driving. Traffic can be heavy during rush hour, and parking can be difficult to find and expensive.

However, if you do choose to drive in Chicago, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, be aware of the city's many one-way streets and make sure to pay attention to street signs. Second, be prepared to pay for parking, as street parking can be hard to find and parking garages can be expensive.

If you're not comfortable driving in the city, there are other options available. Taxis and ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft are widely available, and many people find them to be a convenient and affordable way to get around.

3. Weather

Chicago has a humid continental climate with four distinct seasons. The city experiences hot summers and cold winters, with temperatures ranging from 20°F (-6.7°C) to 85°F (29.4°C). The weather can be unpredictable, so it's important for new residents to prepare for seasonal changes and extreme weather conditions.

Seasonal Changes

Chicago's weather can change dramatically from season to season. Summers are typically hot and humid, with temperatures averaging between 70°F (21.1°C) and 85°F (29.4°C). Thunderstorms are common during the summer months, and the city occasionally experiences severe weather, including tornadoes.

Autumn in Chicago is mild and pleasant, with temperatures averaging between 50°F (10°C) and 70°F (21.1°C). The city is known for its beautiful fall foliage, and residents can enjoy outdoor activities such as apple picking and pumpkin patches.

Winter in Chicago can be harsh, with temperatures averaging between 20°F (-6.7°C) and 35°F (1.7°C). The city experiences heavy snowfall, and blizzards are not uncommon. Spring is short and cool, with temperatures averaging between 40°F (4.4°C) and 60°F (15.6°C).

Preparing for Winter

Winter in Chicago can be challenging, so it's important for new residents to prepare accordingly. This includes investing in warm clothing, such as a heavy coat, boots, gloves, and a hat. It's also important to prepare your home for the winter months by insulating windows and doors and ensuring that your heating system is in good working order.

Residents should also be prepared for snow removal, as the city requires property owners to clear sidewalks within 24 hours of a snowfall. It's important to have a shovel and ice melt on hand and to know where to dispose of snow. Additionally, residents should be aware of the city's winter parking restrictions, which prohibit parking on certain streets during snow emergencies.

4. Employment

Moving to a new city often means finding a new job, and Chicago has a diverse job market that offers opportunities in a variety of industries. In this section, we'll explore the job market in Chicago, networking opportunities, and tips for finding a job.

Job Market

Chicago's job market is diverse, with opportunities in industries ranging from finance and healthcare to manufacturing and transportation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of February 2023, the unemployment rate in the Chicago-Naperville-Elgin metropolitan area was 3.9%, which is slightly higher than the national average of 3.5%. However, Chicago has a strong job market, and there are many opportunities for job seekers.

Some of the top industries in Chicago include:



Finance and Insurance


Professional and Business Services


Healthcare and Social Assistance




Retail Trade



Networking is an important part of finding a job in any city, and Chicago has many opportunities for job seekers to make connections. One way to network in Chicago is to attend industry events and conferences. There are also many professional organizations in Chicago that offer networking events and resources for job seekers.

Another way to network in Chicago is to use social media. LinkedIn is a popular platform for professionals to connect and find job opportunities. Job seekers can also use Twitter and other social media platforms to follow companies and industry leaders and stay up-to-date on job openings.

Finding a Job

There are many resources available for job seekers in Chicago. The City of Chicago offers an online job portal where job seekers can search for job openings and apply for positions. There are also many job search websites, such as Indeed, Monster, and Glassdoor, that list job openings in Chicago.

Job seekers can also work with a staffing agency or headhunter to find job opportunities. These agencies can help job seekers find temporary or permanent positions in their desired industry.

When applying for jobs in Chicago, it's important to tailor your resume and cover letter to each job you apply for. Job seekers should also be prepared for interviews and do research on the company and the position before the interview.

5. Education

For families with children or those looking to further their education, Chicago offers a variety of options for schooling. From public to private schools, as well as numerous colleges and universities, there are plenty of opportunities for learning in the city.

School Districts

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is the third-largest school district in the United States, serving over 350,000 students. CPS operates over 600 schools, including selective enrollment schools, magnet schools, and charter schools. The district's mission is to provide a high-quality education to all students, regardless of their background or zip code.

There are also several suburban school districts within the greater Chicago area. These districts vary in size and quality, so it's important to research and compare schools before choosing a neighborhood to live in.

Colleges and Universities

Chicago is home to some of the top colleges and universities in the country. The University of Chicago, Northwestern University, and Loyola University Chicago are just a few of the many options available.

For those looking for a more affordable option, the City Colleges of Chicago system offers seven community colleges throughout the city. These colleges provide a variety of programs and courses, including transfer programs to four-year universities and vocational training.

Chicago is also home to several prestigious art and design schools, such as the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Illinois Institute of Art - Chicago.

6. Entertainment

Chicago is a city with a vibrant and diverse entertainment scene. Whether you are a foodie, sports enthusiast, or art lover, there is something for everyone in the Windy City.

Dining and Nightlife

Chicago is known for its delicious food, and there is no shortage of dining options in the city. From deep-dish pizza to Chicago-style hot dogs, there are plenty of iconic dishes to try. In addition to classic Chicago cuisine, the city is home to many world-class restaurants, including several James Beard Award winners. When it comes to nightlife, Chicago has a thriving bar and club scene. The city is known for its jazz and blues clubs, which have been around for decades. There are also plenty of rooftop bars and trendy nightclubs for those who want to dance the night away.

Sports and Recreation

Chicago is a sports lover's paradise. The city is home to several professional sports teams, including the Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Chicago Bulls, and Chicago Blackhawks. In addition to watching games, there are plenty of opportunities to get active and participate in sports yourself. The city has many parks and recreational areas, including the famous Lakefront Trail, which stretches for 18 miles along Lake Michigan.

Arts and Culture

Chicago has a rich cultural history and is home to many world-class museums and art galleries. The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the most famous museums in the world and houses an extensive collection of art from around the globe. The city is also home to several theaters, including the famous Steppenwolf Theatre Company, which has produced many award-winning plays over the years. In addition to traditional art forms, Chicago is also known for its street art and graffiti scene. The city has several neighborhoods where you can see colorful murals and other forms of public art. Overall, Chicago is a city that has something for everyone when it comes to entertainment. From food to sports to art, there are endless opportunities to explore and enjoy all that the city has to offer.

How to Move to Chicago

Whether you're leaving rural Indiana, elsewhere in the Midwest, or one of the coasts, moving to the Chicago area can be a challenging task to take on by yourself. Start planning early to ensure you understand the logistics required for a move to the Windy City. If the task begins to feel overwhelming, research leading Chicago moving companies that can help you get the job done. 

North American Van Lines is a leading Chicago moving company with over 90 years in the business. Our highly-rated local moving agents will work with you to create a personalized moving plan that incorporates every stage of your move to Chicago, from packing to delivery to debris removal. We’ll provide a custom quote based on the services you choose, so you’ll never pay for options you don’t need.

As you count down toward your move to Chicago, use this timeline to stay on schedule:

  • 2–3 months: Compare quotes between different Chicago moving companies. 
  • 3–4 weeks: Declutter, donate and recycle items you no longer use.
  • 3–5 weeks: Start packing your belongings.
  • 1–2 weeks: Plan to cancel services, forward your mail and switch subscriptions to your new address.
  • 1–2 days: Final packing and loading. Get excited for your big move to Chicago!

Helpful guides

We have compiled several guides on how to move to Chicago from other locations in the United States. For additional guidance, contact our Chicago moving agents today—or reach out to the northAmerican® relocation experts in your hometown!


Chicago is a city with a lot to offer, from its diverse job market to its rich cultural and entertainment scene. While it may not be the cheapest city to live in, it's certainly worth considering for those who value city life and all that comes with it.

When it comes to moving to Chicago, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, it's important to do your research and find the right neighborhood for you. Whether you're looking for a bustling downtown area or a quieter suburban feel, there are plenty of options to choose from.

Another important consideration is the cost of living. While Chicago is not the most expensive city in the United States, it's certainly not the cheapest either. However, with a diversified job market and plenty of opportunities for growth, many find that the higher cost of living is worth it.

Overall, moving to Chicago can be a great choice for those looking for a vibrant city with plenty of opportunities. With the right planning and preparation, anyone can make the move to the Windy City and thrive.

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