While there are many in the Badger State who think Madison is the best darn place in the world, it isn’t for everybody. If you are thinking about moving to Madison, here are some potential aspects that might be dealbreakers for you.
It’s not much of a “city.”
Though Madison is often advertised as a major metropolitan area, it’s more of a glorified college town. Being the capital of Wisconsin seems like it would be a big draw for citizens of all ages and backgrounds, but the laws surrounding the Capitol seem to actually be more of a hinderance. In an effort to preserve a skyline that is literally just a jutting rotunda, the city of Madison won’t allow any building to be taller than the Capitol building.
While the effort to preserve Madison’s crown jewel may be valiant to some, one can’t deny that the inability to grow vertically hinders the town’s ability to grow in general. Madison’s population seems to be okay with the size, claiming that it’s a good in between for those who don’t want an urban jungle like Milwaukee or Chicago but are looking for more nightlife than a Wisconsin farm town would have to offer.
The center of the social scene is the University.
Due to the city’s adversity to growing its permanent population, the brunt of social growth falls on the University of Wisconsin, which basically runs this town. Madison is one of those towns that is significantly sparser over the summer when all the college students go home because they are such a large portion of the population. So if you’re coming here to study, you’ll not only get a world-class education, you’ll have that run-of-the-mill American college experience and then some. Everyone here is a Badger, so just…don’t mention the state of Minnesota in general.
If you’re not enrolling with UW, you might want to consider what your social life is going to look like. Unless you already have friends and family in town, meeting people outside of the University culture can be tough. The demographic of young professionals is certainly growing, especially on the East Side, but its no Chicago, or even Boston. Meeting people in a new city is tough wherever you go, but Madison’s pool of non-university students looking for new friends could definitely be bigger.
The drunkest state in America.
While this slogan may seem to some people like a reason to move to Madison, others aren’t all about the bar scene. The University culture combined with the fact that you spend 6 months of the year inside because of the cold makes for a breeding ground of eclectic bars. It’s hard to go more than two blocks without coming across some sort of watering hole, whether it be a dive bar or a trendy brewery. If you have more diverse tastes and aren’t down for hanging out at a pub to become the new norm for you and your friends, Madison might not be the town for you.
Speaking of the cold…
If you’re moving from Minneapolis or Milwaukee, you can skip this section. Otherwise, you might want to think twice before setting up roots in a city where 10 degrees isn’t “that cold.” In the midst of the winter months, you’ll be lucky to get a few days where it warms up to the 30s and 40s. Madison sits on an isthmus between two lakes, which makes the entire city one big wind tunnel.
People who are from Madison know that it’s not just the biting cold that makes December through March miserable. It starts getting dark around 4 pm, so the likelihood of you getting out of work with some sunlight is pretty slim. Lack of sunlight can have adverse affects on your mental and physical health, so you might want to invest in a sun lamp.
Once Daylight Saving Time is over, you might feel like you see the light at the end of the tunnel. True, the sun will be out more and you’ll start to feel those winter blues thaw out, but make no mistake. Winter in Wisconsin tends to last through April.
Public transportation (or lack thereof)
Madison’s bus system is pretty reliable downtown, but once you move out towards the outskirts, buses become fewer and further inbetween. If you’re coming from a city like New York, Boston, or Chicago, which relies heavily on a functional train system, you’ll be in for a transition. Most people here have their own cars to get around, and travel on foot when they can, considering one can get from the East Side to the University on the West side in a 30 to 40 minute walk.
If you do have a car, keep an eye out for the ever-vigilant parking enforcement officers. Most free parking has a two-hour limit from 8 am to 6 pm, and most parking around the Capitol is paid. Even if you’re just a little bit late to feed the meter or move your car, you’ll find a little white parking ticket on your windshield.