Drunkest city? Crummiest roads? Milwaukee’s inclusion on certain compendiums is not quite, well, complimentary.

Yes, we went shopping for lists that feature Milwaukee. Good lists, bad lists, complimentary lists, absurd lists. Such listicles are everywhere these days – on newsstands and the Internet, crafted by entities and outlets of all stripes, some well-respected and some, well, ridiculed. We found no fewer than 30 fairly recent Milwaukee mentions across a broad spectrum of topics, many of which we’ve shared here.

Lots of results are based on actual quantitative data, while others seem qualitatively born of a three-martini lunch. So if this be a mirror of our fair home, it’s something of the funhouse variety. And you’re supposed to have fun with those, right?


➞ Esquire magazine’s Bar City of the Year
➞ No. 3 Drunkest City

We don’t want to alarm you, but there’s a persistent rumor claiming Milwaukeeans like to drink alcohol. Don’t believe it? Just ask The Daily Beast, which christened Brew City as America’s third-drunkest city in 2012, using a data-based formula including the citizenry’s average number of drinks per month (15.2) and what percentage of Milwaukee’s population was categorized as binge (18.9) or heavy drinkers (6.7).

Boston and Norfolk, Va., topped those rankings, but on a more aesthetically pleasing note, Esquire christened Milwaukee the 2012 “Bar City of the Year,” giving shout-outs to such local libation stations as Wolski’s, Koz’s and Bryant’s. And a CNN travel piece named two area joints – The Irish Pub and Leff’s Lucky Town – among the country’s top 101 sports bars. Yeah, this is probably how rumors start.


➞ No 9 Worst Dressed City
43rd Most Fashionable City

Untuck your flannel tank top. Kick off those Crocs or moon boots. And please, do adjust your foam Cheesehead. We want to make sure you’re good and comfortable upon learning Milwaukee placed ninth on real estate website Movoto’s list of “Worst Dressed Cities” and way down at 43rd on Bundle.com’s 50-deep list of “Fashionable Cities.” Seems we don’t have enough high-end shoe stores, clothing stores or jewelry stores, and we don’t shop enough for top-end designer clothes. Which is probably just as well, given all that money we spend on booze.


➞ 8th Mistress City
➞ Best city for women seeing men

The good news is all of us poorly dressed drunkards do well finding comfort and solace in one another’s arms. Well, at least the younger ones do. The blog for real estate website Zillow told its readers “Where to Move for Love in 2013,” and it named Milwaukee the best city for women seeking men age 35 and under. Zillow’s reasoning included a 1.35 ratio of single women to men younger than 36 as well as the city’s relatively affordable rent, which in turn led to more disposable income. We didn’t make the top 10 on Zillow’s corresponding lists for men seeking women, women seeking women or men seeking men.

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But when the spark fades, well, infamous marital infidelity website ashleymadison.com ranked Milwaukee eighth among its “Mistress Cities.” The site claims 27.8 percent of the women who go after Milwaukee’s married men are single. They’re probably getting together at all those great bars.


➞ No 8. Best City to Have a Dog

For more benign companionship, we turn to our seemingly solid relationship with man’s best friend. NerdWallet ranked Milwaukee No. 8 among the “Ten Best Cities To Have a Dog.” Criteria included the number of off-leash dog parks and on-leash walkability. Low-cost vet visits – an average of $36 per trip – weigh heavily in our dog-friendly favor. So too, we’ll assume, does our lack of recognition on any cat-friendly lists.


➞ Top 10 Best River Towns in the U.S.
➞ No 68 Spring Allergy Capitals
➞ 24th Top Bike-Friendly City

Fido’s not the only one who enjoys Milwaukee’s great outdoors. Bicycling magazine declared that Milwaukee ranked 24th among “America’s Top 50 Bike-Friendly Cities,” highlighting our many and varied trails. Outside magazine pegged us as one of the country’s 10 “Best River Towns in America,” thanks in no small part to the reclamation of the Kinnickinnic River.

ParkScore, The Trust for Public Land’s rating system, put Milwaukee’s parks in a tie for 16th out of 40 U.S. cities, lauding the wide availability of parks but knocking us for our shrinking monetary investment in them. And when the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America ranked its top 100 “Spring Allergy Capitals” for 2013, Milwaukee was way down the list at No. 68. That’s nothing to sneeze at.

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➞ 2nd-worst roads in the Midwest

What’s worse, Milwaukee’s “parking crater” or the roads that lead you to it? The American Society of Civil Engineers reports that 71 percent of Wisconsin’s 114,843 miles of public roads are in mediocre or poor condition. That gives us the Midwest’s second-worst roads (thanks for the boost, Illinois).

Milwaukee was also a finalist in Streetsblog DC’s quest for the “Worst Parking Crater in America,” which sought the “ugliest parking scar draining the life from a downtown.” Our sea of Summerfest area blacktop lost the inaugural “Golden Crater” award to Tulsa, Okla., which also nipped us at No. 6 on that “Worst Dressed Cities” list. Perhaps a cultural exchange program is in order.

Big Picture

➞ 7th Most Exciting City
➞ 26th Best City

Parking aesthetics aside, Milwaukee’s Downtown must have a few things going for it. Forbes gave us a spot on its list of 15 “Emerging Downtowns,” lauding our RiverWalk and the neighborhood’s population boom since 2000. But there’s clearly more room to emerge, because Forbes also put us on its 2013 list of “America’s Most Miserable Cities,” citing weather and property taxes. Techie.com named Milwaukee one of its 10 “Most Unexpected Cities for High-Tech Innovation,” with a nod toward the medical field.

Movoto, clearly not holding our clothing choices entirely against us, ranked Milwaukee seventh among its 10 “Most Exciting Cities in America.” And because Bloomberg Businessweek put us on its 2012 list of “America’s 50 Best Cities,” we’ll overlook its “Laverne & Shirley” reference and focus on the kinder words about our good air quality, parks and, yes, beer and bars. In the end, we came in 26th, well behind winner San Francisco, but 12 spots ahead of Tulsa. Hey, we’ll drink to that. 

‘You’re on the List, Pal’ appears in the June 2013 issue of Milwaukee Magazine. Buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop.

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