18 answers

Family-friendly Neighborhoods in Chicago

I am moving with my husband and 15-month-old daughter to Chicago from Ann Arbor, Michigan. My husband will be working downtown (near the Sears Tower). My sister lives in Hyde Park. We'd like to be close to her, but it's important for us to be in a safe, family-friendly neighborhood with good daycares and fun things to do with kids. We heard that South Loop is an up-and-coming neighborhood. Is it safe? Is it family-friendly? What are some other good neighborhoods for our needs?
Thanks!
R.

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I would be willing to live in the south loop. It has a new gymboree and little gym and the lake and field museum/planetarium/aquarium are close. I also like the uic area. In addition, Lincoln Park and Lakeview have lots of businesses that cater to families and the parks are nice.

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R.-

The South Loop is a great family-friendly neighborhood, not to mention in close proximity to Hyde Park (about 15 min drive on LSD) and just about everything else downtown. It's changed so much in the past 10 years. I grew up there and while it was a nice gated community in the 80s, there wasn't a lot else around there. Now it's bursting with parks, families, shopping, restaurants, etc. As someone else already responded, almost every family has kids and it is also bursting with dogs as it has one of the highest per capita dog populations in the city. It is very pricey compared to some other areas of the city, but a great location!

~A.

Hi R.,
We moved to Chicago about 3 years ago from Iowa City, and have since lived in 3 different neighborhoods (purchased a condo and have no plans to move now). I found that coming from a smaller town, my comfort level for what was "safe" changed vastly during my first year living here. I am now very comfortable in places that I would have been very nervous about being in when we first got here. You may or may not have the same experience (I was always a small town girl).

South Loop is definitely up and coming, and if you don't mind high-rise living, seems like a great place. University Village/UIC area is also "in transition" (it's where we live) and we love it. West Loop is another area to consider. West and South Loop are mostly lofts and high-rises. U Village/UIC area is a mix of lofts and 3-flat row homes. Hyde Park is also a nice neighborhood, and will be substantially cheaper than the West/South/UIC area. BUT the public transportation in/out of Hyde Park leaves something to be desired, I find. Still, lots of families in all three neighborhoods. All three are plenty safe. You can actually look up crime stats by address if you do a google for "Citizen ICAM" (click on the first link that comes up.) Note that the crime stats will depend somewhat on the neighborhood's population density.

A word of caution: a lot of the "newer" neighborhoods are wonderful places to live and are much more affordable than the more established neighborhoods (Lincoln Park, Lakeview, Bucktown etc) BUT they are new enough that there isn't the same type of infrastructure (daycare, parents networks etc) as there is in the older neighborhoods. It's not that these things don't exist, they're just harder to find, I've found.

Either way, I highly recommend living near to where you or your husband works. Nobody can touch my 10-minute bicycle commute!

Good luck and happy moving! Let me know if I can help in any other way.

-K.

Check out the Beverly Hills/Morgan Park neighborhood (southside about 20 min west of Hyde Park). Historic neighborhood, very safe, excellent schools and great access to trains into the city. Good luck.

R.,
We live in the South Loop & we love it! We live in one of the townhome developments and almost every family either has kids, is expecting or trying to get pregnant. The mayor lives a couple of blocks from us. We love our daycare center too. There is a great path to Soldier Field and the lake and we can also walk to the Aquarium & Field Museum. There is a Target on Roosevelt and they are also building a new shopping center with DSW, Linens N THings, Whole FOods, Office Max. Home Depot is being built now too. Dominicks & Jewel very close too. Several restaurants and more keep coming. One of our best friends live in Hyde Park and it is super easy to get to - less than 10 minutes. Let me know if you have any questions. We have lived here for 1 year and so far, so good. Our home has for sure gone up in value.

Hi R.,
My husband, my two kids (2 and 5 years), 2 dogs, and a cat moved here from Arizona last summer. I work in Hyde Park at U of C and my husband commutes out to a suburb for work. We live in East Lakeview. More specifically we live in a condo in Wrigleyville (2 blocks from Wrigley field) in "Boys Town" and are VERY happy with the neighborhood; close to everything (Red line train is less than 5 minutes away, close to downtown, close to Lakeshore, safe). My kids go to a Jewish Community Center (JCC, we're not Jewish, they offer great care and are NAEYC accredited) for day care (about 5 minutes from our condo and between the condo and Lakeshore Drive. The only down side in our exact neighborhood is the public school (LeMoyne) is not very good and is supposedly closing. A very nearby neighborhood still in East Lakeview and closer to Lakeshore has the Nettlehorst public school which I have heard good things about. Even though your child is still very young, definately think ahead to school b/c we found it EXTREMELY challenging to find a kindergarden for my daughter next year. Also private schools run about $15,000/year and up in the city. The public school was not a reasonable option for us and getting a kid into a private school in the city is very difficult. If you will work at U of C your child is eligible to apply to the Lab School at age 3 (also in Hyde PArk). It's a terrific school but some grades have long waiting lists. My daughter got wait-listed even though I am staff at U of C. We also thought about living in Hyde PArk. The area right around the University is nice and pretty safe b/c it's heavily patrolled by U of C police. I still don't think you'd want to walk around outside at night or let your child play outside at night. Also, west of Cottage Grove in Hyde PArk is not a safe area. A fellow resident in my program lives there (west of Cottage Grove) with his wife and two kids and he says they actually hear gun shots and see gang fights occasionally. I am really glad we decided not to live there. I feel much safer in my neighborhood and there is more to do. Hyde Park was a little too inner city for us coming from a much smaller city but some people love it. On the pro side, it's definately more ethnically diverse than other parts of the city. My commute from Lakeview to Hyde Park is 30 minutes - 1 hour during rush hours. You can take a train or bus into Hyde Park but I personally would not feel safe doing so, especially if you work late. Lincoln Park is just South of Lakeview and is very family friendly and very nice. Free Lincoln Park zoo is there. Lots of day cares and good public schools. Pricewise, Hyde Park is the least expensive and Lincoln Park the most expensive. I am not super familiar with the South Loop but I know it's very convienient to downtown and Hyde Park. Just check out the childcare/school situation there and I'm not sure about safety. One other thing...if you have a car(s) make sure you get an assigned/dedicated parking space(s) where you live as street parking makes life with kids very challenging! Condos/apts usually only come with 1 space. Otherwise a parking space will run about $100 - $200+/month depending on where you live. Chicago is a GREAT city and has so many wonderful things to do with kids! Good luck!

Hi R.,

I am a realtor and have an office 5 minutes from downtown Chicago, so I know a bit about Chicago neighborhoods.
You are right, South Loop is an up and coming area, but I wouldn't really call it family friendly. It's mostly condos, or converted into lofts warehouse buildings. If you could tell me what kind of residence are you looking for and what is your price range, I'll be able to give you a better idea. There is also a pretty good website www.chicagorelo.com outlining all neighborhoods.Call me, if you'd like to talk. K., cell# ###-###-####

Hi R.

I live in Hyde Park and since having my son have realised what a wonderful neighborhood it is for kids. Obviously, there is easy access downtown - the Metra is great with a stroller if you don't want to drive.

The best thing for me has been the Parent support network, which has a playroom in the neighborhood (perfect for bored kids on a rainy day) and also runs several playgroups (there is one for 1-2 year olds and we have several 15 month olds in the 0-1 yr old group), a reading group and they organize trips to the fire station etc. We are in the process of setting up a babysitting co-op too. They also have an excellent listserve (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ParentSupportNetwork/) where people share advice, suggestions & recomend resources. There are many parks in the area as well as free museums and the Museum of Science and Industry, the beach and the Point. The local library also runs several family oriented activities. I suggest you look at the PSN website (http://www.hydeparkpsn.org/). My son and I do Music Together classes in Hyde Park and I know others who go swimming at the local park district pools.

Hyde Park seems to have a bit of a reputation and so I tend to be careful when I'm out but I don't feel unsafe. I think it's like anywhere. There are many moms and kids out during the day and it's a really great place to be .

Good Luck.

Becky

R.,
It really depends on what you are looking for. When I hear family-friendly - I don't think of the South Loop. Personally, I would look at Lincoln Square, Lakeview, North Center and anywhere else North. I live in East Village over by Wicker Park. There are a TON of kids in my neighborhood - but only 1 good park to walk to. Hyde Park is OK too - but not close to the Loop and public trans to the loop (where your husband will be working) is not easy. I say North side (those I named or Lincoln Park, Lakeview) or even Bucktown is really good (parks, new library, tons of shops/restaurants).

Good luck,

Hi R., The best up and coming family neighborhood is Lincoln Square. I have lived here my whole life, moved to the suburbs for a little while, and moved back to raise my kids. There are parks, schools, churchs and activites that are all extremly child friendly. You can walk down to Lincoln Ave. take a cooking class, go to the great new restaurants, take music classes for your daughter, go to the library and anything else you might want to do. The brown line is right on Western and you can take that downtown. I look around the neighborhood I grew up in and see so many new families with lots and lots of new babies it's really neat.

R. - We live in are of Chicago called Bucktown. The street we live on is called Churchill and there are tons of kids. Last year our neighbors organized a block party which included a petting zoo, pony rides and and blow up jumping area. There were at least 20 kids down our block. Also two blocks from our house the most expensive public library branch to date is opening a the end of this month. $9 million dollars was invested into the library. Also several neighborhood parks are also getting amazing facelifts.

In gengeral the ares is very kid freindly with lots of great restauratns and stores in walking distance.

If you have any questions about the area feel free to contact me via email.

South Loop is good. Most of the areas from Hyde Park to downtown are up & coming, so you should be ok. Bronzeville is getting very nice, but kinda pricy. There is University Village off of Roosevelt - near downtown, expressway, Medical District (UIC, Stroger and Rush). There are alot of places springing up near the Tri-Taylor area as well. All are 15-20 minutes from Hyde Park, lakefront, museums, etc.

The Loop is a great place to start your search; while there are some families, the area is beginning to cater to the families that are choosing to move there. It's close to everything you can imagine, but because it's so close to the city, you might not get that safe feeling you're looking for. If you want to look close to your sister, try the Beverly area. Talk about beautiful (and affordable) homes, schools, parks, neighbors! Definitely worth the look. If you need help testing the market, I'm a licensed realtor. I'd be glad to help! My email address is ____@____.com -- contact me anytime!

Hi R., South Loop is indeed an up and coming neighborhood. I would say it is as "safe" as any neighborhood in Chicago - though for that kind of information, I would check crime statistics for reliability (perception is flimsy - can you tell i'm a sociologist?) - and from what I can tell it does seem to be fairly family friendly, and becoming moreso as time goes on. It is a young neighborhood, so it probably doesn't quite have the number of amenities for families that the North side might have. But the north side has its drawbacks too - it's much more congested, very far from your sister in Hyde Park, and probably more expensive. My husband and I live in Hyde Park like your sister - I'm a PhD student at U of Chicago. But we lived in the south loop for a few years and really liked it a lot. We only left because we couldn't afford to buy anything with any square footage there. It is an exploding neighborhood.

Hope this is helpful! Good luck with your move!
Best, J.

I would be willing to live in the south loop. It has a new gymboree and little gym and the lake and field museum/planetarium/aquarium are close. I also like the uic area. In addition, Lincoln Park and Lakeview have lots of businesses that cater to families and the parks are nice.

R., the South Loop is an amazing area. You cannot go wrong here. It isn't up and coming, it's there. The neighborhoods in the South Loop are filled with young couples starting families or with children your daughter's age. Almost all the couples in our immediate area either just had babies or are pregnant. It's a really great time to be a part of this neighborhood. It's a top rate neighborhood. Safety isn't an issue (assuming you exercise common sense, but I think that goes wherever you are). People are out walking with their kids, dogs, etc. at all times of the day and evening. It also helps that the mayor lives in the neighborhood and the area is constantly being patroled, the streets swept, etc. You have convenient access to the downtown area, museums, aquarium, etc. Trully, you cannot go wrong here. Hope this helps.

The south loop is up and coming but I wouldn't say it is family friendly yet. You are still in the heart of downtown. We live in Lakeview and love it - there are tons of young families. I am not sure about day cares but plenty of nanny shares, etc. Also Roscoe Village, Lincoln Square are good. All on the norhtside though, further from your sister. Good luck and welcome to the best city - your going to love regardless of where you live!

Hi R., I now live in Chicago, but I grew up just outside of Detroit. My husband went to U of M. I am pretty unfamiliar with the Hyde Park area. We have lived on the North side since moving here. Roscoe Village is a really nice, safe, family friendly neighborhood with lots of people with small children. Pretty much anywhere in Lake View might be what you are looking for. If you get too close to Wrigley Field it can be kind of hectic, though. we currently live in North Center and are happy here. Good luck with your move. Let me know if you have any questions!
D.

Hi R.,

I live in Lincoln Park and I love it here! Lots of parks, classes for little one, zoo in close proximity of my home.
Lakeview is also nice area.
I don't know much about South Loop but (and it's personal opinion) I wouldn't want to live south of Downtown Chicago with kiddos.

I'm sure you'll get many responses and will have difficulty deciding where to live :) Check web sites for crime rates in Chicago.
I don't know if you are going to buy or rent but prepare yourself. Housing market in Chicago is crazy! And as I see you are PhD student so I know your income is minimal LOL

Also I was looking into suburbs (Naperville) as Metra (train system) is really great and this particular place has lots of to offer for kiddos and I think it's less expensive than Chicago.

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