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Your guide to small-town living in Wisconsin

Wisconsin is rich in natural beauty, vibrant cities, and a thriving farm-to-table industry. But what makes this Midwest destination so unique is that it’s home to numerous charming small towns that attract individuals, families, and retirees alike. If you want to enjoy a slower pace of life close to gorgeous landscapes, amazing food, and outdoor recreational opportunities, Wisconsin might be the place for you.

Do you want to know what life is like in a small Wisconsin town? Keep reading! This comprehensive guide covers all you need to know about small-town living in the Badger State, including the benefits and drawbacks of living in a small town, as well as the best small towns to live in Wisconsin.

WISCONSIN’S SMALL TOWNS LIVE UP TO BIG EXPECTATIONS

If you’re considering relocating to a Midwestern state, Wisconsin is one of your best options. Its citizens are proud of their land and committed to preserving its welcoming nature. Whether you’ve lived here for years or are a newcomer, the people here take an active role in making the community an inviting place.

Wisconsin offers a variety of outdoor activities for everyone.You’ll have easy access to nature no matter where you reside, whether it’s in the vicinity of lakes, forests, rivers, or parks. Wisconsin also boasts a reasonable housing market, excellent schools, and is popular with retirees. Furthermore, living in Wisconsin allows you to experience all four seasons.

Wisconsin’s history and culture come alive in charming small towns nestled along highways connecting major cities. Towns like Bayfield, Washburn, Cornucopia, Herbster, and Port Wing offer a distinctive glimpse into the state’s heritage. Contrary to their larger urban counterparts, these quaint towns host numerous festivals, with the noticeable absence of chain stores.

Life in Wisconsinis simple, which may be one reason people have chosen to live here.In fact, the state welcomed around 12,000 new residents between 2021 and 2022. People are attracted to the area because of the cheap cost of living (2% lower than the national average), the strong sense of community, and the easygoing way of life.

Are you thinking about relocating to a small town in Wisconsin? These fascinating facts about the Badger State will make you want to live in the area even more:

  1. WISCONSIN IS AMERICA’S DAIRYLAND

    Grazing Holsteins

    The state is famous for its dairy production. In fact, Monroe is known as the “Swiss Cheese Capital of the USA.” Wisconsin is one of the top milk producers in the US, churning out 25% of the country’s cheese. Over 1.2 million dairy cows are spread across more than 11,000 farms in the state, supplying two billion pounds of milk per month.

  2. WISCONSIN IS A STATE OF MANY “CAPITALS”

    What could be more exciting than having your home associated with several world capitals? Here are several Wisconsin towns and cities that are capitals of a particular category:

    • Bloomer: “Jump Rope Capital of the World”
    • Eagle River: “The Snow Mobile Capital of the World”
    • Green Bay: “Toilet Paper Capital of the World”
    • Marathon County: “The Ginseng Capital of the World”
    • Mt. Horeb: “Troll Capital of the World”
  3. WISCONSIN’S STATE CAPITAL (THE REAL ONE) HAS MORE BICYCLES THAN CARS

    Bicycles outnumber cars in the state capital, Madison, making it one of the most bike-friendly cities in the Midwest. The League of American Bicyclists also lists it as one of the top four cycling cities in the country. There are more than 40 stations where you can pick up fully integrated, cost-effective bikes. Enjoy over 200 miles of bike-friendly trails and roads!

  4. WISCONSIN HAS “AMERICA’S LARGEST WATERPARK”

    A popular Midwest destination, Wisconsin Dells is known as the “Waterpark Capital of the World,” with more than 20 water parks attracting thousands of tourists each year. One of the city’s most popular attractions is Noah’s Ark. It’s called “America’s Largest Waterpark,” which features an array of water-based rides and activities.

  5. WISCONSIN’S OFFICIAL STATE MOTTO ISFORWARD-THINKING

    “Forward,” Wisconsin’s official motto since 1851, reflects the state’s commitment to leadership and growth. It demonstrates Wisconsin’s forward-thinking spirit, innovation, and determination to shape a better future for its residents and the country as a whole.

PROS AND CONS OF LIVING IN A SMALL TOWN

Female legs with 2 arrows and question mark, painted on the asphalt

Similar to life in an urban city, living in a small town has its advantages and disadvantages. Before we get into the most desirable small towns in Wisconsin, let’s find out if small-town living is the right choice for you.

Advantages of living in a small town

  1. CLOSE-KNIT COMMUNITY

    One of the most attractive aspects of small-town life is having fewer people around. It imparts a sense of intimacy that is difficult to find in larger cities. The more acquainted neighbors become, the more likely they are to work together on events and activities that benefit the community.

  2. SCENIC SURROUNDINGS

    Wisconsin – with its 15,000 lakes, rivers, and streams; 50 state parks; lush forests; expansive prairies; and proximity to two Great Lakes – is a natural retreat. Camping, fishing, swimming, and hiking are popular outdoor activities year-round. You don’t have to spend hours traveling away from the city to revel in nature. Everything you need is right outside your door.

  3. A SLOWER PACE

    In contrast to city traffic and the distractions of urban living, small towns offer a slower, quieter, and more mindful way of life. In Wisconsin, people are friendly, open-minded, and welcoming. This creates a pleasant environment for everyone. Neighbors often meet for coffee and breakfast before starting their day. The close bonds and proximity to nature also make small towns less stressful to live in. The tranquility encourages meditation, honing your yoga skills, or enjoying contemplative preoccupations like reading a good book, painting, fishing, stargazing, and learning certain skills.

  4. LOWER COST OF LIVING

    Wisconsin’s cost of living is 2% lower than the national average. Housing expenses are 11% less than the national average. However, utility costs are higher, up 4%, and grocery prices are 3% higher than the national average. Clothing costs also reflect a similar 3% increase.

    Healthcare services, including check-ups and dental visits, come at a premium in Wisconsin, with expenses 12% higher than the national average. Non-essential expenditures such as entertainment and grooming services are about 3% higher in the state.

  5. LESS TRAFFIC AND CHEAPER CAR INSURANCE

    A small town is unlikely to experience bumper-to-bumper traffic unless it holds a Christmas parade or another significant event on a particular day. Despite such cases, traffic will never be as terrible as in a big city or suburb. Accidents are also less likely to occur when there are fewer vehicles on the road. Small towns are also expected to have cheaper insurance premiums due to lower vandalism, theft, and collisions.

  6. SMALL BUT VIBRANT BUSINESS SCENE

    Small towns have thriving businesses. Besides discovering unique finds and quality services, people who shop locally support the local economy and make the town a better place to live. Moreover, the lower level of competition in small towns make them ideal for starting businesses and building deep roots in the community.

  7. MORE SECURE ENVIRONMENT

    There’s a better sense of security in small towns because they’re less populous. Residents in close-knit communities are well acquainted with one another. They’re also aware of what’s going on in town. These factors make it harder to engage in illicit activities without arousing suspicion. While there is no crime-free zone, the chances of you or your family falling prey to criminal acts are much lower than in a metropolis.

The downsides of living in a small town

  1. FEWER JOB OPPORTUNITIES

    Compared to large cities, small towns have fewer job opportunities. Prior to moving to a small town, make sure you have a job lined up.

  2. LIMITED ACCESS TO COMPREHENSIVE HEALTHCARE

    It may be difficult to find comprehensive healthcare services in some areas, or there might not be any at all.

  3. FEWER CHOICES WHEN IT COMES TO SCHOOLS

    Consider this to avoid costly mistakes when moving with school-age children.

  4. FEWER AMENITIES

    Small towns might not have readily available amenities like hospitals, shopping centers, supermarkets, or public transportation. There could also be a shortage of tradespeople like HVAC technicians, plumbers, or electricians.

THE BEST SMALL TOWNS IN WISCONSIN

If you think you’ll enjoy life in Wisconsin, here are some of the state’s finest small towns. Check them out below to help you decide which neighborhood best meets your lifestyle, budget, and needs.

Bayfield

FOR SALE IN BAYFIELD, WI: 4 beds, 4 baths, 2,500 square feet with views of Lake Superior.
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Bayfield is a popular tourist site that serves as the gateway to Apostle Island. This charming town sits along the picturesque shores of Lake Superior, attracting visitors from all over the world. To be able to watch the summer landscape transform into a mesmerizing winter wonderland is one of the things that make Bayfield a sought-after destination for tourists and those looking for a new place to call home. Winter activities like snowshoeing, skiing, fat-tire biking, and kayaking amongst the spectacular ice-covered sea caves are some of Bayfield’s biggest attractions.

It comes as no surprise that in 2023, Bayfield ranked 4th for Best Coastal Small Town and 5th for Best Midwestern Small Town. In fact, Bayfield is regarded as one of the best places to stay in Wisconsin when visiting.

For families with school-age children, the School District of Bayfield provides excellent education and an inclusive learning environment in elementary, middle, and high schools. Students can participate in a variety of extracurricular activities as well.

The median listing price for homes in Bayfield was $495,000 in September 2023. There’s a wide range of property options to suit every lifestyle. For those seeking a permanent residence, single-family homesprovide comfortable living spaces for families or individuals. Condos offer a low-maintenance lifestyle with shared amenities, while cabins and cottages make for charming vacation getaways.

Find homes for sale in Bayfield, WI here

Washburn

Washburn

FOR SALE IN WASHBURN, WI: A single-family home in a secluded 21-acre property with breathtaking views and a shallow, sandy beach.
More details here

Located in northern Wisconsin, Washburn is a charming town nestled along Lake Superior.With its scenic surroundings and close-knit community, Washburn provides a one-of-a-kind experience for residents and visitors.

Washburn’s real estate market caters to a wide range of preferences and budgets. Whether you’re looking for a cozy cottage by the lake or a spacious family home with scenic views, there are options available to suit every taste. Additionally, there are opportunities for those interested in investing in commercial properties or vacant land for future development.

Property types available in Washburn range from traditional single-family homes to charming waterfront properties. Many homes feature breathtaking views of Lake Superior or are tucked within lush forests, providing residents with an idyllic natural setting.

Beyond its real estate offerings, Washburn boasts a vibrant lifestyle that caters to nature lovers. Several hiking trails surround the town, perfect for exploring Wisconsin’s beautiful wilderness. Fishing enthusiasts can also enjoy world-class angling adventures on Lake Superior’s pristine waters.

Find homes for sale in Washburn, WI here

Cornucopia

Cornucopia

INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY IN CORNUCOPIA, WI: Lake lodge with 8 beds, 6 baths, and 8,000 square feet of living space on a 5.88-acre estate.
View details here

This small town is known for its pristine beaches, picturesque hiking trails, and stunning sunsets over the lake. It’s a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, with fishing, boating, kayaking, and birdwatching right at your doorstep. The neighborhood takes pride in preserving its natural resources and provides residents with a plethora of parks and recreational opportunities.

Cornucopia has a diverse range of real estate options to suit every lifestyle. With everything from charming lakeside cottages to sprawling waterfront estates, there’s something for everyone. This area offers year-round homes and vacation properties, making it the ideal place for peaceful retreats.

Homes for sale in Cornucopia include single-family homes, townhouses, and undeveloped land. You’ll find traditional wood and stone constructions, as well as log cabins. Whether you’re looking for a permanent residence or an investment opportunity, you’ll find plenty of options in Cornucopia.

In addition to its natural beauty and real estate offerings, Cornucopia is known for its welcoming atmosphere and strong community spirit. A variety of events bring everyone together, including farmers’ markets and lively festivals.

Find homes for sale in Cornucopia, WI here

Herbster

Herbster

FOR SALE IN HERBSTER, WI: A luxurious, 2-level home with the upper area boasting 18-foot ceilings, a balcony, and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Bark Bay.
More details here

Herbster is a hidden gem located in the heart of Wisconsin and offers a unique combination of rural charm and natural beauty. It’s a popular location for visitors and residents alike, thanks to scenic Lake Superior vistas and the close-knit community.

Herbster was a logging town that maintained its rustic charm while embracing modern amenities. Whether you’re strolling along the pristine beaches or exploring the historic downtown area, there’s always something new to discover.

Herbster’s real estate market has something for every lifestyle and price range. Here, you can find everything from cozy cottages with panoramic lake views to spacious family homesnestled among towering trees. Vacant tracts of land are waiting for you to build your dream home. Furthermore, investors looking for potential income will find Herbster appealing due to its picturesque surroundings and affordable home prices.

Find homes for sale in Herbster, WI here

Port Wing

FOR SALE IN PORT WING, WI: Traditional hand-hewn log home with touches of modern amenities and a spacious deck off the back.
More details here

Port Wing is the ideal destination for nature enthusiasts. Residents enjoy hiking, fishing, and boating, with lush forests and gorgeous lake vistas surrounding the town. Do you own a kayak or plan to buy one? Kayaks are welcome at the Port Wing marina, which features a beach and an easy launch spot.

Those looking for homes for sale in Port Wing will find cozy cabins by the lake and spacious family homes with acres of land. With a median listing price of $238,500 and a median listing price per square foot of $159 in September 2023, Port Wing is a desirable option compared to nearby cities.

Find homes for sale in Port Wing, WI here

BUY YOUR HOME WITH A LOCAL REAL ESTATE AGENT

When buying a home in a small town, the role of a local real estate agent cannot be overstated. While urban living may be appealing, there are numerous benefits to investing in a home in a close-knit, small community. A real estate agent who operates in the area will offer their expert take on the local market and provide valuable insight.

Local real estate agents are intimately familiar with the neighborhood,schools, amenities, and market trends in a small town. This insider information is crucial when making one of life’s biggest investments – your home.

Additionally, local agents have strong relationships with other professionals in the community.They can provide recommendations for lenders, inspectors, and reputable contractors to make your buying experience easier.

WE ARE YOUR WISCONSIN REAL ESTATE EXPERTS

Our agents at Broad Street Brokers have more than 40 years of combined real estate experience in Wisconsin. Whether you’re home buying or selling, our seasoned professionals are here to help.

We serve Bayfield, Washburn, Cornucopia, Herbster, Port Wing, and the surrounding communities. Allow us to assist you in finding your first small-town home or in expanding your property portfolio. Call us at 715.779.3220 or send an email to get started.



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