Madison, Wisconsin

Best Places to Retire in Wisconsin


Madison (population 220,000) is located in the south central part of the state. It is the state capital and also the county seat of Dane County (population 450,000). And, it is home to the University of Wisconsin with its more than 40,000 students. The city is built on an isthmus between lakes Monona and Mendota, which are the largest of five area lakes. It is a vibrant city that combines its urban culture with small town charm, and the surrounding towns offer natural beauty and many opportunities for outdoor recreation. There are hundreds parks and thousands of acres of parkland in the area offering year-round activities, including about 100 miles of hiking and biking trails, sailing, swimming, fishing, cross-country skiing, and more. Madison, which was established in 1856 and named for President James Madison, has been recognized nationally for its outstanding quality of life. It receives high marks when compared to hundreds of other metropolitan areas for housing affordability, low traffic congestion, continuing education opportunities, low crimes rates, percent of the population with a college education, and job growth.

The city is a culturally rich environment where you can enjoy world-class entertainment on a regular basis. It has a great number of performing arts organizations, including the symphony orchestra, choral music, opera, dance, and live theater, as well as outstanding museums and botanical gardens. There are also many seasonal events, festivals and fairs that feature the visual arts and a wide variety of live music. The University of Wisconsin, with one of the top arts programs in the country, produces about 250 concerts, 10 theater productions and more than 20 dance programs, many of which are offered to public audiences.

The Madison area offers seemingly limitless shopping choices. There are shopping malls, boutiques, galleries, bookstores, and many specialty shops. There are over 100 restaurants and bars in the downtown area and nearly 200 stores. And 30 miles east of the city is a major outlet center with 60 brand name stores. The city also has excellent healthcare from a number of providers. It is not unusual to hear, “The Madison area has it all.”

Arts & Culture

The Madison Symphony Orchestra, formed in 1926, is the oldest orchestra in the state. It presents its 10 concert series at Overture Hall in downtown Madison. The orchestra also has a full schedule of special events and an active outreach program.

The Madison Symphony Chorus is a 125-member chorus that regularly performs with the symphony.

The Madison Opera, now more than 40 years old, presents staged and concert opera, and music theater.

The Wisconsin Film Festival is an annual spring event that presents as many as 140 films from around the world.

Overture Center for the Arts is a principal venue. It consists of Overture Hall, a 2,251-seat performance hall; The Capitol Theater (Oscar Mayer Theatre) with seating for 1,000; The Playhouse (Madison Repertory Theater), a 350-seat theater; Promenade Hall, which can accommodate a full-scale theater performance, receptions or special events, and the Overture Center galleries.

The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art within the Overture Center for the Arts is one of the city’s oldest cultural organizations.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens features 16 acres of outdoor gardens and a pyramid-shaped glass conservatory filled with exotic plants and free-flying birds.

The Elvehjem Museum of Art at the University of Wisconsin has a permanent collection of 17,100 works. It has 11 galleries that feature 11 to 14 temporary exhibitions, and attracts about 75,000 visitors annually.

Broom Street Theater –
CTM Madison Family Theatre Company –
The Fireside Theater (Dinner Theater) –
Gerald Bartell Community Theatre –
Madison Repertory Theatre –
Mitby Theater (productions by Madison Area Technical College) –
University Theatre – The University of Wisconsin’s Department of Theatre & Drama –

Madison Theatre Guild is Madison’s oldest community theatre group.

Wisconsin Union Theater, located at the university, is a premier venue for the performing arts. Initially opened in 1939, the theater has hosted a great number of famous actors, dancers, musicians, performers, well-known personalities, leaders, scientists and philosophers. Seating capacity is 1,300.

Young Shakespeare Players is a children’s theater program in which young people perform full-length works of Shakespeare.


The Madison Parks Department manages over 6,000 acres of parkland. This includes more than 240 parks, 10 beaches, and four premiere golf courses. In the winter season, it also maintains outdoor ice rinks and cross-country skiing trails.

The University of Wisconsin is a member of the Big Ten Athletic Conference. It competes in 11 men’s and 11 women’s intercollegiate sports and brings major athletic competitions to Madison.

Dane County Parks Department manages nearly 30 locations with a wide range of facilities for year-round recreation. Included are camping, picnic areas, eight parks that offer fishing, swimming, boating, cross-country skiing, balls fields, tennis, and more.

There are nearly a dozen golf courses in the area, including resort courses and par 3 executive golf.

Cascade Mountain, located 38 miles from Madison, offers downhill skiing and snowboarding on 27 trails.


The University of Wisconsin’s 933-acre main campus is in Madison. Student enrollment is over 28,000 undergraduates, 9,000 graduate students, and about 2,500 professional students. The university also is a community resource for many people who want to continue learning.

Madison Area Technical College has a full time enrollment of about 8,000 students.

The college’s Adult and Continuing Education (ACE) Division offers a wide variety of courses, workshops and seminars.

Edgewood College is a Catholic liberal arts college with an enrollment of about 1,500 students. Its 55-acre campus is located in the heart of Madison’s west side.

Senior Programs

The state’s Web site offers citizens the ability to buy certain prescription drugs at significantly lower prices.

The Madison Public Library operates a “Senior Resources” information Web site.

Madison Senior Center –

Meals on Wheels and Senior Meals Programs –

Dane County Human Services (Senior Advocacy Organization)


St. Mary’s Hospital Medical Center, with 291 beds, offers a full range of inpatient and outpatient treatment in nearly all specialties.

Meriter Hospital is a 448-bed full-service acute care hospital with a staff of nearly 900 physicians representing virtually all specialties.

University of Wisconsin Hospital & Clinics is a system of health care providers serving patients at more than 60 locations. There are 44 of these locations within Dane County.

William S. Middleton Veteran’s Hospital in Madison, with 87 beds, serves the military population of the region. (608) 256-1901


Dane County Regional Airport, about six miles from Madison, offers scheduled service from major and regional carriers.


The average temperatures for January are a high of 26 degrees and a low of 6 degrees. The average temperatures for July are a high of 83 degrees and a low of 59 degrees. The average snowfall for January is 11 inches, and the average annual snowfall is 42 inches.


Wisconsin State Journal –
The Capital Times –

Property Taxes

State Taxes

Chamber of Commerce

State Aging Agency


Milwaukee – 78 miles
Appleton – 105 miles
Racine – 107 miles
Green Bay – 137 miles
Chicago, IL – 148 miles

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