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Madison
  • $500   =  non-traditional average 1
  • $987   =  average 2BR ÷ 2, or traditional roommate rent 2
  • $1531   =  average 1BR, rented solo 3
  • (traditional vs. non-traditional roommates)
  • (the rest of the  midwest US)

95% live within a 10-minute walk of a park. 4
Some errands can be accomplished on foot. 5
getting drunk and falling asleep on the ice, pink flamingos
live music, hiking, bicycle friendly, pedestrian friendly, winter sports, ice sports, restaurants 6
rich people with boats, boat owners with problem kids, gentrifying quickly, hippies, biz hotels, ghosts with goals, frat douches, epic employees, drunk ice fisherman, student housing, and ex-milwaukeeans are the largest hoodmap tags 7

SO, roomiematch.com's Madison roommate rundown:

Madison is Wisconsin's capital. Their greater metropolitan area is home to almost 500,000 Madisonians.

And the University of Wisconsin-Madison with over 40,000 students is proudly hosted right in the middle. U of W-M is about 65% of the vibe around here, but it works because they love it.

In fact, Madison has one of the best educated urban populations in the country, along with a very low unemployment rate and an overall neighborly feeling. That's because most moving to Madison are coming to work for the state government and/or the University and/or The University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics system, itself associated with many startup generators and incubation tanks for health and biotech.

In fact, it's doing extremely well for its smaller size. Really the only "half empty" view is that Madison isn't terribly diverse, either demographically or the job base. But you could also argue that's just saying it's smaller, more or less. You trade some diversity for a more manageable size, a lower cost of living, and "that neighborly feeling."

The relative lack of diversity does means not a lot of people move here super casually or just for fun. Most people in Madison who moved here recently did so to work for the government, the largest university, and/or some of the associated healthcare/technology.

One of Madison's many nicknames is "City of Four Lakes," those being Kegonsa, Mendota, Monona, and Waubesa. This works because Madison really grooves on that athletic outdoor lake life, all year round. For transplants from warmer cities, you're not required to spend time on a frozen lake. But know your roommates (probably) and your neighbors (definitely) will.

Outdoor recreation in Madison in the warmer months involves all the lovely and expected walking, biking kayaking, and hiking all over their extensive trail system, with a little sailing on the lakes.

But what's often less expected is the aggressive athleticism that continues crossing their frozen tundra. Does snow or slush stop Madison from cross-country skiing, ice-boating, ice fishing, ice hockey, ice skating, ski jumping, or snowkiting?

Absolutely not. These snowbunnies get even sportier when their city freezes over. And with their low cost of living, Madison goes to 11 on maximizing frozen fun while minimizing expense.

And at all temps they also enjoy racing, roller derby, CrossFit, rugby . . . and sometimes curling.

There's a lot that's sporty and even nourishing and wholesome. Like all the museums, zoos, gardens, concerts, and art installations, so many of which are entirely free!

They just really want you to see!

So is there anything less wholesome going on? Well, in 2009, the City Council voted to make the plastic pink flamingo the city's official bird. You know, those decorations for your yard? They're extremely into them here, so much so that if you have a yard and don't put a pink flamingo on it, they'll charge you a large fine! And charging fines for failure to pink flamingo is perverted.

Just kidding!

Not about the flamingos overall, just about the fine. You and your roommates are on your own decorating your yard, you can flamingo (or not) at will.

Foodily speaking, many also love the James Beard award-winning restaurants, the largest producer-only farmers' market in the country (held around Capitol Square in the summer (it starts outside and moves indoors for winter)), and the local cheese curds and hot and spicy cheese bread.

So if you're considering Madison we hope you love cheese, cheesy bread, and cheesy flamingos, but you probably DO because WHY WOULD YOU NOT?

People who hate all that are probably not very nice or very Madisonian.

The rest of the Madison roommate lowdown:

  • summer is pleasant, fall is temperate, winters are cold and stormy with frequent heavy snow - it can get SLUSHY
  • home to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison Media Institute, Madison Area Technical College, and Edgewood College
  • many buildings of architectural interest, including some by Frank Lloyd Wright
  • active local music scene, home of many music festivals
  • several performing arts venues including the Madison Opera, the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, and the Madison Ballet
  • number of established "supper clubs," that traditionally serve food during the day, then convert into bars at night, frequently serving live entertainment, always serving a large selection of beer
  • Metro buses cover a bit of downtown, but you and your roommates will need a car to go anywhere else. Street parking is free and plentiful everywhere except downtown and around the University of Wisconsin. If you don't have another plan, you might have to pay to park in a lot, but only those areas.



After you're settled down, you and your roommates should experience Madison's:

  • Wisconsin Badgers: They love their men and women's college sports here, including football, basketball, ice hockey, and volleyball.
  • Henry Vilas Zoo: Still free since 1914! You can even go on a special tour with a zookeeper, possibly with a focus on Wisconsin badgers.
  • Williamson Street: "Willy Street" might be a nice place for you and your roommates to go for a walk, if you'd like that walk to include casual restaurants, a co-op, and some dive bars.
  • UW Arboretum: Students and researchers are focusing on restoration here, but you can visit this man-made reserve for birdwatching and biking! Also just walking, if you'd prefer. Over 1200 acres, right in town.
  • Madison Museum of Contemporary Art: Always free too! Permanent collections focus on Mexican Modernists and Chicago Imagists. Rooftop garden. Or you could enjoy their Art Fair on the Square in July.
  • Overture Center for the Arts: In addition the above, also hosts the Madison Ballet, the Madison Opera, the Madison Symphony Orchestra, and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra
  • UW Geology Museum: Do you enjoy local rocks? Would you like to view fossils from way back when there were volcanoes in Wisconsin? Fluorescent minerals? Standing under the skeleton of a mastodon? Also free!
  • Concerts on the Square: The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra performs for free on the grounds of the Capitol. Many mill about on the lawn, some bring a blanket or snacks. Also free!


Here's the city of Madison's official .gov for Live & Work, including community programs, extreme weather, housing & property, and farmers' markets.





Notes

1.   The non-traditional roommate rent average for this city we've experienced over the last 3 years. We can't predict future rental availability, because we're neither in control of any rental market nor psychic, sorry!

But in most cities most of the time, the recent and relatively recent past are the best predictors.


2.   This idea came from smartasset.com's ranking of what a roommate saves you in 50 cities. They ranked where roommates will save you the most money, based on the average cost of a 1BR as opposed to a 2BR ÷ 2. Unsurprisingly, the more expensive the city, the more you can save, but the savings are significant in all larger metros. So we got the data for the rest of our cities from Zumper too.

This is really the minimum you could save, as you could live with more than one roommate, split more services, share food or other supplies, etc. More sharing tends to lead to more savings too, as per our roommate roadmap.

As per the rest of the description at the top of this page, we're calling this "traditional" roommate rent.


3.   From zumper.com.


4.   Directly quoted from the Trust for Public Land's parkland rating system.

"The ParkScore index awards each city up to 100 points for acreage based on the average of two equally weighted measures: median park size and parkland as a percentage of city area. Factoring park acreage into each city’s ParkScore rating helps account for the importance of larger “destination parks” that serve many users who live farther than ten minutes’ walking distance."

While each city's rundown already includes their individual ParkScore, nature lovers might like to see all roommate cities ranked for parkland.


5.   Directly quoted from Walk Score's Cities and Neighborhoods Ranking. They've ranked "more than 2,800 cities and over 10,000 neighborhoods so you can find a walkable home or apartment."

While each city's rundown already includes their individual Walk Score, dedicated pedestrians might like to see all roommate cities ranked for walkability.


6.   From various lists here on our own best roommate cities.


7.   From hoodmaps.com: a collaborative map where residents use tags describing social situations you're likely to find. Other users can thumb up or down, so the largest tags have been thumbed up the most.