Which Chicago Neighborhood is Right for You?

Which Chicago Neighborhood is Right for You?

  • Choose City Living
  • 10/11/22

Chicago is a construction of “neighborhood pieces,” much like a jigsaw puzzle. Each one is essential to the formation of the whole as Chicago wouldn’t be the same without them. In total, there are more than 70 distinct neighborhoods. Each neighborhood has its own features and “personality,” so you can expect to find a spot that suits your preferences.

Now, let’s take a deep dive into a few of the north side neighborhoods to give you an idea of the diversity of communities here. We encourage you to get to know as many neighborhoods as possible to find the right fit!

The Gold Coast

This historic neighborhood is a paradise for lovers of luxury. The Gold Coast’s celebrity power comes from all the charming residences nestled on picture-perfect streets. If luxury is your jam, Choose City Living can help you locate the best Gold Coast Chicago homes for sale.

Architecture and Environment

The stunning Gold Coast is tucked away near the Lake Michigan shoreline and lies between North Avenue, Clark Street, and Oak Street. The residences here epitomize luxury, romance, and sophistication. Historic hotels, renowned restaurants, designer boutiques, and gorgeous mansions adorn the streets, providing much to see and do. The area is referred to as an architectural treasure chest with rows of 19th-century homes constructed in a variety of historical revival designs.

Personality and People

The vibe here is friendly, neighborly, and upscale. Residents cherish the tightly knit, tranquil atmosphere that invites families to spend time outside in this pristine residential community as they walk along the quiet streets and enjoy the ambiance. Homes here are a combination of upscale low-rise and high-rise buildings, many of which provide exquisite vistas over Lake Michigan. There are also exquisite vintage mansions that add to the old-time charm.

While having many pedestrian-friendly amenities, the Gold Coast also offers a laid-back personality which also makes it a great location for retirees. But if you’re raising a family, don’t count it out. The Gold Coast has public schools which are rated above average and have earned a score of A on Niche.

Lakefront Location

Seated right between North Avenue Beach and Oak Street Beach, locals enjoy an active lifestyle of summer days swimming and enjoying time in the sand and sun. The nearby Lincoln Park provides residents with plenty of outdoor areas to explore.

The Gold Coast boasts one of the highest ratings for walkability out of any other Chicago neighborhood, with a score of 96 out of 100. With many bars, restaurants, and entertainment options nestled among the residences, this is an ideal neighborhood for young professionals and those who enjoy a night out on the town without needing to go for a drive.

While the Gold Coast has plenty to do, another perk is having minimal commute times to other areas around Chicago. Driving is the main mode of transportation among locals, but the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) also runs through the Gold Coast. If heading to The Loop, residents can easily get there in 17 minutes by train or 12 minutes by car. Merchandise Mart and Millenium Park are both roughly 25 minutes by train and 10 by car. Or, if a bigger adventure awaits and you’re heading to Union Station, that’s a mere 32 minutes by train and 16 by car.

If looking for a residential neighborhood with peak luxury and proximity to the lakefront and beaches, the Gold Coast is the preferred destination.

Lincoln Park

Photo courtesy of Lincoln Park Zoo

Just a few miles north of downtown Chicago lies Lincoln Park, a highly sought-after urban community with gorgeous green spaces, tree-lined sidewalks and streets, and charming boutiques and restaurants. Residents of the Lincoln Park community have easy access to mass transit by the Chicago Transit Authority and bus services.

Architecture and Environment

Photo courtesy of Viator

True to its namesake, this affluent community is just west of the stunning Lincoln Park. With well-kept gardens, a private pond, a historical indoor botanical garden, and plenty of lakefront open space with panoramic city views, this charming neighborhood is perfect for any nature lover. The real estate scene here is varied, with new construction, sophisticated mansions, upscale condos and high-rises, townhomes, and spacious single-family properties.

Lincoln Park itself is what truly distinguishes the neighborhood from other desirable choices in Chicago. You can spend an entire day (or weekend) exploring the 1,208 acres of green space here. Residents enjoy an active lifestyle as they explore the many nature paths, head to yoga at the park, and play at the soccer and baseball fields. The park also features beach volleyball courts, golf, lacrosse and rugby, a skate park, and much more, along with boat docks and public swimming beaches. It’s a highlight for all, but especially families and those who love an active lifestyle.

Personality and People

Lincoln Park is an historical neighborhood home to primarily college students, young professionals, and families. Due to its ample green space, it’s a great place to keep kids busy with a multitude of activities nearby. Niche voted it as the seventh best neighborhood in Chicago to raise a family and public schools are also rated above average.

While Lincoln Park is acclaimed as a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood like the Gold Coast, the main differentiating factor is the park itself. They also are home to slightly different demographics, with Lincoln Park overall having a younger crowd and not quite having the affluence of the Gold Coast. The vibe is energetic and congenial, adding to its welcoming and trendy personality.

Lakefront Location

Lincoln Park has a variety of tempting restaurants, popular boutiques, and fun things to do, adding to its familial appeal. The nearby lakefront access is a huge draw, especially come summertime. It also has a walkability score of 94 out of 100, placing it only a few pegs behind Gold Coast.

Residents love having so much within walking distance, but trips beyond the neighborhood are convenient as well. The CTA runs through Lincoln Park, with access to three separate train lines. Many Chicago staples are less than a 30-minute train ride or drive from Lincoln Park. If heading to The Loop, budget 21 minutes if going by train and 19 by car. For Merchandise Mart, 25 minutes by train and 15 by car is the norm. Union Station is 25 minutes by train and 17 by car. Or, if you want to experience a different park, make your way to Millenium Park, which is 27 minutes by train and 16 by car. Similar to the Gold Coast, getting around is a low-stress experience due to public transportation and minimal train times.

Lincoln Park is a great option for families who enjoy easy access to outdoor recreation and an abundance of green space.

Old Town

Old Town is a Chicago neighborhood gem with a European flair. This historic community features tree-lined sidewalks, brick alleyways, and a peaceful vibe, wedged between the Gold Coast to the east and Lincoln Park to the north.

Architecture and Environment

Homes in Old Town vary widely in architectural style, largely due to its early connection with artistry and being a haven for artists. Sprinkled throughout the neighborhood, and often tucked away behind brick walls with eye-catching doors, you can find the “Handmade Homes” of the 1920s and 30s. These were artist studios and collectives  that were built with rustic brick, crude stone, salvaged tile, found glass, steel, and wood and adorned by artisans with stained glass windows, frescos, murals, tile work, and wood carvings. Those buildings have become the condos, apartments and houses of today.

The neighborhood streets also showcase historic Victorian homes and brownstones, complete with gorgeous windows and impressively tall roofs, alongside upscale high-rises, mid-century townhomes and cottages. For those who are searching for something more unique when it comes to housing preferences, Old Town is a wonderful option — homebuyers will be spoilt for choice.

While there are a few commercial stretches, most of Old Town is made up of peaceful and quiet streets. It is a perfect option for those who want a mellow slice of Chicago to call home. It's close enough to the urban oasis so that fun is never far, but also has much to offer itself.

Personality and People

As the name suggests, Old Town is one of Chicago’s oldest neighborhoods, yet still exudes a youthful air. The brick alleyways add to its charm, along with the various architectural styles. Many residents love going for strolls to admire its charisma and soak in the leisurely vibe.

Compared to the Gold Coast and Lincoln Park, Old Town is typically more affordable and has nearly half the population of Lincoln Park at roughly 22,000 residents. These lower numbers add to its quaint and familial atmosphere. It’s home to primarily baby boomers, young families, young professionals, and anyone drawn to its artisanal vibe and unique character. Locals are especially fond of the yearly “Old Town Art Fair” held every summer since 1950. The emphasis on art and history adds to the town’s creative and eclectic personality.

Lovely Location

Old Town is an eclectic neighborhood with much to love and the convenience of a great central location. The CTA trains and buses run through it, making it an optimal location for those wishing to skip the drive. It’s only two miles from The Loop and a brief 20-minute train ride, which makes for an easy commute to and from downtown. Union Station is also 20 minutes by train and 16 by car. Millennium Park is a bit more of a stretch at 26 minutes by train and 12 by car, but still very nearby. Old Town is a wonderful place to live for those who value the arts and an easy commute downtown while living among historic charm.

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