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Living in Madison

The best descriptions of life in Madison come from the people who live here. On, a postdoctoral fellow writes, “Madison is a great place to live, work, and play. It retains the atmosphere and charm of a small town, but provides many of the cultural benefits of a large city.”

An IT professional says, “if you want a laid-back work environment with a good life balance, this is the place to be. Madison is an excellent place to raise a family.”

Aerial photo of Madison


In fact, Madison has long been considered one of the best places to live in the country. For decades, the city has been featured in the national media—Forbes, Kiplinger’s, and others—as being among the nation’s most livable cities. It is the state capital and Wisconsin’s second-largest city (population 223,000). Madison sits on an isthmus between two beautiful lakes and is known for its numerous parks. The city maintains more than 260 parks, ten beaches, four premier golf courses, and an awarding-winning botanical garden and conservatory. Madison is 150 miles northwest of Chicago and 70 miles west of Milwaukee. The Dane County Airport, with a beautifully remodeled terminal and excellent air service, is convenient to the university campus.

Madison’s climate is temperate. January is the coldest and snowiest month, with an average temperature of 24.6° F and average snowfall of nearly 11 inches. July is the warmest month, with an average temperature of 71.2° F.

Tennis, biking, golfing, swimming, and sailing are popular summer sports, and cross-country and downhill skiing are common winter activities. There are excellent indoor campus facilities for year-round swimming, tennis, racquetball, squash, and ice-skating.

The Madison community offers a wonderful diversity of cultural activities ranging from classic opera, theater, concerts, and dance, to avant garde music, art, and local entertainment. Many events are free or very affordable.

The Overture Center for the Arts, designed by internationally famous architect Cesar Pelli, features a performance hall, playhouse, and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. The center, five short blocks from the university, is located on State Street—the vibrant pedestrian mall and commercial district that connects the campus to the State Capitol.

Madison is known for its lively social scene and for its diverse restaurants representing cuisine from around the world.

The UW–Madison campus has many points of interest. These include North Hall, the first building on the campus; Carillon Tower in front of the Social Sciences Building; the Library Mall with its clock tower and fountain; Picnic Point, a peninsula of woods, trails, and beaches that juts out into Lake Mendota; Science Hall and the Armory and Gymnasium on Langdon Street, both of which are National Historic Landmarks; and the Memorial Union, with a lakefront terrace that is a popular meeting place for students and community members. South of campus and along the shores of Lake Wingra lies the UW Arboretum, which features natural and restored samples of Wisconsin plant and animal life.

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