Welcome to the Land of Lincoln! Illinois is known for its mix of agricultural fields and bustling cities like Chicago, offering something for everyone. Enjoy hiking your way through the state’s parks, camping along its beautiful rivers and lakes, and indulging in the tasty cuisine. If you want to move to Illinois but aren’t sure where to start, NewHomeSource has compiled a list of the nine best places to call home.
9 Best Places to Live
Housing cost to income ratio: 2.23
Average childcare cost to income ratio: 1.88%
Violent crime index: 72
Nonviolent crime index: 57
Cost of living index: 75.3
Rockford lands in the first place as the best place to live in Illinois! This rocking city leans liberal and has a wide variety of attractions to explore. Check out the exhibits at the Burpee Museum of Natural History, Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum, and Rockford Art Museum. Rockford sees upwards of 35 inches of snow and 37 inches of rain per year. But during the sunny season, you can enjoy the great outdoors at the Anderson Japanese Gardens and Rock Cut State Park. Your dog will love the 30+ restaurants that welcome pets to accompany their dining owners. Also, 28 hospitals stand ready to help you and your family with any medical needs. Popular suburbs include Rockton, Sycamore, and Cortland.
Housing cost to income ratio: 2.36
Average childcare cost to income ratio: 1.58%
Violent crime index: 15.4
Nonviolent crime index: 18.6
Cost of living index: 76.6
The county seat of Macon County, Decatur is a bustling city of over 70,000 residents. Decatur experiences upwards of 40 inches of rain per year, so be sure to bring an umbrella with you during the wet season. The Sangamon River weaves its way through the city and you’ll find attractions like the Scovill Zoo, several parks, and the Children’s Museum of Illinois along its banks. For a good time with your dog, check out Fido Fields, an off-leash dog park in Fairview Park. A fan of cars? The Chevrolet Hall of Fame Museum is a must-see! Decatur leans politically conservative and is home to 16 hospitals and 21 schools. If you prefer the suburbs, check out Forsyth, Mount Zion, and Long Creek.
Housing cost to income ratio: 2.54
Average childcare cost to income ratio: 1.41%
Violent crime index: 52.9
Nonviolent crime index: 65.4
Cost of living index: 75.4
Illinois’ capital city ranks as the third best place to live. Springfield leans politically liberal, and what better place to practice politics and have your voice heard than at the capitol? The weather is a mix of sunshine and precipitation, with 196 days of sunshine, 38 inches of rain, and 19 inches of snow per year. Take advantage of the sunny days by checking out local favorites like the Henson Robinson Zoo and Lincoln Memorial Garden and Nature Center; for indoor activities, try the Illinois State Museum and Lincoln Home National Historic Site. If you need to cool down, grab a drink at one of the local breweries, many of which are dog-friendly! Springfield is home to 14 hospitals and popular suburbs like Leland Grove, Sherman, and Chatham.
Housing cost to income ratio: 2.80
Average childcare cost to income ratio: 0.87%
Violent crime index: 18.6
Nonviolent crime index: 45
Cost of living index: 82.9
The Bloomington-Normal metropolitan area is a great place to call home. Combined, these central Illinois cities have a total of 31 hospitals and 10 school districts, allowing families to choose where to send their children to school and seek medical care. From nature preserves, museums, and golf courses, there’s always something new to see and do in town. Enjoy 194 days of sunshine where you can partake in activities like walking your dog along the 42-mile Constitution Trail, which connects Bloomington to Normal. The metropolitan area receives approximately 39 inches of snow per year, so be sure to bundle up during cold days. If you’d like to live in the suburbs, Elm Heights, Bryan Park, and Broadview are popular choices.
Housing cost to income ratio: 2.91
Average childcare cost to income ratio: 2.40%
Violent crime index: 39.9
Nonviolent crime index: 58.3
Cost of living index: 72.5
Kankakee is a small city located just 60 miles south of Chicago, making it a good option for those who want to live near the Windy City without dealing with the crowds. Like other nearby cities, Kankakee sees a mixture of sunshine and precipitation throughout the year; on average, Kankakee residents can expect 38 inches of rain, 25 inches of snow, and 189 sunny days every year. The Kankakee River bisects the city, and you’ll find parks (including a park dedicated to your furry friend) and museums along its shore. With 43 hospitals in the vicinity, you can explore the town with peace of mind that medical care is never far away. Popular Kankakee suburbs include Bourbonnais, Bradley, and Limestone.
Housing cost to income ratio: 3.07
Average childcare cost to income ratio: 1.70%
Violent crime index: 35.8
Nonviolent crime index: 63.3
Cost of living index: 81.7
Separated by the Mississippi River and state borders, the Davenport-Moline metropolitan area encompasses slivers of both Iowa and Illinois. With 203 days of sunshine annually, Davenport and Moline rank as the sunniest cities on our list. That’s not to say there’s a shortage of rain and snow; residents can expect 37 inches and 28 inches annually, respectively. From museums, casinos, parks, and community theaters, there’s no shortage of entertainment. On sunny days, we recommend a brisk hike and then making a picnic stop along the Mississippi River. Riverside areas like Great River Trail welcome your dog to accompany you on the fun. This metropolitan area leans liberal and is home to 18 hospitals and 29 schools. Prefer to live in the suburbs? Check out popular choices like Bettendorf, Le Claire, and Geneseo.
Housing cost to income ratio: 4.78
Average childcare cost to income ratio: 1.32%
Violent crime index: 37.9
Nonviolent crime index: 42.3
Cost of living index: 80.8
Centrally-located Champaign and its neighboring city Urbana burst with culture and personality. The presence of the University of Illinois gives the metropolitan area a youthful, lively vibe. As is typical for college towns, you’ll find plenty of restaurants (including dozens of canine-friendly ones), parks, and activities like museums to keep you entertained. Champaign and Urbana lean politically liberal, and like other nearby cities, they receive a mix of rain, snow, and sunshine throughout the year. If you prefer less snow, this metropolitan area may be an ideal choice; you can expect upwards of 20 inches of snow annually. For comparison’s sake, it’s about a foot less than other cities on our list receive. Thirteen hospitals are scattered throughout Champaign-Urbana, and popular suburbs include Savoy and Mahomet.
Housing cost to income ratio: 5.92
Average childcare cost to income ratio: 1.53%
Violent crime index: 49.9
Nonviolent crime index: 46.3
Cost of living index: 106.9
Welcome to the Windy City! Illinois’ arguably most popular city lies along the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan and is a strong liberal city. Chicago is well-known for its food (try the pizza and hotdogs!), museums, architecture, and Wrigley Field! With 38 inches of rain and 35 inches of snow per year, Chicago has more than its share of precipitation. Don’t let the rain put a damper on your plans, though. Enjoy indoor activities like catching the latest exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago until the sunshine returns. On sunny days, try something fun, like a boat tour that welcomes your dog. Chicago has an impressive 44 hospitals and 653 schools in its vicinity, offering its residents a variety of choices in medical care and education. If the city is too crowded for you, try popular suburbs like Buffalo Grove, Naperville, and Clarendon Hills.
Housing cost to income ratio: 23.87
Average childcare cost to income ratio: 1.67%
Violent crime index: 36.6
Nonviolent crime index: 56.1
Cost of living index: 74.6
Peoria and Pekin are centrally located, neighboring cities along the Illinois River. Enjoy 194 days of sunshine where you can boat and picnic along the river and lakes, or practice your swing at one of the many golf courses. This metropolitan area receives 38 inches of rain and 23 inches of snow per year so you’d be wise to check the forecast before scheduling a tee time. The political climate is somewhat liberal, and you’ll find seven hospitals and 32 schools in the area. If you have a dog, you’re in luck – both cities are dog-friendly and have plenty of dog parks. You’ll be happy to know that there are over 40 restaurants that will allow Fido to join you. If you prefer the suburb life over the city life, you have great options like Dunlap, Morton, and Washington.
This list was compiled using statistics for cost of living, average housing costs, average childcare costs, and crime indices.
Sarah graduated from Trinity University in 2012 with a degree in International Relations and Political Science. She writes blogs on new homes, decor, communities, and more for NewHomeSource. When she’s not writing, you can find her spending time with her three cats.