Key findings

  • Madison has a Livability Score of 75/100, which is considered excellent
  • Madison crime rates are 61% higher than the Wisconsin average
  • Cost of living in Madison is 13% higher than the Wisconsin average
  • Madison real estate prices are 30% higher than the Wisconsin average
  • Rental prices in Madison are 22% higher than the Wisconsin average

Best Places to Live in and Around Madison

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      Madison Real estate & Rental prices

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      Madison, WI

      Madison is a very interesting city that serves as the capital city for the state of Wisconsin and a place where foodies will think they have died and gone to culinary heaven. The city is nestled on a piece of land that runs between two lakes. This makes for a very picturesque setting for someone putting eyes on the city for the first time or the thousandth time. Madison is also home to the largest public university in the state. The Badgers are a respected university that is known for academic excellence and success on the football field.

      One of the things that people love most about Madison is the small town feel that it offers with big time amenities. Madison's population is over 250,000 people, but you will never feel like you are lost in the crowd when you call the city home. Home prices are relatively affordable when you consider that Madison is a state capital, and Radio Park, Eken Park, and Tenney-Lapham are all very charming neighborhoods that are good options for young professionals and those with families.

      Another aspect of life in Madison that the residents love is the fact that traffic is one of the furthest problems from anyone's mind. Those who are hoping to leave the car in the garage are in luck since Madison Metro offers a large and integrated transit system for the city and the surrounding suburbs. The service currently serves over 2,000 stops along the entire route. Cycling is also a popular option in Madison since the city is relatively compact and flat for the most part.

      The Olbrich Botanical Gardens are a place of peace and tranquility where working professionals and students like to go in order to relax and unwind. Tours of the State Capitol Building are always interesting since the guides seem to know all of the secrets that make the state function. The Henry Villas Zoo is a fun attraction for kids who can see their favorite animals up close and in-person. The University of Wisconsin has men's and women's basketball games during the winter, as well as hockey matches against some of the top collegiate teams in the country.

      American Family Insurance, the University of Wisconsin, and Alliant Energy are a few of the city's top employers. As mentioned, the city is known for its culinary scene and Graze, Heritage Tavern, and A Pig in a Fur Coat are just a few of the restaurants that locals recommend to all of their friends who visit from out of town. There is no better way to spend a warm afternoon in Madison strolling along the bike paths that wind in and out of the lake's park.

      Top Rated Schools in Madison

      Name Grades Students Proficiency
      Van Hise ElementaryPK - 541475%
      Hamilton Middle School6 - 885171%
      Randall Elementary3 - 538966%
      Memorial High9 - 121,92262%
      West High9 - 122,06261%
      Cesar Chavez ElementaryPK - 570660%
      Stephens ElementaryPK - 556458%
      Thoreau ElementaryPK - 546256%
      See all Madison schools

      Madison Reviews

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      Review Madison
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      Attractions0/10
      Community0/10
      Nightlife0/10
      Dining0/10
      Shopping0/10
      Awesome and Awful

      Attractions3/10
      Community5/10
      Nightlife3/10
      Dining8/10
      Shopping7/10
      My feelings about Madison are complicated. I grew up there and moved back, only to leave again. On one hand, it's a beautiful city nestled between decent sized lakes, centered around a capital square that boasts one of the best farmers markets in the nation. It's pretty hip town with some really great inner city neighborhoods. It's a great place to go to college to be certain.

      Things become less great from there, however. The city is strangely delusional in its sense of self. Ask anyone (white liberal) in Madison what it's like and they'll probably tell you, "it's a progressive, diverse and welcoming place". Madison is NOT diverse. These people must be moving from rural Wisconsin. There are few - if any - integrated neighborhoods... that aren't being gentrified. There is little to no home ownership among non-whites (particularly blacks). There is a sizable Asian population but they live in far removed apartment complexes tucked away in University Heights and on the far north side. The small but very vocal population of black folks have been pushed around the city at the whim of city leaders. From one apartment complex to another. Over policed, under educated... it's just a mess. The disparities between blacks and whites in terms of educational achievement and criminal charges are among the highest in the nation.

      The mayor has weaponized the police force against minority communities and homeless people to protect/save Madison's image as an affluent, college city. The amount of homeless people just wandering around is appalling considering the city's size. The mayor at one point cut funding for shelters and ordered the police to arrest any homeless person sleeping in doorways downtown. A new jail is being planned as I write this.

      Jobs also do not match the cost of living compared to most metros in the nation. Particularly in the Midwest.

      Having lived in other Midwest metros, on both coasts and now in the South, I can tell you that beyond the university and lakes, Madison has serious issues brewing under its facade. I didn't even touch on the people... cold and stand-offish.

      If you're a professional with high earning potential, are white, are solidly a right-of-center liberal, enjoy both water and snow activities... Madison could be for you.
      • 10 -4
      Madison is Awesome!

      Attractions10/10
      Community10/10
      Nightlife10/10
      Dining10/10
      Shopping10/10
      I have lived here for 16 years, and love this Midwest spot. Near Chicago, Minneapolis, but doesn't have that massive feel, although it is growing quickly. It offers many of the same amenities and some of the best eateries around. I have lived in several places, and would recommend this spot as one of the best!
      • 1 0
      If I have to live Midwest, I'll only live Madison

      Attractions8/10
      Community10/10
      Nightlife10/10
      Dining10/10
      Shopping8/10
      There is so much to acknowledge about this great, micro metropolis. I was born and raised in Wisconsin. I came from a split family and moved around a lot when I was younger but I always found my way back to Madison. As far as excitement is concerned, I hated growing up in Wisconsin. I spent most of my you and adolescence in the greater Madison area. I couldn't wait to leave. So I left! I lived in San Francisco for a number of years. When the city was too expensive, I packed what I could and came home, with a new found, adult appreciation for my home city. Madison is home to a vast, eclectic mix of personalities, communities and social scenes. I like to think of it as my own little island of misfit toys. Just as anywhere, there are pros and cons and which side they lie on will be personal to the I individual. Growing up here, I thought it was too small. I thought it was boring. I thought it was dull. When i came back as an adult, with the freedom to experience the city on my own terms, I quickly fell in love with Madison for the first time. Anyone who says there's a polite rudeness is probably taking plenty out of context. The people here are polite. Some of them are rude (as they will be anywhere you go) but it is a city with an unspoken expectation of courtesy and manners. It is a neighborly city and you'll quickly see what a small town it can really be. The city is still large enough, however, to keep a certain degree of separation from one another. There are innumerable bars and restaurants in the city, especially downtown. This creates a great (and most often locally owned and sourced) nightlife scene as well as a constant supply of service related employment. I received an excellent education, primary nd secondary. There are so many educational opportunities as well as community outreach. We are all about creating new networks nd close knit social circles within our communities and amongst them as well. The public transit is a little undependable in the suburbs s but if you're living in Madison proper, especially downtown, you're solid. Crime isn't a huge issue if you know where to go and where not to. Allied drive, eagle heights and some other neighborhoods are an issue but the greater part of the city is safe and peaceful. After leaving San Francisco, I personally have to say that rental/cost of living is not nearly as high as some might make out. I live in the upper half (one bed, one bath) of a home on Winnebago. I'm a 15 minute bus ride to the Capitol and my partner and I split a $700 rent monthly. Overall, Madison is great to visit and it's a wonderful city with lots of life and entertainment. It may be a bit boring for your tweens and teens, but I kept out of trouble and made my way. I am still not ready to commit any longevity here, bit not because I don't love it. I'd like to explore more and see what else is out there. That being said, Madison is a place I do imagine I will return to one day when I am ready to settle and raise my own. Children.
      • 2 0
      Worst place I have ever lived

      Attractions10/10
      Community1/10
      Nightlife1/10
      Dining1/10
      Shopping9/10
      This is probably the worst place I have lived in all of my life. Madison has some of the nicest, but also, some of the rudest, arrogant people!!! Also, the crime rate is high, and the cost of living is expensive, especially if they keep raising your rent every single time you renew your lease.If you are planning to move to the Madison area in the future, I would strongly recommend living in the suburbs (i.e., Sun Prairie, Verona, etc.), where things aren't so bad. Otherwise, inside the city limits, the people are rude, cost of living is expensive, and the atmosphere is extremely dirty (filthy).
      • 2 -4
      It's all in your head

      Attractions6/10
      Community5/10
      Nightlife8/10
      Dining8/10
      Shopping7/10
      I was born and raised in Madison, WI and I lived there for more than twenty years. Growing up, I was under the impression that I was lucky to live there in comparison to living most other places. Now I've lived in other cities in other states, and while Madison is by no means a bad place to be, it is not as superior as many of the locals seem to think it is. I once felt very nostalgic toward my hometown until I visited two years after having moved away. It didn't strike me as very welcoming. There is a "polite rudeness" you notice almost right away. I was once a local and I feel like an outsider now. It's a relatively small city, but it has it's own way swallowing you whole, especially if you don't really know anyone. I once had plans of returning home, but I changed my mind.
      • 1 0
      Living in the Frozen Tundra of Madison WI

      Attractions7/10
      Community7/10
      Nightlife9/10
      Dining9/10
      Shopping7/10
      I was born in Madison, WI and lived there well into my adult life. Madison is a great city, it does however, have its bad points as well, but overall it's a great place to raise a family. There are certain areas of the city you DO NOT want to live in such as Allied Drive, Simpson St, Kennedy Heights, and Eagle Heights. These neighborhoods are the worst in Madison for crime.

      Some of the best attractions are the Dane County Zoo, which has undergone many renovations and updated animal enclosures. It's a great FREE day out for the family. It is the only zoo in the state that still has free admission. Overture center is another great day out if you love architecture. There are quite a few buildings in Madison that have been designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. His home, Taliesin located in Spring Green is only a half an hours drive from Madison.

      If you're looking for live music Madison has plenty of clubs to choose from. Red Rock at the University of Madison campus has live music each weekend and in the cooler months they have an outdoor fire pit for the smokers to keep warm around. You can also find music at Union South on the University Campus. Some of the best kept secrets for shopping can be found on State Street on the University Campus. One word of caution if you are planning to drive on Campus be prepared to be frustrated. Construction is always going on and the roads are all one way going the opposite direction you want to be heading. Just remember each street is a square if you find yourself heading one way and needing to go the other. Take the first left and then left and you will be going the right way.
      • 2 0
      I love Madison!

      Attractions8/10
      Community10/10
      Nightlife8/10
      Dining8/10
      Shopping8/10
      I live by Hilldale mall in Madison, which is on the near west side. The area is safe and I'm 15-20 minutes from anywhere I'd want to get (including Middleton, downtown Madison, and Fitchburg). The farmer's market on the capitol square tends to get crowded, but there's lots of fresh local produce, meat, and bakery items for sale every Saturday during the summer. Madison has a big health culture. Many people get around via bike, we have a few co-ops that stock lots of natural food items, and there's quite a few vegetarians/vegans. But if you're not into any of that, nobody is going to force it on you. There's a lot of recreational opportunities because we have multiple lakes and many nice parks. We don't have any big water parks or theme parks, but Wisconsin Dells and Devil's Lake are within an hour drive. Wisconsin Dells is known for having Noah's Ark (huge water park) as well as other vacation-y things to do. Devil's Lake has some really cool hiking, as well as swimming and other activities. Downtown Madison has lots of loud college students, so I prefer to not live right downtown or on campus. One of my favorite things to do is stand on top of Monona Terrace and look over the water. Many people also gather at Memorial Union because there's another lookout of a lake, fresh ice cream, and often music. I'm not sure that we have anything super exciting if you're looking for somewhere to vacation, but I love living in Madison (besides the cold winters of course)!
      • 2 0
      Getting more ghetto by the minute

      Attractions6/10
      Community6/10
      Nightlife8/10
      Dining8/10
      Shopping7/10
      If you are looking for a place to live, stay away from here. Unless you plan on going to the University of Madison. Downtown Madison is a great stomping ground for college students if you don't mind all the homeless people. The public school system is horrible, there are no exciting shops or stores if you are in to shopping. The bars are okay, if you are 21. Older people could find a better place to retire. The lakes are dirty. Lastly, when people say "diverse" they mean you barely see any white people and to build on that you barely meet any person of any race that is gang related, doing drugs, selling drugs, and/or ignorant. This is coming from someone who has lived here 19 and whose parent/grandparents grew up here. Its a shame, Madison use to be beautiful. You'd be better off in the suburbs.
      • 0 -2
      Madison, Wisconsin -- A Gem Between the Lakes

      Attractions9/10
      Community9/10
      Nightlife10/10
      Dining10/10
      Shopping8/10
      I lived in Madison, Wisconsin for four years while getting my degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I quickly fell in love with this thriving city. There are many great aspects of Madison: the setting, the arts, the culture, the nightlife, and more.

      A perfect summer Saturday in Madison would start out with coffee and breakfast at a restaurant near the Capitol square. I would recommend shopping the Dane County Farmer's Market, which is very large and encircles the Capitol building. After the market, take Martin Luther King Jr. Drive down to the Monona Terrace. This is a very impressive convention center with great views of Lake Monona from the rooftop. Walk back toward the Capitol and down State Street. State street is the most vibrant street in the city. It is closed to all traffic other than buses and bicycles. There are many unique shops and restaurants in the 6-block long street. For lunch, I would recommend Ian's Pizza, which is on State Street and also on Frances Street. This is the BEST pizza by the slice I have ever eaten. They have tons of gourmet pizzas to choose from, and they try to source their ingredients locally. After eating and shopping, walk over to the Memorial Union on the campus. Enjoy a beer at Der Rathskeller and sit on the terrace, watching the boats on Lake Mendota. For a romantic meal, try Tutto Pasta on State Street. For a locally grown meal, try Harvest in the Capitol square. Finish the night off with a beer at the Essen Haus on Wilson Street east of the Capitol building. This German restaurant is lively, and has great decor. If you stay awhile, Madison offers great theater,arts and entertainment. Madison is truly a one-of-a-kind city situated on a beautiful isthmus.
      • 2 0
      Madison, Wisconsin - A Beautiful Town

      Attractions8/10
      Community10/10
      Nightlife8/10
      Dining8/10
      Shopping8/10
      Madison, Wisconsin is a great place to come on a vacation or as a place to live. The city of Madison is home to a dazzling array of different high quality restaurants. One of the best restaurants in Madison is Quiveys's Grove Restaurant on Nesbitt Road. This is a place that serves authentic food that is culturally popular with the people of Madison. The restaurant's claim to fame is that they make everything completely from scratch. People interested in enjoying an evening of fine dining should make a reservation to have dinner at the Edgewater Admiralty Room on Wisconsin Avenue. The Edgewater offers a fantastic view of Lake Mendota at sunset. A great wine bar in Madison is the Eno Vino Bar and Bistro Restaurant on 601 Junction Road. The amazing fact about this place is that they have over two-hundred and fifty varieties of wine.

      There are other Madison attractions throughout the city that are worth checking out as well. The Wisconsin Historical Museum is one of those attractions. Complete with an amazing prehistoric exhibit that everyone will enjoy.

      Madison is a beautiful city that is populated by fun-loving friendly people who keep the city clean and functioning well. People should give Madison a look as a vacation destination or place of relocation.
      • 2 0
      Reason for reporting
      Source: The Madison, WI data and statistics displayed above are derived from the 2016 United States Census Bureau American Community Survey (ACS).