What Living in Wisconsin is Really Like
Along the Milwaukee River in Downtown Milwaukee Wisconsin by Garrett Black

Do you want to know what living in Wisconsin is really like? Sure you do! Maybe you’re moving in, headed to college, or just planning a visit to Wisconsin. Whatever the reason, it’s a good idea to know what to expect before investing yourself somewhere new. As The Wisconsinista, I am a big advocate for all this state has to offer, but I also know a bit about what it lacks.

Now, I’m pulling back the curtains and sharing what my experience living in Wisconsin has really been like. As a lifetime Wisconsinite, my words will also mention popular sentiments I’ve heard amongst other locals. While no one can predict for certain what life will be like for you here, these are five things you might want to consider first.

Beer is Wisconsin's Heart & Soul

The Habit Restaurant in Nelma Wisconsin

I’ve never lived anywhere other than “Brew City,” but friends who now live outside the state tell me that Milwaukee (and Wisconsin) truly lives up to its moniker. Though brewery culture is becoming trendy around the country, it is an indisputable part of history in the state’s largest city. Wisconsinites protect that “Beer Capital” title like the Packers offensive line protects Aaron Rodgers.

People take pride in beer culture here. Like, the Spotted Cow from New Glarus Brewing Company is considered a delicacy. You can’t buy it outside the state and it shows. If you drink beer, you’re gonna have a field day in Wisconsin. If you don’t, it’s going to be awkward trying to convince your friends to do something besides go to the bar. For those who fall into the latter group, my Brew-Free Guide to Brew City will be your best friend!

A "Snow Day" is More Intense Here

When my friends went off to college in states like Tennessee, Virginia, and Missouri, they were surprised  at how ill-prepared these midlatitude states were for snow. Even a flurry shut down schools, work, and roads. If that happened in Wisconsin, we would get nothing done all winter!

For many K-12 schools, a winter storm warning is required to even consider cancelling school for the day. That is typically classified as more than 6 inches in 12 hours or more than 1/4″ of ice accumulation. Universities and workplaces rarely close. More often than not, it is actually the cold that will lead to school closings and the like. A sustained windchill of negative 35 degrees or lower usually does the trick! Don’t get too worried, though; there are some great ways to embrace cabin fever.

Lake Michigan is Our Ocean

Beach in Racine Wisconsin

Clearly, Lake Michigan isn’t an ocean, but we sure as heck treat it like one! You’ll find surfers, sail boats, and sand beaches all along Wisconsin’s section of the Midwest Coast. Late fall is actually prime surfing season, so you’ll see people braving the waters every month of the year.

We also love our northern shoreline along Lake Superior and take pride in the more than 15,000 inland lakes throughout the state. Lake life is a way of life here. You’ll fit in especially well if you have a love for spending lots of time on or near the water.

The Roads Are a Potluck of Potholes

The roads in Wisconsin rank near the bottom in the country for quality. You’ll find that a lot of northern states round out the end of that list. The state’s drastic annual temperature range wreaks havoc on its roads, with potholes especially notable in the spring.

Despite this, Wisconsin is filled with government employees and construction teams whose work helps make our roads better. Wisconsinites joke that our two seasons are “winter and construction,” because all construction work is consolidated into our few warm months. Honestly, though? I have experienced way worse elsewhere (I’m talking to you, Indiana).

"Up North" is Reserved for Northern Wisconsin

Trunck Boathouse in the Winter

You are not “Up North” just because you crossed the Wisconsin border from Illinois. While there isn’t an official line to let you know when you’ve entered the northwoods, everyone has their own special town or landmark to mark their arrival. Mine is when I start seeing “The Store” gas stations along the road!

Though getting “Up North” might take longer than you anticipated, spending time there is important to understanding the lifestyle Wisconsinites hold dear. Thankfully, there are plenty of lakeside cottages to rent so you can enjoy a visit any time of year. You’ll want to give water skiing a go in the summer and hit the snowmobile trails in the winter to get the ultimate northwoods experience.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Dawn

    Thank you so much for this! Our roads in CA are terrible too. I’m definitely going to enlist your help if we go thru with our move

    1. Chelsey Knuth

      Glad to hear it was helpful! Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any more questions you might have.

  2. Lenore

    Well written post! I’ll admit, I really didn’t know much about Wisconsin. You piqued my interest in going (definitely not in winter because the idea of a negative -35 degree wind chill day has me spooked) lol.

    1. Chelsey Knuth

      Thanks so much for your comment! I hope you get the chance to visit during our warmer months 🙂

  3. Danielle

    Awesome article. I’ve never been but always wanted to visit 🙂

    1. Chelsey Knuth

      It’s a great place to visit! I hope you get the chance someday!

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