Things to Do in Madison

Visit the Madison Visitor’s Guide here.

In Madison

  • Visit the capitol square, the center of Madison. Here you will find many great restaurants and bars. For example, Collectivo Coffer and Wonderstate Coffee are nice places to grab a bite in the morning. Fromagination is a great cheese monger; Wisconsin is the Dairy State after all.
  • Saturday morning brings the Dane County Farmers’ Market to the square. This is the largest producer-only farmer’s market in the USA.  It is a weekly festival with lots of food options.
  • The Wisconsin State Capitol is open to the public and well worth visiting.  You will be impressed by the variety of marbles, granites, and other colorful stones.  See how many badger sculptures you can find, and go up to outdoor balcony at the base of the dome for a fine view of Madison.
  • You’re surrounded by lakes. Just outside the hotel is Lake Monona. There is a nice walking path along the lake (which connects to a 20k loop all the way around). You can also rent small watercraft and paddle around.
  • Walk around campus followed by food/beer at the Terrace, a large outdoor beer garden that is the main campus hangout.
  • Wander over to the east side and Willy St (really called Williamson St). Go down Willy for good coffee, food and pastries. Check out Lazy Janes and Batch Bakehouse for some memorable bites.
  • Are you a coffee snob? If so, walk down Johnson Street to Johnson Public House (JPH) for some of the better coffee and espresso drinks in town.
  • Visit the free Henry Vilas Zoo (a very good zoo, adjacent Lake Wingra and the University Arboretum).
  • See here for downtown info and here for general ideas and more info on Madison.

Around Madison

  • Visit Horicon Marsh, the largest freshwater cattail marsh in the USA.  Horicon Marsh is known for its exceptional birding opportunities.
  • Visit Devil’s Lake State Park, Wisconsin’s most popular state park.  Devil’s Lake is a clear glacial lake surrounded by 500-foot quartzite bluffs.
  • Float the Wisconsin River.  The Lower Wisconsin River is the longest free-flowing stretch of river in the Midwest. It is flanked by forests and bluffs and is dotted with sand bars where you can swim, picnic, and relax.  There are several commercial outfitters who can help arrange your trip; click here and here for examples.  Note that Wisconsin has many miles of beautiful rivers suitable for canoeing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, etc.
  • Go to some of the charming towns near Madison, such as Paoli or New Glarus.  These towns are known for their art, culture and, in the case of New Glarus, Wisconsin’s best known craft brewery, New Glarus Brewing.