Why Naperville, Illinois Is the Coolest Suburb in America For Crafters

published May 22, 2019
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Credit: Sarah Crowley/Apartment Therapy

Naperville was chosen as one of Apartment Therapy’s Coolest Suburbs in America 2019. We showcased the burbs nationwide that offer the most when it comes to cultural activities, a sense of community, and simply a good quality of life. For more on how we define “cool” and what exactly counts as a suburb, check out our methodology here. To view Apartment Therapy’s other Coolest Suburbs in America 2019, head here.

Naperville, which sits about 30 miles west of Chicago, is a lively city that’s retained its hometown feel despite its size. From concerts and festivals to art shows and triathlons, most of the suburb’s events, and the downtown area in general, are centered around the Naperville Riverwalk. It’s an area full of covered bridges and fountains, symbolic of Naperville’s ties to its historic past as the oldest town in DuPage County, Illinois.

Naperville consistently falls on “best places to live” lists. And it’s quite artistic, too. Apartment Therapy has awarded Naperville its own Class of 2019 Suburb Superlative: “Best for Crafters.” It turns out that the burb posted about 13,400 listings on Etsy last year, according to data the site provided to Apartment Therapy. And Naperville doesn’t just ship their wares out either—it’s known for its Naperville Woman’s Club Fine Art & Artisan Fair, the longest running juried art fair in Illinois.

Credit: Sarah Crowley/Apartment Therapy

With more than 250 restaurants, Naperville is also a diner’s paradise, with options including Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Spanish, Italian, and French. You can eat shepherd’s pie at Quigley’s Irish Pub, which was designed, built, and shipped over from Ireland; or enjoy seafood, martinis, and, yes, frog legs at Hugo’s Frog Bar & Fish House. Grab dessert at Le Chocolat du Bouchard, winner of Naperville magazine’s Best Specialty Dessert Shop. It features European pastries, an espresso bar, and oh, the chocolate! Its European truffles, gourmet hot chocolate, and hand-dipped candies are more than a little decadent.

Credit: Sarah Crowley/Apartment Therapy

Then there’s the granddaddy of all neighborhood pools: Centennial Beach, a stone quarry-turned-swimming pool. Many subdivisions also have their own smaller, pools, too. Naperville’s active community means there’s hardly any time of day, when you don’t see residents out for a run or walking their dogs—especially on the weekends. Plus, it’s only an hour’s drive from downtown Chicago and Lake Michigan. What’s not to love?

Median rent price:

$1,437, according to RENTCafe.

Median house price:

$397,600, according to Zillow.

Price per square foot:

$185, according to Zillow.

Walkability score:

35, according to WalkScore.com. People drive everywhere here. If you like to walk to restaurants and shops, downtown and the Historic District are your best bets to live. Plus, there are more condos going up in the downtown area near the train station.

Median household income:

$114,014, according to Census data.

Population:

147,682, according to Census data.

Place that makes you happy to live there:

SixtyFour—Wine Bar & Kitchen is like a wineland plus amusement park for grown-ups, with kiosks set up for sampling an assortment of 64 wines from all over the world, 64 craft beers, classic cocktails, and a tasty food menu.

Credit: Sarah Crowley/Apartment Therapy

Why Naperville deserves the superlative of “Craftiest Suburb:”

Art is everywhere in Naperville, from the murals depicting bygone days to the statues memorializing residents who expanded an outpost into a city. Summer’s the best time to cruise the art festival circuit. The Naperville Art League offers classes and gallery space, and sponsors the Riverwalk Fine Art Fair. The Naperville Woman’s Club opens their fair to local artisans to showcase their products, too. In addition to having the most postings of any U.S. suburb on Etsy, Naperville residents’ creative offerings—which range from irreverent graphic mugs and tees to vintage local photographs—showcase Naperville pride. There’s also no shortage of knitting groups that meet monthly.

Favorite activity for families:

Whether it’s sledding down Rotary Hill in the winter or exploring the DuPage Children’s Museum, there are a ton of things for families to do here.

Favorite place to catch a movie:

Hollywood Palms Cinema has six themed rooms, including “The Wizard of Oz,” Academy Awards, and cartoons, plus full meal service. It’s a great place to catch dinner and a movie.

Credit: Sarah Crowley/Apartment Therapy

Favorite outdoor lounge spot:

The Riverwalk. Whether you’re walking along the river, past fountains and sculptures, or sitting on Rotary Hill reading a book beneath the Millennium Carillon, it’s Naperville’s favorite chill place.

Favorite date spot:

Housed in the old Willoway mansion, Meson Sabika is the perfect date night spot for tapas and sangria. It’s gorgeous outdoor patio was voted best outdoor dining in Naperville Magazine’s Best of Naperville 2018.  Make sure to get the bacon-wrapped dates.

Favorite local bookstore:

One of the last independent bookstores in the area, Anderson’s Bookshop on Jefferson Avenue hosts major authors every week and still has personal recommendations from the staff for just the right book. Mental Floss voted it the 2019 Best Bookstore in Illinois.

Favorite place to get coffee:

Chicago magazine calls Sparrow CoffeeThe best cup of coffee anywhere.” Master roaster Chris Chacko set up shop right here in Naperville, on the first floor of the Hotel Indigo on Water Street.

Favorite bar when you want to be around people:

Outside of downtown, at Naperville’s own microbrewery Solemn Oath Brewery, you can buy your friends a beer by putting their names up on the chalkboard for the next time they come in.

Favorite alone spot:

Further down the Riverwalk, a little outside of downtown, there are a few benches ensconced by trees to block out the noise. That’s the perfect place to breathe and de-stress.

Hidden gem:

The Northcott Liquorette, modeled after the speakeasies of the Prohibition era and known only by the letter N on its small front door, is complete with absinthe fountain, liquor-infused teapots, and rare whiskeys.

Favorite free cultural activity to take part in:

General admission to Naper Settlement, an outdoor history museum, is free to Napervillians with proof of residency. It’s a trip through time from Fort Payne, to the old schoolhouse, to the Martin Mitchell Mansion. The museum also hosts Civil War Days, a 19th-century Halloween-themed All Hallows’ Eve, summer camps, and Naper Lights in December.

Credit: Courtesy of Naper Settlement

Favorite boutique:

Karisma Boutique on South Washington Street for clothing, purses, jewelry, and accessories.

Favorite trail:

McDowell Grove Forest Preserve, entrance on Raymond Drive, has 465 acres of woods, open fields, and the west branch of the DuPage River.  

Favorite spot for an Instagram:

Dandelion Fountain on the Riverwalk.

Favorite free activity:

Everybody loves the Naperville Municipal Band concerts. From teddy bear parades for the little tykes, to holiday favorites, to the “1812 Overture” complete with real cannons and bells ringing from the local surrounding churches for the Fourth of July, the band has entertained generations of Naperville residents.

Favorite grocery store:

Hands down, it’s Casey’s Foods, which has the best meat counter in the western suburbs.

Favorite place for a workout:

There are tons of trails for hiking, biking, and running. There also are six golf courses, plus indoor athletic fields and climbing gyms, which are great for Midwestern winters.

Worst place to find parking and easiest place to find parking:

The worst place to find parking is downtown Naperville. Tuk-tuk (auto rickshaws) are gaining popularity here. These 10 percent electric carts, with acrylic covers to combat the elements, are available to most northern Naperville residents to take downtown and avoid parking hassles. The easiest place to find parking is everywhere outside of downtown. Most of the strip malls, restaurants, and activities there have plenty of parking.

Favorite annual event:

Naperville Jaycees’ Last Fling. Held over Labor Day weekend, the Naperville Jaycees put on a four-day festival with a carnival, family fun land, two concert stages, and a parade.

Favorite local garden store:

Napervillians love their yards. Every spring weekend, amateur gardeners are on the hunt for the perfect plant. There’s no better place than The Growing Place on Plank Road.

Favorite house walk:

The Naperville Garden Club’s annual fundraiser, the Cup of Cheer House Walk, Holiday Market, and Tea tours several local homes decorated by club members.

Favorite dog park:

One of the county’s most botanically diverse sites and home to more than 540 native plant species, Greene Valley Forest Preserve Dog Park off of 79th Street also has a 16-acre, fully fenced-in dog park with separate areas for small and large dogs.

Favorite salon/spa:

Blondes love Mel at Amber Waves hair salon. She’s a wizard with color. Need a little me time? From hot stone massages and CBD oil treatments to quick mani-pedis, Me Spa is just the place to treat yourself after a long week.

Favorite resale and antique store:

Serendipity Resale on West Jefferson Avenue. Bonus—it benefits Little Friends, Inc., which works toward empowering children and adults with autism and developmental disabilities.

Claim to fame:

In addition to the accolades peppered throughout this post, there are an inordinate number of famous people who hail from Naperville or who live here now, including best-selling authors, actors, athletes, scientists and the current “Jeopardy” champion as of press time, who grew up in Naperville. It’s ridiculous. We joke about it all the time. I mean, we’re not L.A. It’s bizarre.

What the neighbors say:

“My kids are the fourth generation of our family in Naperville and this large suburb is still very much a beautiful small town benefiting from growing socioeconomic and ethnic diversity!” —Kate Moeller, third-generation Naperville resident.

“That special combo of residents who give a damn, nonprofits, businesses, and city government working together makes Naperville a great place to live.” —James Huang, Century Farms subdivision resident

“Highly ranked schools, very low crime, great parks and recreation, and a great Riverwalk area with shopping and restaurants make Naperville a great place.” —Bill Hennigan, Hobson West neighborhood resident

“Centennial Beach is a great place for the summer.”— Michelle Jacquelyn, Scots Plains neighborhood resident

What’s your favorite thing about your burb?

The best thing about Naperville is that it’s got something for everyone. Like to work out? There are a ton of trails and gyms. Like to shop? Naperville’s got you covered, from specialty stores to strip malls. Want to get involved? You can volunteer for almost any cause at a local nonprofit. Love to go out? There are a ton of restaurants and bars.

Credit: Apartment Therapy