Moving to Madison

Are you considering a move to Madison, WI? Well, buckle up because you're in for a treat! Madison, a perfect blend of big-city sparkle and small-town charm, offers an enviable quality of life. Whether you're attracted by its bustling tech scene, world-class education, or the natural beauty of its four-season climate, Madison somehow always manages to exceed expectations. Our comprehensive guide dives deep into every facet of relocating to Madison where both bikes and cheese curds reign supreme. Ready to embark on your exciting journey? Let's get started with your roadmap to Madison.

Moving to Madison, WI landscape image

What to Know Before Moving to Madison

1. Brace Yourself for the Winters!

Those moving to Madison, WI should be prepared for the winters. They are more than just a dusting of snow. In fact, Madison averages 42 inches of snow every year, and temperatures often dip well below freezing. But hey, there's a silver lining to every snow cloud - winter sports enthusiasts will love the cross-country skiing, ice skating, and sledding opportunities! Just remember to pack your parka, mittens, hat, and snow boots.

2. The Food Scene is Surprisingly Diverse and Mouthwatering

You wouldn't necessarily assume Madison, WI, to be a foodie destination, but you'd be pleasantly surprised. The city is chock-full of farmers markets, craft breweries, locally-sourced eateries, and ethnic foods from around the world. And don't forget about that famous Wisconsin cheese. Madison definitely gives the big cities a run for their money when it comes to delightful dining experiences.

3. Madison Loves Bikes...A Lot!

Put the pedal to the medal! Madison outshines most cities with its commitment to making cycling as convenient as possible. With more than 200 miles of scenic bike paths crisscrossing the city and surrounding areas, it's no wonder Madison is often ranked among the best American cities for biking. If two wheels are your preferred mode of transport, you'll definitely feel at home here.

4. A City with a Unique Isthmus Quirk

Here's a fact that many don't realize before moving to Madison: it's actually built on an isthmus! That's right - the downtown area is squeezed between two glacial lakes. This unique geographical feature provides ample opportunities for waterfront recreation, contributes towards beautiful skyline views, and gives Madison its distinctive character. You haven't experienced Madison until you've caught a sunset on the lakeside.

5. It's a City of Festivals

From a world-class arts festival that transforms Madison's downtown into a sprawling canvas, to a wacky winter carnival featuring an ice-bound obstacle course, the city truly comes to life during its festivals. Madison hosts countless events throughout the year that unites the community, celebrates its rich cultural diversity, and is an absolute blast for people of all ages.

6. The Iconic Pink Flamingo is the Official City Bird

And now for one of Madison's best-kept secrets: Did you know that the plastic pink flamingo is the official city bird? This funny yet endearing fact springs from an iconic 1979 prank when students covered the University of Wisconsin's Bascom Hill with over a thousand pink flamingos. The city embraces its sense of humor, showing that Madison is a place that truly knows how to mix work with play.

In conclusion, Madison, WI, is a city full of unexpected surprises, friendly folks, and stunning natural beauty. Ready to embrace the cold, feast on some of the tastiest food, bike around the beautiful trails, experience unique isthmus delights, participate in a plethora of festivals, and bear witness to the iconic pink flamingo? Then come on over to Madison -- the city that knows how to live life to its fullest while keeping its unique charm intact.

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Pros and Cons of Living in Madison

Pros of Living in Madison

High Quality of Education

Madison is home to the renowned University of Wisconsin-Madison, making it a hub for higher education. The city also boasts a strong public school system, offering a high level of education from kindergarten to high school.

Rich Arts and Music Scene

The city has a thriving arts and music culture, with a number of festivals and art shows taking place throughout the year. Madison has many galleries, theatres, and live music venues that are sure to please any culture enthusiast.

Access to Outdoor Activities

With its beautiful lakes and abundance of parks, Madison offers many opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, fishing, and boating. The city is also known for its clean, eco-friendly environment, which contributes to its overall attractiveness for outdoor lovers.

Strong Job Market

Madison has a thriving job market in numerous industries including healthcare, information technology, education, and manufacturing. The city often ranks high on lists of the best places to work due to its low unemployment rates and diverse job opportunities.

Friendly Community

Madison has been hailed as one of the friendliest cities in the country, known for its welcoming and inclusive atmosphere. The community is active and engaged, with plenty of social events and volunteer opportunities available.

Cons of Living in Madison

High Cost of Living

Despite the strong job market, the cost of living in Madison is higher than the national average. This primarily affects housing prices, and it's something to consider if you're thinking of moving to the city.

Cold Winters

Madison experiences long, cold winters with high levels of snowfall. If you're not a fan of cold weather, this could definitely be a drawback as the winter months can be harsh.

Traffic Congestion

As the population grows, so does the traffic. While not as bad as larger cities, Madison does experience its share of rush hour congestion, especially around the University of Wisconsin campus.

Limited Nightlife

While there is a thriving arts and music scene, if you're someone who enjoys a bustling nightlife scene, you might find Madison's nightlife to be lacking. Aside from the university area, late-night options can be limited.

High Taxes

Wisconsin as a whole tends to have higher tax rates than the national average, and Madison is no exception. Depending on your income, this could significantly affect your cost of living.

Modern day picture of Madison, WI highlighting pros and cons of living in Madison, WI

Is Madison a Good Place to Live?

Madison, WI is a great place to live because of its standout features including a thriving arts scene, fantastic local breweries, and a beautifully preserved natural environment. Packed with outdoor activities, Madison also boasts over 200 parks and five beautiful lakes for boating, fishing, and picnicking. Additionally, the city is known for its excellent school system and friendly community, making it a wonderful place for both families and young professionals.

What Is Madison Famous For?

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Home to the Badgers, the University of Wisconsin-Madison is not just recognized for its stellar sports teams, but also its outstanding academic reputation. It's particularly recognized for its research, agricultural programs, and stunning location on the shores of Lake Mendota.

Madison's Farmers' Market

Madison's Farmers' Market is a legendary affair and considered one of the biggest and most diverse in the country. Every Saturday, local vendors set up shop around Capital Square offering fresh produce, homemade desserts, artisanal cheese, and other local goodies.

The Wisconsin State Capitol Building

Standing magnificently in the heart of Madison's isthmus, the Wisconsin State Capitol Building is an architectural beauty that cannot be ignored. Apart from its stunning design, it's the only State Capitol ever built on an isthmus, making it one-of-a-kind.

Madison's Vibrant Music Scene

Music is an integral part of Madison's identity. The city is known for its outdoor concerts, particularly during the summer, its lively local bands, and its huge array of venues that showcase both national and international acts year-round.

Capital building of Madison, WI in artistic rendering

Overview of Tax Rates

Property Tax

In Madison, the property tax rate for 2023 is approximately 2.35%, which is relatively high compared to the US average rate of 1.07%. This translates to a tax levy of $23.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

Sales Tax

The sales tax rate in Madison, WI in 2023 is 5.5%. While slightly lower than the average US rate of approximately 7.12%, it's worth noting that some goods and services are exempt from sales tax in Wisconsin.

Income Tax

Residents of Madison, WI are subject to a progressive state income tax system with rates ranging from 3.54% to 7.65%. This income tax structure is relatively high when compared to the national median highest tax rate of 5.5%.

Housing Market

Madison, WI housing market presents a balanced blend for renters and buyers. Data shows a median home value of $287,100, higher than the national median, reflecting steady appreciation. For renters, median rent is around $1,256, marginally lower than the $1,470 national average. Madison supplies vibrant city living with a suburban feel, affordable rent, and potential for real estate investment. Uncertainty looms due to Covid-19 impacts, but compared to larger markets, Madison's real estate has shown resilience. Investing in this market requires careful consideration, reflecting on both short-term trends and long-term growth potential.

Cost of Living

Living in Madison, WI is moderately expensive compared to other U.S. cities. A key contributing factor to Madison's cost of living is housing; it's slightly higher than the national average, making it more costly than some cities but cheaper than others. Nevertheless, healthcare, groceries, and utility costs fall below or match the national average, offering some relief. While Madison provides ample opportunities for a well-rounded lifestyle, prospective residents should acknowledge these economic factors before deciding to settle here. Overall, Madison offers a reasonable cost of living with the benefit of high quality of life.

Weather & Natural Disasters

Located in the heartland of America, Madison, WI experiences a diverse climate with a unique blend of weather patterns. The city embraces a humid continental climate, characterized by hot, humid summers and cold, snowy winters. Summer temperatures can rise to 85degF, while winter can be as low as 10degF. With over 37 inches of snowfall annually, winter sport enthusiasts are in their element. Rainfall is quite evenly spread throughout the year with close to 37 inches, inciting lush, green landscapes. Madison is not without its share of natural disasters. Tornadoes, though infrequent, are the leading natural disaster, followed by floods and severe storms. Despite these, Madison's weather contributes to its dynamic character - embodying a city that not only withstands its weather challenges, but also flourishes amidst them.

Typical weather in Madison, WI

Economy & Job Market

Healthcare and social assistance


Retail trade

Educational services

• Professional, scientific, and technical services

Madison, Wisconsin, the city of four lakes, has an economy that's as diverse as its seasons. Historically, Madison's economy strongly pivoted on the government sector, given its status as the state capital, and the educational sector, home to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. However, over time, this lovely city has broadened its economic horizons like a Wisconsin cheese melt expanding on a hot griddle. Today, while government and education continue to be significant contributors, healthcare and social assistance have taken the top spot, closely followed by manufacturing. The retail trade is not lagging too far behind, keeping pace with the city's growing population and increasing demand. Moreover, Madison has also gained quite a reputation in the field of technical and scientific services, with the city attracting professionals from all over the world to its vibrant and promising job market.

Alright future cheeseheads, if you're planning to pack up your bags and move to Madison, here's the lowdown on the job market. First up, you'll be pleased to know that Madison's unemployment rates have consistently been below the national average, reflecting the city's robust job market. The healthcare sector offers a plethora of job opportunities with renowned institutions such as UW Health, SSM Health, and Meriter-UnityPoint. Likewise, the University of Wisconsin-Madison is always on the lookout for talents to join their team. If you're in the retail business, the flourishing Downtown Madison and East and West Towne Malls are fabulous places to look for prospects. Last but not least, don't overlook Madison's blooming tech industry. So, whether you're an experienced healthcare professional, a passionate educator, a tech whizz or a retail aficionado, Madison's got a place for you in its bustling and diverse job market.

Traffic and Transportation

Hey there, adventure-seeker, let's explore the traffic and transportation scene in Madison, WI together. Embrace your inner traveler as we journey through average commute times, public transport, and air travel options.

First stop, commute times! In Madison, average commute times are around 22 minutes, which sits comfortably below the national average. So, you'll have more time for snoozing your alarm or indulging in your morning coffee.

Now, let's catch the bus to public transportation. Madison offers a variety of options to get around. Most notable is Madison Metro Transit, which runs bus routes throughout the city and surrounding areas. Hop on, and experience the city from a local's perspective.

Finally, fasten your seatbelt for air travel. Dane County Regional Airport, just a stone's throw from downtown Madison, offers convenient connections to major U.S. cities. So, whether you're coming or going, Madison has you covered. Let's get ready to roll!

What is the traffic like in Madison, WI?

Best Neighborhoods in Madison

1. Downtown

If you're looking to be right in the thick of things, Downtown is the place for you. This neighborhood, nestled between two lakes, is a bustling hive of activity. From the quirky shops on State Street to the ornate Wisconsin State Capitol building, there's always something happening. Foodies will rejoice at the thriving restaurant scene featuring everything from extravagant farm-to-table cuisine to delicious hole-in-the-wall finds, and craft beer enthusiasts will delight in the local breweries. Plus, you will find the University of Wisconsin-Madison in this neighborhood, making it an excellent spot for students, faculty, and supporting businesses.

2. Willy Street

Short for Williamson Street, Willy Street is a vibrant, eclectic neighborhood known for its strong sense of community. With a concentrated hub of local businesses, you'll find everything from cafes and artsy bars to organic grocery stores and music festivals like the legendary Willy Street Fair. And don't forget the bustling farmer's market in the summer. For nature lovers, it's a short stroll to Lake Monona and some of the city's best parks.

3. The Marquette Neighborhood

Located on the near east side of the city, this funky area showcases the unique character of Madison. Marquette is full of colorful, historic homes, and its residents exhibit a strong sense of pride in their community. Enjoy the community gardens, marvelous arts scene, and stunning lake views. Marquette is also known for its festivals, including the Waterfront Festival and the Orton Park Festival.

4. The Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood

This community is one of Madison's oldest neighborhoods, filled with enchanting Victorian-style homes and lined with towering trees. Ideally located, Tenney-Lapham is a walkable neighborhood just northeast of the Capitol, a few blocks away from Downtown, and adjacent to the hip and happening Willy Street. Here you'll find the serene Tenney Park plus a variety of eateries and unique shops.

5. Middleton Hills

For those who prefer a quieter, suburban feel while still being within a stone's throw of the action, Middleton Hills is perfect. This welcoming neighborhood features well-planned modern homes, quiet streets, two public parks, and excellent public schools. It's a short distance from the lively downtown Middleton which boasts an award-winning brewery, unique boutiques, and fantastic eateries.

In conclusion, Madison W.I is a dynamic city with a colorful blend of neighborhoods, each with its own distinct character and appeal. Whether you long for the urban hum of downtown, the offbeat pulse of Willy Street, or the quiet serenity of Middleton Hills - Madison has something to offer for everyone. Happy hunting as you prep to relocate to this fabulous city!

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Things to Do

Ready to dive into the charm offered by Madison, Wisconsin? This vibrant city, filled with a unique blend of modern metropolitan life and natural beauty, offers an abundance of exciting activities and memorable experiences. Whether you're a fresh-faced resident, or simply scouting Madison as your possible future home, below are seven top things (including two hidden gems!) to do in Madison.

1. Get Lost in the Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Madison's Olbrich Botanical Gardens are a 16-acre, award-winning landscape, blooming with beauty and tranquility. Wind yourself around an array of different gardens, feel the architectural grandeur from its Thai Pavilion, or investigate the butterfly-filled Bolz Conservatory. Picture perfect moments are present in every corner of these gardens, making it a delight for photography lovers.

2. Delve into History at the Wisconsin State Capitol

For those craving a dose of history and architecture, the Wisconsin State Capitol is a must-visit. Guided tours offer insights into the building's history and the state's legacies. The best part? You can actually touch its intricately carved marble figures - a rare privilege in most Capitol buildings.

3. Bike Around Lake Monona

Madison is famously bike-friendly, and circling Lake Monona provides unforgettable scenic vistas. Filling your lungs with fresh air, you'll pass Monona Terrace, enjoy a picnic at one of the several parks, and even get a shot at bird-watching!

4. Visit the National Mustard Museum

Curious and unknown to many, Middleton's National Mustard Museum, located in the outskirts of Madison, houses a staggering collection of mustard types - around 6,000! Beyond gazing at the jars, you're invited to sample some of the world's best and worst mustards. A unique, fun, free, and downright quirky destination indeed.

5. Soak up Live Music at the Memorial Union Terrace

During the warmer months, there's nothing better than lounging on the iconic sunburst chairs at the Memorial Union Terrace and catching some live music. Overlooking the stunning Lake Mendota, it's a laid-back spot to enjoy a serenade from local bands while sipping on craft beers or indulging in some Babcock Ice Cream.

6. Shop for Fresh Produce at Dane County Farmers' Market

As the largest producer-only farmers' market in the nation, visiting the Dane County Farmers' Market is a grand gastronomic affair. Grab your reusable bags and embark on a feast for your senses as you explore stalls chock-full with farm-fresh produce, tantalizing baked goods, and locally-made artisanal cheese.

7. Explore the Arboretum

Already known and loved by most residents, Madison's Arboretum, with its collection of restored ecosystems and rare plant species, is still worth a mention. It's an ideal place to jog or stroll along its miles of trails, while immersing in the tranquility of nature, no matter the season.

In conclusion, Madison, with its green spaces, lively music scene, rich history, and even eccentric charms like a mustard museum, has a substantial amount to offer. From the well-known, to the hidden, you're now armed with seven fantastic experiences to dig into. So, are you eager to start your Madison adventure now? Of course, you are. Welcome to Madison!

Things to do in Madison, WI?

Find Movers for Your Madison Relocation

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