Living amid the booming food scene, shopping centers and a major university without leaving the feel of the suburbs does come at a price. The cost of living in Evanston is about 38 percent higher than the state of Illinois average. As of 2010, the median household income was $68,000.
Nearly 60 percent of residents are homeowners who pay an average mortgage of $2,400 a month. Renters face the competitive rates and pay an average of $1,500 a month.
With numerous commercial centers in the city, Evanston is a popular shopping spot for residents in northern suburbs and Chicago.
The downtown area, centered around the Davis Street Metra, is home to over 300 businesses, high-rise offices, residential buildings and a Century 12 movie theaters. Small boutiques such as Hot Mama and CouCou & Olive sit alongside national retailers like The North Face and Urban Outfitters. This area gives residents the best selection of local and chain stores in one convenient location.
Clustered around the Central Street Metra Station is a string of specialty shops and restaurants in a walkable small-town area with a vintage atmosphere. There are no chain clothing stores on Central Street so you can opt for one-of-a-kind purchases, antiques and designer accessories. The Evanston Public Library is also located on Central Street.
A third shopping hub can be found at the Dempster Street "L" stop. Over 60 small, hip shops make this area a mixed-use center for dining, shopping and entertainment. Stop for breakfast at Bagel Art, a locally owned bakery with organic and vegetarian options, or indulge in the Evanston music scene at Squeezebox Books and Music. This popular art district is also a short walk from SPACE, the most popular concert venue in the area.
It's no surprise that the most popular locations to get groceries are Whole Foods and Trader Joe's because Evanstonians prefer fresh, local or conflict-free products. Similar groceries can also be purchased at one of many farmers markets. The downtown Evanston farmers market has operated for more than 30 years at the intersection of University Place and Oak Avenue and continues to be a favorite for locals. For a convenient stop with more affordable prices, residents can also get all the necessary groceries at Jewel-Osco.
Residents of Evanston have access to several kinds of transportation. In general, people can walk to about five coffee shops or restaurants in five minutes, giving Evanston a high walkability score of 74.
In cold weather or for longer distances, access the Metra Train System and the CTA "L" on Davis Street, with the CTA Purple Line serving Evanston.
The city is drivable, but catching a taxi from one of many companies may be easier than navigating the compact streets and strict parking rules.
Evanston contains beautiful stretches of lakefront parks and beaches. Dawes Park consistently ranks as an area favorite. Located off Sheridan Road, the park itself is connected to a designated dog park and lagoon with a large fountain. Locals say this free haven is the best place to picnic or walk along Lake Michigan. Take a peaceful stroll through one of the various trails, and stick around for the free Starlight Concert Series that occurs on several dates throughout summer and early fall.
Lee Street Beach is another park on Lake Michigan that is popular with young families. Lifeguards on duty mean there is a small entrance fee, but the clean shorelines and extra supervision are worth it for most families. A pier-like walkway makes it easy for strollers or wheelchairs to get close to the water. Once you're near the swimming location, there's no need to leave unless you're heading to buy ice cream from the sole vendor in the area.
If you're looking for a quiet place to read or a neighborhood park to take the kids, Evanston offers 76 parks and 50 playgrounds within the city limits.
Whether you're in search of a quick bite to eat or a five-course dining experience, Evanston offers an assortment of restaurants and cafes that serve the needs of any hungry resident. With over 85 places to eat in its downtown area alone, Evanston is bound to satisfy your cravings within a five-minute walking radius.
With cuisine ranging from Mediterranean and Italian to Asian and New American, Evanston is known for restaurants with cool vibes that still suit any occasion. If you're a college student on a budget, grab lunch at Edzo's Burger Shopradise on Sherman Avenue for one of the top 25 burgers in the US, according to USA Today/Zagat. This hamburger lover's place, offers nine different flavors of fries that are described as being "out of this world." Although lunch lines can be long, one sip of a decadent Nutella milkshake makes every second worth the wait.
Union Pizzeria is a venue that constantly tops the list for its combination of excellent food and a unique atmosphere. Located on Chicago Avenue, this pizza joint isn't only known for its wood-fired pies. Locals praise the cocktail menu and suggest ordering a small plate of eggplant caponata or an order of chocolate bread pudding.
After a long day, stop for a late drink at Ward Eight on Howard Street. This cozy bar, described as "a hidden gem" in this friendly neighborhood, features several local brews and inventive cocktails. Order the cheese plate and sip a Mexican Firing Squad or the Artist's Special to taste the best of this cool speakeasy.
For those interested in a nonalcoholic boost, visit one of the dozen coffee shops and bakeries in town. The Brother's K Coffeehouse and Coffee Lab are two of the top contenders when it comes to finding the perfect cup of joe. The Brother's K Coffeehouse, nestled in a quiet neighborhood off Main Street with plenty of outdoor seating, free parking and Wi-Fi, serves as a great place to meet a friend over cappuccinos and the coffeehouse's esteemed banana bread. Coffee Lab emits the same quiet, neighborhood feel with a rustic vibe on Noyes Street. Patrons come for the Diablo Dark and return to watch the baristas hand-drip each cup of coffee.
Evanston is home to Northwestern University, a top-tier research university founded in 1851 by a group of Methodist business leaders. In fact, the school was founded before the city itself. However, by 1857, the town was officially named Evanston after the university's leading founder, John Evans.
Following the Civil War, the town experienced vast economic and population growth, and elected to become a city in 1892. Evanston also supported the Prohibition movement, having established itself as a dry community and operating as such from 1858 to 1972. Striving to remain independent of Chicago, Evanston continued to grow and became known in the 1920s for its elaborate architecture and beautiful homes near Lake Michigan.
Evanston still thrives as a city independent of Chicago. It is recognized for its sustainability efforts and commercial centers throughout the city. Home to several CEOs of large businesses such as Motorola, eBay and Crate and Barrel, Evanston has also produced a notable music scene. The Society for the Preservation of Art and Culture in Evanston, or SPACE, is a concert hall for music, visual arts and literary events that has hosted national touring acts since 2008.
The city hosts several annual events, including a flea market at the Robert Crown Center and the Lakeshore Arts Festival. History buffs can find several historical sites within the city limits, such as the Grosse Point Lighthouse built in 1873 to light the way for ships approaching Chicago.