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Illinois is not just Chicago. Yes, the Windy City is perhaps the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of the state, but it accounts for less than a quarter of Illinois’ population of 12.7 million. The Land of Lincoln has a multitude of other cities that are great, and even exciting, places to hang your hat. Without further ado, let’s take a closer look at our picks for Illinois’ five best cities to live in.
Yes, Chicago is Illinois’ best city to live in, but not without reason, as the Windy City has a lot going for it: a beautiful skyline, distinct neighborhoods with their own character that suit every taste, a great food scene, miles of salt-free beaches, and a cost of living that won’t ruin you— unlike New York or San Francisco. No matter what your lifestyle, you’ll be sure to find your sweet spot in Chicago.
You’ll have to head 140 miles south from Chicago to reach our #2 city, Urbana, located amidst the cornfields of central Illinois. Along with its sister city Champaign, Urbana is the home of the prestigious University of Illinois, which breathes life into the city’s art & culture scene, in addition to being Urbana’s biggest employer.
Suburban Chicago, with its small-town character and big city access, is one of the best areas to raise a family in America, and #3 Wheaton is a great example of the region. With an excellent school district and a great downtown area with shops and restaurants, Wheaton is an in-demand city to settle down in.
Schaumburg, another suburb of Chicago, is Illinois’ #4 best city to live in. The quintessential suburb is home to four university campuses and Woodfield Mall, one of the largest malls in the county.
Lisle, home of the wonderful Morton Arboretum, is #5 on the list.
Best Cities to Live in Illinois
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We ranked a total of 2,509 qualified cities (those with populations above 25,000 and enough data for analysis) by five factors: employment (number of establishments, median earnings); housing (owner-occupied housing with a mortgage, monthly housing costs); quality of life (work commute, poverty levels); education (percentage with a bachelor’s degree or higher); and health (obesity ratios).