If you like cheese, beer, and the Green Bay Packers, Wisconsin might be the perfect state to retire. However, Wisconsin has much more than that to offer potential retirees looking to settle down in the midwest, which is why we’re talking about the best places to retire in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin has lakeshore property on two of the Great Lakes both Lake Superior and Lake Michigan. Plus, Wisconsin has the highest concentration of lakes in the US. So, for those looking to live on or near a lake, it’s pretty easy to find a place that will meet that criteria in Wisconsin.
Retirees who love the outdoors, including winter activities such as snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and skating, will enjoy staying active in Wisconsin.
In addition to the many lakes, there is an abundance of state parks loaded with gorgeous hiking and biking trails. Plus, Wisconsin is notorious for its many outdoor spring, summer, and fall festivals. Almost every town has hosted at least one festival every year.
For those who are looking for an area with urban conveniences as well as the well-known midwest friendliness, then the Badger state is where you will find it. Whether you grew up in Wisconsin or are a new transplant, the neighborliness you will experience from those who reside in this state is hard to find anywhere outside the midwest.
Plus, the bigger cities like Milwaukee, Madison, and Green Bay all have an array of live entertainment venues, outstanding restaurants, and if you are looking to go on a weekend shopping spree, the Mall of America in Minnesota isn’t that far of a drive.
And for those who enjoy wine and beer, you will be happy to know that Wisconsin is home to both, though, in truth, there are a lot more breweries. As for wineries, many wine lovers don’t think of Wisconsin as a place for excellent wine (California is often a preferred choice), but I think you will be surprised by the quality and selections of vineyards offered throughout the state.
Financially Wisconsin is on both ends of the spectrum. The median price of homes is below the national average, while the taxes in Wisconsin are on the higher side. However, there is no tax on Social Security, inheritance, or estate.
But personal income tax is the 11th highest in the country, and property tax rates come in 12th highest. And though most retirement income is taxed, there is a few exemptions for lower-income people and military retirement.
The good news is that Wisconsin has exceptional hospitals and medical centers, including the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Froedtert Hospital and the Medical College of Wisconsin, and Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center.
And another major plus to retiring in Wisconsin is that several towns in Wisconsin boast some of the lowest crime numbers in the country. So if you are looking for a neighborly, safe, and fun state to retire to, Wisconsin is waiting for you.
Places to Retire in Wisconsin
- Eau Claire
- Lake Geneva
- Percent of Senior Population: 11.3%
- Overall Population: 259,680
Madison, the capital of Wisconsin, is the second-largest city in the state. Sports fans will love retiring to this city since they can catch a live college football game at Camp Randall Stadium or head over to Kohl Center for a hockey or basketball game.
And you don’t need to be a sports fan to appreciate this great city. Madison also features:
- Overture Hall – Madison Symphony Orchestra
- Madison Opera
- Wisconsin Historical Museum – From the frontier days to the present day
- The Chazen Museum of Art – Second largest art collection in Wisconsin
- Madison Theater – Featuring Broadway productions, musicals, and concerts
With more than 800 restaurants to choose from, you will never go hungry in this town. Plus, there is a wide range of breweries and few wineries all within an easy drive of the city.
Madison is also an excellent choice to retire if you enjoy outdoor activities. The city sits on the shores of Lake Mendota, but also is home to Lake Monona. Both lakes are great for boating, water skiing, and fishing in the summer and in the winter you can spend time cross-country lake skiing, skating, or ice fishing.
If water isn’t your thing, no worries, Madison has more bicycles than cars and has received platinum status from the League of American Bicyclists. They were one of only five cities to receive this honor in 2015 for being an extremely bicycle-friendly city.
The drawback to retiring in Madison is that the cost of living in the city is higher than choosing a smaller town. However, living in the city allows for several conveniences, including medical centers. Madison is home to five hospitals, including UW Health.
- Percent of Senior Population: 13.4%
- Overall Population: 68,802
Eau Claire, located on the west side of Wisconsin, is under two hours from the Twin Cities and is just over two hours to Madison. Eau Claire is far from a big city, but it does have many of the similar highlights, only on a slightly smaller scale.
For example, Eau Claire hosts several live entertainment venues, including live performance theaters, the symphony orchestra, several outdoor concerts, many of which are open to the public, and festivals such as Country Jam and the Eau Claire Jazz Festival. Plus, Eau Claire is home to the University of Wisconsin, and those 60+ are welcome to audit any of the classes.
One of the things retirees like most about this city is the lower cost of living. It is about 10% lower than the national average, including the median price of housing. Also, Eau Claire is a relatively safe city and has two hospitals and many other medical centers.
Additionally, the L.E. Phillips Senior Center offers a variety of activities and events, like:
- Fitness Center and Classes: Tai Chi, strength training, get fit, step, and yoga
- Social Clubs: Book, knitting circles, billiards, volunteer group, wood carving, writing, and line dancing
- Classes: Computer and iPad, watercolor painting, sign language, string quilts, and more
- Cards and Games: Bridge, Scrabble, sheepshead, smear, hand and foot, and euchre.
Though Eau Claire has a couple of lakes, the Chippewa River runs through this town. The Chippewa River originates from Lake Chippewa and snakes south until it joins the Mississippi River.
Also, running alongside the river is the Chippewa River state trail, excellent for biking, walking, or running. The trail runs for 30 miles.
- Percent of Senior Population: 16%
- Overall Population: 47,965
Ever dream of retiring to the bratwurst capital of the world? Probably no, but if so, Sheboygan is the place for you! If that is not your dream and instead have wanted to retire near or on a lake, well, you will be happy to know that Sheboygan is one of the most affordable lake cities in the country.
Sheboygan is on the far east of Wisconsin on the shores of Lake Michigan. Lake Michigan is so large that surfers don’t have to hit the coast to get their boards out since Sheboygan is also the freshwater surfing capital of the world. However, if you aren’t a surfer, the sailing on Lake Michigan is so outstanding that many Olympic sailors train in the area.
And you don’t have to sail to enjoy these waters. Many people love paddleboarding, kayaking, and just relaxing their boats. Also, if you enjoy fishing, there are several charters available to take you out trout and salmon fishing.
This affordable city has art, golf, shopping, breweries, spas, and a great farmer’s market in the spring, summer, and fall. Plus, just like all cities in Wisconsin, Sheboygan hosts multiple events and festivals like:
- Fairy Folk Festival
- Powderpuff Fishing Tournament
- History Hill Music Fest!
- Labor Day Surf Weekend
- 8th Street Ale Haus Oktoberfest
- Percent of Senior Population: 28.2%
- Overall Population: 15,036
This small town that sits on Lake Superior is an outdoor retiree enthusiast’s dream. With the Apostle Islands just offshore and the beauty of the local orchards, wildflowers, and countryside surrounding the town, few places match Bayfield’s appeal and charm.
The Bayfield and the Apostle Islands are a mecca of artists, including jewelers, potters, woodcarvers, metal sculptors, painters, and photographers. There are tons of galleries and boutiques to be explored in this town and the nearby islands. Plus, there is an abundance of restaurants in the area, including fining dining, pubs, and cafes.
Though this tourist area has much to offer for entertainment with the different festivals and outdoor activities, it does lack in medical centers. While there is a hospital and some clinics in town, the selection of medical facilities isn’t as extensive as what you may find elsewhere.
However, on the upside, this small town’s cost of living is lower than the national average. Since the city is small, it will be easy to meet the neighbors and familiarise yourself with the local area quickly.
Bayfield may not be right for everyone, but for those looking for a quiet gem on the lake that is economical and far from traffic and city lights, Bayfield is likely to be perfect.
- Percent of Senior Population: 17%
- Overall Population: 8,105
Located in the southeast corner of Wisconsin, Lake Geneva is the smallest town on our list. However, Lake Geneva is far from the traditional small city. Set just two hours north of Chicago and just shy of an hour south of Milwaukee, this town sees it’s a fair share of tourists. Some weekends, Lake Geneva will host more than 30,000 people.
The nice thing about living in a tourist town is that there is always an abundance of attractions, restaurants, and shops, and Lake Geneva is no different. They are home to more than 100 boutiques, 30 eateries and bars, and 22 golf courses.
The median house price is lower than the national average unless you choose a home on the lake or golf course. The costs for homes on the lake can rise above seven figures. However, if you are happy to just be near a lake and its beaches, retiring in Lake Geneva is quite budget-friendly.
But of course, living in a tourist area has its drawbacks, with the largest being traffic on the weekends and summer months. Still, since it is a small town getting around on foot or bicycle is easy to do.
Lake Geneva is home to a full-service hospital and various medical clinics, but being less than an hour away from Milwaukee has the benefit of easy access to several hospitals and medical facilities.
If you aren’t discouraged by the drawbacks of small-town living, then you will love the other attractions of Lake Geneva like:
- The Studio Winery
- The Dancing Horses Theater
- Geneva Lake Brewing Company
- Paddleboarding, kayaking, and canoeing
- Big Foot Beach State Park
- Lake Geneva Shore Path
- Paddleboat cruises on the lake