Most people who think about Milwaukie think about professional sports teams, cheese, or beer brewing (see Pabst, Schlitz, and Miller). Few outsiders realize the cultural diversity, natural attractions, and legendary midwestern hospitality the city is also famous for. Considered one of the best places to live and retire in the U.S., Milwaukie is also among the most economical.
Looking at Milwaukie’s value investment-wise, the city is a great choice if you compare housing costs to median household incomes. Median housing costs in 2021 were $225,000 compared to $366,000 nationally. And even though median price growth has not risen as quickly over the past decade as in some other cities, today’s economic climate magnifies the Wisconsin town’s potential to ride out a recession. Here are three great reasons that make Milwaukie one of the best places to live in America.
Did you know that Milwaukee is the home of the largest music festival in the world? Summerfest is a two-week event that welcomes almost a million music and culture fans worldwide each year. Held on the festival grounds on Lake Michigan, the world’s biggest names gather on twelve stages to perform simultaneously. The event also spotlights the city’s food and beverage culture.
Since I’ve mentioned it, not too many people realize that Milwaukie is a waterfront community. This city is in love with summer, and the list of beachy outdoor activities locals and visitors enjoy reflects this. Because Winter is, to be candid, pretty harsh in this part of the U.S., the warm weather is cause for seemingly limitless nature and watersport events, festivals, and competitions. Strange as it may seem, Milwaukie is pretty famous for its sandcastle-making contests.
Milwaukee also has 140 parks covering more than 15,000 acres. The most famous of these is Lake Park along Lincoln Memorial Drive, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the architect who laid out New York City’s Central Park. City park events include Jazz in the Park, held on Thursdays in the summer at Cathedral Square Park, and Chill on the Hill over in Bayview. Finally, for runners, there’s the Bubble Run, the Color Run, Glow Run, the annual Milwaukee Marathon, plus many more outdoorsy things to get involved in.
For families with kids, Milwaukee is one of those places they simply cannot get bored. Even in the dead of Winter, there’s always something to do around town. Educational and fun places include the Milwaukee Art Museum, Discovery World, the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum, and the Milwaukee Public Museum. There are indoor and outdoor playgrounds, state parks, zoos and petting farms, aquariums, libraries, and dozens of nature centers like the Hawthorn Glen Outdoor Education Center, where kids can interact with wonderful animals and the great outdoors.
As for education, Wisconsin overall ranked 8th in the U.S. for K-12 education according to the most recent US News numbers. This mirrored the state’s overall 8th-place rankings for “Best Places.” Within the district, the city’s High School of Health Sciences ranked first in the state and 133rd in the U.S. because of the school’s college readiness rank and other factors. Other fine schools like Cedarburg High School and Whitefish Bay High School excel (in part) because of their 93% graduation rates. Also, Brookfield Academy has recently been named the top private school in Wisconsin. It should also be noted here that Marquette University, one of America’s best, is in the heart of downtown Milwaukee.
The list of “things to do” for children in this city is phenomenal if you care to look at MKE With Kids. Fall festivals, apple picking, hikes, and even leaf watches (?) prepare the way for Winter ice skating, skiing, and snowboarding, sleigh rides, maple sugaring (?).
According to the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC), Metro Milwaukee had a 3.9% unemployment rate as of August, which was down 0.6 percentage points from the previous year. The city’s rating was better than Wisconsin’s 3.3% and the nation’s 3.8% rates. Known for its strong manufacturing heritage, jobs in that sector rose by 1.8%, according to the same MMAC report. These numbers do not, however, clearly reflect the big picture for overall opportunities. In the most recent US News rankings, Wisconsin ranked 9th in both opportunity and fiscal stability categories.
These figures do not, however, reflect the bigger “opportunity” for individuals and families living in Milwaukee. Affordability is the key. In order to grasp personal, business, or educational opportunities, people must have the time and the resources to do so. Milwaukee represents a unique opportunity for people to live and grow primarily because the city’s cost of living is more than 15% lower than the U.S. average at 84.7/100. Groceries are 7% cheaper, housing is over 44% cheaper, and the median cost of owning a home is almost $130,000 less than the national average. Utilities are on par, and so is transportation, while healthcare is a good deal cheaper (93.2/100).
Salaries in some occupations are lower than the U.S. average in Milwaukee, but overall job growth has been less negatively affected than in most other major cities. Breaking down some costs, we compared Milwaukee with Atlanta, Georgia, and made some exciting discoveries. Here’s a breakdown.
|Consumer prices in Milwaukee are 7.98% lower than in Atlanta (excluding rent/mortgage)|
|Including rent, Milwaukee was 17.44% cheaper than Atlanta|
|Restaurant prices in Milwaukee are over 9% lower than in Atlanta|
|Groceries, overall, are almost 8% cheaper in Milwaukee than in Atlanta|
|Purchasing power in the Wisconsin city is almost 23% better than in Georgia’s capital|
|The cost of educating a child in Milwaukee is between 9% and 40% cheaper|
As an example. a meal for two at an expensive restaurant in Atlanta costs $65 as compared to $50 in Milwaukee. Utilities are cheaper by a substantial margin, and even childcare is 10-40 percent cheaper in Wisconsin lakeside. And the real kicker here is that the average monthly salary in Milwaukee is almost 1.5% higher than in Atlanta. So, doing the math here is not too difficult.
The bottom line is you need about $4000 per month in Milwaukee to live the same life Atlanta residents pay. We’ll leave you to budget out what opportunities this extra $1000 per month will afford you and yours.
We cannot leave off without mentioning the Milwaukee Bucks NBA franchise, the city's bustling nightlife, the award-winning restaurants, the Germanic culture, craft beets, Friday fish fries, and the rapid modernization this midwest town is undergoing. Milwaukee is a college town and is becoming a place where young people find a lot of inspiration and hope. Oh yeah. And there's Milwaukee Brewers' baseball too.