So you’re off to Wisconsin, eh? Real good, then. But before you go, we went ahead and got you something. We’ve crammed this fun little mover’s guide full of useful stats, history lessons, potential day-trip attractions and clues about the mysterious world of Wisconsin. And in the end, you should feel as comfortable as flannel peejays that you’ve made the right decision. Let’s go.
Wisconsin’s most well-known for two things, cheese and the TV hit That ‘70s Show. This was a popular show that always began with a killer theme song that shouted, “Hello, Wisconsin” and usually ended with a bunch of small-town high schoolers giggling in a cloudy basement. And the cheese, well, that pretty much speaks for itself.
Unofficially nicknamed America's Dairyland for being one of the nation's leading dairy producers, Wisconsin is the source of over 3.17 billion (yes, with a ‘B’) pounds of cheese annually. And locals embrace every flavor down to the last curd, even going so far as to embrace the nickname “cheesehead” with fanatic pride. Just tune in to any Green Bay Packers game and you’ll see thousands wearing foam crowns of cheese and cheering wildly.
Wisconsin is also often called The Badger State, though it’s not actually an “official’ nickname—the state doesn’t “technically” have one, in fact. But you know what we learned? The nickname The Badger State really has nothing to do with the animal. Back in the 1830s, there was a large lead-mining boom in Illinois. The “Sconnie” miners who went to work the mines didn't live in houses, but in temporary caves cut into the hillsides. These were called badger dens, and the miners were called badgers. The miners brought this nickname back with them to Wisconsin and, voila. What a twist, huh? The state also has real-life badgers, too, which is the official state animal and the University of Wisconsin’s mascot, but it’s all based on those 19th century miners.
The lead mines, and industry, have long since gone away, but don’t worry, there are plenty of other great job opportunities here in Wisconsin for you these days.
Now, as you can imagine, America’s Dairyland puts a strong emphasis on the dairy industry, but Wisconsin isn’t just about milk. There’s actually a huge mix of great careers out there just waiting to be milked.
Let’s start with some numbers. The current unemployment rate is only 2.9%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and it’s been on a nice, steady decline since the end of 2009. And the state’s current minimum wage is $7.25/hour, tied with the federal minimum, according to minimum-wage.org.
When it comes to what’s hot in Wisconsin, it’s rarely the weather. But the biggest up-and-coming career fields, according to zippia.com, include: operations analyst, personal care assistant, business analyst, industrial mechanic, taxi driver, web developer and marine mammal trainer (aww). And when it comes to rakin’ in the big bucks, the highest-paying career choices include: surgeon, OB/GYN, pediatrician, anesthesiologist, dentist and podiatrist.
With such a low unemployment rate and a number of up-and-coming career fields, the opportunities here in Wisconsin are looking pretty bright, we’d say. Plus, you’ve got cities like Milwaukee (the country’s 31st largest), Madison and more that are full of diverse opportunities galore. The job scene’s so nice here, in fact, that about 22,566 people moved here in 2017 (according to worldpopuationreview.com) just to be a part of it, and all the rest Wisconsin has to offer.
Now, if you’re from the South, you make think “Sconnies” all live in igloos or barns or something. Well, maybe some do, but there’s a whole world of housing options here that you’ll be more than comfortable in. So let's check it out together.
To start, zillow.com says that Wisconsin’s current median home value is $179,600, with values up 6.5% over the previous year. The median price of homes sold is $175,900, with homes currently on the market selling for around $209,900. Of course, if you’d rather rent a home than buy, you’ll be paying around $1,200/month.
Fans of architecture from the mid-1900s are in luck—zillow.com shows that the major decade of housing development in The Badger State was the fabulous '50s. But if you’re not into that mid-century charm, there’s also plenty of new construction going on around Wisconsin, too. In the south-central area, in/around Madison, and further east to Milwaukee is where you’ll find the majority going on. There’s also plenty of hard hats workin’ hard up around Oshkosh and Green Bay and out west by Eau Claire, too.
And even if apartments are more your speed, you’ll still find a ton of great, super-reasonable options all around. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s biggest city, you'll find one-bedrooms for an average of $1,009/month, according to rentcafe.com. In Madison, the state’s capital and home of the University of Wisconsin, you’ll be paying about the same, with one-beds going for about $1,017/month. In Kenosha and Racine—right between Milwaukee and Chicago—you’ll pay a bit less, between $707/month and $833/month.
So, whether it’s a mid-century fixer-upper, a metropolitan loft or a college-town studio, you’ll find it here in Wisconsin. And, believe us, after looking at the housing markets in a number of different US states, those prices sound pretty great. But one of the most important factors worth considering when picking out a new place is the neighbors. So what will your new Wisconsin neighbors be like?
There are currently 5,818,049 Wisconsinites, according to worldpopulationreview.com. They describe themselves as “open and welcoming to out-of-towners,” very “tight-knit with lifelong friendships,” and "extremely outgoing.” They also boast about their “conservative side,” a “fierce sense of state pride and loyalty,” and claim to be the true winners of the "nice-off" competition with their Minnesotan neighbors to the west.
And like Minnesota, there’s a lot of water around here. Lakes, rivers, ponds and more keep the residents well-occupied through each and every season. Apparently everyone here also either has their own cabin on Lake Michigan, or knows someone who knows someone who does.
But when it comes to get-togethers, tailgating at Packers games comes above all else. It’s where the brats are smokin’, the beer is always cold, and the fans can brag about their 13 championships, more than any other team in NFL history.
Taking full ownership of a "casual lifestyle," Wisconsinites enjoy hiking, hunting and fishing. In fact, hunting season openers and fishing openers are huge events here, and many offices and businesses close to allow their employees to partake. Hiking and biking are also huge here. And in the winter, those same trails make way for snowmobiles and cross-country skiiers. And that’s something you’ve gotta appreciate. No matter the season, Wisconsin makes great use of all it has to offer.
In the 2nd half of the 19th century, German settlers were the largest wave of immigrants to land in Wisconsin, and that has definitely influenced many of the local culinary staples. Some of the most popular dishes, sides and noshes around here include: bratwurst, pickles, fried fish (self-caught), potato pancakes and cheese curds (fried or not). And the eating here is a total social thing, done in groups at cookouts, tailgates, church basements and more. A great way to get in close with a new tribe of friends, eh?
Now, whether you’re tailgating with a few new friends, or you’re trying to warm up your neighbor for a cabin invite, you’ll need a few icebreakers. Here are some other cool things we came across in our research that are sure to get you in close with the locals.
Some of the first inhabitants of Wisconsin were the Winnebago, Menominee and Dakota Native American tribes. You’ll see a lot of that cultural influence all over the state, especially in the city names.
And in the political world, Wisconsin was the birthplace of the Republican Party, which came about from a meeting in Ripon to oppose the expansion of slavery in 1854.
The state's also home to the inventors of the typewriter, bone marrow transplants, the first gasoline-powered auto, the blender, the electric guitar, the snowmobile (of course), kindergarten and the hairdryer (because you don’t want to be outside with wet hair in a Wisconsin winter).
The Badger State is also home to the Polka Hall of Fame, Chris Farley and Steve Miller, the “Joker” himself.
The state produces 15% of the nation's milk and has the largest percentage of German-American residents in the country. There are more than 6,000 named lakes here, and 47 state parks, as well.
Milwaukee has been nicknamed the City of Festivals, and holds events for everything from music and cultural festivals, to beer and cheese festivals.
Aside from a cameo in Wayne's World where Alice Cooper schooled Wayne and Garth on the origins of the word ‘Milwaukee,’ several other famous movies were set and/or filmed in Wisconsin. The list includes movies like BASEketball, Dogma, Lars + The Real Girl and The Great Outdoors. Hollywood just loves them some ‘Sconsin.
Like we said earlier, no matter what season it is, Sconnies take full advantage of all the state has to offer. So let’s talk about some of the favorite local sights and attractions.
Here are a few of the state's don't-miss activities:
Pros and Cons of Living in The Badger State
When it comes to Wisconsin, no one really understands it quite like the folks who live there, so why don’t we hear what they have to say about their home state.
Pros (so say the locals):
Cons (so say the locals):
For your amusement, we've looked into some of the state’s most outrageous, outdated, eyebrow-raising laws still in existence.
Here are a few from onlyinyourstate.com:
And there you have it—our little mover’s guide to America’s Dairyland, packed with everything you need to hit the ground running. We covered the super-optimistic job scene, the affordable housing world, the friendly culture and a few sights worthy of your first to-do list. We obviously couldn’t tackle all of the questions you may have had, but we hope we got you trekking down the right path.
So good luck—and remember, if you’re in a pickle, always just say, “Go Pack Go.”
NOTE: if you decide Wisconsin isn't right for you, we've covered the other states, too, to help you find the perfect spot. If cheese isn’t your jam, have you thought about Idaho?