Trying to decide between moving to Chicago or Atlanta? As two of America’s largest metro areas, both have a lot to offer including an exciting nightlife, entertainment, fun attractions, and world-class dining. Of course, they differ a great deal when it comes to climate, the jobs market, and sheer size. Here’s an in-depth comparison of Chicago versus Atlanta that stacks these two cities against each other on cost of living, population, sports, and more.
Table of Contents
Pros & Cons of Living in Chicago vs Atlanta
How do Chicago and Atlanta compare and contrast? A good place to start is a look at the top advantages and disadvantages of living in Chicago vs Atlanta.
Living in Chicago Pros
Downtown Chicago’s walking distance to Lake Michigan!
Imagine being able to walk from a day at the zoo or museum right to the beach. That’s just one of the perks of living in Chicago! Downtown Chicago and most of its attractions are walking distance to Lake Michigan and 26 miles of beaches.
Chicago is situated right on Lake Michigan with tons of gorgeous beaches to explore for boating, paddle boarding, swimming, jet skiing, sunbathing, and more. There are nearly two dozen beaches to explore with waterfront parks, beach volleyball, and other activities.
At Ohio Street Beach, you can enjoy swimming with views of the city skyline. 12th Street Beach is right next to the Shedd Aquarium on Northerly Island Park. Montrose Beach near the Uptown neighborhood is one of Chicago’s best beaches for volleyball, swimming, jet skis, and bird watching.
You’ll fall in love with Chicago’s food scene
Chicago is famous for its food scene. After all, it’s home to the Chicago-style hot dog and Chicago-style deep dish pizza. One of the pluses of living in Chicago is enjoying world-class cuisine that’s accessible, affordable, and diverse. From street food and gastropubs to hole-in-the-wall restaurants and Michelin-starred restaurants, Chicago hasn’t been voted the best food city in America for nothing!
Chicago has world-class attractions, museums, and culture
One of the many benefits of living in Chicago? Its amazing cultural attractions, world-class museums, and entertainment options. You’ll love spending time by Lake Michigan at the Chicago Riverwalk, Navy Pier, Lincoln Park, and picturesque beaches. Chicago has some of the best museums in the United States including the Chicago Children’s Museum and Field Museum, one of the world’s largest natural history museums. There are tons of family-friendly attractions like the Lincoln Park Zoo and Shedd Aquarium.
View this post on Instagram
Living in Chicago Cons
Be braced for the cold Chicago winters
Atlanta may have the South’s humidity, but one of the biggest cons of living in Chicago is the weather. The Chicago climate is rough and takes time to get used to. Winters are brutal, long, and come with freezing temperatures and huge snowstorms that can shut down the whole city. During the summer, you’ll endure extreme heat. Spring and fall feel almost nonexistent.
So in comparing Chicago or Atlanta weather and climate, Atlanta is going to be the winner.
Living in Atlanta Pros
Atlanta’s location is perfect for road trips
When you consider what a city has to offer, remember that, as with buying a house, location is everything. A big strength of living in Atlanta is taking advantage of everything its location has to offer you. From Atlanta, you can easily reach the mountains, beaches, and other fun cities in the southeast. Within 90 minutes you’ll find Toccoa Falls, Greensboro, and the resort community of Lake Oconee. A bit further away is Birmingham, Alabama, Chattanooga, Tennessee with kayaking and mountain climbing. You’ll be just three to four hours from Asheville, Nashville, Savannah, and Charleston with endless opportunities for fun and adventure.
Atlanta is a huge hub for entertainment and culture
Atlanta’s known for its young population, urban parks, and exciting nightlife. In fact, it’s a cultural hub for the southeast with attractions like the Fox Theatre, Zoo Atlanta, and the Georgia Aquarium. Hit the club with friends and experience the city’s neighborhoods like Buckhead, Morningside, and Midtown, each with a different vibe, scene, and appearance.
Atlanta has an excellent job market
You’ll enjoy tons of employment opportunities while living in Atlanta! It’s one of world’s largest economies and recently hit an all-time low for unemployment. You’ll enjoy a diverse and growing economy with high-paying job opportunities in sectors like finance, healthcare, logistics, and film and TV production!
View this post on Instagram
Living in Atlanta Cons
Atlanta’s traffic is notoriously bad
While you may complain about traffic sometimes in Chicago, it’s nothing compared to the gridlock traffic across the ATL. One of the biggest challenges of living in Atlanta is the traffic. The average commute for Atlanta residents is 35 minutes by car and 53 minutes by train or bus. That’s the second-worst commute in the U.S. behind LA. Be prepared to spend 17% of your time in your car stopped in traffic.
Cost of Living in Chicago vs Atlanta
How does the Chicago vs Atlanta cost of living compare? Both cities are actually very affordable for major metro areas and both have a cost of living index of 107. That means they’re about 7% higher than the national average.
Here’s how the cities compare in several categories. You’ll see the Chicago cost of living is pretty close to Atlanta’s in many areas, but there are some big differences.
- 0% difference in average home price in Chicago vs Atlanta! (both are at $370,000)
- 20% lower average rent in Atlanta vs Chicago ($1,883 average for Chicago versus $1,548 for Atlanta)
- 5% lower utilities in Atlanta compared to Chicago ($124 in Atlanta, $130 in Chicago)
- 28% lower transportation costs in Chicago versus Atlanta
Of course, this doesn’t tell the whole story. When two cities have such a similar cost of living, what sets them apart? Average salary and household income is useful. According to Payscale, the average salary in Atlanta is $68,000 versus $72,000 in Chicago. Even with similar expenses, you’ll earn an average of 6% more in Chicago!
Additional Things to Consider Between Chicago Versus Atlanta
Atlanta may be a large city, but it simply doesn’t compare to Chicago. The population of Chicago is 2.7 million within 234 square miles. That’s a population density of 11,847 people! The Chicagoland metro population is 9.4 million.
Atlanta has a population of 507,000 people within 137 square miles. Atlanta’s metro population is 6 million, closer in size to Chicago. However, the actual city has a population density of just 3,670 people per square mile. You’ll have more space, but that also means more travel to reach the city’s many amenities.
View this post on Instagram
Crime in Chicago vs Atlanta
One of the major drawbacks of living in Chicago is the city’s high crime rate. The violent crime rate in Chicago is 943 violent crimes per 100,000 people. That compares to the national average of 382 violent crimes/100k people. Atlanta is a safer city with a total crime rate of 5,423 crimes/100k people, but note that’s still double the national average!
Don’t be deterred by the crime in Chicago. A lot of crime, particularly violent crime, is concentrated in a handful of areas. There are plenty of safe places to live in Chicago and the greater metro area.
Sports in Chicago vs Atlanta
If you’re looking for a great city for sports, Chicago blows Atlanta out of the water. Chicago is one of America’s best sports cities with 18 championships and 5 franchises:
- Chicago White Sox
- Chicago Cubs
- Chicago Fire FC
- Chicago Bulls
- Chicago Blackhawks
- Chicago Bears
Love baseball? One of the upsides of living in Chicago is you’ll have TWO MLB teams to root for, both of which have won 3 World Series.
That’s not to say Atlanta doesn’t have great sports too. They’re home to the Braves (MLB), Hawks (NBA), Dream (WNBA), and Falcons (NFL). However, Atlanta is most known for its college football.
Chicago to Atlanta Distance
How far is it from Chicago to Atlanta? 716 miles or 11 hours along I-65 S. Here’s how to get from Chicago to Atlanta. You can also find nonstop flights between Chicago (ORD) and Atlanta (ATL) on carriers like American, Southwest, United, Delta, and Spirit.
Chicago vs. Atlanta: Where Are You Moving?
There’s a lot to appreciate about living in Chicago or Atlanta, but you can only choose one city as your home base. Chicago is the heart of the Midwest on Lake Michigan with a great work/life balance, an excellent transportation system, and fairly short commutes. Atlanta’s the entertainment hub of the Midsouth with tons of amazing neighborhoods that feel like separate towns and an ideal location near outdoor recreation and other major cities. Where do you see yourself settling down?
If Chicago is calling your name, the award-winning Chicago movers at Federal Companies are ready to help you settle into your new home. Give us a call for a free Chicago moving quote today!