Illinois or Wisconsin: Which is the better place to live?

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Growing up in Illinois, I ought to be loyal to the Land of Lincoln. However, I’m not. While Illinois definitely has some charms, our neighbor, Wisconsin, also seems to have a great deal of appeal. My husband and I recently have been thinking about relocating from Illinois to Wisconsin and I thought I’d write a blog post on the pros and cons of living in each state. Before we make use of a loan calculator and begin pricing the cost of setting up a new nest, it would be wise for us to make an educated decision about where to move.

Things to do:

Ok, so Illinois has Chicago. Chicago definitely has its allure during the warmer summer months. Popular summertime activities include shopping, dining outdoors, perusing Navy Pier, climbing aboard one of Chicago’s popular cruises, hanging out at one of several beaches along Lake Michigan, and attending the Taste of Chicago and a variety of other festivals and concerts, just to name a few.

For people wanting to escape the congestion of the city, places such as Galena, Starved Rock, and Shawnee National Forest provide welcome retreats. These are all lovely getaway ideas and visiting such places provide people with a reprieve from urban living.

With that being said, I for one, do not care for the Windy City or many areas of Illinois in the wintertime. There may be some variety of winter activities to participate in but the sleeting rain/snow and wind do not make for fun outdoor adventures, in my opinion.

Despite the fact that I’m more attracted the warmer climates, Wisconsin is my choice for wintertime activities. While it may be much more frigid up in Northern Wisconsin, places such as Boulder Junction embody my vision of a perfect winter wonderland. Plenty of opportunities abound for cross-country skiing, sledding, ice fishing and more. With its glorious array of pine trees, gorgeous scenery and fresh open air, northern Wisconsin offers by far much better winter activities than many places in Illinois.

In the summertime, cities throughout Wisconsin also provide visitors with plenty to see and do. Lake Geneva is a popular tourist spot, as are many places throughout the state, including Madison and Wisconsin Dells. And I can’t forget Bristol, home of the Bristol Renaissance Faire!

So now we know that both Illinois and Wisconsin offer a bunch of things to keep people occupied in the summertime, and some activities in the wintertime.

But which state has the lower cost of living?

Studies show that living in Wisconsin costs less than the U.S. average, though in some vicinities, utilities may cost more. Taxes also may cost more.

Another thing about Wisconsin is the lack of jobs, especially up north. I also don’t understand the road system in Wisconsin – why are roads labeled with letters?

But Illinois roads aren’t off the hook – our roads are always annoyingly under construction and motorists are constantly subjected to highway robbery within the state tollway system.

Food:

Illinois is known for Chicago, and Chicago is known for Chicago-style pizza. Wisconsin is known for its cheese. :)

Sports:

The Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers. Coming from a family of Bears lovers, I have to say our football team is better.

The most important fact of all:

Wisconsin features a large quantity of lakes, Illinois features a large quantity of fruited plains. As I’m a nature lover and water girl at heart. My husband also enjoys the outdoors and being on the water. For this reason alone, I think Wisconsin would make a more suitable place for my husband and I to live.

What do you readers think? Illinois or Wisconsin? Why or why not? Please feel free to share your thoughts below.

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This article has 5 comments

  1. As a foreign student who lived in the Midwest for 7 years (and left in 2002, never to return), I think it is hard to compare states.

    Illinois has the premier city in the Midwest (what is the distant runner-up to Chicago….Pittsburgh?) but Wisconsin has the better outdoors scene. If I had stayed on in the US, I would probably try to keep an apartment in Chicago and a weekend cabin somewhere like Door County or the Upper Peninsula.

    BTW, this blog isnt as popular as your Taiwan blog but kudos for keeping up the effort

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  2. Oh I could go on and on….I grew up in the Chicagoland area, and moved to the Madison area about 9 years ago…I never thought I’d miss IL, and that it was close enough to go home and enjoy…and I now, 9 years later am just a little bit starting to get less homesick, and like WI a little more. Its close but culturally very different. What I miss the most is being close to Chicago and all it has to offer.

    It’s an entirely different world up here. You might think things are less expensive in WI, when you look at home prices but many other things that you may not think about, like groceries, cable TV, dance and music lessons if you have kids, etc are more expensive and less available. Remeber that house might be less expensive, but you’ll earn a lot less too…it’s relative or even maybe lower pay in the long run. I’ve never worked so hard for so little.

    In the Chicagoland area there was always a lot to do as well…in Madison not as much and everything costs money…very little to do if you aren’t earning a lot…and you have to be a rock star at what you do to compete for jobs…lots of very educated folks, competing for mediocre jobs. Madison has many state jobs, but they pay less than private sector, wages are being cut, and all unions and collective bargaining have been shut down by Scott Walker and his ilk. BUT if you cycle…love to play sports…etc…you might find you have a lot in common with folks up here. I was always an artsy music type…so for this I miss Chicago like non other. I also miss hopping on the train in the burbs and enjoying things like museums or Bluesfest…(my town has one, tix are about $40…Chicago I just paid train fare).

    In the Chicagoland area I was a single mom with 3 kids, we weren’t affluent, but I never went hungry. If I was not married here I could never earn close to what I could in IL, at the same jobs. Madison is a small pond, with lots of fish competing for resources…most of those fish have lived here there whole lives and have many connections you as an outsider will have a tough time making. The outlying areas aren’t densly populated so jobs, again, are scarce. I once read a quote that you have to be hardy and creative to make in WI…and I believe this to be true.

    While in IL it was enough to be smart and a hard worker…up here you must be that, and educated, and know someone, and get lucky to find a good job.

    Which brings me to being a FIB. They HATE people from IL…hate us. I did work in the Dells a few seasons and now understand why…but once you tell folks where you are from, folks whose parents were friends, and whose grandparents were friends, and so on…doors will shut. Very hard to make friends. I joind a ‘mom’s group’ on meetup.com…all of us were non locals who had the same story…”it’s impossible to make friends…people seem to have enough already”

    Small talk with strangers…I joke I want to move back to Chicago where people are friendly…they think I’m kidding…people are cordial in a cool, polite, almost pretentious sort of way to outsiders (also known as MInnesota nice)…cordial and friendly are not the same…I miss friendly.

    Produce has to travel farther, so hit a farmer’s market or grow your own, cause even at the best grocery stores it looks tired. Luckily Madison has the largest farmer’s market in the US…it’s something to see…and great restaurants…no shortage of vegan, locally grown meat and veggies and socially conscious food items…and yoga studios…they are a dime a dozen…

    If you were a jock in school….you’d love it here…very athletic culture. My downtown job has a ‘bike room’ for bicycle commuters, which is very cool IMO…but I’m also terrified of taking a biker out…they aren’t always following traffic signals, especially when the new UW students hit the streets in the fall.

    Some of what attracted me to WI was the great schools and care for the environment, but with Scott Walker in the governor’s mansion wages are falling, schools are getting defunded, unemployment is higher than the rest of the US, and things like taxes funding state parks are getting legislated out in the budget. I live in Madison, so see the state politics up close, and it’s all out of state money and very depressing…I feel we may be on a downward spiral funded by right wing CPACS.

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  3. I couldn’t edit my comment I will say there is less “middle class” up here it seems there are folks doing really well, and folks doing really not well…income levels seem pretty polarized as well. In IL it was easy to find jobs, be paid well, and swim in the middle…I’ve been struggling financially since moving here…yes we went through a recession…but I had to go back to school and change careers in my 40s to earn meh…less than I would have in IL…for the same careers.

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