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Milwaukee
  • $400   =  non-traditional average 1
  • $700   =  average 2BR ÷ 2, or traditional roommate rent 2
  • $1181   =  average 1BR, rented solo 3
  • (traditional vs. non-traditional roommates)
  • (the rest of the  midwest US)

91% live within a 10-minute walk of a park. 4
Some errands can be accomplished on foot. 5
stormy winters, severe snow, barflies in winter
domestic beer, festivals 6
white folks bay, the hood, legit mexican food, bespoke beard wax, hipsters with children, poor hipsters, kite festival, ice skating, white girls take photos here, upcoming area, barrio, and the bridge that separates white and black are the largest hoodmap tags 7

SO, roomiematch.com's Milwaukee roommate rundown:

Cheese. Beer. Snow. Laverne & Shirley.

The first 2 are Milwaukee's most favorite things, or at least serious contenders, creating and consuming!

The third's what they have to deal with a lot. A lot of time spent dealing with a lot of snow. It's up to 50 inches a year. Opinions vary on how annoying (some love their snow sports!), but everyone agrees it's a lot.

The fourth's also a lot of how Milwaukee is popularly perceived, not just in the US, but worldwide.

Laverne & Shirley is an American sitcom which originally played for eight seasons on ABC from 1976-1983. It was about two roommates who work in a fictional but unsurprisingly familiar brewery. Yes, that range of several years back there was from the previous century, yes.

So how could a sitcom from literally last century still be relevant?

Because a lot are still watching it. In fact, "still" isn't exactly the right word, as exponentially more are watching them now in popular syndication over the internet than ever watched any of the original television network broadcasts.

But which brewery was "fictionalized?" Milwaukee was once home to four of the world's largest breweries: Blatz, Miller, Pabst, and Schlitz. Only Miller remains . . . but you can still smell the yeast. Miller and Coors have merged operations here now, and Miller maintains a huge operation on the west side. You and your roommates could go on a beer-tasting tour, including the Miller Inn and Beer Garden.

Miller along with Harley-Davidson are the two brands most associated with Milwaukee's heart and soul.

Miller still employs a few thousand Milwaukeeans, and Milwaukee is Harley-Davidson's international headquarters. They employ a lot of locals and throw a lot of parties, another way to Milwaukee's heart and soul!

Drinking beer here is cheaper than most cities, with craft or imported pints of beer only about $4, locally produced bottles less than that, and possible specials less than both. Meanwhile, cover charges are rare at any bar or club unless there's live music. There are also an unusually large number of "corner bars" and taverns, plus bowling alleys . . . probably also serving more beer!

Locals say if you visit only in winter, you'll know why there are a lot of bars.

But locals also say if you come back in summer, you'll see the party moved outside.

That's because Milwaukeeans must FEST! Milwaukee is an outdoor frenzy of festivals with fermented refreshments. Extra especially in summer, but there are cultural events occurring in downtown parks weekly. Almost always involving cheese and beer, and frequently snow.

Their most famous and most attended (over 800,000) is Summerfest, but with or without that one, you and your roommates could celebrate a favorite festival literally every weekend if you wanted.

So why not move to Milwaukee and drink beer with party people?

If we didn't already make it clear (heh), a lot of social events revolve around beer. If you would rather not be around a lot of beer and beer drinkers . . . you're probably not happy in Milwaukee. Not saying it's not survivable, many ex-drinkers are still here, but most locals would say Milwaukee's a rough ride for anyone struggling with alcohol.

And the beer-centric social scene does have drawbacks you'll want to beware, even if you're not imbibing. The rate of health problems caused by alcoholic overconsumption is higher here than most cities on this list. And whether or not you and your roommates choose to attend festivals or games or drink beer yourselves, you could still have a DUI problem downtown right around that time. Someone else's DUI might drive right into you, as the overall rate of DUI is much higher around events. You should certainly attend stuff that interests you, just beware of drunk drivers if you must drive. For traffic and DUI avoidance seriously consider walking and/or park and riding the bus up to the event. Have a blast (with or without beer) then let the professionals drive you safely away from any and all drunken hassles, easy cheesy.

Which you'll probably easily afford. If you're moving to Milwaukee from most of the cities on this list, you'll find everything from going out to your groceries is at least a little cheaper.

So can you can avoid death by summer mosquito? How about falling into a snowdrift then freezing to death, can you sidestep that too? If yes to both and you're not seriously concerned about your susceptibility to Miller-induced alcoholism . . . Milwaukee might be the High Life for you.

The rest of the Milwaukee roommate lowdown:

  • about 600,000 in the city, about 1.5 million greater metro
  • nicknamed "Brew City" or "The State of Cheese"
  • largest city in Wisconsin, along the shores of Lake Michigan at the junction of three rivers, with smaller rivers also flowing through
  • 90 miles north of Chicago, with rail service to Chicago
  • stormy winters with many severe winter storms, milder summers
  • Because of a bunch of complicated meteorological stuff involving Milwaukee's location in the Great Lakes region right next to Lake Michigan, the weather can be highly variable and rapidly changing. There's also an urban heat island effect, and heavy thunderstorms often delivering high wind plus hail. In particular, beware of flooding during intense rainfall, especially on the ground floor of anything down a hill.
  • Milwaukee has a bus system, the Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) which covers about 80% of the city. It's especially helpful to park and ride downtown for a game or a festival. It's less useful to any outerlying area or after midnight, so check your routes in advance to avoid getting stranded outside in the snow.
  • Milwaukee is a nice place to ride your bike when it's not frozen, with quite a few separated bike lanes and limited access paths, with the city reportedly working to increase that number.
  • Milwaukee has one of the best public park systems, with the beaches along the lake in nice weather the most popular. The Parks of Milwaukee park system, including a "Grand Necklace of Parks" of over 140, featuring several with nature centers and performance venues.
  • Milwaukee loves its frozen custard, which is not regular ice cream or regular soft serve NOPE! It's frozen custard! (It's usually denser and eggier than all the other frozen "ice cream" approximations.)
  • Milwaukee (along with the greater Wisconsin area) manufactures over 50% of the country's cheddar, from larger scale operations to micro and artisanal. Some is ultimately transformed into super popular and super squeaky cheese curds.
  • They love their German culture, particularly with a huge German Fest in July and an Oktoberfest in October . . . as well as a lot of popular German restaurants and beer halls available year round.
  • home to Milwaukee College of Art and Design, Alverno College, Cardinal Stritch College, Carroll College, Concordia University, Milwaukee School of Engineering, Mount Mary College, Marquette University, Medical College of Wisconsin, and the University of Wisconsin
  • represented in two of the four major professional sports leagues: Bucks (NBA) and the Brewers (MLB)
  • "Polish flats" were nicknamed for the previously predominantly Polish immigrant neighborhoods in which they originally became popular: a 2-family home or duplex but one on top of the other instead of side by side. This allows separate entrances and a bit more privacy even under the same smaller roof because you're maximizing the real estate/minimizing the footprint for two separated dwellings.



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

  • Riverwalk: You and your roommates can explore downtown public art and restaurants while walking alongside the Milwaukee River.
  • Pabst Brewery Complex: Formerly a brewery, now a collection of historic older buildings being renovated into living spaces, retail, and restaurants.
  • Milwaukee Art Museum: There are wings (moving sunscreens) that open and close several times a day. And then the museum flies away! No, not really, but it is the roof of a pavilion. Over 32,000 works, from antiquity to the present. There's also an ongoing exhibit about Knowledge Beings and a Kohl's Art Studio.
  • Milwaukee Public Museum: Their primary natural history museum for 125 years. The largest planetarium in the state. Also a Hebior Mammoth, Apache Playing Cards, and the streets of Old Milwaukee.
  • Discovery World Museum: Interactive exhibits including local environmental science. Also a Caribbean tank with a bamboo shark and some honeycomb cowfish.
  • Milwaukee County Zoo: One of the largest zoos in the country with over 2500 animals. There's also a Sky Safari and a virtual reality Gorilla Trek.
  • Harley-Davidson Museum: In addition to the very large collection of motorcycles throughout the years, there's a riding academy and a parts marketplace.


Here's the city of Milwaukee's official .gov and their Department of Neighborhood Services, including their Rent for Success Program, a free program designed to "educate and empower renters to make safe, healthy choices in their housing."





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.