What Living in Illinois is Like: The Good, the Bad and the Windy

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You’ve heard jokes about Chicago politics and the windy winters, but what’s it like living in the Prairie State?

Sure, the weather can get crazy, with hot muggy summers and frigid snowy winters, but Illinois offers a lot more than meteorological mayhem. From world-class cities like Chicago to scenic rural towns, Illinois has something for everyone.  

Read on to get the lowdown on jobs, cost of living, outdoor adventures and all the other factors you should consider before packing your bags for the Land of Lincoln.  

The Pros of Living in Illinois 

Illinois has a lot going for it, including its quiet, natural beauty. Miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, the Shawnee National Forest in the south with hidden waterfalls and sandstone cliffs and vibrant fall foliage in autumn are just a few of its picturesque draws. You’ll never run out of scenic spots for camping, hiking, cycling or just enjoying a picnic either. 

Living in Illinois - Starved Rock State Park - United Van Lines

Its big cities like Chicago have world-class attractions like the Bean, Navy Pier, Millennium Park and museums galore, not to mention amazing food, music and nightlife. “The Second City” comedy club launched careers of legends like Tina Fey and Stephen Colbert. Catch a Cubs, Bears or Blackhawks game for a quintessential Chicago experience. 

Job opportunities abound in business and tech hubs like Chicago. Illinois universities rank among the best, and living costs are lower than on the coasts. Property taxes are high, but housing is affordable by relative standards. 

Culturally, Illinois has a lot to offer. Ethnic enclaves and festivals celebrate diversity. Art fairs, music festivals, parades, there’s always something going on. 

While winter weather can be brutal, the other three seasons are gorgeous. Autumn, especially, with its fall colors against blue skies, is picture-perfect.  

The Cons of Living in the Land of Lincoln 

Illinois isn’t all cornfields and Cubs games. Some downsides of life in the Prairie State might make you think twice before moving in. 

The weather is extreme. From scorching summers to frigid winters, Illinois weather can be tough to handle. Summers are hot and humid, with temperatures frequently over 90 F. Winters are bitter cold, often dropping below freezing. If you can’t handle temperature extremes, the unpredictable weather may drive you away. 

Taxes are high. Illinois has some of the highest taxes in the U.S., including high property and sales taxes. The income tax rate is a flat 4.95% for individuals. While taxes fund important services, the high rates can be a financial burden. 

Living in Illinois - Government building in Illinois - United Van Lines

Government issues exist. Illinois politics can be messy, and the government faces fiscal challenges like underfunded pensions. 

Traffic and congestion are problematic. Getting around Chicagoland can be frustrating, with heavy traffic and congestion. Public transit does help but still has its challenges. Driving in the city may test your patience. 

Experiencing the Four Distinct Seasons in Illinois 

Illinois has a humid continental climate with hot, humid summers and cold, snowy winters. You’ll experience the full range of four seasons living here. 

Living in Illinois - Winter in Illinois - United Van Lines

Springtime (March to May) brings rain showers and thunderstorms, as temperatures rise from the 30s F and 40s F into the 60s F and 70s F. Tree buds start to open, flowers bloom and farmers begin planting their crops. Take advantage of the pleasant weather to get outside, go for walks, ride bikes or work in your garden. 

Summers (June to August) are hot and humid. Daytime highs frequently top 90 F, with heat indexes over 100 F. You’ll want to blast the air conditioning, spend time at the beach or pool, and eat lots of ice cream. Be prepared for pop-up thunderstorms and possible tornado warnings. The summer also features fun festivals, outdoor concerts, baseball games and fireworks on the Fourth of July. 

Autumn (September to November) arrives with cooler air and a vibrant display of fall foliage. Temperatures decrease into the 50s F and 60s F, making it comfortable to be outside again. Go apple or pumpkin picking, visit a farm stand or take a scenic drive to see the changing colors of the maples, oaks, and hickories. 

Winters (December to February) are frigid, with average highs in the low 30s F and nighttime lows often well below freezing. Snow, ice, sleet and wind chills below zero are common. Most people hibernate indoors, only going out for work, school or essential errands. When you do venture out, bundle up in heavy coats, hats, gloves and boots. The rest of the time, curl up inside with hot cocoa, blankets and your favorite shows on TV. 

The diverse seasons of Illinois bring a range of weather, activities, and natural beauty throughout the year. Experience all the state has to offer during each seasonal change. The fluctuating climate keeps life interesting and gives you an appreciation for the warmer and colder months alike. 

The Diverse Regions and Main Cities in Illinois 

Illinois has a variety of regions, each with its own distinct geography, culture and climate. In the north, you’ll find the Chicago metropolitan area bordering Lake Michigan. This region is home to nearly 10 million people and it’s a hub for culture, food, arts and business. 

Living in Illinois - A museum in Illinois - United Van Lines

The central region contains the state capital of Springfield, as well as Decatur and Champaign, home of the University of Illinois. This area has rich soil, farms and prairies. If you head west, you’ll reach the Mississippi River and cities like Moline, Rock Island and Galesburg. 

In southern Illinois, you’ll stumble upon the Shawnee National Forest, scenic bluffs, wineries and small towns. Cities here include Carbondale, Edwardsville and Alton. The culture is more Midwestern with beautiful parks and outdoor recreation. 

No matter where you live in Illinois, you’re never too far from one of its major cities. In addition to Chicago, some of the other largest cities are: 

Rockford: Located in northern Illinois, Rockford is known for manufacturing, healthcare and outdoor recreation along the Rock River. 

Joliet: A southwest suburb of Chicago, Joliet has historic attractions like the Rialto Square Theater, as well as natural areas like Pilcher Park and the Des Plaines River Trail. 

Naperville: An affluent western suburb, Naperville boasts vibrant nightlife, parks, golf courses and the Naperville Riverwalk. It’s consistently ranked as one of the best places to live in the U.S. 

Springfield: The charming state capital in central Illinois has numerous Abraham Lincoln historical sites like his presidential library and home. It’s also home to the Illinois State Fair. 

Peoria: Situated on the Illinois River, Peoria is a historic city known for the Caterpillar headquarters, the Peoria Riverfront Museum and minor league sports. 

What Living in Illinois Is Really Like: FAQs Answered 

Have you ever wondered what it’s really like living in Illinois? As a lifelong resident, here are some answers to frequently asked questions about life in the Prairie State. 

What’s the weather like? 

Illinois has a humid continental climate with hot, humid summers and cold, snowy winters. Summers in Illinois are typically very warm and muggy, with average highs of 85 F. Winters are usually frigid, with average highs around 38 F. Then state gets all four seasons, though winter seems to last the longest.  Also, the state is in Tornado Alley, so severe thunderstorms and tornadoes can occur, especially in spring. 

What are the people like? 

Illinoisans are generally friendly, hardworking and community oriented. They tend to be polite and value family, faith and fun. Most residents live in or near Chicago, with a fast-paced lifestyle. In smaller towns and rural areas, the pace is more relaxed. There is a lot of diversity in Illinois, with people of German, Irish, Polish, Italian and Mexican heritage, among others. 

What is there to do? 

There’s plenty to do in Illinois — you can shop, dine and take in a show in Chicago, hike at Starved Rock State Park, visit Abraham Lincoln’s Springfield home, cheer on the Cubs at historic Wrigley Field, and explore museums and festivals in towns all over the state. Outdoor activities are popular, like boating on Lake Michigan, golfing, fishing, cycling and more. Nearly every town has seasonal fairs, parades and events, too. 

What about the cost of living? 

The cost of living in Illinois is slightly below the national average, with housing costs about 9% lower than the U.S. average. State income taxes are higher than average, but property taxes and sales tax are about average. The job market is improving, with opportunities in business, healthcare, technology and manufacturing across the state. 

Overall, Illinois has something for everyone with its mix of natural beauty, culture, history, sports and recreation at a relatively reasonable cost of living. Despite the ups and downs of Midwestern weather, most Illinoisans wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. 

Relocating to Illinois from across the country? Let United Van Lines, America’s #1 Mover® help you. Our long-distance movers are here to assist you in seamlessly transitioning to the Land of Lincoln from any U.S. location. From handling your packing and unpacking to providing storage, car shipping services, and even debris pick-up, we’ve got every aspect of your move covered.  

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