10 Things We Love About Downers Grove

It may be unfair to describe Downers Grove as simply a suburb. With a location just about 20 miles due west of downtown Chicago, this village of 50,000 residents boasts a thriving local economy, highly ranked schools, and some of the top natural attractions in the metro area. And it’s certainly not flyover country, being the corporate headquarters to some massive publicly traded companies while also having direct access into Chicago via the expressway system and commuter rail.

There’s a delicate balance that makes Downers Grove so attractive: think themes such as reasonable housing prices and an activated downtown. There’s a reason why this Chicago ‘burb has been ranked one of the best places to live in the country for three years in a row by Livability.com. Home shoppers would do well to give this western suburb serious consideration, as there’s a tremendous amount of variety, activity, and value.

Single family home ownership is obtainable to all

With a vast inventory of homes of all ages and price points, homeownership is not out of the equation for buyers even on the tightest of budgets. While it’s located directly along the I-88 and I-55 expressway corridors into Chicago, Downers Grove is noted for having a true Main Street, U.S.A. charm with its scenic downtown, array of schools, and central park spaces that bring residents together for recreation leagues and activities.

A thriving local economy

According to numbers from the Downers Grove Economic Development Corporation, the top five employers within the city limits provide over 7,000 jobs to the area. Even more, Downers Grove is the global headquarters of two publicly traded companies: Dover Corporation and Univar. While other suburbs have seen a number of major corporations move back to Chicago, Downers Grove can boast a robust and resilient economic base.

Photo from Enjoy Illinois 

Morton Arboretum

Seeded by a grant from Joy Morton of Morton Salt fortune and fame, this natural habitat spans a massive 1,700 acres from Downers Grove’s western edge all the way across neighboring Lisle. As its name suggests, there’s a particular emphasis on cataloging and providing education on different tree species, but the arboretum also proudly claims one of the metro area’s largest prairie restorations — the Chicago region’s original natural environment. When you visit, be sure to keep an eye out for trolls.

Top notch city park system

Residents not only get quick access to the Morton Arboretum, but there’s also a collection of city parks which range from scenic and sparse, to full-amenity recreation centers. Stop by Patriots Park-Barth Pond for a recharge, or bring your rod and reel along for a chance at snagging a bluegill, carp, or catfish. Or lace up and hit the tennis courts, basketball courts, or baseball diamonds at Doerhoefer Park. And during the hot summer days, head just across the border into adjacent Westmont to enjoy the Ty Warner Park’s spray park.

Full calendar of special events and festivals

Residents seeking a community that offers a packed calendar of special events and seasonal celebrations won’t be disappointed with Downers Grove’s public activation offerings. Catch concerts in the park and evening car shows during the warmer months. And when the holiday season rolls around, there’s a thriving Halloween weekend, followed by the popular Thanksgiving Bonfield Express, and various festive events and activities. One could say that holidays in Downers Grove are almost like a real-life Norman Rockwell scene.

Tivoli Theatre

What’s a great town without an equally grand movie palace? Dating back to 1928, this sprawling terracotta-clad theater features one giant auditorium with over 1,000 seats — making this attraction true to the definition of the classic movie palaces of the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema. In addition to films, the Tivoli also hosts concerts from high-profile pop and rock acts. Fun fact: the Tivoli shares its name and lineage with the long-demolished Tivoli Theatre in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood.

A thriving downtown dining scene

With a large workforce and residential population comes a litany of local dining and entertainment options. From Sunday brunch, to romantic dinner spots, to late night eats, and even the classic Chicago-style steakhouse, there’s something for every mood and occasion. There’s even highly rated seafood establishments — somewhat of a rarity for a small to mid-sized midwestern locale.

Downers Grove Golf Club

Further bolstering Downers Grove outdoor recreation credentials is the 9-hole Downers Grove Golf Club. A true piece of American golf history, this course was the country’s first to feature 18 holes when it first opened in 1892. It’s also a scenic spectacle, being a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. And being a public golf course, it only costs residents $21 for a full round on the weekend.

Public and private schools

Home buyers will discover that the greater Downers Grove and DuPage County area features schools at all levels and ages. The Downers Grove Grade School District 58 operates numerous public schools in the area, many of which are known for active parent-teacher organizations and extracurricular programs. Then there’s the progressive Avery Coonley School, billed as an “independent, coeducational day school serving academically gifted students.” In addition to public schools, the area serves those seeking a private education.

Lyman Woods & William F. Sherman, Jr. Interpretive Center

The wonderful thing about forest preserves is that there’s not only natural beauty to take in and appreciate, but in many cases, these cultural and environmental assets play an important function in education. Take the Lyman Woods William F. Sherman, Jr. Interpretive Center for example — there are hundreds of different plant and animal species inhabiting 150 acres of woods and natural prairie habitats, as well as the NaturePlay School, which fosters early child development with an emphasis on exploring and interacting with the outdoors.

Written by AJ LaTrace
AJ LaTrace is a freelance writer, editor, and photographer covering Chicago real estate, architecture, and neighborhoods. His work has been featured in Chicago magazine, Time Out Chicago, Michigan Avenue Magazine, Curbed Chicago, Block Club Chicago, and others.