Madison, Wisconsin

Berkeley Of The Midwest

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What's it like to live in Madison?

What's living in Madison, WI like?

I moved from Houston 5 years ago. I miss the food really bad and that’s my biggest complaint. The winters are terrible and long but love summers here and love that you can find greenery all over. Houston was all concrete (I lived downtown and then by the galleria). The traffic is nonexistent compared to Houston. There are a lot of community minded things to do but not a ton of big artists if you’re into live music. The bar scene is much less varied here in my experience too. There are some good cocktail bars but it’s a handful rather than having them all over. Eat at Kirans, Nidda Thai, Les Givrals and Baby Barnabys before you leave Houston. I miss the food so much 😭

Edited to add: very few strip malls, cleaner in general, the roads are WAY better, air quality is excellent!

What’s it like living in Madison, Wisconsin from the perspective of an East Coaster?

I'm not "an East Coaster" but I've lived there and have some experience of both these worlds.

First off, Madison, like a lot of Midwestern college towns, is full of East Coasters — partly due to UW's academic reputation and the affordability of going to school there versus New York, partly due to its party-school status (though apparently UW-Madison has been "downgraded.")

It's hard to get to know people in Madison unless you make that effort first. So in other words, not too different from the East Coast (whatever that is… as if Maine and Boston are the same place.)

Overall, it's a pleasant place — I moved off to Ann Arbor, Michigan, and have to say I prefer Madison to Ann Arbor (more scenic with the two lakes there). An East Coaster will either find these places refreshing or suffocating, depending on your expectations and attitude.

Madison is definitely not a conservative town politically, but still has a pretty reserved feel despite its liberal politics. It's a very "activist" town. I got pretty tired of the old hippie greyhairs protesting on every corner — it's really Madison's equivalent of the annoying street preacher — but they're not too hard to avoid if that's not your thing.

It's a very fitness-oriented town. Which can be great or suffocating, depending on your perspective. Lots of toned bodies, very few slobs. But also not very "real."

Your love life will probably suck compared to the East Coast. For some reason, despite attractive people all over the place, Madison is where dating goes to die. It just doesn't seem to spark much romance, which is a bummer. I was surprised by this when I moved there. Then again, it matters if you’re a student or an adult. If you’re over 30, you can pretty much count on saying sayonara to your sex life.

I think East Coasters will be surprised at the scenery around Madison. Southern Wisconsin is gorgeous. There's not much in northern Wisconsin until you get to Lake Superior.

What’s it like living in Madison, Wisconsin from the perspective of an East Coaster?

It's slower-paced and not always on the forefront of trends. That said, there are actual friendly people who will look at you and wave to you. I live in Mass in the summers and Madison in the winters (weird sched, I know). Every spring, I'm excited to head back East to spend time by the ocean, eat lobster and see my city friends. Then, in the fall, I'm glad to be coming back where the drivers aren't Massholes and people actually care about their neighbor. Both are great for their own reasons.

What are the pros and cons to living in Madison, WI? I'd love to hear anecdotes from those who have spent a lot of time in or near Madison.


The whole college game day vibe.

Lakes everywhere so beautiful.

Has a very liberal hippie vibe.

Tons of good restaurants.

People are a lot more friendly there and so it’s easy to meet people and make friends.


rent can be very expensive

Due to a huge influx of people moving from Chicago. Crime rates have skyrocketed. I feel safer in Milwaukee than I ever did in Madison.

Also due the the influx of the “Chicago rush” public resources have been stretched thin taxes keep drastically increasing.

Affirmative Action is very much enforced so at times jobs will not pick you and pick someone else to check that box.

The downtown is went from a hippie poor college student vibe. To 100% for the super wealthy students from the east coast. Affordable student housing is getting bought out and replaced with expensive high rises. That an average full time working adult could never afford. My mortgage costs less than rent in one of those “student” apartments.

There isn’t really a good and bad area they are all kind of meshed together. You will have expensive homes and the next street down low income housing so no escaping the crime. It is now spilling into the suburbs.

Public transportation sucks.

Due to the influx of college graduates in the town finding a good enough job to get by job is very difficult. Most have to work multiple jobs to stay afloat.

Living in Madison WI Pros and Cons