Life in Illinois: Here’s What to Expect in the Prairie State

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You’ve heard jokes about Illinois politics and cold winters, but beyond the stereotypes is a state with rich history, natural beauty and vibrant, culture-rich communities. As you consider moving to the Prairie State, you’ll find world-class cities like Chicago as well as smaller towns with their own local flavor. Get ready for four seasons, from humid summers perfect for outdoor festivals to snowy winters cuddling by the fireplace.  

Illinois offers diversity in landscape too, from hiking forested hills and valleys downstate to strolling the shores of Lake Michigan up north. Of course, no matter where you settle, you’ll find that famous Midwestern warmth in the people.  

This is just a taste of what awaits you in Illinois. 

The Pros of Living in Illinois 

Gorgeous Natural Scenery and Outdoor Adventures 

A park in Illinois - Living in Illinois - Mayflower

Illinois isn’t called the Prairie State for nothing. Miles of open grasslands, forests and lakes make it a nature lover’s paradise. You can go hiking in Shawnee National Forest, camping along Lake Michigan’s sandy shores or cycling on country roads. The fall foliage and spring wildflowers are stunning. Whether you’re into boating, fishing, golfing or bird watching, Illinois has you covered. 

World-Class Cities and Culture 

Museum in Chicago - Living in Illinois - Mayflower

Chicago is a world-class city in Illinois’s northeast, with amazing food, music, nightlife, sports and culture. Catch a Cubs game at Wrigley Field, take in the views from Navy Pier or Millennium Park, explore the Art Institute and shop along Michigan Avenue. Comedy clubs like Second City launched legends from Tina Fey to Stephen Colbert. Smaller cities have vibrant festivals, parades and events celebrating Illinois’s diversity too. 

Affordable Cost of Living 

While taxes in Illinois are high, housing costs are below the national average. Rent and home prices are reasonable, especially compared to the coasts. Healthcare, transportation and utilities are also relatively affordable. Job opportunities in business, tech, healthcare and manufacturing help many residents live comfortably on middle-class incomes with money left over for enjoying Illinois’s recreational activities and natural attractions. 

Overall, the natural scenery, outdoor recreation, culture and affordability give Illinois a lot of livability appeal if you’re seeking an active lifestyle at a reasonable cost.  

The Cons of Living in the Prairie State 

Ask any Illinoisan: The weather here is extreme. Summers are sweltering and winters are frigid. If you can’t stand the heat or cold, Illinois’ unpredictable weather may drive you away. 

Taxes in Illinois are some of the highest in the country. Between the flat income tax, high property taxes and sales tax, your wallet will feel the burn. While taxes fund important services, the rates can still be a burden. 

Politics in Illinois are messy, to put it lightly. Government issues like budget deficits, pension troubles and corruption scandals often make headlines. If you prefer political stability, Illinois may disappoint. 

Traffic and congestion, especially in Chicago, can be infuriating. Public transit helps but still has challenges. Driving in the city will test your patience. If you value efficiency, the gridlock could get on your nerves. 

What to Expect From Illinois’ Climate and Geography 

Extreme Weather 

Snow in Chicago - Living in Illinois - Mayflower

Illinois has a humid continental climate with extremely hot, humid summers and bitterly cold, snowy winters. During summer, temperatures often exceed 90 F, with the heat index making it feel even hotter. Winter lows often drop below freezing. If you can’t handle the temperature extremes, the unpredictable weather may be challenging. However, the state’s four distinct seasons also bring stunning natural beauty. 

Natural Beauty 

Despite the weather, Illinois’ diverse geography means there’s natural beauty in every season. Miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, swaths of forest with hidden waterfalls and sandstone cliffs, and vibrant fall foliage in autumn are just a few of its picturesque draws. Camping, hiking, cycling and enjoying scenic picnic spots are popular ways to experience the state’s natural attractions. 

Diverse Regions 

No matter where in Illinois you live, you’re never too far from its major cities or natural escapes. The Chicago metropolitan area borders Lake Michigan in the north, with nearly 10 million residents. The central region is home to Springfield, the state capital, and university towns. Head west to the Mississippi River, or south to the Shawnee National Forest’s bluffs and wineries. Each region has a distinct culture, climate and landscape to explore. 

Major Cities 

In addition to Chicago, major cities like Rockford, Joliet, Naperville, Springfield and Peoria offer historic attractions, outdoor recreation, sports, nightlife and vibrant communities. Rockford and Joliet highlight Illinois’ manufacturing history, while affluent Naperville boasts a gorgeous river walk and state capital Springfield highlights the state’s agricultural roots and Lincoln heritage. Peoria sits on the Illinois River, with riverfront museums, the Caterpillar world headquarters and minor league sports. 

No matter the weather or where you choose to call home, life in the Prairie State offers natural and cultural adventures in your own backyard.  

Moving to Illinois? How to Prepare for the Relocation 

Planning a move to Illinois? Brace yourself for extreme weather, do your research on communities, and get ready for untold adventures. 

Choosing Where to Live 

With over 200 towns and cities, Illinois has options for every lifestyle. Cosmopolitan Chicago offers culture, nightlife and job opportunities — not to mention world-class dining. College towns like Champaign-Urbana and Bloomington attract young professionals and families. Affluent suburbs like Naperville and Lake Forest appeal to those seeking top schools and amenities. Smaller towns may suit those wanting a slower pace. Explore your options to find a community that fits your needs. 

Experiencing the Culture 

Illinois culture reflects its diversity, from ethnic enclaves in Chicago to small-town festivals. Expect a mix of Northern and Midwestern influences, with lively food, music and arts scenes. Sports are hugely popular, especially baseball (and there’s a real rivalry between its two teams). People are typically friendly but often keep to themselves. Faith and family are important values for many. 

The pace of life varies from the hustle of Chicago to a more leisurely rhythm elsewhere. Be prepared to experience a range of cultural differences, even within the same state. With an open and curious mindset, embracing all Illinois has to offer can lead to a rewarding new life in the Prairie State. 

Hiring a Reliable Moving Company

No matter where you move to and from Illinois, moving requires careful planning. And for any type of move and services you need, rest assured you’re in capable hands with Mayflower. Our movers are among the very best in the moving business and offers a full line of customizable moving services. Let us help to make your move to and from the Land of Lincoln smooth and hassle-free. Get a quote today!

Frequently Asked Questions About Moving to and Living in Illinois 

What’s the weather really like? 

You’ve probably heard that Illinois weather is extreme, and it’s true. Summers are hot and humid, often over 90 F, while winters are freezing, frequently below 32 F. Illinois gets all four seasons, though winter seems to last the longest. The state also sees severe thunderstorms and even tornadoes, especially in spring. Be prepared for anything if you move here! 

Are the people friendly? 

For the most part, yes. Illinoisans tend to be welcoming, hardworking and value family and community. Politeness and a fun-loving attitude are common. The faster pace of Chicagoans contrasts with the more relaxed vibe in small towns. Illinois is ethnically diverse, with large German, Irish, Polish, Italian and Mexican populations, among others. 

What are the opportunities like? 

Job opportunities and strong higher education are plentiful, especially in and around Chicago. Business, healthcare, tech and manufacturing are major industries. While the cost of living is reasonable compared to other states, especially housing, taxes in Illinois are notoriously high. Property taxes and sales tax are average but state income tax is steep. Government issues like budget deficits are ongoing challenges. 

What is there to do for fun? 

There’s no shortage of recreation in Illinois. From dining, shopping and shows in Chicago to hiking at Starved Rock State Park, visiting Lincoln’s Springfield home or catching a Cubs game at Wrigley Field, options for entertainment abound. Seasonal festivals, parades and events take place in nearly every town. Outdoor activities like boating, golfing, fishing and cycling are popular, with miles of Lake Michigan shoreline and natural beauty. 

In summary, while the weather can be harsh and taxes are high, life in Illinois offers natural scenery, culture, sports and job opportunities at a relatively affordable cost of living. For many, the pros of living in the Prairie State far outweigh the cons. 

As if that’s not enough, its central location and extensive transportation network means you can easily explore the rest of the Midwest and beyond. Wherever your interests lie, Illinois has a community that will feel like home.  

Considering a move to another state? Check out our city and state guides. Ready to move to Illinois? There’s no better time to request a quote

When you’re ready to make the move, our blog offers a wealth of ideas to streamline your move and help you settle in

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