The website Livability ranked America’s top 100 cities and six from the Badger State made the list.
Dorothy may have considered Kansas the place to be when she uttered those famous words, “There’s no place like home.” But she clearly didn’t consult a national list that ranked America’s best cities—otherwise she and Toto would have landed in Wisconsin!
Six Wisconsin hometowns made Livability.com’s list of the “Top 100 Best Places to Live.”
Editors used factors like average commute time, median home value, and walkability to give more than 2,300 cities a score of 1 to 100 in eight categories: civics, demographics, economy, education, health, housing, infrastructure, and amenities.
This year, they focused on small-to-mid-sized cities (with populations of 500,000 or smaller.)
NOTE: These are Wisconsin’s highest-scoring cities in each category. Click here to see where Wisconsin’s cities ranked overall.
Top Rated: Waukesha
Score: 62 (out of 100)
Why: Editors credited the Waukesha Civic Center’s full calendar of shows and performances for helping the city “exude arts and culture.” From colorful murals downtown to large guitar sculptures along the Fox River, Waukesha received the highest “Civics” score for the various ways it showcases its community’s talents. Local shops, cooking classes, and a retro/modern arcade (with laser) tag also added to the Milwaukee suburb’s appeal.
How the rest of Wisconsin ranked: Madison (58), Eau Claire (55), La Crosse (54), Appleton (51), Green Bay (31)
Top Rated: Green Bay
Score: 56 (out of 100)
Why: Home to one of the most storied football franchises in the NFL, Green Bay scored high in demographics thanks to its wide-ranging appeal. Editors say it attracts young families for its school district (among the largest and highest-rated in the state) and retirees for its long-standing community traditions, like the farmers’ market and annual Packers players’ children’s bike ride to training camp.
How the rest of Wisconsin ranked: Madison (47), Appleton (44), Waukesha (43), Eau Claire (17), La Crosse (14)
Top Rated: Madison
Why: Headquarters for Epic, the largest healthcare software company in America, Madison is also a hub for dozens of other manufacturing, agriculture, tech (including Google), and food and beverage companies. Editors also flagged Madison as a great place to start or grow a business, with the University of Wisconsin Small Business Development Center nearby. Plus, the city is one of only two in the state with an average median income of more than $50,000.
How the rest of Wisconsin ranks: Waukesha (84), Green Bay (68), Eau Claire (67), Appleton (63), La Crosse (56)
Top Rated: Eau Claire
Why: Forbes ranked the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire as the top comprehensive university in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa last year—even above the states’ flagship campuses. Livability editors called that ranking especially meaningful because it considers how universities meet the needs of low- and moderate-income students, as well as how well all students do after graduation.
How the rest of Wisconsin ranks: Appleton/La Crosse (tie-63), Madison (61), Waukesha (57), Green Bay (52)
Top Rated: Madison
Why: Year after year, the University of Wisconsin Hospitals, based in Madison, are rated among the best in the country. In July, US News & World Report ranked them the number one system in Wisconsin for the eleventh year in a row. Four medical and surgical specialties scored among the best in the country: gastroenterology, geriatrics, gynecology, and orthopedics. The hospital system also received US News’ highest rating for 18 different procedures.
How the rest of Wisconsin ranks: La Crosse (73), Eau Claire (68), Waukesha (64), Green Bay (58), Appleton (56)
Top Rated: Eau Claire and La Crosse
Score: 72 (tie)
Why: Average home costs and rent costs are below the national average in both of these cities. Best of all, the overall cost of living is significantly lower than the US average, meaning Wisconsinites are able to make their dollars stretch further. The percentage of residents renting versus owning their homes is split nearly down the middle, too, which editors said means there’s something for everyone.
How the rest of Wisconsin ranks: Appleton (69), Green Bay, Madison, and Waukesha (67-tie)
Top Rated: Madison
Why: A mix of bike paths, bridges, and recently-expanded streets put Madison on top in another category. But it shouldn’t be a big surprise that no Wisconsin cities achieved too high of a rating in the “Infrastructure” category. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave Wisconsin a “C” grade on its most recent Infrastructure Report Card.
How the rest of Wisconsin ranks: La Crosse (50), Eau Claire (47), Waukesha (46), Appleton (44), Green Bay (42)
Top Rated: Madison
Why: With a famous farmers’ market, tons of free cultural attractions, a Big Ten university, and 200 miles of hiking, biking, and/or snowshoeing paths, Madison scored high for its “Amenities.” Plus, a spirit of volunteerism keeps many of them, like the local art museums, zoo, and multi-acre Arboretum, free to the public.
How the rest of Wisconsin ranks: Appleton, Green Bay (69-tie), La Crosse (59), Waukesha (56), Eau Claire (53)
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