Living In Elmhurst - Explore the Community, Places to Go & More
The motto of Elmhurst is “close to everything, unlike anything”. But what does that really mean? To the many families, students, and young professionals who call Elmhurst home, it’s a reminder that they don’t live just anywhere.
Elmhurst is a city that has it all — both the big offerings and the small details that make the difference. It’s a college town, a job-market metropolis, a leafy green haven, and the cultural center of DuPage. Between the community events, places to go, restaurants, shopping, and outdoor spaces, you’re unlikely to run out of things to do. But if you did, Chicago is no further than a 30-minute ride on the Metra or a 25-minute drive.
This western Chicago suburb is home to 47,000 people, with an average age of 39 and a household income of $104,000. Business is booming, with many large corporations headquartered in Elmhurst. It’s also the perfect base for commuting into Chicago via the Metra Union Pacific/West Line.
The downtown area has plenty of parking garages and there are also Pace Buses to help residents get around. What’s more, the city is drawing up plans to modernize the Metra station as part of the city’s continuous improvement and development.
In Elmhurst, your neighbors will be an outgoing, friendly, and ambitious community - but you’ll also be surrounded by distinctly leafier companions too. The town takes its name from the many Elm trees that were planted along the city streets in the settler era. Today, there’s still more than one tree for every resident, with the city shaded by 67,000 oak, maple, and elm trees in public spaces, parkways, and private properties.
What is the history of Elmhurst?
Like most of Illinois, the origins of Elmhurst begin with the end of the Blackhawk War and the Treaty of Chicago in 1833. Settlers began to flock to the area, which was originally known as Cottage Hill. The town was said to have found its feet as a community when the founder, Gerry Bates, opened the Hill Cottage Tavern in 1843.
The very first settlers were from New York and Europe and they built their homes along the Salt Creek. There was also a large German population who settled just north of Elmhurst. Further south, you could find settlers of mostly English ancestry. The melting pot of settlers meant that the village was bilingual for many decades.
In 1869, Cottage Hull was renamed Elmhurst, both as a tribute to the town’s German ancestry and a nod to the mass planting of Elm trees. This would go on to become a defining feature of Elmhurst, with the suburb continuously replanting trees to this very day.
At the time of Elmhurst’s naming, there were only 329 settlers living in the town. But within 50 years, the city became the largest in DuPage county, largely thanks to the opening of the Elmhurst-Chicago Stone Company, the city’s biggest employer. As Elmhurst grew, it became the envy of DuPage, with its paved streets, comprehensive city planning, and the opening of the Elmhurst Memorial Hospital.
Present-day, Elmhurst is still a booming city for employment. Many significant corporations have made Elmhurst their headquarters, including Sunshine Biscuits, McMaster-Carr Supply Company, and Famous Amos Cookies. Elmhurst University is also one of the largest employers in the area.
The history of Elmhurst is preserved for all and can be explored in exciting detail at the award-winning Elmhurst History Museum. They have an engaging living history program, tours, special events, festivals, and more.
What are the best schools in Elmhurst?
Elmhurst is an exceptional suburb to raise your family, thanks to the fantastic schooling opportunities. Most children in the city will be served by Elmhurst School District 205, which is rated the 13th-best school district in Illinois by niche.com.
York High School is a top-rated public school in Elmhurst. It serves 2,881 students in grades 9-12 with a student-teacher ratio of 16:1. The school is ranked by ESPN as the 17th best school in the nation for athletics programs. York High School is also renowned for its performing arts programs, including music, theatre, and dance.
Bryan Middle School is an A-rated public school serving children in grades 6-8 in South Elmhurst. It has 704 students, with a student-teacher ratio of 13:1. It is well-respected by the local community for its sports, clubs, food, and activities.
Bryan Middle School is an A-rated public school serving children in grades 6-8 in Central Elmhurst. It has 685 students, with a student-teacher ratio of 13:1. This school also offers a gifted and talented program.
Elmhurst University is a private non-profit liberal arts college. The 150-year old institution is housed in a red-brick building in a 48-acre arboretum. It was established in the 1960s, previously known as Elmhurst College. Today, the university offers more than 70 majors, including arts, humanities, social sciences, business, and nursing. The university has strong ties with the United Church of Christ but serves students from all backgrounds and religions. The university is just a short walk away from downtown Elmhurst. Thus, its students benefit from a classic college-town experience, and the city of Elmhurst is constantly revitalized by the turnover of a young, academic, and culturally engaged community.
What is the housing market like in Elmhurst?
The city of Elmhurst is home to approximately 47,000 residents spread over 10.28 miles. It has a dense suburban feel combined with a college town atmosphere downtown. There are three different townships (York, Addison, and Provisio) and multiple different neighborhoods to choose from. According to Zillow, the average home value is $473,825 with an 8.8% increase this year.
When it comes to properties, Elmhurst has been landlocked since the 90s. However, ongoing redevelopment delivers a wide variety of housing styles to choose from, including townhouses, condos, and apartments.
Elmhurst Parkside is one of the most expensive and desirable neighborhoods, whereas Park Manor is popular with young families looking for more affordable properties. Regardless of which neighborhood you choose, Elmhurst is considered to be a clean and safe suburb. Niche.com rates Elmhurst a B+ for crime and safety, with all crimes drastically lower than national averages.
Elmhurst, Illinois Market Report
Includes average property values, inventory, market changes, and demographic data.Homes for sale in Elmhurst
What’s on in Elmhurst?
Elmhurst keeps its residents thoroughly entertained with great events all year round. Some of our favorite Elmhurst get-togethers include Art in Wilder Park, The Craft Beer Festival, and the Elmhurst College Jazz Festival - but there is a long list of other fantastic dates to fill your yearly calendar. From cycling fairs to Christmas markets, there’s fun for all the family. Head to the official directory for the full list of Elmhurst events, or check out our highlights list below.
Art in Wilder Park
This annual free event brings together more than 100 craftspeople and artists from the Midwest, the local townsfolk of Elmhurst, and art enthusiasts both near and far. The art show takes place in Wilder Park, where you can meander through the stalls browsing handcrafted jewelry, paintings, sculptures, cards, and much more. Not only can you pick up unique wares for your home, friends, or family, but you’ll be able to get to know your local artists and ask about their crafts. There are also heaps of fun activities for children, making sure there’s some arty inspiration for all the family. If you tire of the hustle and bustle, break away to explore the Wilder Conservatory and the Wilder Mansion, where local musicians serenade peckish visitors as they refuel on coffee, pastries, and lunch from over 15 food vendors.
Block to Block
You’ll soon discover that music is a staple of Elmhurst’s community events. Block to Block is a series of live music shows taking place every Wednesday in June and July at the City Centre Fountain Plaza and the North York Plaza. Expect to hear musical delights both old and new, as the event features an entertaining array of originals and covers bands.
Craft Beer Fest
150 years ago, esteemed residents of Elmhurst may have celebrated in style at the Glos Mansion, attending dinner parties and shindigs at the home of the village’s first president. Today, the city of Elmhurst makes its own history by joining together on the grounds of the Glos Mansion to celebrate their shared love of all things hops. The Elmhurst Craft Beer Fest features more than 50+ different breweries with over 100 beers to sample, all to the soundtrack of live bands performing covers of popular Motown, delta blues, Americana, rock, pop, country, reggae, R&B, pop, and everything in between.
Elmhurst College Jazz Festival
Every year, the city beckons in the summer with the Elmhurst College Jazz Festival. The free concert takes place on the stunning grounds of Elmhurst College at sunset, where some of the finest Jazz players on the scene perform alongside the budding musicians of the renowned Elmhurst College Jazz Band. The collegiate ensemble has garnered critical acclaim worldwide and their recent guest artists include Bobby Shew, the Yellowjackets, Patti Austin, John Pizzarelli, Nnenna Freelon, Denis DiBlasio, Michael Davis, Tom Scott, Bill Watrous, Patrick Williams, and Doc Severinson.
St Patrick’s Day Parade
If you’ve ever wondered what the world’s largest drum sounds like, you can find out at the Elmhurst St Patrick’s Day Parade. This event is one of the biggest knees-up in Elmhurst - and that’s just the marching band! This popular event features Irish dancers, more than 80 floats, animated characters, bagpipe marching units, and The Elmhurst Armpit Orchestra (which is a bucket and kazoo band, in case you were wondering). This unforgettable Elmhurst event will most definitely impress with music, food, and fun for all the family.
Elmhurst Farmers Market
The Farmer’s Market brings fresh local produce to Elmhurst every Wednesday from June - October at the intersection of York and Vallette Street. Head down in the morning to pick up freshly baked bread and pastries, succulent fruit, sun-swollen vegetables, local honey, cheese and flowers, handmade soap, and all manner of other delightful midwestern treats.
The caring community of Elmhurst is keen to make sure everyone is included in the fun. The city hosts events for children with learning difficulties and other special needs, such as the Special Day Santa Visit, and the Halloween Dance Party. The events are designed with both accessibility and sensory needs in mind, focusing on children for whom regular events might be overwhelming. More information can be found on the Elmhurst Events Directory.
The name might be hilarious, but the cause is heroic. The Dan Gibbons Turkey Trot is an annual 5K run that takes place in Elmhurst to raise funds to feed the hungry. The $35.00 sign-up fee (plus donations) provides over 3 million meals to families in need every year.
Thousands of runners and couch potatoes alike flock from Elmhurst and beyond, putting themselves through the paces to make a difference to others.
Places to go
What are the best things to do in Elmhurst?
There is no shortage of things to do in Elmhurst - some of the best activities include seeing a film at York Theatre, Indoor Golfing, Skyzone Trampolining, and of course, the arts and cultural institutions covered in the next section. And in case you were wondering, the most fun way to get around Elmhurst is by pedicab.
This historic cinema gives downtown Elmhurst an iconic look. Originally built as a Spanish-style theatre in 1924, York Theatre has recently been fully restored by Classic Cinemas. They restored the decor and conducted a dig to uncover the orchestra pit, where a 7-pipe organ now proudly stands once more. So when you visit this cinema, you’ll not only get the usual treats (a seriously comfy seat, outrageously more-ish popcorn, and a good film) - you’ll get a glimpse into the history of Elmhurst.
Halfway House Indoor Golfing
In Elmhurst, you can enjoy golfing all year round at the Halfway House. They have top-notch golfing simulators and equipment. Seasoned professionals can learn a lot from the visualization feedback, but there’s plenty of fun for the non-golfers too. You can also get a hearty meal and a drink at the HB Jones Restaurant, where they offer a mind-blowing list of courses from around the world.
Skyzone Trampoline Park
Their motto says it all - fun for kids, or just kids at heart. Jump on in for a fantastic day out with the family, an unforgettable children’s birthday party, or even a fitness class. They have an impressive series of attractions, including a skyladder, a foam zone, a warped wall, and a toddler play area. Adults and children can burn off energy with ultimate volleyball, ultimate dodgeball, glow-in-the-dark parties, and more. So whether you want to put the fun into fitness or entertain a crowd, Skyzone will leave you feeling sky-high.
In this city, you don’t need to stray far for some retail therapy. There’s the Elmhurst City Center, the York Center Plaza, and Elmhurst Crossing to choose from, plus plenty of boutique shops lining the streets and smaller plazas. Whether you’re looking for luxury name brands or handmade local crafts, you can find them in Elmhurst’s shopping district.
Arts and Culture
A newcomer could be forgiven for thinking that Chicago is the only place in Illinois with respected cultural and arts institutions. However, locals will know that Elmhurst pulls plenty of visitors to its fantastic museums all year round. The exhibits change regularly, making sure there’s always something new to discover in Elmhurst. The museums aren’t the only place you can learn something new, as the city is home to an award-winning public library too. It’s not on the record yet, but rumor has it that Elmhurst is building a new performing arts center, adding to its impressive list of cultural institutions.
Elmhurst Art Museum
The Elmhurst Art Museum puts this city firmly on the map for arts and culture, drawing countless visitors from Chicago and beyond. Considered the cultural center of the county, the museum houses more than 30,000 pieces of art and displays noteworthy exhibitions and events all year round, including the annual Art in Wilder Park event. The building itself boasts architectural significance, including the striking glass entrance and the Robert McCormick House; a rare and significant work designed by the pioneering modernist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in 1952. The museum seeks to enrich people’s lives with a deeper understanding of art, culture, and architecture; but nobody said it couldn’t be fun. The museum is renowned for playful exhibitions like their pinball machine show (2017) or the mini-golf course designed by artists (2021).
Elmhurst History Museum
Have you ever wondered about the history of your hometown? Who lived there 200 years ago, and what were their lives like? What events shaped the future of the town to the present day? Well, in Elmhurst, you don’t have to wonder — you can find out! The Elmhurst History Museum is a fascinating collection that tells the 165+-year-old story of Elmhurst town. It has over 15,000 artifacts, letters, manuscripts, more than 10, 000 photographs, official records, and microfilm copies of newspapers. The museum itself is housed in the historic Glos Mansion, which was the home of Elmhurst’s first president.
Elmhurst Public Library
This library has achieved five-star status for four years running (as per the Library Journal's annual review of public libraries, a national ranking of public libraries). Out of the 5,608 U.S. libraries reviewed in 2020, only 262 qualified to receive any stars – let alone five! The library was built in 2003, moving to be closer to downtown. It’s right next to the Elmhurst Art Museum, forming the cultural campus of the town. The library has over 300,000 books, magazines, newspapers, PDF books, audiobooks, CDs, DVDs, and 80 public access computers. But, according to locals, it’s the friendly and knowledgeable staff who make this place special. Also, if you have little ones, keep an eye out for the library’s writing competitions for children!
Food and dining
What are the best restaurants in Elmhurst?
There are lots of fantastic places to eat in Elmhurst, with a wide variety of cuisines, price points, and ambiances. The most popular eateries in Elmhurst include The Egg Harbour Cafe, Mack’s Golden Pheasant, Zenwich, 100 South Chop House, and Mama Maria's Pizza, but that’s by no means an extensive list. Although there isn’t an exact headcount, Elmhurst has around 50 restaurants, cafes, take-outs, and bars to choose from – many of which offer knockout plates of food.
Whether you’re calling it breakfast, brunch, or lunch, this upscale cafe will delight you with a delicious dish of food. The hen is the star of the menu, with eggs served in almost every variety — and if that’s not enough choice, you can simply order them in whatever style you’re craving. Whatever you choose, a Stray Hen breakfast is worth getting out of bed for. Think smoked salmon piled high with perfectly poached eggs and heavenly hollandaise sauce; a skillet of papi chulo, packing a punch with chorizo, jalepenos, avocado and Chihuahua cheese; or even buttermilk pancakes loaded with fresh blueberries. All served in a spacious, modern restaraunt less than a stone’s throw from Elmhurst Station.
Inside tip: After 11 a.m. you can make it a bubbly breakfast with the likes of peach mimosas and blackberry spritzers.
This Czech American eatery has been drawing crowds of patrons to Elmhurst since 1948. The family recipes have been tried and tested over four generations; old-world bohemian delights like breaded pork tenderloin, roasted duck, and kolachkes (a classic Czech tart). The classic decor will transport you through time and space - but the warm service will make you feel at home.
Inside tip: Be sure to take a peek at their award-winning outdoor dining space, where stands a 200-year old oak tree and, rumor has it, peacocks too.
This Asian-inspired counter-serve sandwich shop is rated #1 place to grab a quick bite in Elmhurst, says TripAdvisor. The menu is small, but they finesse every single sandwich they offer. The Garlic Shrimp and Korean Cheese & Steak sandwiches should both be strong contenders for your order; guaranteed to delight your taste buds and fill your tummy in equal measure. Vegetarian and vegan-faring locals swear by the Mad Monk sandwich but you can also swap out the meat for tofu in the other sandwiches.
Inside tip: If you’ve got room, be sure to add a side of their deliciously crispy-crunchy fries too.
South Chop House brings upscale, upbeat dining to downtown Elmhurst. It’s a seafood, steak, and chophouse that serves gourmet dishes, fine wines, and hand-shaken martinis in a stylish 1950’s style supper club. Think along the lines of fresh oysters in a rich Rockefeller sauce to start, perfectly seasoned and seared steak for your main course, and a homemade tiramisu to finish – all served with an elegant flute of bubbles on the side. If you want to impress your date or coworkers, South Chop House won’t disappoint.
Inside tip: The stuffed mushrooms may seem like a modest choice of appetizer, but they might just surprise you.
This longtime pizzeria is small in size but big in spirit. Their specialty is pizza and panzerotti, but you can tuck into plenty of mouth-watering Italian classics like Chicken Parmigiana, Alfredo Pasta, or Tiramisu. Their local staff will make you feel at home. But, be warned – once you’ve visited Mama’s, you’re likely to become a regular.
Inside tip: They’re famed for their thin-crust pizza, particularly the white sauce garnished with artichoke and basil.
Elmhurst loves Brewpoint coffee – and Brewpoint loves Elmhurst! They have three locations to cater to your caffeine cravings; The Founders Cafe, Brewpoint Craft, and they supply the Lexicon cafe in the Public Library. The Founders Cafe was their first location; a homely coffee shop that started with a successful Craigslist search for an espresso machine. Brewpoint Craft is their workshop and roastery, where they serve drinks exclusive to this location and host unique events like Tesla test drives and intimate live music shows.
Inside tip: If you’re in the mood for something extra, try one of their more creative lattes like the vanilla praline or the Mochanut (chocolate and coconut!).
What are the best bars in Elmhurst, IL?
Downtown Elmhurst has no shortage of cozy pubs, lively bars, and cocktail spots. The best bars include The Club Shot Beer Bar: a youthful local hangout with a beer garden, Spring Inn: a lively local dive bar, Tannin’s Wine Bar and Boutique for intimate drinks and small plates, and 151 bar for when you fancy something special. Other highlights are DeMitos Saloon, Riley’s (for Karaoke) and although it’s a little outside of Elmhurst, the Hala Kahiki Lounge is a fun and festive tiki bar well worth the trip.
This spot is, as the name suggests, a classic Chicago shot and beer bar. It has a laid-back but fun atmosphere with an outdoor beer garden and plenty of big TVs to catch some prime-time sports. This bar is a favorite among students and younger locals, owing to the hip atmosphere and friendly bartenders. The drinks are cheap, the locals are welcoming, and the vibes are good. What more could you need?
Inside tip: Just three words: Saturday Turtle Racing
Rumour has it that Spring Inn is not only Elmhurst’s best hole-in-the-wall pub but the oldest. Some locals claim to have patronized this little dive bar for more than 65 years. After a long legacy of entertaining the locals, the Spring Inn finally got the chance for a facelift in 2020. During the lockdown restrictions, local owner Pete Harmon worked hard to renovate the bar. Spring Inn has welcomed back its customers with open arms; the dartboard and jukebox still have pride of place; the staff are as friendly and fun as ever. Word on the street is that Spring Inn’s legendary Sunday open-mic nights are soon to return.
Inside tip: Be sure to stop by Spring Inn on St Patricks day parade and join in the raucous and rambunctious celebrations.
If you’re looking for refined cocktails, look no further. Perch at the bar or relax in the outdoor patio and sip on something delicious - perhaps the Damson Bramble or the 151, which is a bourbon and brown butter house special. They also serve upscale midwestern plates, should you fancy making a meal of it.
Inside tip: Their bottomless mimosas promise a dangerous but delightful brunch!
This high-end wine shop and bar is the perfect location to cozy up with a small group of friends or a date. They have a fantastic selection of wines and craft beers, best served alongside their small plates of exquisite cheeses and charcuteries.
Inside tip: Their warm-hearted staff really know their stuff, so don’t be shy to get their pairing recommendations and find out more about what you’re drinking.
Parks and Outdoor spaces
What are the best outdoor activities in Elmhurst?
With more than 28 parks and prairie pathways in and around Elmhurst, you’ll never be far from greenery and the great outdoors. Some of the most popular outdoor spaces in Elmhurst include the Illinois Prairie Path, The Great Western Prairie, Salt Creek, and Wilder Park with the Wilder Park Conservatory and Wilder Mansion.
The park district is taking on several new developments in 2021 as part of the Visions 2020 plan, which prioritizes community-driven development of Elmhurst’s valued outdoor spaces. The district runs an adopt-a-park scheme, where Elmhurst neighbors can band together to help preserve and beautify their green spaces for all. The thoughtful outdoor planning extends beyond the city’s traditional green spaces; Elmhurst is a famously leafy suburb and the downtown area is charmingly decorated with large planters filled with brassicas, flowers and other unusual displays.
37-mile Illinois Prairie Path
Five miles the famous Illinois Prairie Path runs right through the heart of Elmhurst and includes the Great Western Prairie. The lush, green meandering pathways are a breathtaking setting to go jogging, walking, running, cycling, or horse riding. The pathway runs along what were once the tracks of the railway, which once carried commuters and freight to and from Chicago and the surrounding areas of Dupage and Cook county.
Just north of the Illinois Prairie Path is the Great Western Prairie, a thousands-year-old native prairie land that preserves the unique ecology and history of North Eastern Illinois. The state was once known as the Prairie lands and the Great Western Prairie is one of the few remaining places where locals can reconnect with pre-settler landscapes and witness first-hand the distinct flora and fauna of this ancient area. This precious patch of prairie land pre-dates any building or monument in the city.
This 10-acre outdoor space sits on the west side of Elmhurst and is the city’s second-oldest park. It’s undergone significant developments over the years and today residents can enjoy a baseball field, three micro soccer fields, a full-sized football pitch, a picnic area, and a children’s play area, as well as plenty of well-maintained pathways for walking, jogging, and cycling. The playground is a favorite amongst Elmhurst little ones with multiple facilities that provide ample adventure time, including a climbing feature, friendship swing, helix tower, nature playhouse, rock climber, four slides, an xcelerator spinner, and four swings.
Wilder Park is both a cultural hub and a fantastic outdoor space that can be found right in the center of Elmhurst. The beautifully landscaped lawns and displays are home to the Elmhurst Public Library, the Elmhurst Art Museum, Wilder Mansion, and the Wilder Park Conservatory and Formal Gardens. The Conservatory invites the public in to experience stunning floral displays year-round; a trip that can often be combined with one of the many events and activities hosted in the park. Egg hunts, markets, garden walks, movies, concerts, BBQs, and the Art in Wilder Park event are just a handful of reasons to visit this beautiful park on a regular basis.