Top 5 Family Friendly Chicago Neighborhoods

Top 5 Family Friendly Chicago Neighborhoods

 

Sweet Home Chicago!

Sweet Home Chicago!

We didn’t plan to stay in Chicago for 10 years—We expected to live there for the rest of our lives.  When we moved to the one bedroom apartment directly across from St. Mary’s of the Angels Church on Wood Street and Hermitage, in Bucktown, we knew that we had found “our ‘hood.’” We loved every aspect of living in this diverse and urban area.  But there was one aspect that we never considered:  What were we going to do when we decided to have children? Would we be able to raise a family in this area?

When you are in your mid-twenties, you don’t really think about where you are going to live when you have kids.  Just knowing where the closest Starbucks and sushi-joints are enough to convince you to move to a neighborhood.  Adam and I never thought about the quality of the local public schools or the location of the closest playground.  We didn’t even think about transportation options or kid-centric entertainment options?  Enter Lulu.

Lulu, our daughter, changed everything for us.  Loud buses and ambulances passing by on North Avenue never bothered us in the past. Now, the slightest noise, honk or siren would wake our little bundle of joy and guess what?  When she was up; so were we.

All of the sudden getting to the closest playground was a really big deal.  We had to cross two of the busiest and treacherous streets in Chicago (Ashland and North Avenue). Our urban nirvana became more like a living hell.

After spying two prostitutes “checking their voicemail” under our fire escape one Saturday morning, Adam and I started to discuss our options.  Neither one of us wanted to leave Bucktown.  But when Lulu and I were almost clipped by a taxi scurrying to get through a changing light on North Avenue, we decided that as much as we loved living in Chicago, we needed to move someplace safer, saner and family focused.  Unfortunately, that meant leaving the city.

That was eight years ago.  Not a day goes by that I don’t miss living in Chicago.  After all, I am a Windy City Momma, aren’t I?

For those of you urban dwellers facing a similar dilemma, all is not lost.  I found a great resource. The Apartment Guys have a fantastic graphic on their site that serves as a guide for Chicago residents to identify the most family friendly neighborhoods. They include such factors as transportation options, parks and recreation, safety, schooling and entertainment options.  Here’s the link:

So, did they hit the bullseye with their selections, or have the Apartment Guys missed the mark?  What Chicago neighborhood gets your vote as the most family-friendly?

 

Disclosure:  The Apartment Guys sponsored and compensated me for this post.  The opinions expressed in the post are entirely A Windy City Momma’s and were not influenced by the sponsor. 

 

2014 KIA Sorento: Kid Tested & Dad Approved

2014 KIA Sorento: Kid Tested & Dad Approved

Hopping into the 2014 KIA Sorento after spending a week driving the KIA Soul was an adventure.  Let’s remember, I truly LOVED driving the KIA Soul and, if it wasn’t for the dog, the kid (and all of her stuff) and the need to cram as much sporting and camping equipment into one car as possible, I would have begged Adam to buy the KIA Soul immediately.  But we do have these things and are more inclined to favor a car that has a lot of space.  And the Kia Sorento has ample space.

Could it be a mini-van trapped in the body of a gorgeous SUV?

My buddies at Drive STI asked for my opinion about a car and I was up for the challenge.  After my first test drive, I reflected that I felt like I was driving a min-van dressed up as an attractive SUV.  It turns out that the 2014 KIA Sorento is a beauty inside and out.  Once again, I was a HUGE fan of the steering wheel warmer.  (Note: We drove this car over Thanksgiving and it is usually pretty cold in Chicago around this time of year.)  The controls were conveniently placed.  I could keep my eyes on the road when I needed to call home or change the radio station in the car.  (Note to self: Do not let Lulu and her friends take control of the Sirius tuner—Howard Stern is not appropriate for 10 year olds.)

We all loved how adaptable the seats were.  Adam could move the driver’s seat so far back that there was no risk of his knees hitting the steering wheel.  And because the 2014 KIA Sorento has so much space, Lulu never complained that the front seats were crushing her legs in the 2nd row.

Drool-Worthy Features

The Kia 2014 Sorento has a lot of other features that actually led to Adam and I arguing about who got to drive the car.  Usually Adam and I do not disagree when it comes to who is going to drive the car: I do most of the “family” driving.  But with features like power passenger seats, Blind Spot Monitoring, rear seat vents, dual heated and ventilated front seats, extendable visors, 115 V power, ECO mode, V6 engine and more, Adam and I started arguing about who got to take control of our new “toy.”  Lulu settled the argument by telling me that I “ALWAYS got to drive and it’s time to give Dad a chance.” No worries, I played with all the gadgets and buttons while he drove the car.

Like its cousin, the Soul, the Sorento handled well.  To be quite honest, although I felt like I was driving a big car like a Suburban or an Escalade, it didn’t feel like I was driving one.  Although, it was as comfortable as traveling in a “luxury” SUV.  I was even more surprised with the Sorento’s turning radius.  Unlike my Hyundai Santa Fé, I was surprised at how well I could execute a U-Turn despite the car’s size.

Let’s say a few words about flat-folding seats.  They are a must.  I didn’t realize what I was missing until we visited our favorite store, Costco, and decided to do some major grocery and holiday shopping.  Let’s just say that we took advantage of all of the room in the car.  If one is going to buy a car with a 3rd row, being able to fold down the seats and make room for extra cargo is a great feature.

Conclusion

I asked that Adam, Lulu and my mother-in-law share their opinions and reflections on their Kia Sorento experience with me.  I wasn’t too surprised by their answers: Adam wouldn’t mind having one, Lulu liked the fact that we could squeeze in four of her friends, the car did “all sorts of cool stuff” and my mother-in-law felt that the car had ample room and was comfortable.  Overall, they enjoyed the added features and loved the panoramic sunroof.

Even though (thank goodness) we never needed the air bags, it was a comfort to know that the front, sides and the second row had them.  We did wonder, however, why the third row did not come with the same level of protection?

We thought that the car was expensive, but justified the price when considering the optional third row seating, a powerful engine option and tons of latest technology. And, while this shouldn’t be any family’s main concern, the Sorento is a great looking automobile.

Bottom line: Adam and Lulu really loved this car!  Lulu was pretty jazzed to show off the car to her friends.  If you’re in the market to buy any new car, it’s important to consider what’s really important (and no, your child’s friends “oohing” and “ahhing” shouldn’t be the impetus to buy one car over another one.)  So, honestly, is having a seven-passenger cross over really necessary for a family of three, a large dog and a Costco shopping habit?  You bet—especially if you swore after having children that you would NEVER buy a mini-van!  On the flip side, it’s not ideal when we’re road tripping into the city and need to find a parking spot on the street. It turns out that we may just be a really crossover kinda family after all.  And if we are, then we will seriously consider the 2014 Kia Sorento.

 

 

Could this be the NEW Betsy?

 

Disclosure: I am not a car person; I don’t review cars for a living.  But I am a mom who is concerned about the safety of her family, is budget conscience and also takes pride in have a cool “mom-mobile. ”  All opinions and views with regard to this car review, the company that loaned it to me or the vehicle manufacturer are entirely mine and were not influenced, edited or even reviewed by the companies prior to posting.