Best Cities 2010: Madison, WI

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Best Cities 2010: Madison, WI

Citizens of Madison enjoy a low unemployment rate and plenty of recreation options with nearby lakes and parkland.

City: Madison

State: Wisconsin

Best Cities Overall Rank: 3

About Madison: Outdoor family fun is why kids love Madison, which lies right between two spectacular lakes. There are three additional area lakes, more than 120 miles of shared-use walking and biking trails, and 260-plus parks. Work life affords a bit more peace of mind and less stress than in some other cities, since the unemployment rate is just 7 percent and commuting time averages only 18.7 minutes. Madison also gets an “A” for overall home value, safety, and solid schools.

What moms say: Resident Kim Herlitzka loves that families don’t have to move to the suburbs in order to send their children to a good school. “We live in a city neighborhood where the houses don’t all look the same and where there is a mix of younger families and older people,” says the mom of two.

What’s great for families: There’s never a shortage of fun, affordable activities inside, too: The Henry Vilas Zoo, one of the nation’s few free zoos, has a hands-on learning center, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum hosts many free or low-cost family events.

County: Dane

Population: 230,000

Official website for city visitors’ bureau/city: Visitor’s bureau website

Newspaper with the largest circulation: Wisconsin State Journal

Madison blogs:

Mom in Madison


City of Madison

Madison‘s Facebook page: Follow Madison on Facebook


Education rank: 28

High School graduation rate 2008: 81.3%

Blue Ribbon Schools, 2003-2009: 0

Blue Ribbon Schools per 100,000 people: 0

NEAYC-accredited preschools: 8

NAEYC schools per 100,000 people: 3.45

NAEP State proficiency reading, grade 8: 266

Pupil/Teacher Ratio: 14

Total Expenditures Per Student: $13,306


Health rank: 7

Quality children’s hospitals: 1

Hospitals per 100,000 people: 0.43

Quality Pediatricians: 2

Quality Pediatricians per 100,000: 0.86

Average number of Unhealthy Air Quality days between 2006-2008, by county: 0


Safety rank: 24

Violent Crimes, 2008: 891

Violent Crime Rate per 100,000: 384.19

Sex Offenders: 426

Sex Offenders per 100,000: 183.69


Economy rank: 28

Travel time to work, 2006-2008, in minutes: 18.7 

Percent of labor force unemployed, January 2010: 6.8      

Best Performing Cities Job Index: 799.81

Median Home List Price: $107,000                   

5-Year Home Value Index: 2%                 


Recreation Rank:  13

Parkland acreage, 2008 (includes pools and playgrounds): 6,000         

Parkland per 100,000: 2,587.14