Here at Movoto Real Estate, we’ve been ranking cities all over the country—and many times, even discussing places as far away as London or the Mushroom Kingdom. So we thought, why not bring it a little closer to home and really focus in the best cities in one state in particular?
We started out with Michigan, delighting Midlanders and today, we’re moving on to the Land of Lincoln—the great state of Illinois.
So if you’re thinking about moving to Illinois, look no further than these 10 cities, the cream of the crop when it comes to places to live.
- Village of Northbrook
- City of Highland Park
- Village of Glenview
- City of Park Ridge
- City of Elmhurst
- City of Wheaton
- Village of Arlington Heights
- Village of Downers Grove
- Village of Palatine
- Village of Mount Prospect
I know what you’re thinking—where is Chicago? I know! But when it comes to actually living in a city, not just hopping by for a weekend, the Windy City might just blow over some of the necessities.
What Makes A Great Illinois City?
In order to come up with this list of Illinois besties, we narrowed our search down to six criteria.
- Amenities (shopping, dining, entertainment, etc.)
- Cost of living (percent above or below state average)
- Crime (percent above or below state average)
- Education (high school graduation rate compared to state average)
- Employment (income and unemployment compared to state average)
- Home value (percent above or below state average)
We started out with the 50 largest cities and townships in Illinois and ranked each of them with a score of 1 to 50 with the criteria above (1 being the best.) Then, each city was averaged and given an overall Big Deal Score. The lower the number, the higher it ranked, and ultimately, the better for residents and potential residents alike.
So what exactly makes each city so special? Keep reading to find out why each of these cities made our list, starting with the Best City in Illinois, Northbrook.
1. Village of Northbrook
To paint a picture of just how idyllic and quaint Northbrook is, we should start by saying that it is, in fact, called the Village of Northbrook, and the town is dotted with old buildings like the Village Hall and parks like the Village Green. It just sounds cute.
You know what else sounds good about Northbrook? Their education system. Northbrook came in first here, 15 percent higher than the rest of Illinois when it comes to high school graduation rates. But that shouldn’t be a surprise, really, with the quintessential Glenbrook North High School—one of the main places used to film the teen classic, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”. In fact, director John Hughes even attended Gleenbrook North himself.
It really is no wonder Northbrook came in first on the list—the real wonder is, why hadn’t we heard about this place sooner?
2. City of Highland Park
Just outside of Chicago, Highland Park has all of the benefits of the big city, but none of the hassles. And if you don’t want to venture into Chicago to get your kicks, Highland Park has more than enough to offer. The downtown district is abuzz with restaurant goers and shoppers, and once a year the Ravinia Festival takes over, turning the city into a mecca for music lovers, including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra who have been playing in Highland Park since the 1930s.
And while you’re downtown, you won’t need to worry about watching your back—Highland Park came in first in safety, with a crime rate 56 percent below the Illinois average. And perhaps not surprisingly, with famous houses like the Willits House by Frank Lloyd Wright dotting the streets, Highland Park came in first when it comes to home values in Chicago—their home values are 221 percent higher than the Illinois average. Way to go, Highland Park.
3. Village of Glenview
Glenview, that’s G-L-E-N-V-I-E-W, as I’m sure any one of their well-educated first-graders would be happy to tell you. That’s because Glenview scored well, firstly because of its stellar education system, with a high school graduation rate 13 percent higher than the rest of Illinois, but it did not stop impressing us there. Glenview has an average household income of over $107,000—85 percent higher than the rest of the state—a low crime rate, and high home values.
This is one of the best towns for families and children. There is the Park Center, one of the largest community centers in Illinois, there are trails for biking and walking in The Grove, and a wonderful children’s museum for all your little geniuses in training.
4. City of Park Ridge
Park Ridge was originally called Pennyville to honor George Penny, a businessman who owned a local brickyard. But over the years, the town took a more logical leap and named it Park Ridge, because… it lies on a ridge.
Actually, logical may not be a bad way to sum up a Park Ridge resident—after all, this town was the birthplace of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Was it due to the city’s stellar educational system that Hillary has come so far? Perhaps their crime rate—47 percent lower than the rest of Illinois?
Maybe. But we think it is more that Park Ridge is just an all-around nice town. It is home to the nationally known Pickwick Theater—an old art deco building that is now home to movies, plays, and events. And at Maine East High School, football, cheerleading, and a refreshingly wholesome school spirit still reign.
5. City of Elmhurst
Aside from being the birthplace of one of God’s gifts to men, Keebler cookies, Elmhurst is also a sort of cultural mini-mecca. Residents in Elmhurst have the luxury of stopping by the Theatre Historical Society of America and the highly rated Elmhurst Art Museum.
Just like the art at the museum, Elmhurst looks pretty good on paper too. It has a low crime rate, a great education system, and an average household income of $85,000—48 percent higher than the rest of Illinois.
6. City of Wheaton
It is a good indication of a town’s standing when it is featured in a magazine simply called Money. And that is just where Wheaton was named in a recent listing of 25 highest earning towns in the United States—and with an average annual income of over $86,000, it’s no wonder.
Perhaps it is because Wheaton residents grow up with such stellar educations that they make such top dollar salaries as adults? Their high school graduation rates, after all, are 13 percent higher than the rest of the state. The town is also home to three college campuses, including Wheaton College, a public library that ranks among the best in the nation. And if studying isn’t your cup of tea, not to worry—Wheaton has plenty to offer in terms of outdoor activities, from parks and golf courses galore, to the Dupage Fairgrounds, to the Town Square Shopping Center.
7. Village of Arlington Heights
Arlington Heights is a wonderful place to call home. It is an even better place to own a home. That’s because the home values in this town are 102 percent higher than the rest of Illinois, and only getting higher. So—great news if you live in Arlington Heights and you own a home. For those looking to buy a home in Arlington Heights? Well, residents here make about 30 percent more than residents elsewhere in the state, so you’ll probably be able to afford it.
Arlington Heights is booming right now—especially downtown with its expansion of condos, businesses, and delicious restaurants—Asian food in particular. Sun Shui for sushi, anyone?
8. Village of Downers Grove
Talk about a misnomer—Downers Grove is anything but a downer, as recently ranked No. 8 in Forbes’ list of America’s Friendliest Towns. In fact, unless you’re talking about their incredibly low crime rate compared to the rest of the state, Downers Grove ranks pretty high in most things.
It is among the top in Illinois education, with a 12 percent higher high school graduation rate than the rest of the state and an annual household income of over $78,000—35 percent higher than average in these parts.
It has also been named one of CNN’s best places to retire, for its abundance of parks, nature, and, of course, stellar hospitals.
9. Village of Palatine
Palatine’s motto is “A real hometown,” and I think this about sums it up. Underneath its almost nonexistent crime rate (51 percent lower than the rest of the state!), its high household income, and even higher house value (over 70 percent higher than the rest of IL), Palatine really is just a nice, wholesome hometown kind of place.
It is situated in a wooded parkland, traversed with streams, and began its rustic roots in the 1800s with George Ela and a hand-built log cabin in the area now called Deer Grove.
Today Palatine maintains that old world charm with its nature, but also has a bustling, if quaint, downtown area that fills up for Street Fest and the Fourth of July Celebration each year.
10. Village of Mount Prospect
Mount Prospect is most known for the Randhurst Village, the public library, and for being the home of actress Jennifer Morrison—but maybe that’s just because people don’t know about how very safe it is (49 percent safer than the rest of the state), or how very happy the residents seem to be (after all, they do make 17 percent more than the rest of their state.)
Yes, prospects are good in this town—especially when it comes to really enjoying your time outside. Festivals like the Irish Festival, Fridays on the Green, the annual Memorial Day Parade, Farmers’ Markets, and Family Bike rides make Mount Prospect not only a good place to have a house, but a good place to call home.
Land of More than Just Lincoln
Perhaps Illinoisans, it’s time you updated your state slogan from “Land of Lincoln” to “Land of Excellent Education Systems,” “Land of Awesome Salaries,” or “Land of Northbrook.”
Oh, and Chicago is pretty great too.
Who is Movoto Real Estate, you might ask? Movoto is a national online real estate brokerage. Our blog has been recognized for its unique approach to city-based research by major news organizations around the world such as Forbes, CBS News, and The New York Times.