08/06/2014 04:30 pm ET Updated Oct 05, 2014

7 Small Illinois Cities Prove They Have Big Value

Sometimes it feels like Chicago gets all the love from national media -- but the rest of the country recognizes Illinois' small towns, too, for their picturesque landscapes, cultural hubs and friendly populations. Cities Journal is the latest publication to rank some of Illinois' smaller cities. They said the cities on this list "exude a quintessentially Midwestern mix of small-town hospitality and open-minded, urban sensibilities." Cities Journal chose 13 of the best small cities in Illinois that help make the state "the true heart of the American Midwest."

13. Elmhurst
Elmhurst's cultural history helped it make the Cities Journal list. The Elmhurst Historical Museum displays artifacts from poet Carl Sandburg's life and work.

12. Arlington Heights
Cities Journal found that Arlington Heights is a great place for kids-the city takes safety seriously, the Kids Adventure Hunt is a great way for families to explore downtown together and the Metropolis Performing Arts Center offers a new musical or play every week.

11. Mount Prospect
In explaining Mount Prospect's place on the list, Cities Journal mentioned attractions such as the Mt. Prospect Golf Course, the Central Community Center and the annual Celestial Celebration and Irish Fest.

10. Wheaton
According to Cities Journal, Wheaton is one of the 13 best small cities in Illinois for its festival offerings-the Wheaton French Market, the Prairie Path Cleanup and the Wheaton Wine and Cultural Arts Festival, to name a few.

9. Mount Carroll
Mount Carroll is known for its Victorian-style history, and Cities Journal highlighted this as the main reason it's one of the state's best small cities: come see an antique tea shop, cobblestone streets and the Raven's Grin Inn.

8. Bartlett
Cities Journal appreciated Bartlett's commitment to its trees through the 50/50 Parkway Trees program and its pioneer status as home to one of the first Hindu communities in the U.S. One of the country's largest Hindu temples is located in the city.

7. Naperville
Ribfest, Last Fling, the city's award-winning public libraries and its proximity to the DuPage River help make Naperville great, according to Cities Journal.

See the six other small cities that Cities Journal called number one at Reboot Illinois.

Cities Journal isn't the only publication that's recognized how great Illinois' lesser-known cities are. Some publications are even shining the light on the state's small cities in comparison other cities in the country, not just the state.

Movoto Real Estate blog named Oak Park as the number three best city in the country for education, based on its student-teacher ratio, high school graduation rate, money spent on each student per year and test scores. The graduation rate there is 94 percent, much higher than the national average of 80 percent, and Movoto said that schools in the city spend $8,229 on each student every year. Hoffman Estates was number seven, with 16 students for every teacher. (The number one small city for education on the list was Chapel Hill, NC. Lakeville, Minn. came in at number 10.) Wheaton, Orland Park, Tinley Park and Mount Prospect also made appearances further down the list.

The website Midwest Living also admired some of Illinois' smaller cities as great places to visit: Alto Pass and Jonesboro were mentioned for the Illinois Shawnee National Forest, Alton, Elsah, Nauvoo and Grafton were included for their scenic locations on the Mississippi River, and Bishop Hill, Arcola and Arthur also made the list of 100 best small cities to visit in the Midwest (the last two for their proximities to Amish shops).

The website also mentioned Galena, located in hilly northwestern Illinois, for its antique shops, festivals and spas.

Still making it onto "best small cities in the country" lists, Forbes named Quincy as the number eight best small city to raise a family, based on its high rankings for average commute times for residents, high school graduation rate, median household income, home ownership rate and cost of living.

Unfortunately, small Illinois cities can't always be the best at everything: Even after naming Oak Park as a great small city for education, Movoto also named it as the seventh snobbiest small city in the country, based on rankings such as the percentage of residents with college degrees, private schools, performing arts per capita and art galleries per capita. The light-hearted list explained that the fact that 60 percent of the city has a college degree and their large amount of art galleries, plus some of its fancier restaurants, helped Oak Park earn its place on the list. Palo Alto, Calif. was ranked as the number one snobbiest small city in the country, while Laguna Niguel was number 10.

There are plenty of small cities in Illinois to choose from when picking the best, but the state wouldn't be what it is without any one of them.

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