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Madison, the capital city of Wisconsin, is a beautiful city situated around two large lakes. These two lakes, Lake Mendota and Lake Monona, provide some great scenery for several of the city’s neighborhoods. Whether you’re looking for lakefront property or a condo in the city, or if you’re moving to the area to attend the University of Wisconsin, Madison’s large number of neighborhoods can make searching for a home a little intimidating. To help you in your search, we’ve reviewed 10 of the city’s diverse neighborhoods.
One of the oldest neighborhoods you’ll find in Madison, this area has a unique sense of style. There are a couple historic areas with buildings in several architectural styles dating back to the 19th century, but there are also updated apartments, condos, and houses. Williamson-Marquette is home to “Willy” (Williamson) Street, which is described as vibrant, hippie, green, and bohemian. It features local restaurants, shops, and entertainment. There are festivals organized throughout the year, such as the Chili Dinner, Waterfront Festival, and Willy Street Fair. This neighborhood also includes a long piece of shoreline property on Lake Monona.
Westmorland is a small community on the West side of Madison. Quiet and home to several public schools, this neighborhood is great for young families and older folks alike. There’s a great park in the middle of Westmorland, and several family events, festivals, and contests are held throughout the year. Nearby attractions include golf courses and a zoo. Homes in the area are typically affordable for the middle class, and feature some unique styles. In fact, the area is home to several Lustron houses, which are prefabricated porcelain steel houses constructed in 1949 and 1950 in response to the shortage of houses for those returning from World War II.
Considered to be one of the nicest, more affluent neighborhoods in the city, University Heights is named for its proximity to the University of Wisconsin campus, as well as Edgewood College. Architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Keck & Keck designed several of the houses in University Heights, so there is some beautiful architecture. Some of the houses have been turned into student housing, but most of them remain family homes. Home to some unique shops, galleries, and restaurants, as well as parks, schools, and bike paths, this area attracts professionals, families, and students alike. It is a lively place, especially on Badger football days due to its proximity to Camp Randall stadium.
This neighborhood includes a piece of shoreline on Lake Wingra, a smaller lake within Madison’s city limits. Dudgeon-Monroe boasts of its high number of attractions for people with many different interests. For those who love the outdoors, there’s hiking, biking, sailing, and bird watching, as well as sledding and golfing. For those who enjoy more urban excitement, there’s a pedestrian-scaled corridor on Monroe Street that includes a myriad of unique, trendy shops. Although Camp Randall is close to a couple neighborhoods, it is within the limits of Dudgeon-Monroe. Therefore, the neighborhood is buzzing on Badger football Saturdays.
An urban residential neighborhood, Tenney-Lapham is on the shore of Lake Mendota. It’s a traditional neighborhood, offering charming historic places and a variety of housing options. Home to a diverse population, Tenny-Lapham offers proximity to the city while remaining removed from the hustle and bustle. There’s easy access to Lake Mendota water activities, as well as Madison’s bike system. The downtown area features places to get groceries and other essentials, and the variety of parks in the neighborhood means it’s easy to find something fun to do.
A colorful community on the North shore of Lake Wingra and close to the University, Vilas describes itself as being artistic, fresh, lively, and intellectual. This neighborhood shares a border with the Dudgeon-Monroe community, so they share the colorful Monroe Street, rife with unique shops. A historic neighborhood, Vilas boasts many architectural styles. While there are many beautiful single-family homes, there are also apartment buildings and student rentals. This neighborhood is also busy on Badger football Saturdays, as students who live in the community will be out on the streets, walking to the game.
As its name indicates, this small community lies along the shoreline of Monona Bay. Close to downtown, this neighborhood offers both single-family and apartment living near the lake. Monona Bay features a bike path connecting it to Brittingham Boat House, a park on the lakeshore. The neighborhood association is very involved in the community, sponsoring activities such as the Neighborhood Ride & Dine day and the Neighborhood Picnic. There are several schools and parks in the area.
Just northeast of Monona Bay lies Bassett, a colorful and historic neighborhood on the shore of Lake Monona. A very walkable community, it is full of Victorian homes, some owned by single families and some renovated to include several apartments, as well as new condos. There are plenty of shops, restaurants, and parks within walking distance, which attracts residents of all ages and backgrounds, including students and professors. Near the UW-Madison campus, it’s not uncommon to see students lounging at local bars and restaurants.
A large, populous neighborhood on the southwest shore of Lake Mendota, Spring Harbor is a mainly residential area. Single family homes as well as condos and apartments make up the neighborhood, with a large swath of homes that offer shoreline living. The placement of the community creates a out-of-the-city type of feeling, since the view across the lake is a forested piece of the U of M campus, rather than the city. Home to seven public parts and a couple public schools, the community is a nice place to raise children away from the hustle and bustle of the city. There are also plenty of recreational activities offered on the shores of Lake Mendota, including a swimming beach.
For those looking for a quiet, more scenic area in the city of Madison, this northern community might be for you. On the north shore of Lake Mendota, the neighborhood is heavily wooded and full of mostly single-family homes, with some large ones with spectacular views of the lake. Lerdahl Park is described as being very peaceful, as it enjoys sunshine and lake breezes throughout the summer. Families in the area are dedicated to helping one another and supporting the neighborhood school, Mendota Elementary. A great place to raise children, there are fun water activities to take part in, a couple parks, and a community garden for growing vegetables and flowers.
Want to learn more about Madison? Check out our Madison Suburbs article.