Start your day in Capitol Square at the Dane County Farmers Market (dcfm.org), the nation's largest producer-only market. On Saturday mornings, more than 150 vendors sell goods such as fresh vegetables, local honey and jewelry—plus salty, squeaky Wisconsin cheese curds, of course. Come for the variety; stay for Stella’s hot and spicy cheese bread.
Dane County Farmers Market
Take a detour off the Square for shopping along Madison’s State Street (visitdowntownmadison.com). Can’t-miss stores include Madison Modern Market (for quirky home items you didn’t know you needed), Little Luxuries (for fun gifts you won’t find anywhere else), and Anthology (for prints that creatively display Wisconsin pride).
Refuel at Dlux (dluxmadison.com), an upscale burger joint on Capitol Square. For a real treat—this is girls’ weekend, after all—try one of Dlux’s milkshakes or specialty cocktails. We’re fans of the Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel—but you might want to get it to share.
More shopping awaits a few miles away at the indie mecca of Monroe Street (monroestreetmadison.com). Check out Orange Tree Imports (for the sheer variety of its selection, from home goods to gourmet snacks to kids' toys), Art Gecko (for Middle-Eastern wares and handmade jewelry) and Strictly Discs (for two stories of records, CDs and cassettes). Complete the Monroe Street experience at Brasserie V (brasseriev.com), a European-style restaurant that focuses on rustic French food and Belgian beers. Try the Moules et Frites—mussels bathed in a chardonnay broth, accompanied by the house specialty frites.
Finally, settle in at HotelRed (hotelred.com), a boutique lodging just across the street from the home of University of Wisconsin football, Camp Randall Stadium. HotelRed captures college-town energy with a grown-up spin. You can wind down over a craft cocktail or locally brewed beer at the lobby bar, then retire to a sleek, contemporary room with plush bedding and luxury bath products.
Photo courtesy of HotelRed
A stack of blueberry pancakes and a bloody mary full of fresh veggies are just two reasons to visit Short Stack Eatery (shortstackeats.com). (It's also open overnight on Saturdays, if you really want to get an early start on your day.)
Take advantage of Madison's location between two lakes by biking along a lakeshore or getting out on the water in a kayak or on a stand-up paddleboard. Rent water gear from Brittingham Boats (brittinghamboats.com), just off Lake Monona. If biking’s more your speed, bicycles can be picked up and dropped off across the Capitol city at BCycle (madison.bcycle.com) stations.
Photo courtesy of RJ & Linda Miller
When it's lunchtime, follow locals for a bite and brew at Madison staple Mickey’s Tavern (facebook.com/MickeysTavern) in a 1902 flatiron building in the Willy Street neighborhood.
The Chazen Museum of Art (chazen.wisc.edu) on the UW-Madison campus rounds out a weekend getaway with galleries displaying African, Asian ad 21st-century international works.
Or to keep your outdoor adventure going, stop at the free Olbrich Botanical Gardens (olbrich.org), where 16 acres of gardens—including a rose garden, Thai pavilion and garden and sunken garden—combine to create a gorgeous retreat.
Olbrich Botanical Gardens