A guide to Chicago's North Shore suburbs

A guide to the North Shore

About The Shore

Tower Road Beach, Winnetka, IL

The North Shore suburbs of Chicago are stunningly attractive places to live – so much so that many nearby suburbs lay claim to the North Shore’s superior cachet.

The North Shore communities – from south to north along the shore of Lake Michigan – are Evanston, Wilmette, Kenilworth, Winnetka, Glencoe, Highland Park, Highwood, Lake Forest and Lake Bluff.

Westward lies a host of wannabes: Skokie, Glenview, Northbrook and so on. Lacking beaches, they fail the first critical test of whether they’re part of “The Shore.” And yes, we’re aware that Highwood has no beach.

Kenilworth Union Church, Kenilworth, IL

The North Shore is as much about attitude, affluence, achievement and ancestry (and, some might say, anxiety and anorexia) as it is about geography. The wannabes have isolated pockets that share some of the attributes of North Shore communities, but all fall short in critical ways.
What sets the North Shore apart, more than anything else, is its timelessness. If you returned to the North Shore today, after a 30-year absence, almost all of its scenes would be instantly familiar, and many of the people you left behind would still be here, aging in place. The North Shore is a destination for most of its residents rather than a way-station.

The permanence of the North Shore has a huge and hugely enriching impact on the experience of living here, especially for children. College-age kids from the North Shore have friends they’ve known since kindergarten, not just Facebook friends. North Shore schools have teachers who taught their students’ parents, famed alumni who return to give back, and citizens who support them rather than begrudging them their property tax dollars.

For all their affluence and attitude, Chicago’s North Shore communities are welcoming places that offer a range of housing options – from affordable studio apartments and ranch homes to mini- and mega-mansions. The wealthy thrive here, but you don’t need to be wealthy to live well here.

Diversity

The joke in Santa Barbara is that “diversity means 60 shades of blonde.” The North Shore isn’t that much different.

With the exception of Evanston, which is home to Northwestern University, diversity is not the North Shore’s strong suit. That said, there’s nothing exclusionary about Chicago’s North Shore suburbs. African-Americans, Asians, Latinos and every other nationality live comfortably and feel welcome throughout the North Shore.

Government

Village Hall, Winnetka, IL

Evanston, Glencoe, Kenilworth, Wilmette and Winnetka are in Cook County. Highland Park, Highwood, Lake Bluff and Lake Forest are in Lake County. Municipal government is outlined in more detail in individual Guides (coming soon).

History

The North Shore is rich in history, but we don’t think that much matters to most people who are trying to decide where to live. If you’re curious, follow the links to the historical societies in the individual suburb Guides, which are coming soon.

Housing

The North Shore suburbs offer a wide array of housing options, from Evanston’s courtyard apartments and condo high-rises to sprawling estates in Lake Forest and Winnetka mansions.
Apartments and rental homes, though limited in number in most of the North Shore, are readily available.

New construction on the North Shore is limited to smaller, infill developments and teardowns / replacements of single-family homes.

Schools

For families with children, the North Shore’s generally excellent public and private schools, some of the best in the nation, are often the major reason for moving to the area. New Trier High School, which serves Wilmette, Kenilworth, Winnetka, Glencoe, and most of neighboring Northfield, is a destination for many who place a premium on education.
Crow Island School, Winnetka, IL

Schools are discussed in more detail in individual Guides (coming soon) for each North Shore suburb.

Shopping

The North Shore suburbs, with the exception of Evanston, Highland Park and Winnetka, have limited retail areas.
Old Orchard Shopping Center, Skokie, IL

All of the North Shore suburbs have easy access to several major upscale regional shopping centers: Old Orchard (Bloomingdale’s, Lord & Taylor, Macy’s, Nordstrom and many more) and Northbrook Court (Lord & Taylor, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, etc.)

Transportation

All of the North Shore suburbs have at least one stop on Metra’s Union Pacific North Line trains to downtown Chicago. Evanston and Wilmette are also served by the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Purple Line trains to Chicago’s Loop, with connections to other routes. All of the North Shore, except for Lake Bluff, is served by the Pace bus system. Taxi service is available from 303 Taxi, American Taxi, and Norshore Cab.
Metra, Winnetka, IL

The Edens Expressway (I-94) is easily accessible from Wilmette, Kenilworth, Winnetka, and Glencoe. US Route 41 and I-94 connect Highland Park, Highwood, Lake Forest and Lake Bluff to the Edens Expressway. Travel times to downtown Chicago can range from 20 minutes at off-peak hours from Wilmette to over an hour, during busier periods, from Lake Bluff.

The North Shore spans an area that’s more than 20 miles from southern Evanston to northern Lake Bluff. If access to downtown Chicago is important, consider the Cook County suburbs. In order of proximity to the city, they’re Evanston, Wilmette, Kenilworth, Winnetka and Glencoe. Evanston and Wilmette, in that order, have the best public transportation. It’s generally quicker to drive to downtown from Wilmette than from Evanston.

Feedback is welcome

Please add your comments and suggestions for making this Guide more useful to anyone considering a move to the North Shore.

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