Moving to a new state is a big step, and Illinois has its own unique set of challenges and opportunities. From the bustling city life in Chicago to the serene landscapes of the countryside, Illinois offers a diverse range of experiences. Here are 14 things you should know before making the move to the Prairie State in 2023.
When I first set foot in Illinois, I was both excited and nervous. I had heard so much about the state’s diverse culture, job opportunities, and, of course, its deep-dish pizza.
But nothing prepared me for the warmth and welcoming spirit of the people here. From my neighbors helping me move in to the barista at the local coffee shop remembering my name and order, the sense of community was immediate.
I’ve explored the bustling streets of Chicago, hiked through the scenic trails of Starved Rock State Park, and even attended a local festival in a small town.
Each experience has been unique and enriching, making me fall in love with Illinois more and more each day. I can confidently say that moving to Illinois was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and I look forward to what the future holds in this incredible state.
1. Before You Arrive in Illinois
Find a Reliable Moving Company, Truck Rental, or Moving Container
When I first moved to Illinois, I realized the importance of a reliable moving company. You don’t want to start your new life with broken furniture or missing boxes. Look for companies with good reviews, a professional website, and years of experience.
Forward Your Mail
Mail forwarding is crucial, especially if you’re moving permanently. USPS offers a mail forwarding service for a little over a dollar for 6 months. Trust me, it’s worth every penny to ensure your mail reaches you without any hiccups.
2. What are the First Steps to Take When Arriving?
Change Your Address
One of the first things I did when I moved to Illinois was to update my address with the DMV and other authorities. You’ll also need to register to vote at least 27 days before the next election. Don’t forget to update your address with your employer, bank, and other service providers.
Exchange Your Driver’s License
Illinois law requires you to exchange your out-of-state driver’s license within 90 days of establishing residency. I had to visit the local SOS Driver Services Facility, submit my old license, and pass a couple of tests. It’s a straightforward process but important to do within the time limit.
3. Best Places to Live in Illinois
For Couples: Chicago
If you’re a couple like my partner and me, Chicago offers a mix of urban and suburban lifestyles. The city is rich in culture, has a vibrant nightlife, and each neighborhood has its own unique charm.
For Families: Wheaton
When we were considering starting a family, Wheaton came up as a top choice. The public schools are excellent, and the community is family-friendly with plenty of parks and activities for kids.
For Singles: Urbana
If you’re single and ready to mingle, Urbana is the place to be. Home to the University of Illinois, the city is bustling with young professionals and offers a range of amenities.
4. Housing and Renting
How to Find an Apartment
Finding an apartment in Illinois can be a daunting task, but it’s crucial to find a place that feels like home. I used a variety of websites to compare prices, locations, and amenities.
How to Find a House
If you’re looking to buy a house, Illinois offers a range of options from city condos to suburban homes. Websites like Zillow and Coldwell Banker Realty can provide valuable insights into the housing market.
5. How to Set Up Utilities
Electricity, Water, and Gas
Setting up utilities is one of those tasks you want to get out of the way as soon as possible. The Illinois Commerce Commission regulates these services, ensuring they are safe, reliable, and reasonably priced. I found their website very helpful when I was setting up my utilities.
Internet and Cell Phone
Illinois is the 6th most connected state in the USA, so you’ll have plenty of options for internet and cell phone providers. I compared prices, speeds, and packages before making my choice, and I suggest you do the same.
6. Cost of Living
Source: Cost of Living in Illinois
Average Monthly Expenses
The cost of living can vary greatly depending on where you choose to reside. For example, living in Chicago is generally more expensive than other parts of the state. Here’s a breakdown of average monthly expenses for a couple living in Chicago:
- Rent – Mortgage: $1400
- Utilities: $250
- Groceries: $400
- Entertainment: $150
- Insurance: $600
- Other: $150
Budgeting is crucial when moving to a new state. I found it helpful to track all my expenses for the first few months to get a sense of my spending habits in Illinois. This helped me adjust my budget accordingly.
7. What’s the Weather Like?
Illinois experiences all four seasons, and each has its own charm and challenges. Summers can be hot and humid, while w. I personally love the fall season; the colors are just magnificent.
Given the range of weather conditions, it’s important to be prepared. I recommend investing in a good winter coat and boots, as well as quality home insulation. Don’t forget to check the weather regularly to plan your days.
8. How to Get Around in Illinois
Illinois offers a variety of public transportation options. In Chicago, the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) is the most common way to get around. For other parts of the state, services like MetroLINK and St. Clair County Transit District are available.
Driving in Illinois
If you prefer driving, Illinois has an extensive network of highways and roads. However, be prepared for tolls, especially around the Chicago area. I found getting an I-PASS saved me both time and money.
9. Places to Shop and Eat
When I first moved here, I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of grocery stores. From organic options at Trader Joe’s to budget-friendly choices at Aldi, Illinois has it all.
Ah, the food scene! From deep-dish pizzas in Chicago to farm-to-table restaurants in smaller towns, Illinois offers a culinary journey. My personal favorites are Engrained Brewery & Restaurant for their sustainable practices and Lucca Grill for their mouth-watering Italian dishes.
- Engrained Brewery & Restaurant
- Lucca Grill
10. What’s There to Do?
Illinois is not just about the Windy City; the state offers a plethora of outdoor activities. I’ve had some of my best days hiking at Starved Rock State Park and sailing on Lake Michigan.
Entertainment and Culture
From the Art Institute of Chicago to the historic theaters in Springfield, Illinois is a cultural hub. I’ve spent countless weekends exploring museums, attending concerts, and even joining local festivals.
11. Fun Facts About Illinois
Did You Know?
I was amazed to learn that the Willis Tower in Chicago is the third-tallest building in North America. And guess what? Walt Disney was born in Chicago!
Land of Lincoln
Illinois is often called the “Land of Lincoln,” and for good reason. Abraham Lincoln lived here for many years, and visiting the Lincoln Home National Historic Site was an enlightening experience for me.
12. Education in Illinois
When it comes to education, Illinois has some top-notch public schools. I’ve visited a few with my nieces and nephews, and I was impressed by the quality of education and the facilities.
Illinois is home to some prestigious universities like the University of Chicago and Northwestern University. As an alum of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I can vouch for the quality of higher education in the state.
13. Job Market
One of the reasons I moved to Illinois was the job market. From tech startups in Chicago to agricultural jobs in rural areas, the state offers a range of employment opportunities.
Networking is key, no matter where you live. I’ve attended several networking events and job fairs in Illinois, and they’ve been invaluable for my career growth.
14. Healthcare in Illinois
Illinois has some of the best medical facilities I’ve ever seen, including the renowned Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
Navigating health insurance can be tricky, but Illinois makes it easier with a state-run website to compare plans. I found a plan that fits my needs without breaking the bank.
Quick Facts: At a Glance
Did you know that the state bird of Illinois is the Northern Cardinal? Or that the state dance is square dancing? I found these little tidbits fascinating when I first moved here.
Apart from Abraham Lincoln and Walt Disney, Illinois has been home to other notable people like Oprah Winfrey and Ernest Hemingway. It’s inspiring to walk the same streets they once did.
More Stuff: What Else to Know
Sports in Illinois
If you’re a sports fan like me, you’re in luck. Illinois is home to iconic teams like the Chicago Bulls in basketball and the Chicago Cubs in baseball. I’ve had some unforgettable experiences attending live games.
Festivals and Events
Illinois knows how to throw a party. From the Taste of Chicago food festival to the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, there’s always something happening. I’ve made it a point to attend at least a few events each year, and it’s been a blast.
Safety was a big concern for me when moving, and I’ve found Illinois to be relatively safe, especially in the suburban areas. However, like any place, it’s important to stay informed and take precautions.
Every place has its own set of local terms and slang, and Illinois is no different. For instance, “The Loop” refers to the central business district in Chicago, and “Prairie State” is a nickname for Illinois. Knowing these terms made me feel more like a local.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is Illinois a good state for retirees?
Illinois offers a variety of lifestyle options suitable for retirees, including quieter suburban and rural areas. However, the state does tax retirement income, which could be a consideration.
What are the tax rates in Illinois?
Illinois has a flat income tax rate of 4.95%. Property taxes tend to be high, especially in the Chicago area. Sales tax varies by locality.
Are pets welcome in most housing units?
While many apartments and homes are pet-friendly, it’s essential to check the pet policy before signing a lease or purchasing a property.
How is the public transportation system?
Public transportation is excellent in cities like Chicago but can be limited in rural areas. Having a car might be more convenient in smaller towns.
Is Illinois a politically diverse state?
Illinois is known for its political diversity, with urban areas leaning Democratic and rural areas more often Republican.
Moving to Illinois has been a journey filled with discoveries, challenges, and joys. From the practical aspects like housing and utilities to the fun parts like exploring the local culture and attending events, every experience has enriched my life in some way.
So, if you’re considering making Illinois your new home, I say go for it! It’s a state that offers a little bit of everything, and I couldn’t be happier with my decision to move here.