|Madison is the capital city of Wisconsin. The city is primarily built on an isthmus between the lakes of Mendota and Monona, in south-central Wisconsin |
Through a combination of factors, including the state capital and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the city has more to offer than you might expect from a city of just 200,000. There are many excellent restaurants, an active theater community, lots of music, and good shopping. Yet Madison is just minutes from the beautiful rural countryside.
National groups and magazines rank Madison highly for many things: a very bike-friendly city, a great place to raise a family, a healthy and fit population, and an overall excellent place to live. Madison is a melting pot of the Midwest. You'll find professionals, students, families, hippies, musicians and everything in-between. It has a vibrant nightlife scene with lots of live music and pubs. It shares many qualities of bigger cities like Berkeley and Austin -- a creative and educated population -- but retains its small-town feel.
Madison's weather is comparable to that of Chicago: warm in summer; cold in winter, although it's not windy. Spring and fall are more temperate.
• By bus. You can get around much of Madison on the Metro bus system.
• By car. Be forewarned, however, that parking in the center of Madison - the isthmus - tends to be scarce. Parking further from the center is plentiful and free.
• By taxi. There are a variety of cab companies and when downtown there is never a taxi far from sight.
• By bike. Madison has consistently been rated as among America's most bicycle-friendly cities.
• State Street, The core of the city is this pedestrian only street that extends from the capital building west to the Campus. This is the center of the bustle in Madison and is a must visit. You will find unique shops, restaurants, bars, sidewalk cafes, museums, street performers and lots of smiling faces.
• The Memorial Union, 800 Langdon Street - A lovely terrace which overlooks beautiful Lake Mendota. Beer, soft drinks, and fast food are available. Be sure to sample the Babcock Ice Cream. This renowned ice cream is made at Babcock Dairy Hall, and profits help fund the UW-Madison dairy program.
• The Madison Family Theatre Company - Featuring great plays and musicals appropriate for the whole family.
• Madison Repertory Theatre
• Token Creek Chamber Music Festival - An annual festival held every August featuring great classical music in an intimate, rural setting.
• The State Street Pedestrian Mall - Stretching from the University of Wisconsin campus to the State Capital this is a great place to walk, shop, and eat.
• The Dane County Farmer's Market - An outdoor market open from April through November, around the capital square. It's enormous and fantastic: more local produce than you can imagine. There is also an indoor market in the Monona Terrace during the colder part of the year.
• East Towne Mall - A standard shopping mall on the east side of Madison, not far from I-39/I-90/I-94.
• West Towne Mall - A standard shopping mall on the west side of Madison.
• Michelangelo's Coffee House, 114 State St, 251-5299. 7AM-11PM daily. Coffee, sandwiches, deserts, pastries and comfy reading corners. The veggie wrap, with lentils, rice, and hummus, is a keeper, and a rock-bottom bargain to boot. $1-$5 (entrees).
• L'Etoile - Considered by some to be the best restaurant in town. While pricey, it is worth it. Make reservations in advance.
• Harvest Restaurant - Located right next door to L'Etoile it is nearly as good and is more likely that you can get a reservation on the same day.
• Madison Sourdough Bread Company - Excellent, fresh sourdough bread can be found here. Try their baguette--it is artisanal bread at its best. It can be found at some local grocery stores, including Willy Street Coop .
• Ella's Deli, 2902 East Washington. A great place to take kids, and adults will have fun too. The entire restaurant is decorated with animated toys, and about half of the tables have glass tops that allow you to look at interesting things, including a running model train, a baseball card collection, and much more. Their ice cream is excellent, and their pastrami is unbeatable.
• Mickies Dairy Bar, 1511 Monroe Street, (608) 256-9476. A classic dinner close to the University, and right across from the football stadium. It has excellent food and arguably the best shakes in town. If you think you can eat a lot, try the scrambler.
• Weary Traveler, 1201 Williamson Street, (608) 442-6207. A great local bar/restaurant that's consistently packed with friendly locals from the Willy St Neighborhood. Don't forget to try their specialty: the Bad Breath Burger.
• Nam's Noodles, 1336 Regent Street, (608) 287-0475. Excellent Vietnamese Food and is located close to the University. Very good food and their "Nam's Fried Rice" is outstanding. It's hard to find a bad item on the menu.
• Greenbush Bakery, 1305 Regent Street, (608) 257-1151. Very good doughnuts, which happen to be kosher.
• Great Dane Brew Pub, 123 E Doty St - A very large selection of hand-crafted microbrews and excellent food.
• Angelic Brewing Company, 323 W. Johnson St, (608) 257-2707 - Makes their own beer and has good food.
• Ancora Coffee Roaster - With four locations around town, they have excellent coffee. Try the fabulous white coffee.
• Victor Allen's Coffee - Several locations around town; another popular local coffee roaster.
• Doubletree - Located close to the University and not too far from the capital. It has free wireless Internet access. It used to be the Howard Johnson.
• Best Western Inn on the Park, 22 S Carroll Street, (608)257-8811 - A nice hotel, conveniently located right across from the capitol.
• Collins House Bed and Breakfast - A lovely place to stay, and they serve a great breakfast. It's not far from State Street and the University, and it has beautiful views of Lake Mendota.
• Canterbury Inn - Sits above a used bookstore (formerly "Canterbury Books") right off State Street. This B&B's intimate rooms are each punctuated with a character from Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales" and a collection of signed books by authors who spoke at Canterbury Books.
• GrandStay-Madison, Combines the comforts of home with the services of a grand hotel to make your stay as relaxing as possible. Grandstay's "home away from home" atmosphere may make you never want to leave!
University of Wisconsin-Madison - Located in the center of town the university has been in operation since 1848, and more than 41,000 students are enrolled each year.
Overall Madison is a very safe city. Safer than most. You can pretty much walk anywhere in the downtown area at night without the risk of anything bad happening. However you should always be cautious and be aware of your surroundings. The only areas that are recommended to avoid at night are isolated bike paths, Allied Drive, and Park Street.
Madison is a very fun and safe city. The most uncomfortable situation you will normally come across is a college student that has had a bit too much to drink.
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Dane County Regional Airport, MSN - Located to the northeast of downtown Madison, it is just a 15 minute ride to the capital and the University. There are many daily flights to nearby hubs including Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, and Denver.
• Allegiant Air.
• American Airlines, flying as American Connection.
• American Eagle.
• Continental Express.
• Delta, flying as Comair.
• Midwest Airlines.
• Midwest Connection.
• Northwest, flying as Mesaba, Pinnacle, and Northwest.
• United Express.
I-39/I-90/I-94 runs by the eastern edge of Madison.
• One hour and thirty minutes to get to Milwaukee on I-94.
• Two hours and fifteen minutes to get to Chicago O'Hare on I-90. Downtown Chicago is 15-45 minutes further, depending on traffic.
• Four hours on the combined I-90/I-94 will take you to Minneapolis/St. Paul.
• Tour the state capitol - A lovely building in the middle of Madison.
• Olbrich Botanical Gardens, 3300 Atwood Avenue - A lovely place to visit.
• Devil's Lake - The most popular of Wisconsin's state parks, Devil's Lake is about an hour northwest of Madison, south of Baraboo. It includes miles of hiking trails, some of them on bluffs of moraine overlooking the lake. The lake itself was created by the leading edge of the Wisconsin glacier, about 10,000 years ago, which also diverted the course of the Wisconsin River. The park has two pleasant beaches, and you can hike, bike, boat, swim, climb, hunt, or fish. It can be a bit crowded in the summer.
• Mustard Museum - Located in Mount Horeb, about twenty miles west of Madison, they sell over 800 varieties of mustard, all of which you can sample. They have more than 4,100 displayed.
• House on the Rock - One of the weirdest museums you'll ever see. The house itself is an interesting architectural phenomenon, particularly the Infinity Room. The rest of the museum is a huge collection of weird stuff. It's about an hour west of Madison.
• Taliesin - Once the family home of famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, it is located not far from the House on the Rock, about an hour west of Madison, south of Spring Green. Tours vary in length, but can be a little pricey ($80).
• Cedar Grove Cheese - A fun dairy about 30 miles west of Madison. Not only are they one of the oldest dairies in the area, but they make excellent cheese and they purify their own water using a Living Machine .