The Best Place To Live In Chicago

With close to 3 million residents, Chicago is the nation's third-largest city. Its 234.5 square miles make up an amalgam of 77 recognized neighborhoods, or as many as 200, according to some unofficial accounts (via Life Chicago). The city's neighborhoods are broken up into three sides: north, west, and south, while the east borders Lake Michigan.

Chicago's neighborhoods are a product of geographic differences as well as cultural ones. Indigenous Chicagoans, immigrants of diverse backgrounds, participants of The Great Migration, and millennials, among others, have all put their stamp on the sections in particular and the city as a whole. Chicago's various neighborhoods can be ethnocentric or mixed, old or new, affluent or less so. Some stand out among Chicago's best places to live. One of those sections is Hyde Park.

In 1853, Paul Cornell purchased a 300-acre tract alongside Lake Michigan when the area was a separate Chicago suburb. As a marketing ploy to attract wealthy neighbors, he named it Hyde Park after the pricey London section. More than simply a top Chicago neighborhood, the University of Chicago calls Hyde Park one of America's greats, and Niche rates it as one of Illinois' best. Just a few miles south of downtown, it is a lively and highly diverse tree-lined enclave buzzing with intellectual and cultural life.

Living in Hyde Park

The population of Hyde Park is around 25,000, making it one of the least densely populated communities on the lake, according to RentCafé. The neighborhood's eclectic housing stock includes Victorian mansions, brownstone and graystone apartment buildings, modest single-family homes, and a large selection of rentals. Many date from the city's architectural heyday of the early 20th century. The Promontory Point Apartments enjoy a spectacular skyline view. The apartments are recognized by the National Register of Historic Places, one of two so designated in Hyde Park. The other is the Frederick C. Robie House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, which is also a UNESCO Heritage Site. Residents have access to more greenery than perhaps any other Chicago neighborhood in two parks designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. Jackson Park also has an 18-hole golf course.

According to Extra Space Storage, the median purchase price for Hyde Park houses is an affordable $272,248. The majority of residents are renters, and the median monthly rent is $1,105. The neighborhood is accessible to downtown via several bus and rail lines and is a 15-minute hop from the Loop using the electric train system. Lakeshore Drive and the Dan Ryan Expressway are minutes away. The Lakefront Trail is a busy thoroughfare for cyclists. Hyde Park residents can ride the South Shore Line with stops throughout nearby Indiana. Midway Airport is a convenient trip from the neighborhood, and 57th Street Beach is steps away. AptAmigo says that Hyde Park is very walkable.

The neighborhood and President Obama

A diverse mix of students, young professionals, and families forms the heart of Hyde Park. Two-thirds of the University of Chicago's faculty also call the neighborhood home. This upscale neighborhood is one of the South Side's safest, and Movoto reports there is 50% less crime in Hyde Park than elsewhere in the city. Police patrols near the university help keep the peace. Per the University of Chicago Security & Safety, despite an occasional uptick in violent crime, such incidents are notably decreasing. According to the Hyde Park Historical Society, areas encircling Hyde Park have undergone a renaissance, further enhancing the neighborhood's safety.

The Ray Elementary School and University of Chicago Laboratory Schools are standouts in a Hyde Park educational system that includes public, private, charter, and selective enrollment schools. The neighborhood is also served by the Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine, a heavily funded, outstanding outpatient facility.

Barack Obama has called this South Side neighborhood home since he was a Harvard graduate, law professor, and community organizer. Per WTTW Chicago, he honed his well-known basketball skills in Jackson Park. The "Kissing Rock" and a plaque where a Baskin-Robbins spot once stood commemorates the site of Barack and Michelle's first date and kiss, and the Valois Restaurant, a century-old Obama family favorite, still draws crowds. The Obama Presidential Center and Library is soon to be located in his Hyde Park neighborhood.

So much to do in Hyde Park

In addition to President Obama, Hyde Park has been home to a who's who of Chicago public figures, including Senator Carol Moseley Braun, Chicago's Mayor Harold Washington, and Elijah Muhammed. Amelia Earhart, Chaka Khan, Muhammad Ali, and Saul Bellow all called the neighborhood home, and Mary Todd Lincoln also lived there for a short time. The University of Chicago is the hub of Hyde Park, with John D. Rockefeller and Marshall Field having been major donors to the school and its environs. Rockefeller heavily endowed the school, and Field donated the bulk of the property. Hyde Park's intellectual heft is palpable, and VeryApt points out it boasts the most Nobel Prize winners per kilometer anywhere.

As Restaurant Clicks notes with appreciation, "Pretty much no matter where you look, there is something interesting to see or do" in Hyde Park. The Museum of Science and Industry is one of the world's largest science museums and sits on the site of the last building standing from the Chicago World's Fair of 1893. The neighborhood also boasts the Oriental Institute, which houses one of the world's largest collections of ancient Egyptian and Near Eastern artifacts — an estimated 300,000 items, according to Culture Trip.

Additional culture and nightlife

The Fountain of Time, a sculpture located in the University of Chicago's Midway corridor, is a focal point of Chicago's public art collection. Per Choose Chicago, the largest musical instrument ever built can also be found at the university. It is a 100-ton carillon consisting of more than 70 bells. The renowned Court Theatre is on campus. In a key step toward devising the atomic bomb, Enrico Fermi and his team created a nuclear reactor underneath the university's football stadium. A Henry Moore sculpture marks the spot, and, per UCHICAGOArts, it serves as both a commemoration and warning about the dawn of the Atomic Age. 

Hyde Park also has the DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center, a treasure chest of African American history. Named after Jean Baptiste Point DuSable, Chicago's first non-indigenous settler and unofficial founder of the city, it is America's original museum dedicated to black culture. The Hyde Park Art Center is Chicago's first alternative exhibition space. The 57th Street Art Fair, held in the heart of Hyde Park, is the oldest juried art fair in the heartland.

Yoko Ono mounted SKYLANDING, her first art production, in Hyde Park. Nearby is the Stony Island Arts Bank, a combination gallery, archive, and community center. The neighborhood also holds an annual jazz festival, and Hyde Park Records is a music lover's mecca.

Its own small town

Per Chicago Eater, Hyde Park's restaurant scene is varied and flourishing. Popular dining spots include Nella Pizza e Pasta, which received the Bib Gourmand Award from Michelin, Cedars Mediterranean Kitchen, and the Virtue Restaurant, known for its Southern-style cuisine. The Soul Shack, conveniently located near the trendy boutique Sophy Hotel and within blocks of the Obama residence, is another local favorite. The Promontory is a nightlife fixture known for good food and music. Chicago is famous for its deep-dish pizza, and Giordano's stuffed version is a Hyde Park staple. Chicago Bar Project cites Woodlawn Tap, also known as Jimmy's, as an oasis for thirsty university students for more than 50 years.

TimeOut gives a shout-out to Ja' Grill, a Caribbean transplant to Hyde Park from the Lincoln Park neighborhood. Ascione Bistro appears on several "Best Of" lists for both Hyde Park and Chicago. A string of popular Thai restaurants serves the Hyde Park community. With so much to offer in a vibrant Lake Michigan neighborhood with a strong sense of culture and community, it is no wonder that Hyde Park is described as "its own small town" (via Downtown Hyde Park Chicago).