The 8 Best Places To Live in Wisconsin

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Aerial view of Madison city downtown at sunset, Wisconsin

The state of Wisconsin is an outdoor lover’s paradise with wide swaths of forested land, open prairies, and lakes and rivers galore. It’s also where you’ll find a wide variety of industries for employment, urban environments that are easy to navigate, and lots of entertainment options in the most unusual of places. 

You can get from the southern border of the state to the Upper Peninsula in one day if you go south to north and Lake Michigan to Minnesota if you’re going east to west. It’s a large state with many excellent places to live to satisfy your needs for daily life, comforts, and affordability. Here’s a look at the eight best places to live in Wisconsin, along with some FAQs to help you decide if this is the right state for you.

1. Green Bay

  • Population change: A
  • Median rent: A
  • Points of interest: B

Green Bay is located in northeastern Wisconsin on the western shore of Lake Michigan. It has a population of around 100,000 and is the third-largest city in the state. In addition to being the home of the Green Bay Packers, the city has a thriving arts scene, with several museums, galleries, and theaters. The Weidner Center for the Performing Arts hosts a wide range of shows, from Broadway musicals to classical music concerts. Green Bay also has a vibrant food scene, with a variety of restaurants offering everything from classic Wisconsin cheese curds to international cuisine.

Some of the most interesting destinations include the National Railroad Museum, the Green Bay Botanical Garden, and Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary. The average price of a one-bedroom rental in Green Bay is $785, while a two-bedroom apartment costs $949. 

What makes Green Bay a great place to live?

Green Bay is a great place to live for sports fans who want to be close to the action of the NFL. Beyond football, the city also offers plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities, such as fishing, kayaking, and hiking. The city has a low cost of living and a strong sense of community, with friendly locals and a close-knit downtown area.

2. Madison

  • Population change: A
  • Median rent: F
  • Points of interest: A

Madison is the capital of Wisconsin and has a population of around 255,000. It is located in the south-central part of the state and is surrounded by several lakes, including Lake Mendota, Lake Monona, and Lake Wingra. The city is home to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which is one of the top public universities in the country. The city is about an hour away from Milwaukee. It’s a great location for all kinds of indoor and outdoor activities and entertainment, though rent prices are a bit higher in this city. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Madison is $1,425, and a studio rental costs $1,172.

What makes Madison a great place to live?

Madison is a bustling college town with a vibrant culture and a strong economy. The city is known for its beautiful lakes, parks, and bike paths, as well as its world-class dining scene and eclectic music venues. Madison also has a great public transportation system, making it easy to get around without a car.

3. Racine

  • Population change: B
  • Median rent: F
  • Points of interest: B

Racine is a city of around 78,000 people located on the western shore of Lake Michigan, between Milwaukee and Chicago. The city has a rich industrial history, and today it is home to several large manufacturing facilities. Racine has several parks and beaches along the lakefront, including North Beach, which has been named one of the best beaches in the country. Racine is located about 20 miles south of Milwaukee and 60 miles north of Chicago on Lake Michigan. The town is famous for its industrial heritage and is also a great place to live with easy access to employment and recreation. The historic S.C. Johnson Wax Headquarters is a must-see for Frank Lloyd Wright enthusiasts. The median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Racine is $725, and it’s $895 for two bedrooms.

What makes Racine a great place to live?

Racine is a charming town with a rich history and plenty of natural beauty. The town is located right on Lake Michigan, offering residents easy access to beaches, boating, and fishing. Racine is also home to several historic buildings and museums, as well as a thriving arts scene and plenty of local festivals and events. Some of the popular local festivals and events in Racine include the Party on the Pavement, the Racine County Fair, and the Kringlefest.

4. Milwaukee

  • Population change: F
  • Median rent: C
  • Points of interest: A

Milwaukee is the largest city in Wisconsin, with a population of around 600,000. It is located on the western shore of Lake Michigan and has a rich cultural history. It’s well-known for being home to multiple major breweries but has a vibrant downtown core and an active sports scene with major league teams. The Milwaukee Art Museum is famous for its Santiago Calatrava addition, an attraction all by itself. The city is also home to several professional sports teams, including the Milwaukee Brewers and the Milwaukee Bucks. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Milwaukee is $895, and a studio costs $737 on average.

What makes Milwaukee a great place to live?

The city is known for its breweries, but it also boasts a world-class art museum, a thriving music scene, and plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities. Milwaukee has a strong sense of community and is home to several distinct neighborhoods with unique personalities. Explore the Historic Third Ward, known for its trendy shops, galleries, and restaurants. Home to Humboldt Park, the Bay View neighborhood is known for its historic architecture, diverse community, and vibrant nightlife. For an eclectic bohemian vibe, Riverwest has an artistic spirit, with art galleries, coffee shops, and music venues.

5. Janesville

  • Population change: B
  • Median rent: B
  • Points of interest: C

Janesville is a city of around 64,000 people located in southern Wisconsin, near the border with Illinois. It is the county seat of Rock County and has a strong economy, with several large manufacturing facilities and corporate headquarters. Janesville is located along the Rock River and has several parks and nature reserves, including the Rockport Park and Conservation Area. The city also has several historic sites, including the Lincoln-Tallman House, which was built in 1857 and is now a museum. The average rent is $785 for a one-bedroom apartment and $900 for a two-bedroom rental. 

What makes Janesville a great place to live?

Janesville is a small but lively town with a strong sense of community and a high quality of life. Janesville is also home to several major employers, including a General Motors plant and a large hospital system, so employment opportunities are a main draw of living here.

6. Eau Claire

  • Population change: C
  • Median rent: C
  • Points of interest: C

Eau Claire is a city of around 68,000 people located in western Wisconsin, near the border with Minnesota. Eau Claire is home to the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire campus and is situated along the confluence of the Eau Claire and Chippewa Rivers. The largest metro area closest to Eau Claire is Minneapolis/St. Paul. The area around Eau Claire is perfect for lovers of year-round outdoor activities, and it has a vibrant cultural scene. The city hosts several music festivals throughout the year, including the Eaux Claires festival, which was founded by Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon. Eau Claire is also known for its outdoor recreation opportunities, with several parks and trails in the area, including the Chippewa River State Trail.The median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Eau Claire is $895, and it costs an average of $1,085 for two bedrooms.

What makes Eau Claire a great place to live?

Eau Claire is a small but growing city with a thriving arts and music scene. The city is known for its beautiful parks and natural areas, as well as its eclectic downtown area with plenty of unique shops and restaurants. Eau Claire consistently ranks highly in national surveys of quality of life. The city has a low crime rate, affordable cost of living, and excellent healthcare facilities. It also offers a wide variety of recreational activities, including skiing, snowboarding, kayaking, and fishing.

7. Appleton

  • Population change: F
  • Median rent: D
  • Points of interest: D

Appleton is a charming and historic city located on the northern edge of Lake Winnebago. It has a rich cultural scene with several attractions worth exploring. Some of the attractions include the Hearthstone Historic House Museum, which has original fixtures made by Thomas Edison, the Atlas Science Center located inside an old paper mill, and the History Museum at the Castle. Appleton also has a thriving arts community, with the Fox Cities Exhibition Center and Performing Arts Center hosting various events and shows throughout the year. The city is home to Lawrence University, a private liberal arts college with a renowned conservatory of music. The median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Appleton is $999, while two bedrooms costs an average of $1,399.

What makes Appleton a great place to live?

Appleton is known for its high quality of life. It has low crime rates, great schools, and a relatively affordable cost of living compared to larger cities. The city also offers a wide range of outdoor recreational activities, including parks, trails. The city hosts several events throughout the year, such as the Mile of Music festival, the Appleton Farmers Market, and the Octoberfest celebration, which bring together residents and visitors alike.

8. Oshkosh 

  • Population change: C
  • Median rent: B
  • Points of interest: F

Oshkosh is a charming city located in Winnebago County, situated between Lake Winnebago and Lake Butte de Morts, which offer a wide variety of water-related activities year-round. Oshkosh is home to the Experimental Aviation Association, which holds an annual fly-in and maintains the EAA Aviation Museum. The museum showcases a vast collection of vintage and modern aircraft and offers hands-on activities and flight simulators for visitors. Oshkosh has several parks and recreational areas, making it a great place for outdoor enthusiasts. Menominee Park, located on the shores of Lake Winnebago, has a beach, a zoo, and a waterslide. The Wiouwash State Trail and the Mascoutin Valley State Trail are popular for hiking, biking, and snowmobiling. The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Oshkosh is $1,450, and it’s $1,100 for a studio.

What makes Oshkosh a great place to live?

Oshkosh has a low cost of living, excellent schools, and a variety of recreational opportunities, making it an attractive place to live for families, retirees, and young professionals. Oshkosh is also home to a number of large companies, including Oshkosh Corporation, Bemis Company, and the Menasha Corporation. These companies provide employment opportunities and contribute to the local economy, making Oshkosh a great place to live and work.

FAQs about living in Wisconsin

Is there a lot of job growth in Wisconsin?

Yes, Wisconsin has seen significant job growth in recent years. According to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, the state’s unemployment rate has consistently remained below the national average. Some of the fastest-growing industries in Wisconsin include healthcare, manufacturing, and technology.

What are some popular outdoor activities in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin offers a wide range of outdoor activities, such as hiking, fishing, boating, skiing, and snowboarding. The state has many parks and natural areas, including the Kettle Moraine State Forest, Devil’s Lake State Park, and the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

Is Wisconsin a good place to raise a family?

Yes, Wisconsin is a great place to raise a family. The state offers high-quality education, excellent healthcare, and a safe environment. Wisconsin also has many family-friendly attractions, such as museums, zoos, and amusement parks.

What are the best times of year to visit Wisconsin?

The best times to visit Wisconsin depend on your interests. If you enjoy outdoor activities, the summer months (June-August) are a great time to visit. If you prefer fall foliage, September and October are ideal. Winter sports enthusiasts will enjoy visiting Wisconsin during the colder months (December-February), while those interested in cultural events and festivals may want to visit during the spring (March-May).

What are taxes like in Wisconsin?

The base sales tax rate in Wisconsin is 5%, and the lowest personal income tax bracket is 3.54% for individuals earning less than $12,760. It increases to up to 7.65% depending on how much you earn. 

What’s the distance between Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Chicago, Illinois?

It’s about 92 miles between downtown Milwaukee and downtown Chicago going south on Interstate-94. You can expect to drive 90 minutes between destinations in light traffic. 

What’s the weather like in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin is a state that experiences all four seasons to the fullest. The southern part of the state tends to be milder than the northern portion.

Final thoughts

Wisconsin is a large state that has vast natural resources for outdoor enthusiasts, world-class cultural destinations, and a way of life that holds onto its practical German and Swedish heritage. You’ll never be bored in Wisconsin with all of the opportunities it has to offer, no matter where you choose to live. 


  • 1-bedroom median rent price –
  • Population change – American Community Survey 2021 and 2019
  • Stores, schools, entertainment, restaurant, transportation – OpenStreetMap

To determine the best places to live in Wisconsin we analyzed data on seven key metrics, including median 1-bedroom rent prices, population change, and the quantity of stores, schools, healthcare, entertainment, and restaurants. 1-bedroom rent prices accounted for 30 percent of the weighted grade. Population change accounted for 20 percent. Stores, schools, healthcare, entertainment, and restaurants accounted for ten percent each.

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