The third most populous city in the U.S., Chicago is the cultural and shopping hub of the Midwest. With an active downtown featuring top museums, designer shops, and world-class dining, as well as famous parks that host large-scale events, the city is popular among active adults who want the big city life without the high price tag. Besides this, its many residential neighborhoods can offer a more small-town feel within this major metropolis.
Climate & Geography
Located in Northern Illinois, Chicago experiences a hot-summer humid continental climate, characterized by four distinct seasons. Summers are hot and humid with frequent heat waves, and winters are cold and snowy with many sunny days. Spring and fall are short and more prone to thunderstorms. Lake Michigan helps regulate temperatures somewhat, but extremes can still occur. The city experiences average snow and rainfall, as well as about 189 days of sun each year.
The city is on flat, low-lying terrain not far above sea-level. Though there are a few nature preserves within the city, further out toward the suburbs, especially to the north, are more heavily wooded areas. Chicago’s entire eastern boundary is Lake Michigan, and both the Calumet River and Chicago River run through the city.
Recreation, Culture, & Entertainment
Chicago is one of the most vibrant cities in the U.S., offering a wide variety of recreation and entertainment throughout its many neighborhoods. Some of the major outdoor recreational attractions include the 24 public beaches along the shore of Lake Michigan, most of which host events and concerts in the summer. The Chicago Botanical Gardens and Morton Arboretum just outside the city have walking trails through the natural preserves as well as holiday events. The Lincoln Park Zoo, Millennium Park, and Grant Park also have major concerts, movies, and races throughout the year.
The Museum Campus in downtown Chicago is a popular cultural destination. The Art Institute of Chicago, The Field Museum, Adler Planetarium, and Shedd Aquarium offer many free days for Chicago residents, as well as special events in the summer. Residents can shop at some of the biggest names in fashion along Magnificent Mile, or attend numerous sporting events at Soldier Field, Wrigley Field, the United Center, and Guaranteed Rate Field.
Though downtown is the cultural and shopping hub of the city, Chicago is made up of many distinct neighborhoods, most of which offer their own “main street” areas with local boutiques, eateries, and theaters. One of the biggest names in craft beer, Chicago also has no shortage of breweries, wineries, and distilleries throughout its many neighborhoods.
Cost of Living & Taxes
Chicago’s cost of living hovers just above the national average, with transportation being the biggest factor. Housing in the city is very affordable, especially when compared to another major metropolis like New York City, whose housing is nearly twice the average of Chicago.
Illinois is tax friendly for retirees as it does not tax any form of retirement income. Property taxes in the state are high, but there is a General Homestead Exemption aimed at retirees. Sales taxes are also very high, and unlike many other states, Illinois does tax groceries and medicine.
The Chicago metro area scores well in Gallup’s Well-Being Index, ranking in the top 85 communities across the country.
Chicago is home to some of the best and biggest names in healthcare. There are multiple hospitals that are nationally ranked by U.S. News, including the No. 10 hospital in the country, Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Other nationally ranked hospitals include University of Chicago Medical Center, Rush University Medical Center, Loyola University Medical Center, NorthShore University HealthSystem-Metro Chicago, and many more in the surrounding suburbs.