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The Madison Region’s Diverse Blend of Opportunities Proves Irresistible

The Madison Region offers residents diverse housing options, lively entertainment, and arts and culture.

By Gary Wollenhaupt on May 5, 2014

Madison, WI
Madison / Courtesy of University of Wisconsin-Madison/Bryce Richter

Ask residents of the Madison Region what sets their picturesque corner of the world apart, and they’re prone to gush about the many ways the eight-county area blends the best of all worlds into one vibrant, eclectic place to call home.

The anchoring presence of the University of Wisconsin and the growth of numerous innovative companies have drawn residents from worldwide and added a cosmopolitan flavor not typically associated with a locale of just over a million people.

Madison’s rich array of happenings – from the cultural to the culinary to the collegiate – keep residents from all walks of life engaged and enriched.

“Whether you’re a family of four or a single person in your 20s looking to meet other people, it’s easy to find something you’ll enjoy,” says local Realtor Dan Chin, a 16-year resident and the former president of Madison Magnet, an organization that promotes community involvement among young professionals.

A Place to Settle Down

Like Chin, who first experienced Madison as a student at UW, Green Bay native Jenna Weber also arrived in the region to attend the university – and loved it so much that she stuck around. Eight years later, she and fiancé Matt just purchased a home and can’t imagine living anywhere else.

“One of the many reasons Madison is a great place to live is the endless amount of opportunities to get involved and try new things,” says Weber, who works as business development coordinator at Madison accounting/consulting firm SVA and serves as president of CONNECT Madison, a local young-professionals group.

“Whether you love sports, foodie cuisine or a niche hobby, there are ways for you to meet like-minded individuals and do what you love, or explore something new,” Weber says. “The people who live here are very civic minded and have a range of interests, which makes our city a vibrant and interesting place to live.”

A Little Something for Everyone

Indeed, Madison’s eight-county region teems with diversity in just about every way, including its lifestyle options: from the cosmopolitan vibe of Madison – where the college center and creative class have fashioned a crackling entertainment, culture and nationally regarded food scene – to the more traditional suburbs and enchanting small towns dotting outlying counties.

Baraboo, a vibrant Sauk County community of 12,000 residents, is home to a blend of business, industry and small-town quaintness. In 2013, Smithsonian Magazine ranked it the No. 4 Best Small Town in America to visit, based on its cultural, historic and environmental assets.

The article highlighted Baraboo’s legacy as the birthplace of the Ringling Brothers Circus, as well as attractions such as the Al Ringling Theatre, Circus World Museum, and the International Crane Foundation. Devil’s Lake, Wisconsin’s most visited state park, is less than four miles from the center of the city. Janine Stephens, director of marketing and special events for Boys & Girls Club of Dane County, has experienced the region’s delectable range of options firsthand. Stephens grew up in Milwaukee and moved to Madison six years ago.

“From peaceful summers near the lakefront to cozying up with a great book and good cup of hot chocolate during the winter, Madison really is a city of charm,” says Stephens, who serves as president emeritus of the Madison Network of Black Professionals.

Outdoor Life

The Madison Region has become known as a major biking and hiking hub, ranked No. 7 among Bicycling magazine’s Top 50 Bike-Friendly Cities, with an extensive network of lanes and paths for cycling – not only along its glistening lakes, but also throughout its cities and towns.

The region also has 12 state parks, fishing and boating lakes, and natural attractions such as the Wisconsin Dells – a five-mile gorge along the Wisconsin River lined with jutting cliffs and sandstone formations.

Wisconsin Dells is also known as “The Waterpark Capital of the World,” attracting visitors and locals year round for indoor and outdoor parks, resorts, museums and other attractions.

“My experience here has been amazing,” Stephens says. “Madison is such a unique place of its own. I’ve been able to meet such a diverse group of people and learn so much about different cultures, music and food.”

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