Living In St Charles: A historic town with the best of modern living
The city of St Charles, IL, proves that you don’t have to travel far from Chicago to get a taste of old-world Midwestern charm. Named “The Pride of The Fox”, this quaint suburban town grew up on the banks of The Fox River, where it was first founded almost 200 years ago. The railway was a little late to arrive here, which kept this community in their bubble for longer than other settlements. Perhaps that’s why it still feels so peaceful and full of historic atmosphere today.
St Charles is made up of a historic central district with a riverside downtown, all of which is surrounded by a few dozen miles of upscale suburban housing. It’s considered a city and leaves little to be desired. There are two prestigious high schools, multiple parks, and forest preserves, shopping centers, a theater, cinema, and library, as well as a long list of popular restaurants and bars. Plus, this city doesn’t stand alone – it sits below the Elgin and South Elgin, and is just a few kilometers upstream from Geneva, Batavia and Aurora.
With a population of 32,887, St Charles can be considered a medium-sized suburb but put together with its tri-city siblings Geneva and Batavia, there are over 80,000 residents living in this area of the Fox River.
Is St Charles a good place to live?
St Charles, IL, offers residents a high standard of living. It’s one of the best places to live in Illinois and offers exceptional public schools, low crime rates, award-winning parks, and a historic downtown. In return, St Charles has a high cost of living and the average family income is $98,393, which is almost 50% greater than the national average.
For most families here, they’ll tell you that the benefits of living in a clean, leafy and quaint suburb make life in St Charles well worth the price tag. To get a taste of what it’s like to be an STC local, let’s take a look at the best schools, real estate and things to do in this much-coveted corner of Chicagoland.
Schools in St Charles
Locals from St Charles will happily tell you that the school system is one of the best things about living here. The public school system has received the highest level of commendation from niche.com, with an A+ ranking.
The school system in St Charles is highly-rated. Students are served by Community Unit School District 303, which operates thirteen elementary schools, two middle schools and two high schools. St Charles is also the home of Elgin Community College, a 4-year college that offers over 129 programs in subjects like accounting, nursing, biology and psychology.
There are thirteen elementary schools within District 303, nearly all rated an A by niche.com. Families living all over the suburb can give their children the best start in education at one of these elementary schools:
- Anderson – B rated
- Bell-Graham – A rated
- Corron – A rated
- Ferson Creek – A rated
- Munhall – A rated
- Norton Creek – A rated
- Wasco – A rated
- Wild Rose – A rated
- Davis Primary (K-2) and Richmond Intermediate (3-5) – A rated
- Fox Ridge
Both middle schools in St Charles are of equal standing. They are A-rated institutions with similar student cohorts, teacher-to-student ratios, and English and math proficiency.
Thompson Middle School – A rated
1,311 students in St Charles attend Thompson Middle School, which is located in central St Charles, on West Main Street. It serves those in grades 6-8 with a student-teacher ratio of 14 to 1. 55% of students are at least proficient in math and 74% in reading.
Wredling Middle School – A rated
1,486 St Charles students attend Wredling Middle School, which is located on the east side of the suburb. It caters to those in grades 6-8 and has a student-teacher ratio of 16 to 1. 58% of students are at least proficient in math and 70% in reading.
St. Charles East High School
St Charles East is the larger and older of the two high schools. It’s an A-rated institution by niche.com and is known for its strong education in both theater studies and science. Any budding young musical talents will be sure to thrive at St Charles East because they can take music classes for credit. The school is also excellent for young athletes, as it competes in the DuKane Conference and Illinois High School Association, with its most recent win as state champions in the boys, cross country in 2019.
St Charles East serves 2,408 students and is on the east side of the suburb. Students are in grades 9-12 with a student-teacher ratio of 14 to 1. 51% of students are at least proficient in math and 51% in reading.
St. Charles North High School
Although St Charles North is the newer of the two high schools, it hasn’t taken long to catch up. It is rated A+ by niche.com and offers several AP classes. Notably, the school is renewing its curriculum alongside the Illinois Illinois Math and Science Academy, which many consider the most prestigious public school in the state. Students at St Charles North will also have the chance to compete (and possibly even win) in the ISBA High School Mock Trial Invitational and the Dukane conference.
St Charles North serves 1,971 students and is in the central/north part of the suburb. Its students are in grades 9-12 with a student-teacher ratio of 15 to 1. 66% of students are at least proficient in math and 57% in reading.
This is the newest edition to District 303’s schools. It was founded in 2021 and has a special focus on personalized learning for students in grades 9-12. The school has no entrance criteria but will be taking a maximum of 200 students to be able to maintain a small, focused learning community. The learning model is flexible, which will allow students to attend later or earlier, and to study at their own pace. It’s an exciting new addition to the excellent schools in St Charles and is a sure sign that the suburb is committed to adapting to the needs of its residents.
Real Estate in St Charles
The real estate market in St Charles consists of many upmarket single-family homes and townhouses, alongside some luxury condos. Most residents own their homes and most of the village has a dense suburban feel.
There are so many beautiful streets, homes and front lawns here in St Charles. You could easily kill a couple of hours driving around the neighborhoods and curb shopping for your dream home.
Of course, it’s known for being an upmarket suburb, which means that real estate here doesn’t come cheap. If you take the total market value of real estate in St Charles and divide it by the area, the city has an average of $126M of real estate every square kilometer – it’s clear to see St Charles is home to some of Chicago’s most valuable properties.
You also need to factor in this suburb's high property tax rates, which come in at a minimum combined rate of around 8%. Nonetheless, with St Charles being one of the most desirable Chicago suburbs, you’ll find many people here willing to make that investment.
If you take the total market value of real estate in St Charles and divide it by the area, the city has an average of $126M of real estate every square kilometer.
Niche.com lists the median house price in St Charles at just under $300,000, but the reality is that it’s a challenge to find a home for less than $350,000. Anything under $300,000 is usually lots and land; if there are nice homes for this price, they are snapped up quickly. A more accurate picture of homes in St Charles is that they come in around the $475-675,000 mark and are 3-5 bed properties.
The most wealthy area of St Charles is arguably on the North East side, where houses typically value at $700K. It’s an exclusive neighborhood and there are rarely homes for sale here. However, you can find plenty of homes for sale in central St Charles closer to the Fox River.
Some of the most expensive homes on the market in St Charles right now are a $1.2M custom-built 3-bed home on 2nd street, a $3.3M English Manor estate on Ware Woods Drive, and a $1.6M single-family estate on Aintree Rd. If you move to St Charles, it’s safe to say you won’t be short of future homes to aspire to.
St. Charles, Illinois Market Report
Includes average property values, inventory, market changes, and demographic data.Homes for sale in St. Charles
Things to do in St Charles
Being part of the tri-city area, St Charles is one of the livelier suburbs. It gets a lot of visitors and it keeps them easily entertained by all the things to do here in this corner of Chicagoland.
St Charles stands out from lots of suburbs thanks to the many cultural institutions you can visit, including the theater, library, and cinema. The suburb hosts family-friendly events throughout the year, including outdoor events and activities. The downtown area also has plenty of shops, including the Streets of St Charles and Mark Twain Village shopping centers.
Best year-round activities in St Charles
Stroll through the Pottawatomie Park
There is no question that the most beautiful part of St Charles is Pottawatomie Park. It’s right on the river close by to the downtown area - you can’t miss it thanks to the striking picnic pavilion. The original was built in 1892, though it was rebuilt in 2000 in its original place. The park itself is named to commemorate the Potawatomie Indians who once made their home alongside Fox River Valley.
Today there are lots of amenities at Pottawatomie Park. You can go boating, play miniature golf, or hire a riverboat. The park is an idyllic location all year round and stands as a reminder to everyone passing through that St Charles is a special place.
Visit the Streets of St Charles Shopping Center
Although it is named a Shopping Center, the Streets of St Charles is more of a lifestyle and recreation location. You can eat, exercise, see a movie, or visit the spa and salons. It has a good balance of chain restaurants and smaller boutiques and is right in the downtown area. It’s touches like this mall that make suburban living feel far more suited to modern life.
See live music or theater at The Arcada Theater.
The Arcada Theater puts on more than 200+ live music events every year – that’s practically a show every night of the week! The venue doesn’t limit itself by genre but puts on almost anything that’s guaranteed to draw a crowd, be it a KISS tribute band, a roaring 20s night, or a prog-rock show. True to its name, the theater also hosts performance arts from popular local theater troops. The building itself is spectacular, and shows are hosted in the 900-seater theater, which features red suits, golden gilded banisters, and a giant dome with a mural in it, all making for an atmospheric night to remember.
Browse the nationally-ranked library
A great library is something that’s not just nice to have – a good suburb needs to have it! Luckily, The St. Charles Public Library ranks as one of the best libraries in the state and the whole of America. Just cross the Fox River and head east on Main Street to visit. The library is bigger than it looks from the outside – you can browse books, DVDs, CDs, and online databases. If you want to restock your own bookshelves, then visit the biannual book sales that take place in Spring and Fall.
Kayak through the downtown on the Fox River
If you are adventurous, you can choose to check out St Charles’ historic downtown from a different angle – the Fox River! A popular kayaking route is to head from South Elgin to St Charles, but if you want to take it easy, you could set out from Fergus Creek for a short paddle around the Boy Scout Island area. You’ll need a permit to Kayak on the river, but you can also speak to local companies about hiring a Kayak. They’ll help you with everything you need to know and be sure to get their advice on how best to approach (or avoid) the Fox River waterfall, just by Hotel Baker.
Fly high at the Urban Air Trampoline Park
If you are a young family, this is the place that is great to have on your doorstep, especially during those bitter Chicago winters. That’s because anyone with energy to burn will love the Urban Air Trampoline Park in St Charles. Now, of course, the target audience is children and young adults, but the big kids out there will be pleased to hear that there’s no official age limit. There are climbing walls, go-karts, bumper karts, and lots of trampolines. For a basic trampoline pass, you can buy one-off tickets or membership passes that come in at just $7.99 a month.
Fill your pockets at the candy shop.
The ‘Rocket Fizz Soda Pop and Candy Shop’ isn’t just fun to say – it’s fun to visit too. The shop is lined from floor to ceiling with just about every type of candy there is and every soda flavor you could dream of. A word to the wise, though; some items are surprisingly expensive – keep a tally because your stomach and eyes might be bigger than your wallet. And if you happen to visit Rocket Fizz, look for the weirdest soda flavor you can find, and then tell us what it was like!
Catch a film at the Classic Cinemas Charlestowne 18
The cinema is in a quiet mall on the east side of town but is definitely worth checking out. It has a vintage feel but screens all the latest blockbusters. It’s also one of those rare places that still does the classic unlimited refill on popcorn – combined with the huge reclining chairs, this is a great cinema to be able to call your local.
Take a coffee to the Baker Memorial Park
A nice way to pass some time in downtown St Charles is to stop by the Corocco Coffee, get a drink to go, and make the five-minute walk over the river to the Baker Memorial Park. In springtime, the park is full of blossoms. The small park is right beside the impressive Methodist Church – if you get the chance to visit inside, your mind will be blown.
Shop at the Kane County Flea Market
The Kane County Flea Market has been in business since 1967, keeping St Charles in a steady supply of eccentric wares, antique furniture, and all kinds of oddities. It runs on the first Saturday and Sunday of every month when some 600 vendors arrive at South Randall Road to pitch up and flog their goods. It is truly an Aladdin's cave and eager treasure hunters could easily spend half a day at the Flea Market, sifting through old records, clothes, crockery, and even culinary delights.
Best seasonal activities in St Charles
The best seasonal events in St Charles are The Dragon Boat Festival in June, The Kane County Fair in July, The Scarecrow Festival in October, and The Fox Valley Concert band, who perform five free concerts for the locals every year.
Best Restaurants in St Charles
St Charles is definitely not short on delicious eateries, though it might surprise you that this upmarket suburb actually prefers humble, local dining with an emphasis on simple food done well. While you can find most of your favorite chains on your doorstep, the places that are really thriving here are the one-off eateries and family-owned businesses.
This stylish and health-conscious coffee shop is on the Fox River and is one of the best coffee shops in St Charles. You can opt for cozy, comfy seating by the fireplace – perfect for curling up with a book – or a light and bright pick-me-up out on the patio. Not many coffee shops can compete with the range of vegan, gluten-free and organic offerings from Kava Diem, especially when it comes to gluten-free baked goods. They also have a large drinks menu, with unusual picks like CBD teas and Nitro Coffee.
Insider tip: If you’ve never had a gluten-free donut, this is the place to try one.
Chum’s Shrimp Shack
St Charles is known for being great for seafood and Chum’s Shrimp Shack is the best of the bunch. As the name suggests, it’s a tiny little shack, but Chum’s is punching above its weight for its range of incredible-quality seafood dishes. Everything comes wrapped in paper, just like it should, and that includes hush puppies, coconut shrimp, clam strips, lobster mac and calamari.
Insider tip: If you’re passing through main street in a hurry, you can pick up delicious handhelds to go, like the Chum’s Sandwich or the Lobster rolls.
Eden Restaurants & Events
Eden’s is St Charles’ best upscale restaurant for three reasons: The chic and modern decor, the perfectly-executed yet simple food, and the romantic views over the Fox River. They serve a select menu of Mediterranean dishes, including tapas, flatbreads, grilled meat, fish and skewers. What really makes this place fun is the live music on Friday and Saturday nights, which sometimes runs late, and you can catch the best local flamenco, jazz, latin, rock and fusion bands.
Insider tip: Happy hour runs from 4-6. Picture yourself enjoying alfresco aperitifs beside the Fox River – sipping on sangria or an ice cold martini in hand.
Chef Abdul’s Mediterranean
Some towns are blessed with having irreplaceable local businesses – Chef Adbul’s is one of those special gems. It’s incredibly humble and if you were looking for exceptional food, you might make the mistake of driving straight past. Don’t let looks fool you, though, as this restaurant has 4.9 stars for a very good reason.
Chef Abdul’s food is made to be heartwarming. You can tuck into mouth-watering middle eastern dishes like kabobs, shawarma, falafel and soups, and it all feels like it was cooked with huge amounts of love and care. What’s more, you’ll feel like you're eating at a friend's house – Abdul and his family are going to give you a warm welcome. There’s no way you’re leaving feeling hungry.
Insider tip: We might love a decadent dessert in America, but Abdul’s humble banana bread is not to be missed. It’s a delicately spiced fruit cake that goes down a treat with the Arabic coffee.
Alter Brewing and Kitchen
This is the perfect place to head for a drink on the river. It’s modern, bright and relaxing, and the outside patio is really special in the summer. The menu is huge, including the drinks menu, and there are lots of IPAs on tap. You can order all your favorite things to set beside your ice cold beer – hamburgers, loaded fries, steak, and chili brisket – need we say more?
Inside tip: If you’re with a group, try to get a booking for one of the outdoor globes – you can play your own music through the bluetooth speaker!
The Filling Station Pub & Grill
As you can guess from the name, the Filling Station Pub and Grill once served St Charles as a fuel station. Today, it’s a quirky sports bar and grill serving a great atmosphere and all-American food. The interior nods to the pub's history, with antiques like old coca-cola signs and license plates lining the walls. It's very laid back and dogs are welcome on the tree-shaded patio, which is a rare treat for the four-legged residents of St Charles.
Posted by Rafael Velasco