County: DuPage and Will
Nearest big city: Chicago
Have big athletic dreams? You might want to head to Naperville, a Chicago suburb that’s churned out not one but three Olympic gold medalists: Evan Lysacek (figure skating), Candace Parker (basketball) and Kevin Cordes (swimming). The city’s school district was even named the second best for athletes in the state by school-rating site Niche.com.
Naperville is also top-rated in other areas. Its Edward Hospital is one of the best in Illinois, and the city leads Chicago’s suburbs in retail sales. Its Route 59 retail corridor is a big draw in the area.
Accolades aside, the town also boasts plenty of entertainment. The city plays host to the annual Jaycees Last Fling festival, a four-day community event featuring live music, a carnival, races, a parade and, this year, even a boy band night. Its annual India Day Celebration — which honors Indian culture and heritage — is the largest in the Midwest. The town also has a scenic river walk, an interactive children’s museum and Centennial Beach, a public swimming hole in an old rock quarry.
Though home prices jumped an average 10% across our top 50 cities in the first quarter of the year, Naperville’s have grown at a much slower pace, rising 5% for the same time period. While the city remains an affordable outpost for Chicago commuters, the majority of residents stay local. Just 43% leave Naperville for work (as of 2018). — Aly J. Yale