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,

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