Madison is a secret well-kept. This city, with a population of approximately 250,000, is surrounded by five lakes and is said to have the highest numbers of restaurants per capita in the country. Here, the concept of farm-to-table is applied thoroughly. Consequently, farmer’s markets run all year-round and restaurants offer freshly produced local food.
If one word could define Madison it would be ‘local’. Aside from locally produced food, the city greatly supports local businesses such as boutiques, bars and coffee shops. It is also extremely bike friendly, and even has its local airport.
Activities take place all year round, regardless of the weather conditions. Dane County Farmer’s Market, the largest producer-only market in the country, is one of those activities. This market runs indoors at the Monona Terrace or the Madison Senior Center from November to April and outdoors on Capital Square the rest of the year. The market attracts families, students, but also chefs who shop for fresh goods for their restaurants.
Another all year-round attraction are the lakes. Lake Mendota and Lake Monona are the two biggest lakes surrounding the city. In the winter, the lake freezes, making it completely walkable. In the summer, you can rent a boat or a kayak or even go for a swim.
But the most popular attraction of all is the Wisconsin State Capitol. The capitol is almost 300 feet tall and was completed in 1917. The ‘golden lady’ a bronze status sculpted by Daniel Chester French in 1920, stands proudly on top of the dome. She holds a globe in her left hand while her right hand points towards Washington D.C. Inside the capitol, you will find architectural wonders. The building has four equal wings decorated with glass mosaic works. You can also go up to the observation deck for an incredible view of Madison.
When you exit the capitol, take a walk on State Street towards the University of Wisconsin campus. It offers a variety of local boutiques, restaurants, coffee shops and bars. Street performers entertain the crowds on every corner. Another fun street to visit is ‘Willy’ Street. This street has a more ‘hipster’ vibe, so if you are looking for your local trendy coffee place or dive bar, Williamson Street is just for you.
Visit Madison on a game day. If the Badgers are playing, the entire city will be celebrating! The proud supporters of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Badgers wear red Badger gear, and the streets of Madison are filled with music, food and laughter.
You could spend an eternity in Madison trying out new restaurants. Not only is there an abundance of places to eat, the food is fresh, local and delicious too! These are my top 3 recommendations:
1. L’etoile. This restaurant is famous for its ‘Farm-to-Table’ concept. All ingredients are locally grown and bought at the Farmers Market right before being served. The prices are slightly expensive, but the experience makes it totally worth it. The restaurant is located on 1 S Pinckney St (make reservations!).
2. La Sardine. By far the best place for brunch. This restaurant is located on 617 Williamson Street and offers amazing brunch cocktails and house-made pastries. My recommendations: the ‘Arugula & Brie Cheese Omelet’, the ‘Sardine Burger’, the oysters and the ‘Croque Monsieur/Madame’.
3. The Old Fashioned. No one can go to Wisconsin without trying their famous deep-fried cheese curds. This restaurant not only have the best cheese curds in town, they also have one of the largest beer menus. It is located on 23 N Pinckney Street right next to the Madison Capitol and a great place to start your night.
Madison is not only a great place for food, it is also a great place for drinks. I would highly recommend having a coffee. The city has some incredible coffee shops that are definitely worth trying. My personal favorite? Lakeside Street Coffee House.
Another must-drink location to visit is the Great Dane Pub & Brewing Company and the One Barrel Brewing. The first one has four locations throughout Madison and the latter is located on 2001 Atwood Ave. Both have an extensive selection of microbrews, including seasonal releases and year-round beers.
Plane: Madison has its own airport, the Dany County Regional Airport. Daily flights connect you to and from Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Minneapolis, Detroit and of course, Chicago.
Car: Madison is accessible by taking the interstate I-39, I-90 or I-94.
Bus: There are various bus services that reach Madison. The most popular are the VanGalder bus and Greyhound.
Bike: The city is one of the most bike-friendly in the country and small enough to where you can get anywhere by bicycle.
Car: Driving around is totally doable, but parking is scarce and expensive.
Bus: Madison has bus 44, which goes around most of the city.