Living in Madison

Madison is consistently rated one of the best places in the country to live and play. A vibrant, picturesque city with a population just over 250,000, Madison is the capital of Wisconsin and the home of the University of Wisconsin. While boasting many big city amenities, Madison is an easy city in which to live — commutes are short and the cost of living reasonable. It’s a great place to work, have fun, find friends who share your interests, and raise a family. Madison has a stable economy and plentiful employment opportunities in areas such as education, government, industry, finance, health care, and biotechnology. This diversity makes Madison much more than a college town.


(Photo by Jeff Miller / UW-Madison)

Madisonians are known for enjoying year-round outdoor recreational activities. The five lakes around which Madison is built are certainly a big draw and offer sailing, fishing, swimming, and boating opportunities.  Relaxing by the lakes is also a great way to wind down after a busy week, and Memorial Union has a beautiful terrace with outdoor dining and music. Madison received a Platinum designation by the League of American Bicyclists and ranks as one of the five best cities for biking in the United States. In fact, there are more bicycle trails here than in any other state in the nation. If you like camping or hiking, there are many state parks within an easy drive from Madison. Many residents also spend an autumn weekend enjoying the foliage, crunching tart apples, or tasting some fine wines in the Door County peninsula.

Dining & Entertainment

The restaurants in Madison offer an amazing variety — your palate will never get bored. From fine dining to casual cafés, there are exceptional dining choices for your every mood and every ethnic taste. Scattered among the downtown shops are scores of coffeehouses, bakeries and bookshops that provide a perfect, relaxing escape on days off. If you enjoy world-class theater, dance and concerts, you can stop by the Overture Center, a state-of-the-art performing arts complex in downtown Madison. On summer nights, you can also head up to the Capitol lawn to take in Concerts On the Square with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. Theater lovers can treat themselves to a play at the world-renowned American Players Theatre, located just outside Madison. Madison also has a lively local music scene, including the annual Isthmus Jazz Festival.


(Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

Shopping is excellent in Madison. The many downtown specialty shops sell everything from the latest outdoor gear to the coolest kitchen accessories. All summer, locals flood the Farmer’s Market to buy the freshest food and flowers. Whether you enjoy watching people or doing some serious shopping, State Street and downtown Madison offer a wide variety of eclectic shops and restaurants. East Towne, West Towne and Hilldale Malls offer a variety of popular stores.

For Families

(Photo by Reel Wave Media)

Madison is also a great place to raise a family. With tons of parks, the free Vilas Park Zoo, and a Children’s Museum, Madison offers something for all ages. The Madison Metropolitan School District offers many excellent, highly-rated public schools. Of course, the Dane County Farmer’s Market is a fun way to spend a Saturday morning from April through October.


(Photo by Bryce Richter / UW-Madison)

If you appreciate natural beauty, take a trip to the UW Arboretum, a 1,260-acre living plant museum filled with trees and plants from around the world. Jogging trails, grassy fields, and soothing Lake Wingra provide the perfect place for scenic exercise or outdoor relaxation. Another great nature spot is Olbrich Botanical Gardens. The gardens feature 16 acres of outdoor display gardens including the award-winning Rose Garden and Thai Pavilion and Garden. There is also the Bolz Conservatory, a glass pyramid filled with exotic plants, bright flowers, a rushing waterfall, fragrant orchids and free-flying birds. Overall, Madison has an astonishing 6,000 acres of parkland at 260 park sites. Many of the large City of Madison Parks are located along the lakes and provide excellent spots for roller-blading, hiking, canoeing, and picnics.


(Photo by Bryce Richter /UW–Madison)

No description of Madison would be complete without highlighting the electric atmosphere in Camp Randall on football Saturdays or at the Kohl Center when the basketball or hockey teams are in town. Badger athletics are second to none and there is something for everyone. If you enjoy professional sports, Wisconsin loves its Green Bay Packers, Milwaukee Brewers, and Milwaukee Bucks. Golf courses are plentiful in the Madison area, including the pristine UW-owned course, University Ridge. Dining, shopping, arts, education, and sports are only a fraction of what the Madison area has to offer.

There is so much to enjoy here – however, what people love most about Madison is the people who live here.