The lighter side of real estate

These Are The 10 Best Places To Live In Wisconsin

Only one place in Wisconsin climbed above the rest to be crowned the best in the state. Find out why Mequon took the title.

Natalie Grigson

Staff Writer

155 articles, 0 comments

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For each state Movoto Real Estate has visited so far in our ongoing series on the best places in the country, we’ve improved the ways we measure just what makes a city the best. To find the best places in Tennessee, we looked at factors like cost of living, crime rate, and income. To find the best of Massachusetts, we looked at those elements plus the year each city was established and amenities it offers.

Today, we’ve decided to take things a step further and have expanded our criteria to a list of 13, making this one of our most extensive Best Places posts yet. So, Wisconsin, when we tell you that the City of Mequon is the No. 1 city in the Badger State, you’d better believe it–after the veritable obstacle course of criteria we went through.

Of course, Mequon faced some stiff competition. Here are the 10 best places in Wisconsin:

1. City of Mequon
2. Village of Elm Grove
3. Village of Brown Deer
4. Village of Fox Point
5. Village of McFarland
6. Village of Whitefish Bay
7. Village of Germantown
8. City of Altoona
9. City of Fitchburg
10. City of Middleton

Why was Mequon ranked the best out of over 130 cities, and what exactly was this extensive list of criteria? Keep on reading to find out, as we take you through our process and on a virtual tour of just what makes each of these places so special.

How We Did It

In order to come up with this list of places in Wisconsin, we needed to create an extensive checklist of criteria. After debating, we settled on the following seven things—subdivided into a total of 13 data points.

  • Total amenities
  • Quality of life (cost of living, median home price, median rent price, median household income, student-to-teacher ratio)
  • Total crimes
  • Tax rates (sales tax, income tax)
  • Unemployment rate
  • Commute Time
  • Weather (average temperature and air quality)

With these criteria in mind, we looked at the U.S. Census data for 133 places in Wisconsin with populations of more than 5,000 people. Each place was ranked from one to 133 in the criteria, with one being the best possible score. From there, the individual rankings were averaged into an overall Big Deal Score—the lowest score being our winner, Mequon.

While each place ranked differently in each category and subcategory—some acing it in education, while others passed by the competition in commute time—overall, all of our top 10 shared the following in common: lots of total amenities, a high quality of life, a low crime rate, low taxes, low unemployment, short commute time, and some of the best weather in the state.

To see top 50 places in Wisconsin, hop down to the end of the post. Of course, if you have any comments, leave them at the end—you certainly won’t be badgering us.

For now, though, let’s check out these 10 best places in Wisconsin, starting with our winner.

1. Mequon

Mequon, WI

Source: Flickr user That Jen Keller

Mequon ranked well in many of our criteria, but completely knocked it out of the park when it came to overall quality of life, a crime rate 66 percent lower than the state average, an unemployment rate of just 5.2 percent, and an average summer temperature of a pleasant 70 degrees.

Let’s get back to that quality of life. Upon closer inspection, what this means for Mequon in particular is that it has the highest median household income in the state—$107,429, or 104 percent higher than the rest of Wisconsin. Mequon also came in first when it came to its median home value of $369,800, and second for its median rent price of $1,146.

2. Elm Grove

Elm Grove, WI

Source: Wikipedia user Porterhse

One of the smallest places on our list at 5,934 residents, Elm Grove ranked well in nearly all of our criteria but really shined in a few. For example, Elm Grove, along with several other cities in our top 10, came in with some of the lowest taxes in the state. Across the board, the Wisconsin income tax is 6.5 percent, so everyone was on even footing here. As far as sales tax goes, however, Elm Grove had one of the lowest at just 5.1 percent.

Apart from taxes, Elm Grove ranked among the best in our top 10 for its total number of amenities, its low average commute time of just 19 minutes, and came in as one of the three safest places in our top 10 with just 1,242 crimes per 100,000 people annually—none of which were violent crimes.

As if all that wasn’t enough, Elm Grove also came in with one of the highest median household incomes in the entire state: $104,138. That’s a good thing too, with the village’s median home price of $355,300.

3. Brown Deer

Brown Deer, WI

Source: Flickr user FOX6Now

This village in Milwaukee County found its way into the top three best places thanks to high ranks in several of our criteria. Brown Deer is among the safest places in Wisconsin with just 25 crimes per 100,000 residents annually. This is good enough for Brown Deer to take the No. 3 spot in this category. Where else did Brown Deer excel? Total amenities. While the village didn’t make the top 10 in this particular criterion, it did place higher than most of the places on our list.

4. Village of Fox Point

The 10 Best Places In Wisconsin

Source: Flickr user FOX6Now

Fox Point, a village in Milwaukee’s footprint, is the second smallest place in our ranking with just 6,734 people. Hopefully, this small village won’t mind us revealing its secrets. Fox Point has a low crime rate and a good climate according to our data. Still, where Fox Point really shined was in our quality of life ranking. Fox Point residents have the highest quality of life on our list.

5. McFarland

McFarland, WI

Source: Flickr user JordanAnthony

The village of McFarland lies on the eastern shore of Lake Waubesa. This suburb of Madison ranked well in our study for its relatively low sales tax rate of just 5.5 percent and an impressive number of amenities—but most of all for its low unemployment rate of just 4.4 percent which is, in fact, the lowest in the state.

It also didn’t hurt that McFarland has a median household income of $73,814 and a median home value of $230,000—40 percent and 43 percent higher than the state average, respectively.

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6. Whitefish Bay

Whitefish Bay, WI

Source: Flickr user chicagogeek

This village of just over 14,000 took home accolades for two of our criteria: total amenities and quality of life. Whitefish Bay placed No. 4 for total amenities with 2,367 places. As for quality of life, Whitefish Bay residents should be happy to know they have the eighth best quality of life among the places we looked at. If you plan on moving here, however, expect to pay; the median home in Whitefish Bay costs $339,300.

7. Germantown

Germantown, WI

Source: Flickr user FOX6Now

This village, which is among the most populous on our top 10 list, barely edged out Altoona, the next best place on our list. Germantown’s highest rankings were for its climate and unemployment. In both cases, this city of nearly 20,000 ranked No. 26. The average summer temperature in Germantown is 70 degrees, while the village’s unemployment rate is 6 percent.

8. Altoona

Altoona, WI

Source: Wikipedia user Autoshade

Located in Eau Claire County, Altoona ranked among the best places in Wisconsin for several reasons. First of all, with a cost of living of 82 (compared to the average of 100), Altoona is easily the most affordable city in our top 10. Altoona also aced it in the classroom, with a low student to teacher ratio of just 13 to 1—the best in our top 10, again.

Yes, residents here seem to have it pretty good. They have an average commute time of just 19 minutes—tying for the lowest in our top 10 with Elm Grove—and perhaps because of this, scored the highest in air quality among our winners as well at 25 (on a scale from one to 100; one being the best).

9. Fitchburg

Fitchburg, WI

Source: Wikipedia user James Steakley

The penultimate place on our list, Fitchburg–home to more than 26,000–ranked best across our criteria for its unemployment rank. The city has an unemployment rate of 4.4 percent. Other areas Fitchburg did well in were total amenities and quality of life. According to Yelp data, there are 2,143 businesses and services in Fitchburg. As for Fitchburg residents’ quality of life, those lucky enough to call the city home are better off than in nearly all other places on our list. Fitchburg’s quality of life ranked No. 13.

10. City of Middleton

The 10 Best Places In Wisconsin

Source: Wikipedia user James Steakley

The final place on our list, Middleton, has a population of about 18,000 and a quality of life rank of 24, making placing it among the best places on our list. Other areas where Middleton excelled at were its amenities rank (16th) and unemployment rank (tied for No. 1).

Bon Voyage, Badgers

There you have it, Wisconsin. We ran the numbers, we checked the data, and 13 criteria later our clear winner was Mequon. Of course, it was in good company on our list. Whether you agree or disagree, feel free to share your opinions in the comments below.

(click to enlarge table)

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posted on: January 14, 2014
136,719 views, 3 comments


  1. Jim Culotta

    I noticed the author used the City of Cedarburg in the article. There is also a Town of Cedarburg which is smaller but still meets the selection criteria. The Town offers a higher quality of life, as defined by the criteria, and lower crime. Please keep the Town of Cedarburg in mind when evaluating best places in the future. Thanks!

  2. Carol

    ?? Who made this list? You need to live here to know the best places. I do agree with some locations on the list, but some are far from ideal. After living in different communities in this state the majority of my life and traveling the world I believe the author failed to see some great cities – including where I live. I do not see the city or town of Delafield on the list at all and this is by far one of the best places to live. Small, quaint, low crime, great families, wonderful restaurants and shops plus we are surrounded by several lakes (lake country, duh!). The quality of life here is amazing!

  3. Jim Culotta

    It appears only villages and cities were considered for this list. Towns make up 95% of Wisconsin’s land area and about a third of the state’s population. It’s hard to put a lot of faith in a list that leaves out towns.


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