Why Green Bay, Wisconsin, Is the Best Place to Live in 2023-2024

In the search for the place to make your new hometown, you likely want affordability that doesn’t leave you feeling strapped for cash after paying rent or making a mortgage payment and covering groceries. You want ample activities year-round that can keep you entertained. You want to feel like you have a close community, but the amenities of a bigger city.

What if we told you the answer was a bit farther north than you expected?

Green Bay, Wisconsin, ranks as the No. 1 metro area in the 2023-2024 Best Places to Live in the U.S. ranking. The Best Places to Live rankings consider quality of life, affordability of both housing and goods and services, desirability and job market. The factors that go into those major categories include access to quality health care, weather temperateness, quality of education, population growth due to net migration, crime rates, residents’ general well-being and more. With particularly high scores for affordability and quality of life, Green Bay takes the top spot out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S.

We’re breaking down the data points that contribute to Green Bay taking the No. 1 spot, as well as some of the additional details that may have you considering a move to — or back to — the northeastern Wisconsin metro area.

[Read: 10 Helpful House Hunting Apps for 2023]

Green Bay Offers What People Want

The Best Places to Live ranking’s Quality of Life index factors in many details, including crime rates, quality of high school education, general well-being, average morning commute, access to quality health care, air quality and risk of and resilience to extreme weather events.

Overall, Green Bay ranks No. 7 for quality of life, performing especially well for its short average commute, low risk of natural disasters and resilience to those that do occur, low crime rates and relatively healthy air quality.

If quality of life is a big factor in your search for a new home, those data points are key. But how does it translate to real-life experience? Expect the stereotype of “Midwest Nice” to prove true, explains Lindsey Puls, a lifestyle and travel blogger and owner of the brand Have Clothes, Will Travel, who grew up in the Green Bay area and opted to move back after years spent living abroad.

“As silly as this may sound, I think the best thing you can do when you move to Green Bay is smile and wave to your neighbors,” Puls wrote in an email. “A lot of people who are moving to the area are coming from big cities, and may not be used to being friendly with their neighbors. Here, our communities are pretty tight-knit — which is a positive thing, in my opinion. Being open to getting to know the folks you’re living around will really help you to settle in faster.”

The Cost of Living Is Low

Green Bay’s Midwestern setting and comparatively small population of 326,590 helps to keep the cost of living low compared to many other parts of the U.S. Green Bay area residents spend just 19.92% of the local median household income on mortgage payments or rent, property taxes and utilities, the third-lowest housing cost out of the 150 metro areas on the Best Places to Live list.

When it comes to the cost of standard goods and services in the Green Bay area, residents should expect to pay a bit more than some other parts of the U.S. For this price parity, Green Bay ranks No. 42 — still better than more than two-thirds of the metro areas considered.

While housing may be cheap, that doesn’t mean the Green Bay area is immune to the ebb and flow of real estate trends. The housing market is seeing lots of buyers who have adjusted to higher mortgage interest rates and are eager to purchase a home, despite few homes on the market, says Molly Lichtfuss, a real estate agent with Re/Max 24/7 Real Estate in Appleton, Wisconsin.

“Right now it is back to a seller’s market (similar to) 2021,” Lichtfuss says. “I feel so bad for first-time buyers because it’s very hard for them.”

New construction homes in the metro area are proving to be the best bet for first-time buyers in particular because it eliminates the competition, Lichtfuss says — otherwise you’re coming up against 10 or more offers on a house.

The Packers Are Part of the Town

Just about anywhere you’ll go in the Green Bay area will also remind you that the city’s NFL team, the Green Bay Packers, are part of the town. Nearly every local will also tell you that even if you’re not a football fan, you’ll find yourself rooting for the Packers and valuing their involvement in the community.

“Sports isn’t the end-all be-all for people, but if you’re in Green Bay … even if you don’t like football, you still appreciate the energy that comes with sports,” says Aaron Popkey, director of public affairs for the Green Bay Packers.

Part of the connection comes from the team’s unique ownership structure — public ownership set up as a nonprofit corporation. Being a stockholder doesn’t get you profits, but voting rights for specific decisions regarding the team and overall brand. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a significant chunk of shareholders are local to the Green Bay area or other parts of Wisconsin.

“Our fans literally are invested in the team, so it’s an anomaly as far as U.S. sports teams go, definitely,” Popkey says.

All profits go right back to the team, stadium, employees and surrounding community. Charitable donations and events are a regular occurrence in the Green Bay area, Popkey notes.

“We’re able to leverage the energy and interest around sports … and give back to the community that has always supported us,” he says.

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Small Metro Area, Big Connections

The Packers franchise’s efforts to give back don’t just come by way of charitable donations and volunteering time. There’s a marked effort to “get people to think about Green Bay or Wisconsin as a place to start a business, grow a business, to live in Green Bay or be in Green Bay,” Popkey says.

Near the Packers’ Lambeau Field is Titletown, a mixed-use development including offices, restaurants, shops, residences and activities both inside and outside. Puls points it out as a year-round attraction for all ages.

Beyond businesses directly serving Packers fans and Green Bay residents, TitletownTech is also located at the development and is a seed-stage venture capital firm created by the partnership of the Packers and Microsoft, aimed at funding and building startups.

With or without influence from the Packers, Green Bay’s job market is noteworthy, with diverse major employers. Many major employers are in the health care and insurance industries, as well as the transport and logistics business. There are still meatpacking plants in the area the Packers are named for, and multiple dairy companies call the area home as well to keep the fan moniker “cheeseheads” accurate.

Green Bay’s average monthly unemployment rate in 2022 was 2.78%, well below the national average of 3.7%. The average annual salary, at $51,510, is below the national average of $58,260.

Green Bay isn’t likely to be the next boomtown for any particular industry — its location and current size lend to more modest growth from people moving to and from the area. Still, Lichtfuss reports that all the transplants she has worked with recently to find a home in the Green Bay area have been relocating for work.

Yes, It’s Cold in Winter

When asked why Puls opted to move back to the Green Bay area after years living abroad in a few different parts of the world, she puts it simply: “Ah, well, it wasn’t the weather!”

It’s true that Green Bay is a northern metro area located on a Great Lake — it’s not the place to be if you’re afraid of long winters or heavy snows. In the ranking for weather temperateness, Green Bay’s cold and often cloudy winters make it rank No. 131 out of 150, which is a part of the calculation determining overall desirability. “Our winters are pretty brutal and can last into May some years,” Puls says.

That alone may rule out Green Bay as an option for some people — it’s OK to know your limits for happiness when it comes to cold weather. But if you can embrace the cold and learn to love winter activities, Green Bay offers plenty.

Another factor contributing to desirability is a SurveyMonkey survey of more than 3,100 U.S. residents asking where they’d live, given the choice. Green Bay ranks No. 58 — not a surprise that it’s not on par with Honolulu, which annually lands near the top, but the Wisconsin metro area’s four-season climate appeals to plenty. Green Bay ranks No. 56 for its final desirability score, factoring in additional details.

While metro areas known for milder weather may have residents regularly shutting themselves inside on cold or rainy days, people in Green Bay get outside throughout the winter. Outdoor ice skating, sledding, tubing and more are common daytime activities when snow’s on the ground.

“Layering your clothes is an art skill that you will learn,” Lichtfuss says. She also notes four-wheel drive is a valuable car feature in winter, and you should get used to factoring in extra time for a drive on snowy days for the slower pace needed to drive safely.

[Housing Market Predictions for the Next 5 Years Promise Lots of Surprises]

You’ll also want to become familiar with the best and most efficient way to shovel your driveway or use a snow blower. But both Lichtfuss and Puls note that you can expect a built-in teacher next door or down the road.

“You can count on at least one neighbor showing you how to use your snow blower for the first time or helping you to find the best spot to get fish on Friday nights,” Puls says.

More from U.S. News

How Much Does a New Construction House Cost in 2023?

What Makes a Community Walkable?

How to Vet a Neighborhood Before Moving

Why Green Bay, Wisconsin, Is the Best Place to Live in 2023-2024 originally appeared on usnews.com

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