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The Best Places to Live in Illinois in 2021

There is more to Illinois than Chicago, although the largest city in the state is home to almost three million people.

When thinking about some of the best places to live in Illinois, you probably immediately consider Chicago and its densely populated suburbs. While these are all great places to live, there are hidden gems all throughout Illinois that you should consider.

So, whether you’re seeking an affordable apartment in Chicago or a quiet tree-lined city downstate, you have a number of great options from which to choose.

Here are the best places to live in Illinois.

Aurora, IL, one of the best places to live in illinois

  • Population: 199,687
  • Average age: 37
  • Median household income: $71,749
  • Average commute time: 35.9 minutes
  • Walk score: 45
  • Studio average rent: $1,142
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,344
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,590

The second-largest city in Illinois with almost 200,000 residents, Aurora offers a mix of options that appeal to everyone from young and single professionals to families.

During the first Friday of each month, food trucks serve up dishes along Benton Street Bridge. In addition, the revitalized downtown district has a great range of restaurants, from steakhouses to coffeehouses, and the area also has destination shopping outposts.

Plus, Aurora is nestled along Fox River, so nature-lovers will appreciate the opportunity to kayak and explore other activities nearby.

Bloomington, IL.

  • Population: 78,023
  • Average age: 39.8
  • Median household income: $67,507
  • Average commute time: 20.3 minutes
  • Walk score: 47
  • Studio average rent: N/A
  • One-bedroom average rent: $827
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $865

Bloomington often shares the limelight with its neighboring city, Normal, since it’s the home of Illinois State University.

While Bloomington lies in the heart of Illinois, at the junction of Interstates 55, 39 and 74, and within a few hours from Chicago and St. Louis, there is plenty to do in Bloomington.

Residents enjoy great restaurants, shopping and visiting attractions such as the historic Ewing Manor, named Sunset Hill by the Ewing family, or the David Davis Mansion which delights history buffs and garden lovers alike.

Bloomington is also the headquarters for State Farm Insurance and COUNTRY Financial.

Champaign, IL, one of the best places to live in illinois

Photo source: Visit Champaign County / Facebook
  • Population: 85,008
  • Average age: 36.5
  • Median household income: $48,415
  • Average commute time: 19.9 minutes
  • Walk score: 61
  • Studio average rent: $435
  • One-bedroom average rent: $629
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $947

Like Bloomington, Champaign is often associated with its neighboring city, Urbana, since the cities share the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus.

Champaign has a thriving arts scene, award-winning restaurants and great outdoor spaces. It’s a mix of rural and urban, giving residents options, whether they want a more quiet rural setting or a bustling urban environment.

Chicago, IL, one of the best places to live in illinois

  • Population: 2,721,615
  • Average age: 40.2
  • Median household income: $58,247
  • Average commute time: 43.4 minutes
  • Walk score: 84
  • Studio average rent: $1,796
  • One-bedroom average rent: $2,287
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $3,150

There is no shortage of things to do in the largest city in Illinois. Chicago is a city of neighborhoods and like any major metropolitan city in the country, it’s home to award-winning restaurants, world-class museums and Cloud Gate, the bean-like sculpture in Millennium Park also known as “The Bean” among locals.

In addition, the lakefront and the many parks throughout the city offer its residents a place to rest and enjoy their surroundings.

Rental rates vary based on the neighborhood but, in general, the closer to the downtown district and Lake Michigan, the higher the rental rates. Also, depending on where you live, it’s entirely possible to live in Chicago without needing a car since public transportation is pretty robust and accessible.

Evanston, IL.

Photo source: City of Evanston Illinois / Facebook
  • Population: 75,574
  • Average age: 41.4
  • Median household income: $78,904
  • Average commute time: 39.1 minutes
  • Walk score: 82
  • Studio average rent: $1,720
  • One-bedroom average rent: $2,141
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $2,974

Evanston borders the northern part of Chicago and while it’s a northern suburb, parts of it feel very much like a busy metropolitan city.

Northwestern University calls Evanston home so part of the north and east part of Evanston is home to students as well as established families who live in older and grand single-family homes.

Residents love their tree-lined and quiet streets and easy access to the beaches along Lake Michigan.

The city is large enough to have a few distinct shopping districts, including downtown Evanston, which has been completely transformed over the past decade with a large movie theater and larger retail establishments, while Central Street has more independent boutiques.

Naperville, IL, one of the best places to live in illinois

  • Population: 144,752
  • Average age: 41.3
  • Median household income: $125,926
  • Average commute time: 41.6 minutes
  • Walk score: 46
  • Studio average rent: $1,286
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,483
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,828

The original home of the fictional Byrde family before they moved to the Ozarks, Naperville is a picturesque western suburb of Chicago.

The Naperville Riverwalk curves along the banks of the DuPage River and features independent boutiques, restaurants, bars and hotels with river views.

The DuPage Children’s Museum has fun hands-on exhibits that attract both residents and visitors to the area. In addition, the Naper Settlement is a family-friendly, 13-acre outdoor history museum that traces the history of Naperville.

Oak Park, IL.

  • Population: 52,227
  • Average age: 42.1
  • Median household income: $94,646
  • Average commute time: 43.1 minutes
  • Walk score: 84
  • Studio average rent: $1,427
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,651
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $2,707

Oak Park is a tree-lined suburb just west of Chicago.

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Green Line includes several Oak Park stops, making it particularly convenient for those who want to live in a suburb but still have easy access to Chicago.

Even so, Oak Park is a bustling city with an active downtown full of restaurants and independent boutiques, strong schools and active community members. It’s also home to the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, which attracts thousands from around the world to see the architect’s prairie-style home.

Peoria, IL, one of the best places to live in illinois

  • Population: 114,615
  • Average age: 40.8
  • Median household income: $51,771
  • Average commute time: 22 minutes
  • Walk score: 44
  • Studio average rent: $678
  • One-bedroom average rent: $771
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $954

Peoria is a laid-back city and most residents work for one of the major employers: Caterpillar (which still employees thousands despite its corporate move to Chicago), OSF Healthcare Saint Francis Medical Center or the school district.

Nestled along the Illinois River, it’s located between St. Louis and Chicago, which is approximately a two-and-a-half-hour drive. There is a mix of things to do in the city, from hiking outdoors to enjoying a cocktail at one of the many restaurants, bars or casinos.

In mid-2014, Peoria began offering bus route service on Sundays, something it hadn’t been offering since 1970, making it easier to get around town for those without a car.

Rockford, IL.

  • Population: 148,485
  • Average age: 41.9
  • Median household income: $44,252
  • Average commute time: 25.6 minutes
  • Walk score: 46
  • Studio average rent: N/A
  • One-bedroom average rent: $714
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,070

There is no shortage of outdoor entertainment options for those living of visiting Rockford. There are pools to swim, a river to kayak and nature preserves to hike.

The Klehm Arboretum and Botanic Garden as well as the Anderson Japanese Garden attract thousands of garden lovers.

Residents can choose between downtown lofts to quieter tree-lined streets in historic neighborhoods. Each Rockford community is active in its own way, with great restaurants, museums and shops located throughout the fifth-largest city in the state.

Springfield, IL, one of the best places to live in illinois

  • Population: 115,968
  • Average age: 43.2
  • Median household income: $54,648
  • Average commute time: 22.2 minutes
  • Walk score: 47
  • Studio average rent: N/A
  • One-bedroom average rent: $665
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $749

Home to the Illinois State Capitol, Springfield is a mix of those who serve the legislative and executive branches of the government during sessions as well as residents who live in the city full-time.

It’s also home to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum which honors and documents the life and work of the 16th U.S. President, Abraham Lincoln so the area gets a lot of tourists year-round.

Springfield feels a bit like living in a suburban setting but also has plenty of bars, restaurants and parks to keep locals and visitors entertained.

Choose among the best cities in Illinois

With world-class attractions, sprawling rural towns to fast-paced urban cities, Illinois has something for everyone. If you’re thinking about moving to the Land of Lincoln, we hope this list of the best places to live in Illinois helpful.

Rent prices are based on a rolling weighted average from Apartment Guide and Rent.com’s multifamily rental property inventory of one-bedroom apartments in March 2021. Our team uses a weighted average formula that more accurately represents price availability for each individual unit type and reduces the influence of seasonality on rent prices in specific markets.
Other demographic data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The rent information included in this article is used for illustrative purposes only. The data contained herein do not constitute financial advice or a pricing guarantee for any apartment.

Source: rent.com