#10. Evanston

Downtown Evanston, Ill., attracts a high percentage of those in the so called “creative class.” This includes artists, engineers, technology experts and researchers. It’s easy to see the appeal Evanston has. Located near Northwestern University, and within view of Lake Michigan, downtown Evanston offers a highly walkable environment that’s loaded with entertainment options and thriving businesses. The mix of urban sophistication and suburban relaxation, along with social and economic diversity found in downtown Evanston make it a Top 10 Best Downtown.

Evanston’s downtown distinguishes it from the typical Chicago suburbs. A mix of contemporary condo buildings and post-modern office buildings create an appealing skyline. A high concentration of cultural attractions like theaters, music venues and bars draw people downtown. Three public transportation options, including light rail, and ample, inexpensive parking make getting in and out of downtown Evanston easy. More than 10,000 people work in downtown Evanston, which has seen the addition of nearly 1,200 new condominium units since 2000. More than 38 percent of downtown residents hold graduate or postgraduate degrees.

More than 25 galleries, museums, concert halls and museums in downtown Evanston provide a rich cultural scene. Nearly 100 cafes and restaurants provide diners with everything from grab-and-go lunches to elegant five-course meals in historic buildings or al fresco at quaint cafés. Brian Huston, chef at popular Boltwood restaurant in Evanston, was recently nominated for a James Beard Award. Nearby beaches on Lake Michigan, paved trails, and a collection of parks give residents plenty of opportunity to stay active and enjoy the outdoors.

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