Wisconsinites are known for their positive energy and can-do attitude, and their home state certainly offers hundreds of stimulating things to do with all that brio. You can sail or fish in one of the state’s 15,000-plus lakes and rivers, tee off at a plethora of golf courses (there are more than 500) or be a “cheesehead” (slang for a Green Bay Packers fan) and take in an NFL game at Lambeau Field. Prefer other professional sports? Head to Miller Park, where the Milwaukee Brewers (MLB) play, or BMO Harris Bradley Center, where the Milwaukee Bucks (NBA) hit the court. And at nearly any sporting event, you’ll be able to snack on fried cheese curds, a signature Wisconsin treat.
The state’s largest city with a metro area population of over 1.5 million, Milwaukee is a city full of ethnic diversity that’s celebrated with countless festivals, earning it the nickname “City of Festivals.” Some of the best-known are the Polish Fest, Bastille Days, German Fest, Summerfest, Festa Italiana and Irish Fest. Two Rivers, a deep water sport fishing port on Lake Michigan and the birthplace of the ice cream sundae, beckons residents to enjoy the great lake and all manner of coastal activities. In Racine, approximately 45 minutes south of Milwaukee, you can eat a Kringle, a Danish pastry, before visiting Reefpoint Marina and the S.C. Johnson headquarters.
Residents of Madison, the capital of Wisconsin and home to the University of Wisconsin, take pride in their state capitol building, which is modeled after the Capitol in Washington, D.C. In the north of the state, scenic Door County is a 70-mile long peninsula surrounded by Lake Michigan on one side and the Green Bay on the other, resulting in more miles of shoreline (300) and more lighthouses (11) than any other county in the nation.
With more than 5.7 million residents, Wisconsin is the 20th most populous state. Much of the population is concentrated in the Badger State’s five biggest cities (listed in descending order): Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Kenosha and Racine. With the exception of inland Madison, all of these cities are located on the shore of Lake Michigan. Approximately 87% of Wisconsinites are white, 6% are black, 6% are Hispanic, 2% are Asian and 2% are multiracial. In terms of ethnicities, the largest reported heritages are German (33%), Irish (5%), Polish (5%) and Norwegian (4%). As of early 2016, the median household income statewide was $52,413, which is right in line with the U.S. median and a significant bump from 2000, when it was $43,791.
Yet despite the increased incomes, Wisconsin real estate remains below national standards. In early 2016, the statewide median home value was $168,804 – roughly $15,000 less than the U.S. median – while the median rental price was $875. Interestingly, homes in Milwaukee proper are even lower, with a median home value of $129,259 in early 2016. Real estate is significantly pricier in Madison, however, where the median home value was $221,198. One reason could be the city’s stellar quality of life, which led Livability.com to name Madison their #1 place to live in 2015. Notably, the percentage of Madison residents with college degrees exceeds 53%, making for a highly educated workforce and stable economy. Other factors are the level of research investment, the growing number of technology incubators and a strong population growth rate of 4.6% between 2010 and 2015.
Much of Wisconsin's industry is concentrated in Milwaukee, home of the Pabst and Miller breweries, and the southeastern corner of the state. In 2015, Wisconsin boasted eight Fortune 500 companies: Johnson Controls, Northwestern Mutual, Manpower Group, Kohl’s, American Family Insurance Group, Oshkosh, Rockwell Automation and Harley-Davidson. Some of Wisconsin’s other key industries include leather manufacturing, food preserving, wood product manufacturing, paper manufacturing and, of course, dairy products.
Known as American's Dairyland, Wisconsin had 10,291 dairy farms and over 1.2 million dairy cows across the state as of 2014. In addition to producing large quantities of milk and butter, it leads the nation in the production of cheese with more than 2.8 billion pounds of cheese annually, not to mention over 600 varieties. That’s a quarter of all cheese made in the U.S. Now the fourth largest cheese-producing region in the world, Wisconsin took home 59% of the awards at the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest in 2015.