One of the best things about living in the Madison area is our bustling metropolis. Madison is consistently ranked one of the best places in the US to live. For a vibrant city, we enjoy a relatively low cost of living. Jobs are plentiful. And there are so many things to do around town- whether you’re an art aficionado, foodie, or outdoor enthusiast. Sometimes, it can be hard to imagine living anywhere else than right in the thick of downtown Madison, especially if you’ve grown up here or spent your college years at UW. But rural living has its appeal, too. Hearing the sound of crickets chirping at night or even lower cost of living. There can be an inner peace that comes with being surrounded by nature. There’s no one right decision. But whatever you decide, it’s essential to make sure it’s the best decision for you. 

Benefits of Living in Metropolitan Madison 

Arts, music, culture, and diversity seep into all aspects of the city from the University. Sports culture makes it easy to build a community of friends. For most residents in the Madison area, drive/commute time is short. And walkability scores are in the 80s-90s for most of the greater Madison area. There’s always something new to try in this city, whether it’s ice fishing or the latest microbrewery.

But, when it comes to considering the best parts of living in Madison, you can answer it in just two words:

The food

Oh, the food! For a medium-sized city, the restaurant scene’s quality is on par with America’s largest cities.

Downsides of Living in Downtown Madison

The negatives of living in the city of Madison are the downsides of living in any city. Rush hour traffic can get pretty intense. When trying to park downtown, meter patrols are like ninjas. They wait stealthily in the shadows for their moment. Then, when the time is right, they swoop in from their hiding place and write their ticket. And your day has taken a turn for the worst.

Overall, crime rates in Madison are lower than in most cities. That said, crime rates are always going to be higher in metropolitan areas than in rural areas.

Benefits of Living in Rural Wisconsin 

Rural Wisconsin has wooded forests, scenic hills, farming plains, grazing cattle and cornfields. It’s nothing short of idyllic. There’s lots of space for children to explore and experience a lifestyle that many think of as existing only in the past.  

You’ll have quicker access to outdoor sports.  With a house in the countryside, you could do snow sports in your backyard (anyone lusting after some acreage?!). Baraboo, for example, is about 40 miles from downtown Madison. This little town lives in Devils Lake State Park’s backyard, which has swimming, paddling, hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and so much more.

Life in rural Wisconsin is peaceful and quiet and one with exceedingly low cost of living. Buyers have access to USDA loans, which provide low downpayment (or zero down payments!). This can be a huge benefit for someone jumping on the property ladder for the first time.

Disadvantages of Living in the Wisconsin Countryside 

The idyllic sound of crickets as you sip tea on the porch also comes with something else… mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are everywhere, yes, even downtown. But with more ponds and open-air to populate, there are much more of these pests. And pests in general! You’ll have a more significant chance of raccoons in your trash, mice in the cupboard, or snakes in the basement. Wisconsin only has two types of venomous snakes. The timber rattler and the massasauga, both of which are exceedingly rare. But if critters and pests give you the heebie-jeebies (and I don’t blame you if they do!), rural living may be more chaotic than peaceful for you.

It’s no secret that living outside of the city means longer commute time if you work in the town or attend UW. It also means longer drive time to gyms, date night, your favorite pizza, and maybe no Door Dash or Grub Hub.

Life moves a little slower in the country. Unfortunately, that also includes the internet. COVID-19 has many Americans considering moves into wide-open space. Our 2020 quarantine made many small city spaces feel even smaller. Remote work shifts give many of us the freedom and flexibility for a move. But limited high-speed internet in rural areas can be more than just an annoyance. You may have a harder time connecting with colleagues and clients over Zoom. And your actual work may take twice as long, which could leave less time for enjoying the great outdoors where you’re living. Aside from work, if you use the internet for entertainment (streaming services, gaming, etc.) it may affect this too.

What’s Right For You?

There is no right or wrong place to live in the greater Madison area. If city life isn’t for you, there are plenty of options. If you like the countryside but aren’t sure if it would feel right full-time, there’s nothing wrong with a weekend away now and then. Many areas of Madison offer a little bit of the best of both worlds. Want to tour both areas just to get a feel for it? We’re up for it! You can browse listings in all sorts of places here.