Niles is named one of best places to raise a family

The half-size replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa may be the first thing that jumps to mind when most people think of Niles, the village of 30,000 just beyond Chicago’snorthwest limits.

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But its affordable housing, outstanding parks, recreational and library programs and free public transit make it a great place to live, say residents – and agrees. In its fifth annual publication of “The Best Affordable Places to Raise a Family,” Niles was Illinois’ top spot for convenient, affordable family living.

The group uses real estate data, school performance, cost of living, crime statistics and other factors.

Denise Massaro lives on the Chicago-Niles border in the house she grew up in and now shares with her husband, Tony, a Chicago firefighter, and her two kids, Nicholas, 6, and Mia, 4. When her mother put the house up for sale a few years ago, Massaro says the decision to stay was a no-brainer.

“All the stuff I loved growing up has just gotten better,” she says. “There’s so much to do, the shopping is terrific – really, everything you could want, all in one place.”

Nicholas and Mia have attended summer camp and art classes at the Niles Park District since they were toddlers, and Mia now takes ballet and tap there. The family spends many weekend mornings at Pioneer Park, with its miniature golf and batting cages. When the kids were little, they went to baby story hour at the Niles Library, and now the family rent books and the newest Wii releases (big draws with Nicholas).

“It’s just such a friendly town,” Massaro says. “The people are just great.”

And with a Target, Wal-Mart, Jewel, Babies ‘R Us, Best Buy and several grocery stores, and a free bus service around town, Massaro says the 60714 has everything her family needs.

Many of the town’s services are available to Chicago residents as well. For more information, visit the village’s website.

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