The best school system, the best library, the best parks, one of the best places to live in America—these are just a few of the honors bestowed on Naperville by national publications and organizations. But none of these titles fully capture the combination of urban amenities and small town charm that has fueled the city’s astonishing growth and popularity.
Back in the late seventies Naperville was a sleepy town of 35,000, 28 miles west of Chicago. As the town grew and families filled the new homes, the city continued to invest in parks and schools, attracting still more families. Now the city’s population is approaching 150,000, and it covers nearly 50 square miles.
Residents enjoy the fabulous shopping and dining options that a city of this size attracts, but they also treasure their community festivals, concerts in the park and neighborhood block parties—all the things that make Naperville one of America’s favorite hometowns.
The Naperville Riverwalk, with its scenic fountains and bridges, is more than a valued community amenity; it’s also a symbol of community spirit. Throughout the 1980s, thousands of volunteers contributed time and money for its construction, and continue to support its maintenance and expansion.
The Riverwalk links to another Naperville treasure, Centennial Beach. A group of citizens purchased the property, a former quarry, in 1931, and developed it as a community swimming facility before turning it over to the Park District. Now it includes water slides and a diving complex as well as a large sand beach. The award-winning Park District includes over 2,500 acres of land and operates more than 130 parks and facilities, including two affordable 18-hole golf courses, Springbrook and Naperbrook.
Naperville’s history is kept alive at the Naper Settlement, a living history museum featuring a collection of 19th-century buildings and costumed volunteers who bring the past to life.
Community spirit continues to thrive in Naperville, as residents come together for municipal band concerts, parades, and holiday celebrations, including Ribfest and fireworks on the Fourth of July, and Last Fling on Labor Day Weekend.
A variety of single-family homes, townhomes and condominiums have attracted families as well as singles and empty nesters to Naperville. Prices range from the $200’s to over $2 million, with the median single-family home price near $300,000.
While the majority of homes were built during the expansion in the 70s and 80s, the beautifully restored Victorian homes in the Historic District command some of the city’s highest prices. Located north of Chicago Avenue and east of Washington Street, the neighborhood is within walking distance of churches, schools, downtown and the Riverwalk, and the Metra train station.
Traffic on nearby I-88 can sometimes make driving slow, but Metra trains make the trip from Naperville to Chicago’s Union Station in as little as 35 minutes. To the east, I-355 provides a convenient north/south route.
Shopping, dining, nightlife
Naperville’s downtown area offers a sophisticated mix of upscale national retailers—Talbot’s, Restoration Hardware, Williams-Sonoma—and chic boutiques and specialty shops. At Anderson’s Bookshop, well-known authors are frequent guests and special events for children create a love of reading. Looking for more? Nearby Westfield Fox Valley Mall has it all.
With the area’s most vibrant restaurant scene outside of Chicago, downtown Naperville offers everything from Cajun to sushi. And the fun continues after dinner, with live entertainment and dancing at nightspots like Frankie’s Blue Room.
Consistently ranked among the best in the state and even the nation, Naperville’s schools are a major draw for the community. District 203 includes Naperville North and Naperville Central High Schools, and the elementary and junior high schools that feed into them. Indian Prairie District 204 serves the southern section of the city, with Neuqua Valley and Waubonsee Valley High Schools as well as elementary and middle schools.