Madison WI courthouse

2021 Top 100 Best Places to Live In America Sponsored by: See homes for sale on Movoto by OJO

liv score
How We Calculate Our Data
Civics 69
Demographics 37
Economy 65
Education 62
Health 81
Housing 65
Infrastructure 54

#1. Madison, WI

UPDATE: Madison, WI also made the 2022 Top 100 Best Places to Live list

Madison, WI has a long-standing reputation as one of the best college towns in the country, but this city offers so much more as one of the best places to live in the U.S. Madison is a great place to live for recent grads and retirees alike and has a high rate of employment, a resilient economy and excels in nearly every category. Known for charming residents and visitors alike, Madison’s natural beauty is unparalleled, as it is built on an isthmus between lakes Mendota and Monona and has more than 200 miles of hiking and biking trails, which means you’ll never run out of free ways to have fun. Other draws to the city? The Wisconsin state capital is noted for its farmers market bounty, beautiful architecture (Frank Lloyd Wright made his mark here) and serene lakes. 

Top Colleges/Universities: University of Wisconsin – Madison

Top Industries & Employers: Madison’s diverse economy is rooted in a variety of sectors, thanks to major employers like University of Wisconsin, Epic and American Family Insurance. 

Weekend Plans: For a sense of escapism, take a stroll in the Olbrich Botanical Gardens, which includes an ornate Thai Pavillion — the only one in North America. Then enjoy a tropical oasis inside the conservatory, which is a glass pyramid brimming with fragrant orchids, a waterfall, free-flying birds and lush plants — no passport required.

Favorite Place to Feast: Dane County’s Farmers’ Market, the largest producer-only farmers market in the United States. Sample seasonal fruits and veggies and aged cheddar while shopping for produce alongside James Beard award-winning chefs who frequent the market.

Beloved Beverage: Wisconsin is America’s Dairyland, plus the state takes credit for inventing the blender, so you betcha’ Madison makes a mean milkshake. Monty’s Blue Plate Diner even has vegan shakes. 

Outdoorsy Activity: During the warm months, paddle on the tranquil waters of Lake Mendota. Come winter, bundle up and snowshoe across the icy blue lake or along the Lakeshore Path.

Rooftop Bar: Camp Trippalindee on the seventh floor of The Graduate Hotel serves vintage camp vibes overlooking Langdon Street. Remember Lunchables and Capri Suns? Here, you can nosh on the grown-up renditions: charcuterie plus boozy drinks in a pouch. 

Why Your Pet Will Love It, Too: The Boneyard is a biergarten and dog park, so both you and your pup can make friends. 

Remote Work Perk: Your dollars will stretch far in Madison, thanks to a number of free amenities in the city, from summer concerts to the botanical gardens.

One More Thing … Plastic pink flamingos are the official bird of Madison.

– Brittany Anas

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