Naperville, IL: One of best American small cities

Those looking at real estate in Chicago can look to Naperville, a city of roughly 145,000 people, located about 30 miles west of downtown Chicago. When residents of Naperville say the town is one of the best places to live in the country, they can back that statement up. Naperville has been named one of America's Best Places to live by CNNMoney three times, first in 2005, then in 2006 and in 2008.

This suburb is a small town with a big city feel. Downtown Naperville is well known as a thriving place for businesses, with its Riverwalk hugging the Dupage River. The downtown area is very lively, with fine dining restaurants, bars and retail destinations providing plenty of recreation for people of any age.

Although it is close to the sprawling metropolis of Chicago, Naperville is a good choice for people who want to feel closer to nature. Families and couples often stroll along the almost two mile stretch of the Riverwalk, feeding the ducks and getting close to nature in the thriving downtown section of the city. Naperville also encompasses Springbrook Prairie Forest Preserve, which is made up of 1,867 acres and includes winding trails, picnicking shelters, an off-leash area for canine companions and a model-aircraft field.

Those with children looking at homes for sale in Chicago could be thrilled to discover that Naperville has nationally acclaimed schools, and CNNMoney reported that graduates of the city's schools consistently outscore the state and national averages on college entrance exams. Furthermore, Hennen's American Public Library Ratings rank Naperville's public library as the best in the country among small cities.

CNNMoney did report that there are a couple potential downsides to Naperville, as the homes in this community are a bit more expensive than in other nearby suburbs and some roads in the heart of the downtown Naperville area become extremely congested, substantially slowing travel times. This community does boast remarkably low crime rates, and is close to various transportation options. The official City of Naperville website touts its reputation as one of the fastest growing communities in the nation, working hard "to preserve a unique blend of big city amenities and small town charm."