From large city to rural towns, the Madison Region’s communities offer lifestyle appeal
The Madison Region is a study in diversity. It is a place that offers the choice of high-density urban living, smaller communities with their own unique identities, and wide-open agriculture-oriented spaces.
It is a region rich in history, but not living in the past. The area has an inviting and welcoming feel, as evidenced by a number of University of Wisconsin campuses that draw faculty and students from around the world. UW-Madison itself has more than 4,000 international students from 130 countries.
And while its amenities rival much larger metropolitan areas, the Madison region retains its scale. Commute times are well below the national average and a higher-than-average number of people walk or ride bikes to work year round.
Living costs in Wisconsin are 6.5 percent lower than the national average. While the city of Madison ranks slightly higher than the rest of the state, the average cost of housing is lower than most comparable cities in the Midwest and beyond.
Madison, a perennial top performer on Livability’s Top 100 Best Places to Live ranking, is the hub of South Central Wisconsin, but it is by no means the only community with allure. Here is a sampling of just some of the communities that make the Madison Region an inviting place to live.
Janesville, located in Rock County, is a scenic community with many buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. Janesville’s economy is strong in agriculture, education, health care, manufacturing and retail. Transportation advantages include Interstate 90/39 along with two U.S. highways. Janesville is nicknamed “Wisconsin’s Park Placeâ€ thanks to more than 60 public parks and nature trails. The median home price is a very reasonable $128,600, and the culinary scene includes more than 100 independent restaurants along with six food trucks, two microbreweries and a winery. Sports enthusiasts have the options of two golf courses, two disc golf courses and the Blackhawk Curling Club. The arts are well represented at Janesville Performing Arts Center.
Set along 6,000-acre Beaver Dam Lake, Beaver Dam is located in Dodge County. Ample fishing, boating and canoeing opportunities are provided by Beaver Dam Lake, where restaurants, taverns and cafes dot the lakeside. Nearby, Beaver Dam actively courts industrial development with a new 500-acre megasite. For students in Beaver Dam, highly rated Beaver Dam Unified School District has six elementary schools, one middle and one high school. A campus of Moraine Park Technical College also serves the community. The city of 16,000 residents also knows how to throw a party, hosting annual festivals like Cabin Fever Fest, Race into Summer, Taste of Wisconsin, the Dodge County Fair and the Midwest Cream Cheese Competition. And for racing fans, Beaver Dam Raceway presents stock car competitions in a season that runs from April to September.
With a median household income topping $70,000, Sun Prairie is a comfortable community where the median home price is $206,100. Points of interest include Sun Prairie Family Aquatic Center, the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame and Sun Prairie Golf Course.
Residents have convenient access to Interstates 39, 90 and 94 along with U.S. Route 151 and Wisconsin Highway 19. Annual festivals in Sun Prairie include a Taste of the Arts Fair, Georgia O’Keeffe Art Festival, Flags of Freedom and a Sweet Corn Festival in mid-August where more than 60 tons of sweet corn are served and sold.
Life is good in Watertown, where the median household income is $60,000 and the median home price is a comfortable $147,900. Students can attend Maranatha Baptist University and Madison Area Technical College. The economy is strong in sectors that include distribution, education, health care, manufacturing and technology. Three main highways and Watertown Municipal Airport accommodate residents, and a Main Street Program helps to keep the downtown district attractive.
The cuisine scene includes American, Chinese, Greek, Italian, Japanese and Mexican restaurants, and outdoor recreation fans can paddle the Rock River Trail, golf at Windwood of Watertown and fish at Riverside Park. Annual celebrations include Riverfest, Run from the Cops 10K and Holiday Parade of Lights.