Residential Communities & Employment

Life in DeKalb

DeKalb, Ill., is a comfortable and relaxing environment. There are many restaurants, bookstores, shopping centers, and social venues that will meet all of your needs. The local neighborhood and school system support diverse communities. DeKalb is a growing city with something for everyone.

About the City

DeKalb is a thriving city of over 106,000 residents (2008 U.S. Census). It is located about 60 miles west of downtown Chicago and O'Hare International Airport. DeKalb sits just north of Interstate 88 between the cities of Rockford and Aurora. Other large cities near DeKalb are Milwaukee, Wis., (90 miles northeast), Madison, Wis., (100 miles north), and Peoria, Ill., (125 miles south). The city is home to Northern Illinois University, founded in 1895 and presently the second largest university in Illinois. Known as the "Barb City," DeKalb is famous for being the birthplace of barbed wire, which was invented by Joseph Glidden in 1873.

Things to Do

DeKalb has hundreds of dining and shopping venues.

Chain restaurants include Steak ‘n Shake, Portillo’s, Jimmy John's, Panera Bread, Buffalo Wild Wings and locally owned eateries like O'Leary's Irish Pub & Grill, Egg Haven Pancakes & Café, Eduardo's Mexican RestaurantThe House Cafe, Annie G’s Restaurant, Ollie's Frozen Custard, and Flippin Eggs. Shopping locations include Wal-Mart, Target, Barnes & Nobles, Bed Bath & Beyond, Kohl’s and more, including local specialty stores like Moxie, The Confectionary, and The Glidden Campus Florist 

Other attractions include:

The Davis Hall Observatory houses a new Celestron 14-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, a TeleVue 85 mm refracting telescope, a Losmandy G-11 equatorial mount, and other new astrophotography equipment. The dome was constructed in the early 1960s by a local Plainfield company, Ash Dome.

The Glidden Homestead, commemorated by the Illinois State Historical Society as the birthplace of barbed wire. It was the home of Joseph Farwell Glidden, inventor of "The Winner" barbed wire.

The Egyptian Theatre, established in 1929, is a fully restored Egyptian Art Deco movie palace listed on the Registry of Historic Places. It is the home of local performing art groups and premieres independent and foreign films.

The Heritage Square Gallery Experience describes DeKalb's rich history in photographs. Hundred's of pictures highlight the growth and changing face of the downtown area from 1860 through the present.

The Ellwood House, built by barbed wire millionaire Isaac L. Ellwood in 1879, is a grand Victorian mansion. Inside, crystal chandeliers sparkle, gilt mirrors shine, and antique woodwork gleams. The mansion remains with its original furnishings just as when the Ellwood family lived there decades ago. A visit to this elegant home brings the past to life.

Stage Coach Players is in its 64th season of continuous service to the community, performing classics like “The King and I,” “Christmas Carol,” “Steel Magnolias,” and “Hello, Dolly!”

DeKalb offers numerous annual festivals and celebrations such as Corn Fest, a celebration of the city's agricultural heritage. The event features live music, food, a marathon race, and activities for kids. Corn Fest is one of the last remaining free music festivals in Illinois. Holiday festivals include the Halloween Spooktacular and Holly Days featuring horse-drawn carriage rides. In neighboring Sycamore, the Pumpkin Festival includes thousands of decorated pumpkins on display, art and craft shows, a house walk, a pie eating contest, a carnival, a fair and parade.

For a complete list of activities, including movies theaters, bowling alleys, parks and more, visit theDestination DeKalb Web site.

DeKalb Fun Facts

Actor Richard Jenkins and supermodel Cindy Crawford were born in DeKalb. Cindy Crawford graduated as valedictorian from DeKalb High School in 1984.

DeKalb is the original home of the Monsanto Company, a multinational agricultural biotechnology firm that invented the first genetic-hybrid seed corn.

Interactive Tour

The City of DeKalb and the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce have an interactive video designed for potential residents.

City of DeKalb Video »