Madison Wisconin skyline

12 Things to Know About Living in Madison

Are you thinking about moving to Wisconsin? Consider living in Madison! Not only is Mad Town known for being the City of Four Lakes, but it also has endless employment opportunities, tons of outdoor fun, delicious food, and much more. If you’re ready to move to one of the best places to live in the Midwest, here are 12 things you should know!

Good City for Job Opportunities

Are you moving to Madison for a change in your career? You’re in luck! Not only is this city ranked in the top 20 for best places to find a job, but it also has an unemployment rate of 2.1%. Industries that have seen major job growth in Madison are the tech, healthcare, insurance, and energy fields with top employers like Epic Systems, UW Health, American Family Insurance, and Alliant Energy. Especially if you’re a recent college graduate on the job hunt or a young professional moving cross-country for new opportunities, Madison is the place to be!

Outstanding Schools to Attend

Whether it’s time to send your little ones off to kindergarten or you’re ready to look at colleges, there’s a school for you in Madison! If you’re searching for public K-12 education, West High SchoolElm Lawn Elementary, and Kromrey Middle School are ranked among the best public schools in Madison, as well as Wisconsin as a whole. There’s also Edgewood High School of the Scared Heart and St. Ambrose Academy, two excellent private schools in the Madison area that excel in academics. Ever wondered what it’s like to attend a Big Ten School in one of the best college towns in America? The University of Wisconsin-Madison is home to the NCAA-Division 1 Badgers and has over 9,000 courses and 200 undergraduate majors.

Affordable & Friendly Neighborhoods

With a median home price of $217,000 and median rent around $959, it’s no surprise that Madison is considered one of the most affordable cities in America. The area is full of safe, budget-friendly neighborhoods with friendly communities, great schools, and plenty of things to do, so finding your new forever home will be easy! If you’re searching for family-friendly neighborhoods in one of the best cities to raise a family, consider Radio Park, where you’ll be surrounded by lush parks and fantastic local schools. Looking for a retiree-friendly area to settle down? With Lake Wingra and several nearby golf courses, Westmorland is ideal for spending your golden years in relaxation. There’s also Marquette, an area loved by singles and young professionals for its close proximity to nightlife and jobs in Downtown Madison.

Great Location in the Wisconsin Area

One of the best things about living in Madison is that weekend fun in other cities is close by! If you’re looking to have an action-packed weekend, Green Bay is less than three hours away and is home to the NFL Green Bay Packers, as well as attractions like Bay Beach Amusement Park. Known for being the Waterpark Capital of the World and the ultimate amusement park hub, Wisconsin Dells is about an hour north of Madison, and it’s an awesome spot for a vacation with the family. Even Chicago—and its great amenities like Millennium Park and Navy Pier—is less than three hours south of the Madison city limits and is the perfect location for a romantic getaway or spring break!

Fun in the Sun…

Lather on some sunscreen and put on your sneakers because some of the best Madison activities are outdoors! Head over to Henry Vilas Zoo to admire emperor tamarins in the trees, red pandas eating bamboo, and African penguins waddling around. Or roam through rows of rose bushes, orchids, and carnivorous plants at the Olbrich Botanical Gardens. Considered a hot spot among locals and visitors, Terrace at Memorial Union is the place to be to enjoy a beer, listen to some live music, and take in the beautiful sunset. With a name like “City of Four Lakes,” you’ll find plenty of adventure on the water as well! Travel to either Lake Mendota, Lake Monona, Lake Waubesa, or Lake Kegonsa to go kayaking, paddle boarding, sailingfishing, and more!

…and in the Snow

You won’t just find fun when temperatures are above 50 degrees—there are tons of exciting things to do in Madison in winter! Practice your slap shot or work on your triple axel at Elver Park. Set up a tent with a few buddies and spend the day on Lake Waubesa ice fishing for bass and musky. Snow shoeing and skiing are two of the most popular activities to do when a fluffy sheet of snow has covered the ground. You can speed down the mountain at Devil’s Head Resort or trek along Lakeshore Path in snow shoes to cozy up to a fire at Picnic Point. There’s also the Madison Winter Festival, which celebrates all things winter wonder with snow carving, sledding, and a candlelight ski tour.

Experience Capitol Square

Located in the heart of Downtown Madison, Capitol Square is the central hub for experiencing the Madison lifestyle. Here, you can find everything from movie theaters and art galleries to fun bars and amazing cafes. Set up a few blankets on the green space and attend one of the Concerts on the Square. Or bike over to the Wisconsin State Capitol and take a tour to see where major bills are made. Buy a fresh bouquet of tulips, pick out earrings from local artisans, or snag some fresh produce from over 275 vendors at the largest farmers market in the nation: the Dane County Farmers Market. Food trucks are a popular place in Capitol Square to grab a bite while enjoying the nice weather. Indulge in some brisket tacos at El Grito Taqueria, fill your belly with a Caprese Grilled Cheese at Melted, or sip on a smoothie at Fresh Cool Drinks.

Be a Part of Local Festivals

Mad Town is all about fun, food, and family, so of course festivals are some of the most fun things to do Madison! Join one of the area’s premier events and take in free concerts, delicious cocktails, and the smell of fried cheese curds and BBQ ribs at Taste of Madison. From lamb gyros to chocolate mochi, try unique dishes from over 20 restaurants at Yum Yum Fest. There’s also Brat Fest, the world’s largest brat festival that features live music, a carnival, and tasty brats. Eat some burgers, buy jewelry from the art fair, and watch fireworks illuminate the sky at one of the best Madison activities for families: the Monona Community Festival. If you’re looking for something spookier, join local ghosts and ghouls at Freakfest, the Midwest’s largest annual Halloween party and music festival.

Immerse Yourself in Art & Culture

From ballet performances to hands-on science museums, the best of Madison is right in the arts and culture scene! Marvel at the Madison Symphony Orchestra as they fill the room with Debussy’s “La Mer.” Or watch ballerinas of the Madison Ballet leap and twirl across the stage in The Nutcracker or Cinderella. If you prefer art that’s a little more stationary, venture down to Madison’s Museum Mile! Gaze upon abstract paintings or contemporary sculptures at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, or explore a frontier mine and learn about Wisconsin’s lumberjacks at the Wisconsin Historical Museum. The Madison Children’s Museum is one of the most fun and educational things to do in Madison with kids! Let your little ones churn butter in a log cabin, run in a giant gerbil wheel, feed chickens, and much more!

Cheese Curd Is the Word

When you’re living in the Capital of America’s Dairyland, be prepared to fill your belly with some of the most delicious cheese! Famous for their artisanal cheeses and cakes of cheese, Fromagination is your one-stop-shop for grabbing a Muenster sandwich, going on a cheese tour, or browsing over 100 unique cheeses. If you can think it, Mousehouse Cheesehaus has it. This cheese emporium has flavors that will impress even the most experienced turophile with Wisconsin’s finest, such as Extra Sharp Cheddar, Chocolate Cheese Fudge, and Ghost Pepper Monterey Jack. Do you prefer your cheese to be melty goodness? Head to The Old Fashioned to try their tasty beer-battered cheese curds, or venture to Graze to have their 10-year-old aged cheddar Mac N’ Cheese. Local favorite Curd Girl is serving up some of the best fried cheese curds and gourmet sauces in the Madison area, so keep an eye out for their food truck!

Restaurants with Award-Winning Dishes

While cheese curds are a major food group in the Madison lifestyle, it’s not the only dish that Mad City does well! Share the Truffle Fries with some friends and order fan-favorite Local Lamb Burger at Tipsy Cow. Feast on Lobster Scramble and wash it down with a Market Champagne Cocktail at farm-to-table Heritage Tavern. Considered one of the best places to eat in Madison by both locals and visitors, Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry is the spot to be for award-winning burgers like the Heart Throb and Melting Pot. If you’re looking for the perfect restaurant for a romantic date night, make a reservation at L’Etoile and embark on the specially-made Seven Course Chef’s Tasting Menu. Need something to satisfy your sweet tooth? The Babcock Hall Dairy Store on the UW-Madison campus has been serving delectable ice creams flavors—like Chocolate Turtle, Wisconsin Old Fashioned, Union Utopia—since 1951!

Hub for Brews & Bars

Fun things to do in Madison don’t have to stop when the sun goes down! Scattered throughout the area, there are tons of local bars, breweries, and nightlife spots where you’re sure to have a good time! Head to City Bar to enjoy a pear Moscow Mule while shooting some pool and playing darts. Or listen to local bands rock out on a Friday night at High Noon Saloon. Considered the best place to tailgate in Madison, Jordan’s Big 10 Pub is packed with Badgers fans having a few drinks before, during, and after games! Are you a connoisseur of craft beer? Venture to Great Dane Pub & Brewing and enjoy a Hopsconsin Red Pale Ale or Woolly Mammoth Porter in the courtyard beer garden. Ale Asylum has a long list of unfiltered and all-natural brews from IPAs like Velveteen Habit to Brown Ales like Madtown Nutbrown.

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12 Things to Know About Living in Madison