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Moving to Madison WI
Brandon Miller
Brandon Miller

Is Living in Madison WI Right for You? 😍 | Moving to Madison Wisconsin Ultimate Guide

Always wanted to live in a bustling Midwestern city with friendly residents and natural beauty? You should consider moving to Madison. Madison is the capital city of Wisconsin and the second largest in the state by population.

The city's modern history began in 1829 when a former federal judge named James Duane Doty purchased 1,000 acres of land on the isthmus between Lakes Mendota and Monona with the intention of creating a city. Doty named the city after the fourth US president, James Madison, and many of the streets are named after other signers of the Constitution. It was initially incorporated as a village in 1846 and then as a city in 1856.

Today, Madison is known for its Midwestern charm, craft beer, and progressive politics. Madison is a good place to live for families and young professionals seeking affordable living and outdoor adventure. Here is the complete guide to living in Madison, WI.

Where Is Madison?

Madison is in the heart of Dane County in South-Central Wisconsin. The City of Four Lakes is Madison's nickname because it's on the shores of four bodies of water: Lakes Mendota, Monona, Wingra, and Waubesa. It has more parks and playgrounds per capita than all the top 100 largest cities in the US, making it a popular destination for cyclists and outdoor enthusiasts. The city of Madison also surrounds the entire city of Monona, as well as the villages of Maple Bluff and Shorewood Hills. It shares borders with the suburban cities of Sun Prairie, Middleton, and Fitchburg, as well as the village of McFarland.

Proximity to Cities Near Madison

Madison Information

  • Madison county: Dane County
  • Madison Area: 101 square miles
  • Madison zip code: 53562 - 53726
  • Madison WI area code: 608
  • Madison elevation: 873 feet
  • Madison time zone: Central Standard Time (UTC-6)
  • The closest airport to Madison: The Dane County Regional Airport (MSN) is about 5 miles from downtown Madison.

Madison Population and Demographics

The Madison population is 269,840, according to the 2020 census. However, the total population of the entire Madison, Wisconsin metro area is 680,796. The population of Madison, Wisconsin, has steadily increased over the past few decades and rose by 14.5% compared to 2010. Although relatively spacious for a major metropolis, it still has an urban character and the Madison, WI population density is 3338.6 residents per square mile.

Madison is a young, vibrant city full of life and culture. The median age is 32.2, which is 20% lower than the Wisconsin median. One-quarter of residents living in Madison are in their 20's, and 71% are between 18 and 65. The racial and ethnic breakdown is 74.6% white (71.5% non-Hispanic), 7.8% Hispanic or Latino, 7.3% Black or African American, 8.4% Asian and 7.8% two or more races. Countless famous residents, including famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright and painter Georgia O'Keeffe, have enjoyed the benefits of living in Madison, WI.

Other Madison Demographics 

  • Madison, WI household income: $73,647, 3.6% higher than the statewide median
  • The Madison population is exactly 50% male and 50% female.
  • The Madison WI population is highly educated, and 97.5% of residents have a high school diploma, while 60.1% have a bachelor's degree or higher.
  • The foreign-born population is 10.5%

About 27% of Madison residents have relocated in the past year, which is more than double the statewide average. So, if you plan on moving to Madison, you're in good company.

Madison Public Transportation

Several major thoroughfares serve the city of Madison. I-39, I-90, and I-94 serve the east side of the city, connecting Madison to nearby cities like Janesville, Milwaukee, and Wausau. US Highway 151 passes through downtown and serves the city's northeastern quadrant. The south and western parts of the city are served by US 12, a 6 to 8-lane freeway known as the Beltline, which runs from the suburb of Middleton to the village of Cambridge.

Moving to Madison also offers a robust public transportation system. Metro Transit operates a bus service throughout the city of Madison and the surrounding suburbs of Middleton, Fitchburg, Maple Bluff, Shorewood Hills, Sun Prairie, Verona, and McFarland. It also serves the University of Wisconsin-Madison Campus and some off-campus housing. The system features 154 fixed bus routes and 27 paratransit vehicles and serves over 8 million passengers annually.

It's also among the top cities in the US for cycling, and about 6% of residents living in Madison bike to work. Madison is served by the Dade County Regional Airport, which is within the city limits and accommodates about 2.2 million passengers annually.

Cost of Living in Madison

The cost of living in Madison, WI, is reasonable for all the benefits residents enjoy. The cost of living index (COLI) is a great way to understand the affordability of an area. It can be used to compare the Madison cost of living or any other major city to the rest of the United States, which is represented by 100.

The COLI for the Madison metro area is 106. That indicates Madison, WI's cost of living is 6% higher than the national average. According to the Family Budget Calculator created by the Economic Policy Institute, a family of four with two adults and two children would need to earn $91,895 to afford the average cost of living in Madison, WI. Meanwhile, the MIT living wage calculator indicates that a single adult in the same family would need to make about $38.81 to afford to live comfortably.

Typical Madison living expenses

  • Meal at an inexpensive restaurant: $15.00
  • 12 oz bottle of water: $2.18
  • 1 regular cappuccino: $4.81
  • 1 gallon of milk: $3.35
  • 1 dozen fresh eggs: $3.23
  • 1 loaf of fresh white bread: $3.43
  • 1 lb of chicken filets: $6.72
  • 1 gallon of gasoline: $3.49
  • Average Madison, WI monthly utility bill: $219


Source: Numbeo 

Before moving to Madison, WI you'll want to consider the taxes. Here is a breakdown of the different taxes you will pay while living in Madison, WI.

Sales Tax in Madison

The Madison sales tax rate is 5.50%, which includes a 5% Wisconsin tax and a 0.5% Dane County tax.

Income Tax in Madison

Wisconsin individual income tax rates range from 3.50% to 7.65%, depending on your income and marital status. Below is a table with the different tax rates for single and married couples.

Wisconsin income tax rates

Property Tax in Madison

Madison property taxes are determined by multiplying the applicable tax rate (also known as the mill rate or millage) by the value of the property minus any tax credits. The local tax authorities determine the tax rate by dividing the total property tax levy by the market value of all taxable property in the county. The value of your individual property is then multiplied by the tax rate to determine your annual property tax bill.

Here is an example:

  • Total tax levy: $650 million
  • Total taxable property: $25 billion

Tax rate = 650,000,000 / 25,000,000,000 = 0.26

  • Tax rate = 2.6%
  • Property value = $200,000

Property tax bill = $200,000 x 0.026 = $5200

Your gross Madison property tax bill would be $ 5,200 in this scenario. However, it could be reduced if you qualify for any tax credits. You can find a full list of the 2023 Mill Rates for Dane County Municipalities here.

The Madison real estate market is also reasonable for a large city. Residents planning on moving to Madison will find a range of options at their disposal, including single-family homes, townhome communities, large multifamily apartment buildings, luxury condos, and more. Below is a more in-depth look at the Madison housing market.

Madison Real Estate | Average Rent and Home Prices

Redfin indicates that the median price of homes for sale in Madison, WI is $400,000, which is 2.1% lower than the median in the rest of the country. The median price per square foot of Madison WI real estate is $225.

However, renters considering moving to Madison, WI will also find plenty of options. About 54% of the housing stock is rented out compared to 46% that's owner-occupied. Rentcafe shows that the average rent in Madison is $1622, which is 4.8% lower than the national average. Rent in Madison, WI, starts around $910 for a studio but goes up to $4600 for 3+ bedrooms.

The ATTOM Rental affordability report shows that it's cheaper to rent in Madison than it is to buy a home. Meanwhile, the Out of Reach Report indicates that you would need to earn anywhere from $25.00 to $31.00 per hour to afford the average rent in Madison, WI, depending on the neighborhood. The ATTOM Property Tax Analysis Report shows that the average property tax bill in Madison is $6,128 at an effective rate of 1.53%.

Madison Neighborhoods | Where to Live in Madison

Still, wondering where to live in Madison, WI? Luckily there are many fantastic neighborhoods in Madison W, that offer low crime, great schools, and affordable homes. The best places to live in Madison tend to be clustered around Lake Wingra. However, you'll also find plenty of great neighborhoods in the suburbs as well. Here are a few of the best neighborhoods in Madison.

Dudgeon Monroe | A Young and Affluent Madison Neighborhood

Dudgeon Monroe is a community in the heart of the city and one of the best Madison neighborhoods for young adults and students due to its close proximity to UW-Madison. With a crime rate that is 30% lower than the national average, Dudgeon Monroe is also one of the safest neighborhoods in Madison, WI.

Maple Prairie | One of the Best Madison WI Neighborhoods for Families

Maple Prairie is a hip neighborhood in southwest Madison that offers modern homes on peaceful residential streets and close proximity to the popular Maple-Prairie Park.

University Hill-Farms | A Quiet Madison Neighborhood with a Rich History

Located on the city's west side, University Hill Farms is known for its mid-century modern homes, its public parks, and its family-friendly environment. It also features a historic district with an intact planned community created as an experiment by the University's College of Agriculture.

Madison WI Climate & Weather

Madison has a humid continental climate according to the Koppen classification system. That indicates warm, wet summers and cold, snowy winters. The temperatures usually range from about 13°F to 82°F, although it can get as cold as -7°F in the winter and up to 90°F in the summer. The ideal time to visit someone living in Madison is from June to September. Pack an umbrella and snow boots if you plan on moving to Madison because the city averages 36 inches of rain and 42 inches of snow yearly.

Madison Restaurants

Residents can enjoy a wide range of amazing Madison restaurants offering everything from Asian cuisine to soul food. Here are a few of the best places to eat in Madison, WI.

Marigold Kitchen

Marigold Kitchen is one of the most iconic restaurants in Madison and offers creative breakfast and lunch fare in a comfortable setting.

118 S Pinckney St, Madison, WI 53703 (608) 283-9758

The Globe

The Globe is an Asian fusion eatery and one of the best restaurants in Madison, WI, if you're hungry for innovative menu items like teriyaki tacos and cajun jambalaya.

309 N Henry St, Madison, WI 53703 (608) 640-4435

Marie's Soul Food 

Marie's is hands down the best restaurant in Madison for soul food with Southern classics like collard greens and slow-cooked ribs.

1637 Monroe St, Madison, WI 53711 (608) 405-5729

Things to Do in Madison

Living in Madison offers something for everyone, from parks and botanical gardens to theaters and live music venues to world-class museums. Here is a list of fun things to do in Madison, WI.

Top Madison Attractions

  • Wisconsin State Capitol: An iconic fixture in downtown Madison, the State Capitol is a must-see for history buffs and features regular tours of the building that was constructed in 1917.
  • Camp Randall Stadium: An indoor stadium on the UW-Madison Campus that hosts games played by the Badgers college football team.
  • University of Wisconsin Madison Memorial Union: A mixed-use facility on the UW-Madison Campus that makes a fun thing to do in Madison, WI, for both students and locals with an outdoor terrace and regular events.

The Globe

The Globe is an Asian fusion eatery and one of the best restaurants in Madison, WI, if you're hungry for innovative menu items like teriyaki tacos and cajun jambalaya.

309 N Henry St, Madison, WI 53703 (608) 640-4435

Marie's Soul Food 

Marie's is hands down the best restaurant in Madison for soul food with Southern classics like collard greens and slow-cooked ribs.

1637 Monroe St, Madison, WI 53711 (608) 405-5729

Things to Do in Madison

Living in Madison offers something for everyone, from parks and botanical gardens to theaters and live music venues to world-class museums. Here is a list of fun things to do in Madison, WI.

Top Madison Attractions

  • Wisconsin State Capitol: An iconic fixture in downtown Madison, the State Capitol is a must-see for history buffs and features regular tours of the building that was constructed in 1917.
  • Camp Randall Stadium: An indoor stadium on the UW-Madison Campus that hosts games played by the Badgers college football team.

University of Wisconsin Madison Memorial Union: A mixed-use facility on the UW-Madison Campus that makes a fun thing to do in Madison, WI, for both students and locals with an outdoor terrace and regular events.

  • State Street: Located in the heart of downtown, State Street is full of popular shops, boutiques, bars, restaurants, and the weekly Dane County Farmers Market.
  • Henry Vilas Zoo: One of the best things to do in Madison with kids, the Henry Vilas Zoo is home to over 650 species of exotic animals.
  • Taliesin Preservation: This 800-acre estate was the home and studio of famed architect Frank-Lloyd Wright and one of the best things to do in Madison for budding architects.
  • Monona Terrace: Frank Lloyd Wright fans should also check out Monona Terrace, a lakeside convention center for popular Madison WI attractions built by the architect.

Madison Entertainment & Arts

  • Overture Center for the Arts: With seven performance spaces and five galleries, the Overture is one of the best Madison attractions if you're interested in theater and contemporary art.
  • Madison Symphony Orchestra: The Symphony Orchestra is one of the best things to do in Madison, WI, for music lovers, with regular performances from world-famous musicians.
  • Orpheum Theater: A live-performance venue and musical theater housed in an old movie house from the 1920s.
  • Atlas Improv Company: The Atlas Improv company is a fun thing to do in Madison for fans of stand-up comedy, with weekly performances from some of the best comedians in the city.

Madison Museums

  • Madison Children's Museum: The Children's Museum is one of the best things to do in Madison, WI, with kids and features exhibits on science, art, history, and culture.
  • Madison Museum of Contemporary Art: A free modern art museum in downtown Madison showcasing works from some of the world’s top painters, photographers, and visual artists.

  • Wisconsin Historical Museum: Located on Capital Square, the Wisconsin Historical Museum features exhibits that document the state's history.
  • Chazen Museum of Art: A free museum on the UW-Madison Campus showcasing a collection of over 20,000 works from acclaimed artists.

Madison Parks and Outdoors

  • James Madison Park: A 12.6-acre waterfront park in downtown Madison featuring walking trails, basketball courts, playgrounds, and more.
  • Olbrich Botanical Gardens: One of the best things to do in Madison if you're interested in plants, the 16-acre park Olbrich Botanical Garden features over 550 different species of plants.
  • University of Wisconsin Botany Garden and Greenhouse: Plant lovers should also check out the Wisconsin Botany Garden and Greenhouse, a teaching and research garden with over 500 species.
  • Tenney Park: A lush, 37-acre lakeside park with a playground, tennis courts, and a boat launch.

Shopping in Madison

  • Essex Square Shopping Center: A large, enclosed shopping complex that is home to popular shops like Half Price Books.
  • Hilldale Shopping Center: An open-air shopping center featuring a department store, upscale boutiques, popular restaurants, and a movie theater.
  • West Town Mall: A local shopping mall with a mix of local businesses and national chains, plus a food court.

Map of Madison Things to Do

Sports

The only pro-sports team in Madison is the Forward Madison FC Soccer Team, which competes in the USL League 1. It's also home to the UW-Madison Badgers, who play at Camp Randall Stadium.

Popular pro sports teams in nearby cities include:

  • Green Bay Packers: NFL
  • Milwaukee Bucks: NBA
  • Milwaukee Brewers: MLB

Madison Crime Rate

Madison is safe as far as big cities go. However, it suffers from a high rate of property crime. Here is a breakdown of the Madison, WI crime rate.

Crimes per 100k residents % difference from the statewide average % difference from the national average
Total Crime 3,099 71.3% higher 32.1% higher
Violent Crime 320 1.1% lower 17.5% lower
Murder Rate 4 24.5% lower 38.9% lover
Property Crime 2,779 87% higher 41.9% higher

While the overall Madison crime rate is higher, the violent crime and murder rates are significantly lower than the rest of the US. So, plan on locking your door if you're thinking of moving to Madison, WI, but otherwise, you'll be fine. For context, here is how crime in Madison, WI compares to other nearby cities:

  • Milwaukee: 4,325 per 100k residents, 84% higher than the country
  • Green Bay: 2056 crimes per 100k, 12.4% higher than the national average
  • Chicago: 1,705 crimes per 100k residents, 27.3% lower than the US
  • Minneapolis: 5,713 crimes per 100,000 residents, 143% higher than the US

The Madison Police Department handles crime in the city with the assistance of 617 law enforcement employees, including 505 officers and 112 civilians.

Economy and Jobs in Madison

Moving to Madison offers plenty of exciting opportunities in a diverse range of fields. As the state capital, local and state governments are among the largest industries. However, residents can also find Madison jobs in exciting fields like healthcare, bioscience, agriculture, advanced manufacturing, and technology.

Some of the best companies to work for in Madison, WI include:

Epic Systems is one of the city's largest employers, along with UW-Madison and its Hospitals and Clinics. Other top Madison software companies include Broadjam, ZenDesk, and Full Compass Systems. The city's educational institutions and embrace of high-tech companies have created many innovative Madison, WI jobs and also made the city less susceptible to recession than other parts of Wisconsin.

According to Payscale, the average salary in Madison, WI, is $73,000 per year. Residents will find plenty of stable state of Wisconsin and the city of Madison, WA jobs. Employment seekers will also find great private sector jobs in Madiso, ranging from psychotherapist to library assistant.

Healthcare

Madison is a major healthcare center, so you'll have plenty of hospitals and clinics nearby. UW Health University Hospital is the top medical facility in the city and ranks nationally for three adult specialties. It specializes in transplant medicine, oncology, digestive disorders, and endocrinology. SSM Health Saint Mary's Hospital Madison, Meriter Hospital, and American Family Children's Hospital are other highly respected facilities in Madison. The VA Medical Center also specializes in working with veterans.

Madison Schools

The Madison school district is among the best in the state of Wisconsin. The Madison Metropolitan School District serves students in the city limits as well as the nearby cities and suburbs of Fitchburg, Shorewood Hills, Maple Bluff, Blooming Grove, and Burke. The Madison, WI school district encompasses 52 institutions, including:

  • 32 elementary schools in Madison, WI
  • 12 middle schools in Madison, WI
  • 4 high schools in Madison, WI
  • 2 alternative schools in Madison, WI

Shorewood Hills, Randall, and Van Hise are generally considered the best elementary schools in Madison. West High School is regarded as the best high school in Madison WI, and ranks #934 nationally. Although, Vel Phillips Memorial is also one of the top Madison high schools and ranks #25 in the state.

Residents will find plenty of private schools in Madison, including the St. Dennis School and St. Ambrose Academy. Besides the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the city is also home to Edgewood College and Madison Area Technical College. The Madison Public Library is open to any residents living in Madison.

Madison Utilities & DMV Change of Address

Before moving to Madison, make sure to update your utilities and change your address with the DMV.

The top utility providers in the city are:

Within ten days of your move, you'll also need to contact the Wisconsin DMV to report a change of address.

You can either:

The Wisconsin DMV also has instructions on how to apply for a driver's license in Madison if you need one.

Ready to relocate to this bustling Midwestern city? Count on the best movers in Madison at Dairyland Moving and Storage to make your next mover simple and stress-free. Call (608) 856-6683 today for a free moving quote.

Brandon Miller
Brandon Miller
Brandon Miller is the owner of Dairyland Moving & Storage, a moving company dedicated to being responsive, friendly, and reliable, providing our customers with more than just an efficient relocation, but also a stress-free, positive experience.
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