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What Living in Portage WI Is Like | Moving to Portage Wisconsin Guide
Brandon Miller
Brandon Miller

What Living in Portage WI Is Like 🌈🌳 | Moving to Portage Wisconsin Guide

The city of Portage is located in and is the county seat of Columbia County, Wisconsin. This city is separate from Portage County, which is located 70 miles north of the city of Portage. Portage, Wisconsin, is known for being a historic overland portage for Native American and European settlers. Due to Portage, WI’s positioning near the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers, its land made for an ideal path for its early inhabitants.

Taking the boats out of the water and cutting through on the ground was the shortest and safest option for the city’s bypassers. Portage, Wisconsin, was utilized by the Native American and early European settlers for many years before it was officially settled in 1851; it has since developed into a prosperous city with many attractive attributes.

Before moving to Portage, here are some fun facts about this great city! Its motto is “Where the North Begins,” and it was named for being a portage between the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers. Portage is a great place to live; it has a rich history and boasts a good economy, a low cost of living, and proximity to Madison, WI!

Where Is Portage WI?

Portage, Wisconsin, is located in Columbia County, which is north of Madison; it’s part of the Madison Metropolitan Statistical Area. Pardeeville, Dekorra, Anacker, and Lewiston border the city, and it's only 34.8 miles from Portage, WI, to Madison, WI. The city is mostly developed but has hints of natural scenery; its most picturesque sights are the Wisconsin and Fox Rivers, which run through the south of the city.

The city of Portage has various public transportation options, including a cab service, airport transportation, and Amtrack. Portage cab can help transport you to the Megabus, which is the bus transportation system serving the residents. Megabus can transport you around Portage and surrounding cities; you can book your ride on their website.

Portage Population & Demographics

The population of Portage, WI, is 10,581, with a 3.7 population decrease from 2010 to 2020; it has the highest population in its county! Its racial and ethnic composition are 87.5% White (84.5% White non-Hispanic), 7.1% Hispanic or Latino, 4.9% Black or African American, 4.3% two or more races, 0.7% Asian, and 0.4% American Indian and Native Alaska.

Portage has the 9th highest median household income in its county ($56,303) and the 7th highest median age (36.4 years old.)

Additional Portage demographics:

  • Sex ratio: 53 males to 47 females
  • Educational attainment: 91.6% have high school diplomas or higher, and 15.4% have bachelor's degrees or higher
  • Foreign-born population: 4%
  • Veteran population: 7.1%

Notable people from Portage:

FBI crime rate statistics are not available for Portage, but there are crime rate statistics for Madison, WI, which is only a short drive from Portage.

The Madison, WI, overall crime rate is 3,099 per 100k people, which is 71.3% higher than the state (1,809 per 100k people) and 32.1% higher than the country (2,346 per 100k people.)

Here are additional crime rate statistics for Madison, Wisconsin:

  • Madison's violent crime rate: 320 per 100k people (1.1% lower than the state and 17.5% lower than the county)
  • Wisconsin violent crime rate: 323 per 100k people
  • US violent crime rate: 388 per 100k people
  • Madison property crime rate: 2,779 per 100k people
  • Wisconsin property crime rate: 1,486 per 100k people
  • US property crime rate: 1958 per 100k people

Although Madison has a higher overall and property crime rate than the state and nation, its violent crime rate is lower than Wisconsin and the country, meaning it's still a very safe place to live! Even if an area or city has a higher overall crime rate, that’s not to say there aren’t plenty of nice areas to live in; often, larger cities have a high crime rate, whereas their suburbs can have lower crime rates.

Like Madison, you can expect a low violent crime rate in Portage, with some areas having higher property crime rates. 

The Portage, WI, Police Department does a fantastic job protecting its citizens! Although crime may appear high in this area, these figures aren’t always the most reliable; there are many quiet, safe neighborhoods in Portage.

Cost of Living in Portage

Portage, WI, boasts a low Cost of Living Index (COLI) of 87.7, which is 12.3% lower than the average US city. The housing market in Portage is exceptionally affordable, with a cost of housing index of 65.3, which is 37.4% lower than the average US city. According to the Economic Policy Institute, a family of four should earn $84,120 when living in Portage or anywhere else in Columbia County.

Typical Portage living expenses will be: 

  • Inexpensive restaurant meal: $15
  • Gallon of milk $3.43
  • Dozen eggs: $6.00
  • Loaf of white bread: $3.47
  • Pound of chicken filets: $6.53
  • Average Portage utilities per month: $347 (per Doxo)

Source: Numbeo; these figures are for Madison, WI, but you can expect similar prices when living in Portage.

Are you looking for homes for sale in Portage, WI? Here is a breakdown of the Portage real estate market and what you should expect when house hunting! According to RedFin, the Portage median sale price is $220,00, which is well below the US average of $416,100. The average price per square foot here is $144 (down 5.6% since 2022). As for the rental market here, RentCafe says the average monthly rent in Madison, WI is $1,567 for an 840 square foot rental, whereas, according to Zumper, the average Portage, WI rental price is $823 for a one bedroom; Portage is a great Madison suburb to consider renting in!

Portage WI Weather & Climate

Portage, Wisconsin, has a Koppen classification of humid continental climate (Dfa)---this is best explained as cold, windy, and snowy winters with warm and wet summers. Portage sees an annual snowfall of 40 inches and an annual rainfall of 36 inches. The temperature here varies drastically; it can be as cold as 13 degrees Fahrenheit or as hot as 80 degrees Fahrenheit. 

In the warm season (May to September), the average high is 72 degrees; in the cold season (November to March), the average low is 38 degrees. Although Portage can get very cold, there are an average of 185 sunny days yearly! The best time to visit Portage, WI, is mid-June to early September; this way, you can enjoy all the warm-weather activities (like kayaking, tubing, and fishing) before the frigid winter keeps you indoors!

Things to Do in Portage WI

There are tons of things to do in Portage, WI! Not only are there unique places to shop—like The Mercantile and The Portage Furniture Store—but there are plenty of other activities, too. And if you try everything on this list, remember that Downtown Portage, WI, is a great place to walk around, shop, or grab a bite!

Pauquette Park

Pauquette Park is located off the Wisconsin River and is one of the best parks in Portage, WI! This beloved family-friendly spot has a pond, playground, and picnic area.

800 W Conant St, Portage, WI 53901, (608) 742-7697

Portage Center For the Arts

Portage Center For the Arts is a unique organization offering events like student recitals, concerts, and much more! You can browse their gallery with artwork, handmade quilts, and eclectic jewelry pieces.

301 E Cook St, Portage, WI 53901, (608) 742-5655

Portage Historical Society Museum At the Portage

The Portage Historical Society Museum is a local museum offering an insight into the city’s past; the breathtaking displays will transport you back in time!

804 MacFarlane Rd, Portage, WI 53901, (608) 742-6682

Additional Attractions in Portage WI

The Portage Parks and Rec Department maintains 17 parks in the city limits, one boat landing, a community pool, a dog park, and much more! The city of Portage has beautiful parks and numerous events each month—you can keep track of what is going on here by keeping an eye on the special events calendar!

Portage Restaurants

Whether you’re looking for bars in Portage, WI, or the best place to eat, we’ve got you covered!

B&B Hitching Post

Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, B&B Hitch Post serves up traditional American Cuisine like omelets, chicken wings, homemade pies, and more. Try one of the top restaurants in Portage, WI, B&B Hitching Post!

2503 W Wisconsin St, Portage, WI 53901, (608) 742-8208

Neil's Wine House

Neil's Wine House is one of the best bars in Portage, WI; their drinks are crafted to perfection, service is impeccable, and dishes are decadent. Noteworthy menu items include chicken, bacon, ranch wrap, and mushroom and goat cheese quesadillas.

235 W Pleasant St, Portage, WI 53901, (608) 617-8463

La Tolteca Authentic Mexican Cuisine

If you’re looking for a Portage Mexican restaurant, La Tolteca is the place to be! The ambiance is exciting, and the dishes are authentic—what more could you need? As one of the most-reviewed restaurants in the city, the chimichangas and fajitas are the two most recommended dishes.

2756 New Pinery Rd, Portage, WI 53901, (608) 745-6776

Portage WI Jobs

Portage isn’t just an affordable place to live; it also provides a healthy economy! The city is projected to see a 36.1% future job growth increase by 2033 and has an unemployment rate that’s 1.4% below the US average. Thanks to its recent economic development, Portage was on the list of 50 semi-finalists in Frontier America's Best Communities Award! The city’s economy employs over 5,000 people.

There are a handful of noteworthy businesses in Portage, WI, including (but not limited to) Access Family Dental Care, Centerline Machining & Fabrication LLC., and Triton Industries Inc. The largest industries in the city are manufacturing, health care, and retail trade, and the leading employers here are Penda Holdings Inc., HTSE, and Northwoods Inc. Of WI.

Before moving to Portage, knowing what people earn here versus your current city/state is important. Here’s what to expect to earn when living in Portage:

The highest-paid industries are transportation and warehousing ($65,234) and finance and insurance ($51,125.) 18.9% of residents earn between $100,000 and $150,000, and 14.8% earn between $75,000 and $100,000.

There are many jobs in Portage, WI, to choose from; whether you’re in the digital marketing field or the healthcare industry, Portage's economy can accommodate you! If you prefer working for a government entity, many Portage city jobs are available, too! Overall, plenty of Portage jobs are available, and we’re confident you’ll find the one perfect for you and your family.

Portage Schools

Before moving to Portage, consider the school district and what it offers! The city is part of the Portage Community School District; the district has five elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school. Portage’s school district offers student services like emotional support counseling, school nurse and health services, and more! They even work directly with Hope House—a domestic and sexual violence prevention organization—to ensure that students always have a place to go or a person to talk to regardless of their circumstances.

A few schools within Portage are Wayne E. Bartels Middle School, Portage High School, and Lewiston Elementary School. Portage is also located near two notable colleges—the University of Wisconsin System and Edgewood College are less than 50 miles away! And if you ever need a relaxed environment to study, read a book, or take your kiddos to enjoy group storytime, the Portage Public Library is a wonderful option.

Portage Statistics & Information

  • County: Columbia County
  • Portage WI area: 9.71 mi²
  • Portage WI zip code: 53901
  • Portage WI area code: 608
  • Portage WI elevation: 794′
  • Portage WI time zone: Central Daylight Time
  • Closest airport to Portage: Dane County Regional Airport is 33.8 miles from Portage

Map of Portage

Explore more things to do in Portage with this map of the city!

As you can see, Portage is a great place to live! It’s in a safe area, its cost of living is affordable, and there are plenty of activities and things to do! If you’ve decided that moving to Portage is your next step, contact Dairyland Moving & Storage at 608-856-6683; we have trusted movers in Portage to handle your upcoming relocation!

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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