Moving to Madison, Wisconsin

Parent Reviews

Sounds like Madison to me!

But there are other college towns that would fit a lot of those categories - with the racial diversity being the most challenging on your list. Sure, many college towns are moderately diverse, but not compared to here. We are a mixed-race family, which is more rare in parts of the Midwest. I've also lived in Urbana, IL- which is has more of a smaller town feel than Madison, but if your jobs aren't affiliated with the University, there are less opportunities.

I can't think of any towns that fit all that criteria (esp. "lots of outdoor activities year round"--midwestern winters can be pretty harsh, as you likely know already) but from experience Iowa City, Iowa and Madison, Wisconsin might be worth looking into. Madison does have more diversity as it is a city, not a town, but has neighborhoods within it that are more "town" like and self-contained. I can't speak to the school situation there, though. Iowa City is smaller but it and nearby Coralville have a decent range of ethnic restaurants--and the presence of the University of Iowa lends cultural richness, so the city is less white than Iowa as a whole. That said--still pretty white. It's a liberal island in a fairly conservative state. Has the best bookstore in Iowa (Prairie Lights) and good K-12 schools. Cedar Rapids airport is near so flying in and out of Chicago is an easy, short flight. Good luck with your search!

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Nov 1999

we are leaving for madison wisconsin soon. any recommendations about how to meet other parents, resources for children (ours is currently 1.5 years), anything similar to this ucb electronic newsletter.... any info at all... is very welcome. thanks.


My sister lives in Madison. She recommends Children's Museum on the Square, Vilas zoo, Saturday morning kid's shows in the Civic Center (maybe summer only?), 4C's childcare reference service, lots of city parks (any local terms in the above will be clear when you arrive). Just do what you like to do and you'll meet folks with kids doing the same thing...it's a very kid-focused city


My brother just moved to Madison recently, and had this to say in response to inquiries about that city: I'd say that the single most important thing would be to choose the neighborhood you move to with care. There are lots of neighborhoods in Madison that are dominated by young, single, undergraduate renters, especially near the University, and a few upscale areas (I'm thinking of Shorewood Hills, in particular) where there are relatively more retired people, or people whose kids are grown, and relatively fewer families with young children. If I were you I'd avoid these, and stick to places where families with younger children predominate.

When we moved to Madison we wanted to live in a neighborhood with lots of younger children, on a wide, flat, tree-lined street where kids can play or ride their bikes without fear of getting run down by cars. We scoped out neighborhoods by walking around, talking to people we met on the street, speaking with our realtor, and asking people at my new job with kids. (If you're moving here in the middle of winter, of course, you'll be at a disadvantage because you won't see so many people playing outside.)

The newer subdivisions, especially on the far west side, have a suburban feel: the development pattern emphasizes curving streets and cul-de-sacs, with most commercial development occurring in malls (strip or otherwise). They'll remind you of Concord or Danville. Closer to the center of town, the houses are older, the streets have more of a grid pattern, and the commercial areas have a more natural pattern (stores cropping up in districts rather than contained in malls), like you find on College or Solano in Berkeley. Which style you prefer is pretty personal, and probably depends a lot on where you grew up.

Another way to meet parents is through your child's day care center or preschool. We've met a lot of parents that way, and my guess is you'll have a similar experience at any place you choose. But for the rest of the day, and on weekends, it's still nice to have parents and kids around your neighborhood. Another suggestion: try to live within walking distance of a nice park with play equipment and grass -- parents with young kids will flock there in the Spring and Summer.

Overall, you're moving to a very family-friendly place -- far more so than most places I've lived. Congratulations, I think you're gonna love it