Wausau is an agricultural center with diversified industry in forest products, paper, and food processing, and more recently, insurance, financial services and health care. The surrounding area is known for outdoor recreation, including watersports and hiking in summer and skiing and snowmobiling in winter. Some of the area’s industries are clearly in transition as shown by the employment numbers, but we expect this area, which is gaining migrants from Chicago and other larger Wisconsin cities, to gain ground.
The small downtown area underwent a recent renewal, and there is a large new hospital south of town. The railroad station bearing the Wausau name is an oft-seen insurance industry icon exists in real life but out of the way and not part of the downtown landscape. Wausau, like most small Wisconsin towns, has a strong and friendly community feel, good housing, and a family environment with a lot to offer for those tolerant of winter. The climate and job questions hurt the ranking; long term the area is probably better than the ranking indicates.
The area is the coldest in Wisconsin and one of the coldest in the nation. Wausau sits in a shallow valley along the upper reaches of the Wisconsin River. Areas to the east are rolling and mixed with woods and farmland. Agricultural areas to the west are more level. Further to the north lie several areas of national and state forest. The climate is decidedly continental with some influence from Lake Superior. Summers are pleasant with only 4 days per year over 90 degrees F. Spring and fall are variable with periods of pleasant dry weather particularly in fall. Winters are harsh and cold as prevailing northwesterly winds deliver cold air. Lingering moisture from the south or Lake Superior produce snow, sometimes heavy. Snow cover persists through the winter. First freeze is early October, last is mid-May.