The suburbs of Chicago tend to be much like the suburbs of every other major city. You know the type: The houses are massive and nondescript, the lawns are spacious and well-manicured, and the dominant pulse of activity comes from the thrum of traffic ferrying residents up and down their too-wide streets.

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Farmer's Market in Prairie Crossing
Village of Grayslake

But Prairie Crossing, a subdivision of Grayslake, Illinois, defies this convention. Located about 40 miles north of the Windy City, the bustling conservation community occupies more than 650 acres dominated by restored open prairies, wetlands and a working organic farm. The residential lots are smaller than in your typical suburb, and the homes are the opposite of cookie cutter: Each house was built using “green” construction techniques approved by the U.S. Department of Energy. Native plants and pollinator gardens fill the landscape, and the community’s event calendar is packed with activities focused on sustainable land restoration (alongside more traditional celebrations like a July Fourth bike parade).

Back in the mid-’90s, developers envisioned Prairie Crossing as a blueprint for ecologically-focused suburban living. Today, the community has its own (top-rated) charter school and a series of bike trails that weave visitors and residents through its welcoming terrain. And while Prairie Crossing may be tight-knit, it’s far from isolated: The town boasts two commuter rail stations, with a train to Chicago departing every 40 minutes.