“See, all these movies take place in a town called Shermer, in Illinois...But when we got here, you know what we found out? There is no Shermer in Illinois.” (-Jay, “Dogma”)
It’s true, there is no Shermer in Illinois, but the place that fictional city was based on, and John Hughes’ hometown, was Northbrook, which used to go by the moniker “Shermerville” before 1923. Not only can you find Ferris Bueller’s high school and the “Save Ferris” water tower within this town’s environs, you can also jump on the Metra and head into Chicago proper easily. What’s not inexpensive is the housing, but if you’re willing to branch out to some of the not-too-distant neighborhoods, you can find apartment rentals that are shockingly thrifty. Fortunately, this beautiful nearly-lakefront village is worth the cost, especially if you’re a ‘80s film buff.
North Shore Living
The North Shore of the Chicago Metropolitan Area is pretty darn popular, and no wonder, it’s got boutiques, artisan shops, farmers markets and, oh yeah, that sweet shoreline. Don’t forget, it also has some greatamenities and reliable public transportation. There are certainly good and bad neighborhoods, but they can change from block to block, so it’s possible to find an affordable crash pad just a block or two from the best locations.
But hold onto your butts, it’s not all sunshine and lollipops. The vacancy rate is a deflating 2%, making apartment hunting fairly rough if you’re looking last minute. Make sure you give yourself at least two months or more to secure some satisfying digs. On the up side, nearly a third of apartment rentals include utilities in the rent. You’re going to love that fact come summer, or winter, or really almost any season in Illinois. Spring is terrific!
Cost of Living
Not great news here, either. Cost of living is 53% higher than the national average, but with every storm cloud comes a silver lining! Wine prices are well below standard, so you have something to soothe those money woes.
Don’t get too bummed about the cost, as there’s a reason for these exorbitant fees. Northbrook is a fantastic place to live and raise a family. Walking and biking is easy, PACE buses and Metra take you everywhere, and community events are commonplace. It’s also a city going green. There are community gardens, recycling, green building and more. Plus, there’s an impressive selection of ethnic cuisine within the village limits, including Thai, Japanese, Greek, and Italian. If you ever find you’re bored, plan a day devoted to visiting all the locations used in John Hughes movies, from Weird Science to Uncle Buck. Totally worth it.
The Not Neighborhoods
Northbrook doesn’t really have neighborhoods, per se. Northbrook is a village, and there are several distinctive villages surrounding it. Keeping close to trains and buses send prices skyward, so it’s all about the balancing act. Weigh your priorities before picking a nesting ground.
Northbrook: The main town is pricey.. It’s beautiful, community-oriented and filled with charming amenities. Oh, and wicked high home prices. Most people living here have high salaries salaries.
Edison Park: On the opposite side of the spectrum is EP.Only choose Edison if money is the end-all-be all, but keep in mind that utilities are almost never included here and almost nothing is available for rent. Good luck!
Norwood Park: Here’s a good middle ground that’s inexpensive and mostly close to public transportation. Very limited vacancies, though, so get cracking.
Forest Glen: Absolutely a fantastic option in place of Northbrook. But you better plan for a rental home rather than an apartment. A 1% vacancy rate is Sisyphean, and that’s really only referring to single-family homes. If you’re an apartment dweller, head somewhere else.
Jefferson Park: Another suitable option, a wee bit pricier than FG though super walkable. There’s a more forgiving vacancy rate and substantial apartment for rent options.
Northeastern Illinois isn’t known for its lovely, temperate weather, so locals take advantage whenever Mother Nature gives them a break. Living close to Lake Michigan means summers shirking humidity in the crisp water, along with all the normal red-blooded American water activities like boating, water skiing, and soaking up melanoma on the sand. Northbrookers are outdoorsy, intellectual folks. There are museums, libraries, and gardens all over, not to mention the pink walnut-stimulating glory of downtown Chicago just 45 minutes away. Winters are brutal, so having a thick skin and an amiable Midwestern attitude can go far with local folks who value a glass half full methodology.
Northbrook is a little paradise just inland of Lake Michigan. Though the prices may make some think twice, it really is the embodiment of the American Midwest Dream. Living close to one of the most thrilling cities in the world, while maintaining a comfortable retreat in a peaceful community enclave, it’s what most folks spend their lives chasing. Just remember, a little bad weather and some sticker shock is just the price of admission for entry to the all you can eat American Pie contest.