Happy cows come from Wisconsin and so do some of America’s best cities.
Hip millennial cities like Milwaukee, fun college cities like Madison, and sports crazy cities like Green Bay are not only some of Wisconsin’s fastest growing cities, but they also lead the charge in making Wisconsin one of the fastest growing states in the country. And surprisingly folks, they did not make the top ten best places in Wisconsin for 2020.
The competition to determine the best places in the Badger State for 2020 was fierce. Mostly because the entire state of Wisconsin has a lot to offer in terms of quaint cities that border its Great Lakes and cities that offer employment in one of its nine Fortune 500 companies. And it wouldn’t be right if we didn’t mention cheese. Yes, cheese. Wisconsinites know how to make a good cheese. So much that every city on our top ten list has at least one down home, country cheese store. (It probably should have been a ‘best of the best’ category.)
Wisconsin has so many great cities, that you could literally throw a dart at the state and live happily wherever it landed. So, you can understand how difficult it was to narrow down a list of the top ten best places. We invite you to grab yourself some string cheese, a Milwaukee’s Best, find a shady spot by Lake Winnebago and read on as we uncover where you should live in Wisconsin.
The 10 Best Places To Live In Wisconsin For 2020
Median Home Value: $373,200
Median Household Income: $117,300
Start popping that champagne Whitefish Bay, you just earned the title, “Wisconsin’s best place to live”. Holding strong with the #1 rank two years in a row, this bay city might not house an NFL Championship Team like Green Bay, but it’s winning at the things that really matter–cost of living, safety, education, and jobs.
Yes, if your real estate budget is $373,200 for a home, you can find that in Whitefish Bay. If you’re looking for job opportunities, Whitefish Bay’s unemployment rate is well below the national average at 2.1%. And if you’re looking for great schools, Whitefish has those, too–it’s one of Wisconsin’s best places to raise a family.
And if that doesn’t seal-the-deal, this should: you have a better chance of having an 80 degree day in January in this Great Lakes region than being a victim of a crime. Whitefish Bay’s crime rate is almost 50% below the national average.
Median Home Value: $322,000
Median Household Income: $116,438
Wisconsin’s 2nd best place to live, Fox Point is a year round playground for all. It’s position on Lake Michigan’s western shore and the fact that it is only 15 minutes north of Milwaukee allow one to spend the day with the kids in the water at Doctors Park and after hours soaking up the night life in the Badger State’s biggest city.
Fox Point is also easy on the wallet. The median household income here is $116,438/year and the median price for a home is $322,000. This small town in Wisconsin ranks the 2nd best for home values.
Not to mention, Fox Point’s job opportunities are endless. If you like the outdoors, water, and you have a boat, chartering fishing trips is a hot market in this bay city, and if protecting and serving is your schtick, you could become part of a team that keeps Fox Point’s crime rate 55% below the national average.
Median Home Value: $362,200
Median Household Income: $115,972
If you’re looking for a great place to live, Elm Grove is your place. This Milwaukee suburb in Waukesha County is after all one of the richest places in Wisconsin. But, if money is not an issue, then step right up and join this small town of 6,172 residents who can pay $362,200 for a home because they make at least $115,972/year. Elm Grove’s salaries aren’t just handed out to its residents, these people are educated: 38% have a Bachelor’s Degree and 18% have a Master’s Degree.
It also doesn’t hurt that 31% of Elm Grove’s residents make $200,000 or more a year. And with money like this, it’s not surprising that Elm Grove has the funds to pay for the programs to keep its crime rate 62% below the national average.
Median Home Value: $246,400
Median Household Income: $80,385
If you’re looking for that one place in Wisconsin that knows how to balance hard work and play, look no further than the state’s 4th best place to live, Oregon.
Centrally located just south of Madison, this little town of 10,215 residents is starting to see its name in the headlines more and more and this is because the locals here have a front row seat to great schools, an extremely low crime rate, and a strong job market. The numbers don’t lie, folks, Oregon’s unemployment rate is well below the national average at 2.6%.
And if you choose this small town in Dane County to buy your forever home, don’t be surprised if you get asked to take a hike around Lerner Conservation Park or a bike ride on the trails at Anderson Farm: the locals here are very serious about their activities and they can afford this kind of fun because their median income is $80,385/year.
Median Home Value: $281,900
Median Household Income: $82,756
There’s no cutting corners on the quality of life in Wisconsin’s 5th best place to live, Hartland, this place has all of the bells and whistles. And while the locals might be the “heart” of Hartland, it’s numbers like a crime rate 73% below the national average, 23% of the residents here have a Bachelor’s Degree, and there are 15 parks inside the city’s limits that make this place the best. It’s numbers like these that are keeping the locals happy, healthy, and employed.
How do we know that they’re happy? Their median income is $82,756/year; and while money isn’t everything, it’s nice to have the funds to cover your cost of living with a little extra to do the fun things that Hartland offers. Like, taking your kids to Homestead Animal Farm for the day. How do we know they’re healthy? Well, 95.4% of them have health insurance and health care seems to be a priority considering there are four major medical care facilities for 9,260 residents. And, how do we know they’re employed? Their strong job market is reporting an unemployment rate significantly lower than the national average at 1.2%.
Median Home Value: $391,700
Median Household Income: $113,627
You don’t have to use your math brain to figure out why Mequon is the 6th best place to live in Wisconsin. Up two spots from last year, the outstanding numbers this bay city in Ozaukee County reports year after year are pretty straightforward and pretty remarkable.
Yes, if you currently make $113,627/year, you’re going to fit in with the Mequon locals just fine, you’ll be able to buy a nice home at Mequon’s average home price of $391,700, and you’ll have a little extra cash to enjoy the daylife and the nightlife this Milwaukee suburb offers. The perfect day in Mequon might go something like this: first, a day at the beach in Virmond Park and an evening tasting Mequon’s local cuisine at a nice restaurant off Mequon Road.
At this point, the only thing stopping you from improving your quality of life with a new life in Mequon is you… and maybe your bank account. But, with an unemployment rate 2.2% plus the average income here, it shouldn’t be too hard to take care of that second hurdle.
Median Home Value: $245,500
Median Household Income: $87,394
McFarland may only have 8,492 residents, but big things are happening in Wisconsin’s 7th best place to live in terms of safety, great schools, great jobs, and fun stuff to do.
Located 20 minutes southeast of Madison on the eastern side of Lake Wauseba, this small town’s crime rate is almost 60% below the national average. This number is especially important for McFarland as they rely on the tourists who visit this year-round playground.
Incidentally, don’t be afraid to start your new life in McFarland with a rental as the average rent is $973/month. But, if you want to jump all in, the median home price here is $245,500. This number shouldn’t be a problem, either, if you join the other 27% of McFarland’s residents who hold a Bachelor’s Degree and are earning $87,394/year.
Basically, you’d be pretty lucky to call McFarland home, but only you can pull the chute.
Median Home Value: $324,600
Median Household Income: $106,321
Not only do happy cows come from Wisconsin’s 8th best place to live, Waunakee, but a lot of happy people do as well. There’s a reason why notables like former NFL star Lawrence Johnson and the Wisconsin Badgers Women’s Volleyball Coach, Kelly Sheffield, have been singing Waunakee’s praises for years. Not only do they get some of the best ice cream from the happy cows at the local dairies, their cost of living is affordable, and they get to experience what makes Waunakee one of Wisconsin’s best on the daily.
Yes, things like low crime, great schools, low unemployment rates, and year-round fun, have been front and center in Waunakee for quite some time. So, when you’re ready to take charge of your quality of life by moving to Waunakee, this small town in Dane County, just north of Lake Mendota, has homes for $324,600. If that number makes you nervous, don’t let it–the job market is strong here and the average household income is $106,321/year.
Median Home Value: $241,700
Median Household Income: $79,367
The most populous place to make the top ten best places to live in Wisconsin is the Badger State’s 9th best place to live, Menomonee Falls, at 36,784 residents. This many people wouldn’t live in this Milwaukee suburb if it wasn’t one of the best, right? Right. It also doesn’t hurt that the household median income here is $79,367/year or that the home median home price is $241,700.
And if you’re looking for a quaint, small town with big city vibes, Menomonee Falls has a lot to do. You can kayak the Menomonee River by day and enjoy the nightlife on Appleton Avenue after the kids are put to bed. Speaking of kids, Menomonee Falls has some of the best schools in the state–their Marcy Elementary School is a Blue Ribbon winner. Education is obviously important to the locals here, as 29% of Menomonee Falls’ residents have their Bachelor’s degree and 11% have their Masters.
Menomonee Falls also has a super low crime rate. The latest crime report for this city is 56% below the national average.
Median Home Value: $180,000
Median Household Income: $56,530
Don’t mess with West Salem’s 0.5% unemployment rate: it’s one of the main reasons this city is the 10th best place to live in Wisconsin. So, if you’re thinking about moving your life to this small town on Wisconsin’s Neshonoc Lake, you should either already have a job in place or have a plan because the locals here don’t want you to add to the current 11.6% of its residents living on food stamps.
More importantly, if you want to live comfortably in West Salem, your household income should be around $56,530/year because home prices here are $180,000.
And, if your quality of life query includes living in a place that does not sacrifice first class standards for cost of living than West Salem’s SnackAbility scores will blow you away. This city of 5,013 residents scored a 9/10 or better for things like a low crime rate, education, and commute times. West Salem, we don’t care what anyone says, you are quite the Wisconsin gem.
The Pressing Question: Size
Before we even started to collect data, we had to answer a tough question: Is it fair to pit Madison with a population of 252,086 against places with a population of 18?
We firmly decided no, that just isn’t fair.
So to create our ranking, we broke places to live into three tiers:
- Cities — Populations over 5,000
- Towns — Populations between 1,000 and 5,000
- Small Towns — Populations below 1,000
This left us with 139 cities, 241 towns, and 380 small towns.
We then decided, no matter how much anyone loves their town, the best cities to live in Wisconsin have more of everything and therefore you need to have over 5,000 people to truly be ‘the best’.
How We Calculated The Best Cities To Live In Wisconsin
Now that we had our set of cities, it was time to rank them.
We ranked each place in Wisconsin across a number of criteria from one to 139, with one being the best.
We then took the average rank across all criteria, with the city posting the lowest overall score being crowned the winner of the title “Best Place To Live In Wisconsin”.
The criteria we looked at were:
- Median Home Values
- Median Income
- Population Density (Higher better)
- Unemployment Rate
- Commute Time
- Education Levels
- Health Insurance Coverage
- Poverty rates
After the dust settled, what was the best place to live in Wisconsin? That would be Whitefish Bay.
If your city or town isn’t among the top 10, jump down to the bottom of the post to see a detailed chart of the best places in Wisconsin.
Otherwise, buckle up for a ride down good living lane with Whitefish Bay at the end of the cul-de-sac.
Wrapping Up The Best Places When It Comes To Living In Wisconsin
If you’re looking at areas in Wisconsin with the best economic situations, where there’s lower than average crime, and a lot to do, this is an accurate list.
Whitefish Bay made a strong showing to take in the overall number one spot for the best place to live in Wisconsin for 2020.
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