Yes, I have heard it's a lovely town
August 22, 2014 10:18 AM   Subscribe

I'm moving to Madison, WI and everyone loves it. But why? And is it really perfect?

Everyone I have talked with about my new job has told me how lucky I am to be going to Madison, but no one has given me any details except it's liberal, has a cheese shop, and is very pretty due to the lakes. I have never been to the Midwest and have never really wanted to live there. Please tell me why you think Madison is so lovely. I'm especially interested in people who have lived or are currently living there rather than visitors.

And what I'm really wondering is, what are the bad parts? It can't be the perfect city for everyone, can it? Who is not going to like Madison?

Possibly relevant details about me - I like visiting cities like New York, San Fransisco, Montreal and Quebec City, and don't like Vancouver. I grew up in a city of ~300,000 in Canada. I've lived in the left-wing bastion of Berkeley, but I've also lived in some very right-wing and/or rural places in the US and Canada. I am somewhat outdoorsy and definitely foody, but won't have a car and will be living way in the south of town with a dog.

I do really like cheese.
posted by hydrobatidae to Society & Culture (34 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
What are the bad parts?

Winters are for real, though that may not be a big hangup for you.
posted by craven_morhead at 10:23 AM on August 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

What reasons did you have for not wanting to live in the Midwest? I tend to think of Madison as being very Midwestern (but really in the very best ways), but I also find that people who've spent no time in the region have a very different perspective of "Midwestern" than those who have lived here for some time.
posted by like_a_friend at 10:26 AM on August 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I grew up in a very similar Midwestern college town and I've heard both called the "Berkeley of the Midwest." I think you'll see similarities to Berkeley as you would in other college towns (I've also lived in Berkeley). Madison is a great place for biking, because of extensive bike lanes.
posted by three_red_balloons at 10:26 AM on August 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Madison is an excellent place to be in the summer. Awesome farmer's market, some good theatre, feels like a very small college town but there are lots of people. After October until almost May, ugh, terrible.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:29 AM on August 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

And what I'm really wondering is, what are the bad parts? It can't be the perfect city for everyone, can it? Who is not going to like Madison?

The liberals can be kind of crazy with the liberalism, in a Bezerkly sort of way. And it's an activist community - they will get totally up in arms about things that nobody cares about in other communities. The upside is that the city government is remarkably well run. The police are the most professional you will ever interact with. Government is, even for the nuttiness, done well there.

Traffic is really bad - much of that is because of the natural constriction of the Isthmus, but some if it because making a highway around the north side of Mendota is a non-starter for a variety of reasons. Public transportation also sucks for this reason. Getting across town is a pain in the ass in the best of weather and an ordeal in inclement weather.

However, if you plan it right, you live on the west side and commute downtown, say, then it isn't so bad. I lived on the east side and worked on the west side. The commute was gonna kill me.

But, the good ? It is very, very good. Madison punches far, far above it's weight in terms of cultural amenities. Lots of great restaurants, Concerts on the Square, and other such things that other towns of equal size cannot possibly offer.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:29 AM on August 22, 2014 [6 favorites]

I visited once last year, for a conference, and liked it immediately. I can't speak to it with any real knowledge, since I was there so briefly and spent little time exploring, but I can say that the place has a great vibe. I was sad to leave, for sure. It's beautiful upon arrival - set on a gorgeous lake, the great (to me) image of a collegiate town - and I saw no end of restaurants, shops, cafes, and flyers everywhere advertising all kinds of activities (yes, I was by the campus, so I certainly got an impression heavily created by the university). Everytime I was outside I saw people out, whether it was strolling, shopping, eating, or exercising. Generally, it just seemed like an upbeat and open place. I can count on one hand the times I've had such a positive first impression of a city, so to me that's a huge indicator that Madison is as awesome as it's made out to be. YMMV, obviously, but I hope you have as positive an impression as I did.
posted by AthenaPolias at 10:37 AM on August 22, 2014

I grew up in Madison.

There are actual Conservatives here. They may not live downtown or the more 'liberal' parts of the city, but they're there.

See, Madison is shaped like an hourglass - and the further away you get from the center, the more suburban you get. Until you get to the very ends, where people deem it easier to just go to the malls for everything, instead of downtown. So, there's that. But, it's a beautiful and vibrant city; I basically moved out because it got too small for me.
posted by spinifex23 at 10:41 AM on August 22, 2014

Great answers! Thanks.

like_a_friend - A couple reasons: I love oceans and don't find lakes substitute well. I have family on both coasts so no one is close.

craven_morhead - What kind of winter? Dry, sunny, cold or damp, snowy, grey?
posted by hydrobatidae at 10:42 AM on August 22, 2014

I lived there for many years. It is a great town and I miss it a lot now that I am in Milwaukee. Things I liked:
1. great restaurants-much broader diversity of ethnic food that you'd typically find in a similar sized midwestern city.
2. super easy to walk/bike/bus over much of the city.
3. farmer's markets are great- not just the summer one around the capitol, but winter farmer's markets and the neighborhood ones.
4. access to a lot of cultural events due to huge university and state capitol.
5. fairly cheap to live- although more than Milwaukee is, but way way cheaper than similar university towns on the coasts.
6. the lakes are beautiful and sitting on the union terrace on a friday evening listening to live music (for free) while the sun sets is really nice.
7. fairly good contingent of food carts around campus and the capitol.
posted by sulaine at 10:46 AM on August 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Restaurants are a huge plus in Madison.

Himal Chuli -- amazing, amazing Nepalese food, owned by a very sweet family. The Nepalese food I've had in DC comes nowhere close.

Lao Laan-Xang -- very yummy Laotian.

Vientiane Palace -- try their pad thai. It's not like any pad thai I've ever had. I have no idea how "authentic" it is, but it's amazing. Do not be alarmed by the bright red color. I swear it tastes nothing like ketchup.

Paul's Pel'meni -- I actually haven't been here yet, but the original Pel'meni's bite-sized dumplings were delicious.

The summer is beautiful. Beer or ice cream on Memorial Union Terrace is not to be missed.
posted by SugarAndSass at 10:49 AM on August 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

I lived in Madison for over 6 years, and moved away in 2008 for job and family reasons, but it was not an easy choice.

Outdoorsy and foodie are both great: the gigantic farmer's market, the cheese shop, biking, sailing. A+. The carlessness on the south side might be a pain if you're working in another non-Capitol non-University part of town because the bus routes assume you're going there, plus the north-south axis of town is not as charming and walkable. The winter is really, really wintery. "X square miles surrounded by reality" is either a major compliment or condemnation depending on how you view it. I had some poor experiences with undergrads that led me to feel totally unsafe in the student neighborhoods after dark. (Folks cringe at the area around Allied Drive but I never had bottles thrown at me there.) Being carless isn't super easy, though if you can do a car share thing it may be better. I'm skewing really negative here because you asked, but if you like Berkeley and have Canadian cold tolerance I think you'll like it, and if teleportation existed I'd love to live there again.
posted by tchemgrrl at 10:52 AM on August 22, 2014

Nthing the winters being awful. It's a big part of why I don't live there anymore and why I don't plan to return.

Oh, and despite how liberal and whatever the city is, it feels pretty segregated and there's absolutely no shortage of racism.
posted by SugarAndSass at 10:53 AM on August 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

What kind of winter? Dry, sunny, cold or damp, snowy, grey?

All of the above ? Not to be snarky, but winters can be highly variable. They will generally begin in late November and end in March. But you know - my wife and I were married in mid April and we had a blizzard.

The worst of it can be very bad - 20"+ snowfalls, long stretches of bitter cold (last winter was 50 days below zero). Same as any other northern town, really.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:54 AM on August 22, 2014

And in response to your follow up: sunny and snow-squeakingly cold.
posted by tchemgrrl at 10:55 AM on August 22, 2014

What kind of winter? Dry, sunny, cold or damp, snowy, grey?

All of the above, depending on the year. One Christmas I had a friend come visit who was excited for some snow, and instead the ground was entirely bare and the windchill was 20 below zero. Another Christmas six feet of snow fell in one extended storm. I mean, the Madison winter is so long that it can pass through all of those states and back again. Some days damp and slushy, some days bright and super-cold, some days nostril-freezing/cheek-chapping winds, some days peaceful and cloudy with big fat soft snowflakes drifting down.

I enjoyed living there, but the winter always felt long.

I'm not quite sure why you want to hear about the bad parts, since you have to move there and all, and of course no place is perfect. But for what it's worth, I found it had a noticeable race problem, especially regarding a white/black divide. The white and black communities can be pretty starkly separated, especially in terms of neighborhood and class.

The UW campus at night especially on weekends was often an obstacle course of Binge Drinking Undergrads Who Cannot Hold Their Liquor, meaning also an obstacle course of garbage, vomit, urine, and condoms. Ucch, children, learn to keep your body fluids on the inside. Plus also, the general vibe of the student drunks in Madison I found to be belligerent and aggressive--thick redfaced boys who would start shouting at me when I tried to go out and walk the dog. As opposed to peaceful/giggly types of drunks, for instance, though maybe I just wish more of them would have smoked weed instead.
posted by theatro at 10:58 AM on August 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

Oh, gosh, I loved Madison. I biked and took the bus (and admittedly lived close to where I worked), but after living in Boston, the main thing I remember is that living there is Easy compared to a big coastal city. Easy traffic, easy shopping (Willy St Co-op!), easy commutes, nice people, good food, great lefty vibe.

Bad: the lakes can be kind of gross. Maybe they've gotten the nitrogen/algae problem under control now, otherwise they can be a little green. But they're very pretty! Just don't try to orient yourself by the water, because there are multiple lakes.

Honestly, winter in Madison is way better than a lot of the midwest. It's not usually super icy like places farther south, mainly because it's colder. If you're well-dressed for the cold, and come to view wool as a delight, Madison winter is only occasionally awful, and often pretty. Take up cross country skiing and you'll be much happier.

It's a short trip to Chicago or Milwaukee when you need a bit more city.
posted by ldthomps at 11:02 AM on August 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh, my bona fides: I lived there for fifteen years, up until a few years ago, when I had to move away for work.
posted by theatro at 11:04 AM on August 22, 2014

I lived in Madison for a year and loved it for reasons stated above. For winter, it did snow but I remember the roads being cleared pretty quick. The bigger issue than snow was cold/wind (it's right inbetween two lakes so massive lakefront effect), so definitely be prepared to bundle up.
posted by agress at 11:08 AM on August 22, 2014

like_a_friend - A couple reasons: I love oceans and don't find lakes substitute well. I have family on both coasts so no one is close.

Welp, yeah, not going to're probably not going to be real crazy about Madison. But hopefully the move will be short-term....?
posted by like_a_friend at 11:17 AM on August 22, 2014

Oh! And the one person I've met who was not gonna like Madison was a young professor I met on a flight from there to Chicago. He kept a pied a terre in Madison and lived in Chicago on weekends, because "Madison is a podunk little town in the middle of too much corn". On and on he went with the disdain, about the lack of diversity and fine art and hot clubs. Yep, it's a small midwestern town, ain't nothing changing that.

So even if it can't come up with ocean or family or big city for you, don't be that guy. He sounded like such an ass. There are tons of international and sophisticated people there, and they bring fascinating to the table in a way his disdainful big-city self never could've.
posted by ldthomps at 11:23 AM on August 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think you'll be happier in Madison if you find ways to take advantage of your proximity to Milwaukee and (especially) Chicago. Not only are they both larger cities with more to do and see, but I at least personally feel that the great lakes are a pretty good substitute for the ocean, in a way that the lakes around Madison really aren't.
posted by kickingtheground at 11:25 AM on August 22, 2014

I lived in Madison for seven years, and mostly liked it. As others have said, great restaurants, biking, outdoorsy stuff. As a big college town, it has a great live music scene. I used to program the Cinematheque, so I'm biased, but I still think it's a jewel; the Wisconsin Film Festival is great, too. And if you like beer, there are few better places to be.

Though I eventually made my peace with this, my main problem with Madison was an intangible one that others have already alluded to. Inasmuch as a city can be said to have a collective opinion of itself, Madison thinks it is basically the greatest place on earth at any point in human history. Sometimes that "Isn't this the best city EVAR?" attitude gets a little tiresome.

Oh, and if you travel by air often, the puniness of Dane Country Regional Airport can get a tad frustrating. (Then again, its smallness makes the place very easy to navigate and deal with.)

Overall, I'd say that the pros outweigh the cons.
posted by Dr. Wu at 11:36 AM on August 22, 2014

I lived in the Bos-NYC-DC metroplex for my entire life before moving to Madison nine years ago. The basic reasons people like it are covered pretty well above; it's a very easy place to live. It's extremely cheap relative to the coasts. It's big enough that there are always new restaurants and new people and new stuff, but small enough that you're constantly running into people you know in the coffeeshop or on the street. It's very well set-up for biking. It's very easy to get to Chicago for big-city stuff. Whether you will experience Madison is ultra-lefty probably depends where you live; the university community is certainly liberal in the sense of "votes 75-80% Democratic," but it's nothing like Berkeley.

Undergraduates are very tightly concentrated in specific neighborhoods. I live 1 mile from campus and have had no problem with drunk college kids wandering around. If you're living in South Madison you will quite literally never see an undergrad. But can you be more specific about what you mean by "way in the south of town"? Do you mean you're living near South Park street but inside the Beltline, or do you mean, like, Fitchburg? Big difference. If you like biking, you'll be fine -- but this is not a great public transit town, especially once you get away from the city center; I think it would be hard to do all your getting around by bus. I have a car and use it about two or three times a week. (If I didn't have kids to shuttle around, it would be less.) Not having a car might also limit your ability to get out to the country, where outdoorsy stuff abounds (though I suppose this is true in almost every city.)

Who might not like Madison?

1. People who don't like the cold. But winters here are way easier than those in Quebec, so if you're fine with those, you'll be fine here. Typical mid-winter day is bright and cold (say high of 20 F), which I personally find easier to take than day after day of gray drizzle and high of 40F.

2. Single people who are older than 25 and looking to settle down. At least anecdotally, I've heard from my friends in this demographic that the dating pool here is small compared to that in bigger cities.

3. People who are so New York - centric that they simply can't reconcile their self-concept with the idea of living in the Midwest.

4. People with very specific cultural/job needs -- e.g. people who need to be near world-class opera, or a big tech startup community, or a big Jewish community, or whatever. Madison's a "big small city" but it's a small city and there are some things that just aren't here.

But outdoorsy-foody people with a connection of some kind to UW (is that what's bringing you here?) are pretty much exactly the kind of people who like it here, by and large. Feel free to MeMail or email me with more questions.

I do really like cheese.

Just so you know, you're gonna have to start liking beer and bratwurst, too.
posted by escabeche at 11:36 AM on August 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

I recently left Madison after 8 years, and I think everyone above has covered the tangible pluses. Winters are wintery and they will make transit-ing cumbersome, but if you're from Canada then you probably know how to deal with it. It's a great place to be a student, and it's a great place to raise a family.

The intangible positive: it's just a pleasant place to be. I didn't really understand what this meant until I spent significant time away from the Midwest, but it's true. The people are very nice, active, and usually happy. They walk with their heads up and will smile at/with you, they'll help you pick up the books or groceries you dropped, they'll chase you down because you forgot your change, they'll help dig out your (theoretical) car when the plow covers it. Even the drunks are mostly harmless and entertaining (and won't be a problem if you're outside of the Isthmus... though, like escabeche says, there's a big difference between, say, South Park St or Vilas and Fitchburg or Verona and I would not do the latter without a car).

But, Madison is not a City, and that is why I left. You will find the things you love (that are actually great and affordable to boot) and you will frequent them; you won't really stumble upon a never-heard-of lunch spot or a new bar. There is an opera that has a few performances a year and there are a couple of great community/UW theatre groups; there is no back-room Shakespeare or Klingon Christmas Carol. If you're a casual enjoyer of the outdoors you'll be very happy, but there are no mountains for you to climb. Maybe this won't be a big deal if you're only there for a few years, but if you're someone who is constantly craving new experiences then you'll have to work for it after a while.

Also there really is a lot of cheese. Like, measure the difference logarithmically.
posted by smittosmith at 12:17 PM on August 22, 2014

will be living way in the south of town

Long time Madisonion here. Can you clarify a bit what neighborhood/area you'll be living? That will help to better answer your question.

It's a University town - inundated with 43,000 students during the school year with the majority of those leaving town for the summer. If you'll be working near campus you will see a great change in the general population / crowds. It's also the state capital, so a large part of the population works for some form of government. If you don't work for/attend the UW or the government, it can be somewhat polarizing.

As escabeche said, dating/meeting people will be difficult if you're older than 25 or so. I've personally found it hard to make new friends as I've gotten older.

You may want to start checking out the online version of the weekly paper, The Isthmus. It's does lean liberal but is a good way to find out what's generally going on around town.

Cheese is really not that big of a deal here. If you like it, we have good cheese - eat some. If you don't, who cares.
posted by Bretley at 12:20 PM on August 22, 2014

I moved from the south shore of Massachusetts to Madison in 1973 and I'm still here. I was the chair of the Transit Board for a while: there's nothing wrong with our transit system that decent Federal funding and a grid-like city layout can't fix. Unfortunately that means we plan on excellent warm boots and wooly underthings. Google Maps is connected to the City's transit database, so you can see exactly the service you'll get from your south side address. We have four taxi companies as well, currently required to serve the city without cherry picking (and Uber/Lyft is tring to change that). A shared-car service began 10 years ago and the University has a contract with ZipCar.

There are three nice dog parks on the South Side: Quann, Badger Prairie, and Prairie Morraine. Dogs are not permitted onleash in City parks, and active campaigning for a change.

After thirty years, I've grown weary of seeing the same people and hearing the same arguments. Sometimes the City government is outstanding, sometimes everyone hangs back and nothing happens. It's easy to get involved if you're interested. On the other hand, I've watched the city grow from 70,000 to 220,000. Edge development has not been improved by Madison's exceptionally high self-regard: even where there are not four lakes to break up the street grid, there's no street grid. The traffic is therefore stop&go annoying, although an order of magnitude less an issue than in a large >1 million city. I've heard City planners predict that major intersections on the south west side will be "parking lots" by 2020, and that's coming up soon.

As a regular bus rider, I see the racial tensions every day. It's not Ferguson, but I've read about differential treatment for the Solidarity Singers: only the black ones are handcuffed by the Capitol Police. (Scott Walker, a deeply conservative Republican, supported by the Koch Bros., was elected Governor in 2010, eliminating almost all public employee unions. This infuriated many Madison residents, union members, since Madison is the Capital and therefore a company town of sorts.)

A recent report found Madison's public schools to be a national leader in segregation and disparate success between white and all other students.

Like many Midwestern towns, Madison is quite casual in dress. Even the wealthiest citizens who dress up for charity events carry the confidence of an eight-year-old at their mother's closet. I've seen men attending church in (longish) chino shorts. There's plenty of wild fashions which were popular in Berkeley four years ago. Most office workers keep two pair of dress shoes at their desk in the winter, so they can slosh through the slush in their boots.

I'd be happy particular questions via Memail.
posted by Jesse the K at 12:55 PM on August 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

Things that will make your winter experiences better:

Just throw the idea of being fashionable out the window!

Long Johns, both upper and lower.
Hell, layers in general.
Mittens, not gloves.
A good scarf.
A really good hat.
Layered socks, especially wool.

Two freshly boiled hard boiled eggs make for a great hand warmer, especially if you have to walk around in the cold. Plus, snack!

If you drive, make sure you research and have proper provisions in the car: Snowbrush, ice scraper, non clumping kitty litter, a blanket or other warm clothes, a small shovel even. Maybe a book. If you get stuck or stranded in the cold, especially in a rural or unfamiliar area, leaving the car to go look for help can be deadly. Better to wait it out in the car until help arrives.

And learn the symptoms of frostbite. It's a real thing.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:58 PM on August 22, 2014

It's a great place to be a student, and it's a great place to raise a family.

As someone who lives in a similar upper-Midwestern college town, let me unpack this. It means that if you graduate and you still want to live that cool single person college-y lifestyle that you're used to, you move away to the big city. The ones who stay put are those who want to marry, settle down, and have kids. If you're in your late 20s and have been living in Berkeley or Brooklyn, then moving here may be a big shock -- suddenly your peers (even people younger than you) will have children, when up to this point everyone's just had boyfriends/girlfriends.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 1:25 PM on August 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've lived in various places with real winter so I'm not worried about that particular issue.
posted by hydrobatidae at 1:33 PM on August 22, 2014

Oh, OK - sweet.

Then. there's this - when the ice is thick and safe, and frozen when the waters are calm, few things are more fun than skating on Lake Mendota on a cold, dry day.

(I may be alone in this)
posted by spinifex23 at 2:51 PM on August 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

For a town of its size, it has amazing food and cultural attractions. UW is a great school and attracts great students.

Downsides: not very racially diverse. Grey from November to April. But much of the country is.
posted by persona au gratin at 10:23 PM on August 22, 2014

Also, seconding the asshole drunk students. So stay off State Street by campus on weekends.

Also, great farmers markets. Great apples. Man, I miss those apples. Fantastic crisp fall days. Amazing beer. Having a beer on the union terrace when it's warm--life doesn't get much better than that.
posted by persona au gratin at 10:29 PM on August 22, 2014

I lived in Madison for 17 years. I moved there from Chicago to go to school; I stayed because it was familiar and had great food; I finally left because I lost my tolerance for Madison's smugness.

I agree with all the positives listed (great to hear that Himal Chuli is still going strong!). So here are some negatives.

I moved to Madison from a very mixed area of Chicago. The biggest culture shock of my (then young) life was being surrounded by people who all looked to my untrained eye to be very similar. I adjusted after awhile but even with all the ethnic restaurants and the (kind of segregated) "diverse" sections it's a homogeneous town.

My friends who had grown up in Madison had very little experience with non-white or non-American people, and while they were proudly liberal, their lack of actual experience could show itself in ways that could make me cringe a bit. I bit my tongue more than I would have liked.

Coupled with the lack of cultural diversity is what felt to me like one big monolithic mindset. I could predict what any new person I met at a Madison social event would say about the Middle East, corporations, etc. etc. I was dimly aware of the presence of people with different viewpoints but they were vastly outnumbered, at least in my social circles.

If you like a lot of diversity of thought, you might need to be proactive and seek out different groups rather than settling with whatever default social scene your job or first social contacts create.
posted by ceiba at 8:04 AM on August 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've lived here 18 years. I moved here to attend UW and never really found a compelling reason to leave.

The bottom line is that it's really easy to live in Madison. If you have even a half-way decent job, you can afford a nice enough place and take in what the city has to offer. I travel nearly exclusively by bicycle (my wife and I share a car, which means she gets the car), and live on the North side and work in Fitchburg (a southern suburb). I commute by bike year-round, and the most difficulty I've faced was the insane cold and wind chill of this past winter.

Even without a car, you can get on a bike and be in the middle of nowhere in an hour, plus there are many top-notch parks sprinkled all over the city.

There is amazing food here, great beer, and an embarrassing amount of free cultural opportunities. We have an incredible library system, with a good network spread across the neighborhoods. The city is almost comically beautiful, and the people are generally very friendly.

If you live on the South side but north of the Beltline, you're in for a treat. You'll be close to Madison's great ethnic corridor on South Park Street, home to the best Mexican and Chinese joints as well as good Indian food. There's also a Peruvian joint that's pretty good, and a sushi place that's no worse than any other sushi place in town.

In this part of town you'll also bear witness to the aforementioned racism. Madison is segregated, and the South side is one of the places we push the poor (black) people.

Regarding dogs, I don't have one, but I've noticed (at least in my neighborhood) the construction of small, neighborhood dog parks. There are two within walking distance of my house, and hopefully this bodes well for wherever you're going to be living. Dogs are generally not allowed off-leash, but there's a lot of "live and let live" to it. If you have a friendly, well-trained dog that you clean up after, few people are going to mind if you've got him off-leash.

To my mind, the big downsides to Madison:

1. As Dr. Wu mentioned above, the self-congratulatory nature of the city. There is a problem with race here, but because we have lots of different kinds of white people (some of them with dreadlocks!), there seems to be widespread denial of it.

2. Related to #1, this city can be super provincial. A very small, very motivated group of activists can completely derail an obvious public good for no good reason. This often leads to "worst possible outcome" in public works, because there's this feeling that everyone must walk away from a project fully satisfied.

3. There's a ton of drunk driving here. This is a statewide thing, but just so you know: if you're on a bike late at night, please have good lights, and please be careful. Related, the city (through the UW) has a binge drinking problem. If you're downtown at night on the weekends, there are packs of drunk kids roving around puking and urinating on things. It gets old.

4. It's hard to make lasting friendships here, if only because the nature of the city means people are coming and going a lot. My wife and I have put a lot of energy into a lot of relationships and it seems like these dissolve every few years as people move onto new opportunities in Chicago, the coasts, and other university towns.

5. The lakes that give so much beauty to the area make it tough to get around. When you want to get somewhere, there's often a lake in the way. Traffic is not so bad as in Chicago or other large cities (Madison doesn't have a rush hour; it has a rush minute), but winter storms really do bring the city to a grinding halt. That said, riding a bike really mitigates this, and the bike paths are usually plowed before the streets.

In spite of some of these downsides, I'm proud to call this place home. If you have specific questions, feel free to comment or send MeMail.
posted by rocketman at 2:32 PM on August 25, 2014

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