The 5 Best Neighborhoods in Madison, WI to Move to Right Now

So you are moving to Madison?

In case you didn’t know we are probably the biggest college town around, but so much more than that. The city offers a wide variety of places to live, suitable for whatever lifestyle you are looking for. To help you decide where to move when you get arrive, here are the five best places to live when you move to Madison.

1. Tenney-Lapham

Perfect neighborhood for: Singles, Millennials, Young Professionals

Tenney-Lapham is located on the East Side of the Capitol and the perfect place for young people who want to live in Madison but don’t necessarily want to be sucked in by the University culture. This neighborhood is growing fast, with condos and skyscrapers popping up all along East Washington Avenue. Because of the upscale vibe that is beginning to permeate throughout the East Side, students can’t really afford to live here, and they probably don’t want to seeing as it’s a minimum 30 minute walk to campus.

Tenney-Lapham is a great place to live for people looking to support local businesses, art, and music. The High Noon Saloon venue not only hosts touring indie sweethearts like Lucy Dacus and Mitski, but also puts on events that showcase local musicians, dancers and artists. They frequently have events like the recent Summer Solstice Celebration, featuring local bands and vendors.

Just down the street from High Noon Saloon is Breese Stadium, which is essentially Madison’s closest version of an amphitheater, with major acts like Queens of the Stone Age and Modest Mouse playing outdoor concerts to large audiences. Right across from that is Madison’s next big music venue, The Sylvee, which set to open in September 2018. 

A little stretch on East Johnson St. between Livingston and Brealy is the home to little shops and bars like Burnie’s Rock Shop, the Good Style Shop, and the Robin Room. There are a few divey, cash-only bars like the Caribou, too, for when you want a more laid-back, Up North feel. Basically, if you’re looking for culture, Tenney-Lapham is the place to be.

2. Campus (West side of the Capital)

Perfect neighborhood for: Students

Madison experiences a significant dip in population over the summer because students are such a large part of the community. The University of Wisconsin takes up most of the West side of the Capitol, starting on State street and stretching down University Ave. If you’re moving to Madison to attend the UW, you’ll probably be spending most of your time here, so you might want to narrow your apartment search to this side of town so you’re near all the bars your friends frequent on Saturday nights and of course the classes you have to go to during the day.

Even though Campus understandably caters to people ages 18-22, that doesn’t mean they’ve got an invisible forcefield keeping the rest of Madison’s citizens out. The University is well-integrated into the rest of the city, and its a central part of most people’s lives, even if they have no affiliation with the University. The Union is a central crossing point for students, but they also sell some of the best ice cream in town. The internationally renowned Chazen Museum of Art,  is free to the public and features distinguished contemporary artists as well as legendary painters like Strozzi and Monet. Whether you live near Campus or not, there’s plenty for everyone to do and see.

4. Vilas

Perfect neighborhood for: Families, Millennials

Another growing region of town, the Vilas neighborhood is where student life meets residential calm. Only walking distance from Camp Randall and Campus bars, one might expect the Vilas neighborhood to be a loud extension of Campus. But driving through the narrow roads off of Monroe street, you almost feel like you’re driving through the suburbs. The houses are old and historical and the foliage is plenty. The neighborhood is like a quiet oasis within the chaos of a flagship campus.

Monroe Street, the main drag that sort of signifies your entrance into the Vilas neighborhood, is made up of a diverse group of local businesses, from coffee shops to a record store to little knick-knack shops. There are a lot of family friendly activities to do in the Vilas region, like making a visit to the Henry Vilas Zoo or kayaking on Lake Wingra. The neighborhood is also home to the city’s only Trader Joe’s.

4. Willy Street

Perfect neighborhood for: Families, Young Professionals

The trendiest and crunchiest of Madison’s neighborhoods, Willy Street (formally known as Williamson Street) has some of the best food, shopping, and homes in Madison. Home to local businesses like the Crystal Corner—a 50’s-esque bar with pool tables and frequent live music—and The Greenhouse Store—every Madisonite with a green thumb’s one stop shop for all things botanical—Willy Street is one of the best places in Madison to spend your Saturday.

But Willy Street isn’t all business. There are a quite a few great homes and apartments built between what will soon become your favorite stores and restaurants. On Jenifer Street (yes, only one ‘n’), which runs adjacent and parallel to Willy Street, you’ll find some of the most beautiful homes in Madison. You won’t find too many apartment complexes in this neighborhood, though they are starting to pop up, because the area has a more “historic walk-up” feel. The buildings are old and beautiful, but rather pricey due to the proximity to lake Monona and on of Madison’s main drags, so not too many students live on this side of town, and you’ll run mostly into families and young professionals.

5. Shorewood Hills

Perfect neighborhood for: Families, Outdoorsy people

The aforementioned neighborhoods are all within walking distance of the Capitol, but the Shorewood Hills neighborhood is reserved for families who are looking to be close to the city, but need a little distance from all the hubbub. Where the West Side of Campus ends, Shorewood Hills begins, but the general population isn’t too student-y. The average age is 49, and about 80% of residents own homes rather than rent apartments, so you’ll see mostly families and established adults.

Shorewood Hills is dedicated to wildlife preservation, so you’ll see a lot of unique flora and fauna if you take a trek through any of their nine parks. The neighborhood also shares a border with Lake Mendota, so there’s plenty of opportunity for kayaking, canoeing, and water-skiing.

Samantha Harton