What is the vibe in LaGrange, IL
March 29, 2011 4:14 PM   Subscribe

What is the general vibe of LaGrange, IL? I am considering a job there.

I am considering a job located in LaGrange, IL and know next to nothing about the Chicago suburbs and in particular LaGrange. Can anyone give me a sense of the LaGrange vibe and what it is like to live there?

Things I would like where I live:
-Medium size (think Madison, Portland, and Seattle).
-Large number of people in their late twenties and early thirties.
-Short commutes and easy access to public transportation.
-Easy access to urban environment and outdoor parks and green spaces
-Ultimate frisbee leagues or pickup nearby
-Access to lakes for sailboat racing and windsurfing
-Good bike trails
-Local non-chain restaurants and shops

Are there any particular parts of this suburb or other suburbs that I should try to at least drive a round to get a feel for the area?

How easy would it be to live in one of Chicago neighborhoods closer to the core?

Any problems with crime or other issues?

What is the vibe in LaGrange?
posted by cycleback to Society & Culture (12 answers total)
I can't get into specifics, as I've never lived there, but I grew up in the Chicago suburbs and have lived in the city for 15+ years.

The vibe in La Grange is pretty typical for the suburbs, I would think: Bedroom community, mostly families, pretty quiet. Most of the folks in their 20s and 30s will probably be young parents. Lots of shopping centers, a few non-chain restaurants.

You could certainly live in Chicago and commute, but I'd recommend the train (Metra) over driving. Your options would be 55 or 290, both of which are notoriously hellish at rush hour.
posted by me3dia at 4:28 PM on March 29, 2011

LaGrange is a delightful little suburb along the Metra Burlington line. Most of the suburbs along that line are cute little downtowns with coffee shops and whatnot.

I was there meeting friends a couple of Fridays ago, and there had been some high school game, and the whole town was out just enjoying the evening. Got a very nice vibe off of it.

There is a ton of shopping/fastfood/car dealers a couple miles down LaGrange Road.

Upsides: it is almost perfectly located, directly in the center of the suburbs. You have easy access to train, both airports, downtown Chicago, and the HUGE shopping meccas are near-ish. It is an old-school suburb, IE, an old train town that grew with and into Chicago. It isn't one of the "used to be a cornfield" suburbs, nor is it an area in "flux". You are very near the continental divide.

Downsides: Can be expensive. You are close to some seedier suburbs to the east. Getting to downtown Chicago for socializing will be slightly inconvenient (the train doesn't run very often in non-peak times). (Although, if you live there and go downtown on weekends, you have 2-3 "commutes" a week versus 5 terrible ones if you lived in the city.) There is plenty to do there, but if you are used to living in urban environments, it might get old.

Short answer: one of the better places to live in suburban Chicago.
posted by gjc at 4:51 PM on March 29, 2011

I grew up a few miles away, and went to high school there.

-Medium size (think Madison, Portland, and Seattle).

Well, it's another suburb in a giant suburban area outside of a giant metropolitan area. Not sure how to compare. It's not like there is open land between these towns. Cross the street and you're in Countryside. Cross another street and you're in Brookfield.

-Large number of people in their late twenties and early thirties.

??? When I was in school, it was full of families.

-Short commutes and easy access to public transportation.

Short commute to where? It's about an hour into the Loop (downtown Chicago) by car and that's not in rush hour. No buses except along the main roads. Got to have a car to go anywhere.

-Easy access to urban environment and outdoor parks and green spaces

See above re: Chicago. LaGrange is near some very lovely forest preserves, but you have to know which ones are safe to go to.

-Ultimate frisbee leagues or pickup nearby

Don't know. Again, doubtful. There isn't a lot of open parkland. LaGrange is a pretty old suburb.

-Access to lakes for sailboat racing and windsurfing

LOL!! Um, no. I suppose you could go to Chicago for that, but Chicago isn't a big windsurfing town (I don't think).

-Good bike trails

There's a nice trail (pdf) near the north end of town that goes through Bemus Woods, but it's short (~6 miles or so). It does end at the zoo, so that's kind of neat. There are no bike paths in LaGrange that will get you from anywhere to anywhere. Commuting by bike would be on surface streets, and you're sharing the road with Moms in SUVs.

-Local non-chain restaurants and shops

There are some nice little retail areas in the downtown area. The restaurants are very good and almost always busy. I don't know too much about the shopping anymore, sorry. There's a great old movie theatre that plays $1 movies.

In sum: expensive, older suburb that has seen better days, but is still a really nice quiet place. Relatively upscale compared to its neighbors. Little or no new development, so you won't see gated communities or subdivisions in the stereotypical cookie-cutter suburban sense. Lots of typical suburban shopping around the outside, and some cute retail areas in the middle. Pretty much mostly white upper/middle class Republican, so if diversity's important, you won't see it here. Car required. Big old trees that form arches over the streets. Close to the best zoo in the world! I would say the vibe can be described as "Frat boys become white collar drones, marry the girl they met in the bleachers at a Cubs game and settle down a few blocks away from where they grew up, and go to the same church they went to as kids, with a sprinkling of old hippies here and there."

Feel free to ask anything else. I still have friends there, and could possibly find out more about the company you're considering working for, if you want to share that info.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:36 PM on March 29, 2011

Warning: city bias, and my experience with LaGrange is limited to working near there for one summer.

I think gjc's short answer of "one of the better places to live in suburban Chicago" needs to stress the "in suburban Chicago" caveat. Maybe this is a given for everyone but me, but the Chicago suburbs are massive and they all run together. Like SuperSquirrel says, you don't come to the end of LaGrange and there's a bit of kind of open space and then you get to Western Springs. The suburbs just keep going and going and going. LaGrange isn't even half way between downtown and anything I'd call "out of Chicago". So, I don't know how that factors into your hopes for "medium size", but it's something to consider.

If you look at LaGrange on google maps, you'll see a Metra train line with a few stops in town. That's the extent of your transit. It will help you go to Chicago, or places on the way to or from Chicago, but that's it. And frequency is spotty if you're traveling anything other than the normal rush-hour commute.

I think it'd be pretty tricky to live in Chicago and commute to LaGrange. Traffic will suck if you want to drive. The Metra won't help you much either--you'd likely have to first commute from your neighborhood to downtown to depart from Union Station, and again, your arrival/departure times are going to be limited for the reverse commute. No, I wouldn't recommend trying to live in the city and work in LaGrange.

There are lots of nice forest preserves and bike trails out in the 'burbs. For lakes, there's Lake Michigan (I don't think there's much else that would qualify for any real boating). LaGrange has a nice little downtown area around the metra line and lots of beautiful old houses. Brookfield zoo is nearby.

Honestly, I think the question you need to answer is not if LaGrange is a place you'd want to live in, but rather if the Chicago suburbs are a place you'd want to live in.
posted by gueneverey at 5:40 PM on March 29, 2011

You might want to consider Oak Park, or it's lesser-known cousins, Forest Park and Berwyn. You'll definitely get the urban vibe there. You would be reverse-commuting, so most of the time you'll be going against traffic. Not a huge improvement, but better.

Another hidden gem is Hinsdale. Definitely pricey, but another place with an old hippie vibe and a cute downtown.

Unless you're living and working in Chicago, and not planning to leave much, you gotta have a car.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:49 PM on March 29, 2011

Here's a map of all the field sites that ultimate in Chicago is ever played at. La Grange would put you roughly equidistant from the North Side leagues and South side leagues, not too far but not real close. You're not close to any pickup, and you're going to be driving pretty much any time you want to get to the fields. And you'll be one of the "I'll have one beer, but then I have to drive back to the burbs" people.

If it were me, I'd live in the city proper. Perhaps a slightly western neighborhood like Ukrainian Village, which would give you reasonable access to 290 a bit west of the city and shorten your commute. Chicago neighborhoods feel more like the cities you mentioned than they do big cities like New York - mostly single family or three story houses, many non chain restaurants, and easy access to everything you want.

If you're dead set against living in Chicago, you could also consider someplace in the middle, perhaps Oak Park. Oak Park is close to the end of the Blue Line and Green Line el trains, so you'd have a more reliable connection to Chicago. It'll be a fairly quick commute to work.

But, as gueneverey said - the first thing to decide is if the suburbs are for you or not.
posted by true at 5:50 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I grew up in La Grange. It's walkable as far as suburbs go and it's got a nice downtown. Roads are in a reassuring grid pattern -- no go-nowhere cul-de-sac subdivisions, only the occasional McMansion. If you're looking for something with a more Portland/Seattle feel, though, I'd probably suggest Oak Park, or maybe Riverside if you want to be on the same Metra line. I would probably like living in La Grange now, as a married thirtysomething, but I found it stiflingly conservative when I was in high school. I don't think it has a big population of young singles.

I also lived in Hinsdale for two years in grade school. It may have changed, but I don't think I'd call it "hippie"; I think I was the only kid in my grade who wanted toys for Christmas instead of luggage and tennis equipment.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 6:55 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hinsdale? Hippie? Nope. Hinsdale is a lot of old money, and up and coming money.
posted by johnvaljohn at 7:40 PM on March 29, 2011

Hey, I grew up next to LaGrange! It's quiet and extremely suburban. Close to a good shopping area (Oakbrook and points west) and to Brookfield Zoo; convenient train line to Chicago. No lake closer than the big one.

I like in Oak Park which is definitely in commuting distance from there (though not on the same train line) and which is a little hipper and much more convenient to the city.
posted by zompist at 8:22 PM on March 29, 2011

SuperSquirrel, et al, are right on about LaGrange. It is extremely suburban, family- and car-oriented. I certainly wouldn't call Hinsdale hippie (white, rich, conservative), nor a hidden gem (expensive, pricey, and manufactured). As far as "SW suburbs" go, LaGrange is palatable, but certainly not great. You definitely aren't getting the Madison/Portland/Seattle vibe there.

I would also recommend Oak Park if you want to live in the suburbs - much more urban, diverse, closer to the city, and just better. (I am incredibly biased towards cities, though.) There's a BNSF (Burlington Northern Santa Fe) station in Berwyn you could get to pretty easily, and then commute to La Grange. I used to do pretty much the opposite, a bit farther than LG to Oak Park, and it wasn't great, but it wasn't awful. Neither of these places will give you immediate access to the lake, though OP is on the green line and you can get to downtown Chicago.
posted by quadrilaterals at 6:49 AM on March 30, 2011

(I grew up right near Hinsdale, and spent a decent amount of time in La Grange and Oak Park.)
posted by quadrilaterals at 6:50 AM on March 30, 2011

I lived in LaGrange for a few years and really liked it. It's a quiet town and very suburban in feel. The downtown area is a few blocks and has some good restaurants and a decent bar, but really not much more other than a second run movie theater and a few boutique shops. I've never thought of Lagrange as a destination for something to do, but it was a nice town to call home. I got more of a community feel from LaGrange than I do from the other surrounding suburbs I'm familiar with. If we could afford a house there were probably would still be living there.

The train station is right in downtown so you can take a commuter train into Chicago. Other than that there's not much walkable outside of the small downtown area. As stated above - it's hard to get a round without a car. The city is only 1/2 hour to an hour away depending on traffic. But in terms of a nice neighborhood to leisurely walk around, LaGrange is an older community with lots of trees and older houses and I miss being able to go for walks there. Downtown LaGrange is also only a few miles from a huge forest preserve with an incredible bike path system.

I'll agree with several people above that Oak Park might be closer what you're looking for. It's another older community but a bit hipper and a nice cross between Chicago and the suburbs. I was looking for something a bit more smalltown in feel and LaGrange fit the bill perfectly. I had also lived in nearby Clarendon Hills which a bit bit too smalltown. LaGrange is easy going and relaxed, but Clarendon Hills was downright sleepy.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 6:45 AM on April 1, 2011

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