Residential resource company Livability recently released its annual list of the 100 best places to live in the US, looking at factors like access to schools, hospitals, and infrastructure; affordability and income; and how residents take advantage of those opportunities.
(The list only looked at cities with populations between 20,000 and 350,000. You can read the complete methodology here.)
Since Madison, Wisconsin topped Livability’s list, Business Insider took a closer look at 7 things that make Madison, a northern midwest city of 235,000, stand out from the rest.
1. It’s a vibrant cultural hub of art, music, food, and beer
Madison is ranked fifth in Livability’s list of best food cities for its collection of renowned chefs, top restaurants, and food cooperatives and festivals that take advantage of locally grown foods. Other major annual events like the Art Fair on the Square and the Great Taste of the Midwest celebrate Madison’s thriving art and craft beer scenes.
Madison also had more rock shows per capita than any other city with the exception of Austin, Texas, according to a 2010 report by Songkick, which also hailed Madison for having some of the cheapest concert ticket prices.
2. It’s a college town where students actively support the community
The University of Wisconsin-Madison believes strongly in a tradition of improving people’s lives outside of the classroom, known as the Wisconsin Idea. Examples cited by Livability include collecting and distributing farm crops for needy families, mentoring and tutoring programs for local school children, and a university policy of offering free humanities courses to low-income adults.
3. It’s a naturally beautiful city with plenty of outdoor activities
Madison’s iconic State Street is a beautiful downtown center for shopping, eating, and entertainment, notes Livability. Spanning a narrow strip of land between the scenic Lake Mendota and Lake Monona, the street is also banked by the impressive Wisconsin State Capitol building and University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Five lakes in the city’s vicinity offer ample recreational opportunities such as fishing and boating, in addition to the 20 miles of trails in the 1,260-acre University of Wisconsin Arboretum. Being a northern city also has its benefits, as residents can drive short distances to ski resorts.
4. There is very little concentrated poverty
While Madison has poverty like any city, only 20.4% of its poor population lived in neighborhoods with poverty rates of 20% or higher from 2008 to 2012, according to the Brookings Institution. That represents the lowest share of the poor population living in high-poverty and distressed neighborhoods among the 100 U.S. cities studied.
5. It is one of the most accommodating cities for cyclists
USA Today ranked Madison number 4 in its list of best cycling towns for its widespread network of biking paths and lanes and convenient bike share program, B-cycle.
6. Young professionals are benefiting from a boom in downtown housing development
Educated 20- and 30-something professionals are moving into high-density rental apartment units popping up all over Madison’s downtown area like never before, reported The Capital Times early this year. The city’s 2014 development projects are worth $US337 million, of which $US213 million are for new apartments. The high demand is fuelled by the proximity of the university and large private-sector employers offering steady work.
7. Madison is the “greenest” city around
NerdWallet named Madison the greenest city in America, awarding high marks for air quality and a ratio of 12.7 parks per 10,000 residents, more than any other city. The ranking took into account Madison’s 200 miles of hiking and biking trails and the fact that there are more bicycles in the city than cars.
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