10 Things To Know Before Moving To Chicago

Whether you’re moving to a new Chicago neighborhood, leaving the suburbs behind for Lincoln Park or arriving in the City That Works from someplace downstate, there are a few things you should know in advance.

  1. Chicago comes alive in the spring and summer, with restaurants rolling out sidewalk seating, locals gathering for outdoor concerts, and architecture tours that reveal Chicago’s history through a local lens.
  2. A city of neighborhoods, Chicago is also in many ways culturally and racially divided. It’s home to roughly 77 loosely defined neighborhoods, each one boasting distinct attractions and its own cultural heritage and personality.
  3. Chicago streets are laid out on a grid system, starting at Madison 0 north/south and State Street east/west and radiating outward N, S, E, and W from there. Think of it in terms of mathematics — coordinates are found based on an X and Y Axis. In other words X = north and south addresses, while Y equals addresses that are east and west.
  4. Chicago’s Divvy bike share program is an affordable way to get around town. Just pick up a bike at one of hundreds of area stations. Then, return it to any station with an empty dock when you’re done. 
  5. Plan on owning a car within city limits? You may want to rethink that — driveways are few and far between and parking is expensive, often permitted and notoriously hard to find. What’s more, local towing companies are overzealous and parking tickets are a constant source of stress. 
  6. Get ready for people to call “dibs” on parking spots during winter. They’ll be blocked with lawn chairs, cones — even Rubbermaid bins.
  7. Although Chicago is ranked among the best U.S. cities when it comes to public transportation, you can only travel at the speed of the CTA. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself passed by. Plus, you can expect to encounter unexpected delays. Therefore plan ahead.
  8. Although most bars roll up the sidewalk by 2 a.m., raucous bars with 4 a.m. licenses do exist. 
  9. The job market is competitive, with 400-plus applicants often lobbying for a single role. Connections get people hired here, so having personal referrals is key.
  10. Despite the headlines about violence in Chicago, most city neighborhoods are, in reality, safer than they ever have been. Yes, crime is a part of life — as it is in any city — but the coverage fails to tell the whole story. Part of that story? Chicago is a place where you’ll get to know — and maybe even become friends with — your neighbors.

Learn more about the ins and outs of Chicago with our insider’s guide to the city.

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