Madison, WI is possibly the best city in America. It might also be America’s best kept secret. If you asked most people to name the most desirable locations in the US, you’d be hard pressed to find a whole lot who’d readily name Wisconsin as a prime destination. And yet Madison pulls it off. It’s been topping lists for best cities for the past five years. It’s long since been in the top five on Livability, but this year finally took the no. 1 spot and for good reason. If that sounds difficult to believe, it won’t after you discover these 5 factors why Madison is the best place to be.
Recession Proof Economy
The Great Recession really did a number of things. Unemployment rose to over 10 percent. The national deficit exploded. Housing prices plummeted. It wasn’t the best of times. This was true all across the country, but there was one place where it wasn’t: Madison, Wisconsin. The City of Four Lakes took on a brunt of the recession, and shrugged it off. Unemployment only rose to 3.5%, and the housing market remained stable. Madison was already in the midst of an economic boom when the recession hit, and it had no intentions of slowing down.
Thanks in large part to programs spearheaded by the University of Wisconsin in Madison to create practical applications for field leading R & D in the high tech and biotech fields, the city was able to create an industry of essential jobs and careers that poured businesses and money into the city. During the recession, Madison was 1st in the nation for job growth. Today, a highly educated and trained work force continues to attract employment opportunities. Madison has the highest concentration of PHDs of any city in the U.S.
Madison has been named the best city to start a small business by CNNMoney which is much more than an accolade. A strong economy and a much lower cost of living compared to nearby cities like Chicago make business ownership in Madison much more approachable and potentially much more lucrative. Out of over 53,544 businesses in Madison have fewer than 10 employees. Madison is start-up heaven.
Tuned in, Trendy, and Active
Residents in Madison don’t want for things to do. Its renowned State Street which runs from the stunning capital building to the Wisconsin University campus, is the envy of mayors everywhere. The pedestrian roadway is lined with parks, pubs, restaurants, and shops; more than 200 of them to be exact. It offers the perfect balance of picturesque and fun. The restaurants alone make it worth the trip. Madison is a foodie city, and has consistently been in the top five for best food on Livability’s rankings.
When Madisonians aren’t chowing down on good eats, they’re out and about enjoying the incredible amount of sights and events that the city has to offer. Downtown regularly plays host to a multitude of popular festivals including the Great Taste of Midwest craft beer festivals which is the second longest running of its type. Tickets typically sell out within an hour of going on sale. Madison also prides itself on providing activities that are often in partnership with civic, business, and private contributions. The city is famous for its annual mega block party, for example, which draws tens of thousands from surrounding areas. Other events include free weekly outdoor evening concerts by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra in the summer on the Capitol Lawn as well as regular rooftop shows nearby.
Madison has its roots set firmly in being a refuge for the great outdoors, and the city goes through great lengths to ensure every citizen has ample opportunities to enjoy the beauty that nature has to offer. Not only is there an abundance of green spaces in Madison, but there happens to be more than any other city per capita. There are 12.7 parks per 10,000 residents, higher than any other city in the U.S. Madison has more than 250 parks, 13 beaches, and 4 golf courses, not to mention 2 glacial lakes that provide an abundance of recreational activities.
Cyclists have no trouble getting around in Madison which has one of the largest dedicated bike lane networks in the nation. Biking is so convenient and popular that there are more bicycles than cars within the city. Madison is also the home of the Olbrich Botanical Gardens, a stunning vista, and the Bolz Conservatory greenhouse the home of over 800 tropical and subtropical plants that fills with butterflies from July to August. Madison also has a free zoo.
Come One and All, Young and Old
Madison is a hot spot for families, professionals, and retirees alike. For younger millennials, the University of Wisconsin is a top school in the Midwest, and more than enough of a reason to call Madison home, but a solid economy and job opportunities are the reasons to stay. So is a low cost of living and competitive housing market which makes it much easier to snag that first time apartment. For families, the low crime rate and top notch public schools are what makes the strong argument. Meanwhile, retirees enjoy Madison for its laid back, approachable atmosphere and community strength. A lot of cities may make the claim, but there’s truly something for everyone in Madison, Wisconsin, and no shortage of things to love.