Madison, Wisconsin, Trip Guide | Midwest Living

Madison, Wisconsin, Trip Guide

This university-anchored city gets an extra dose of sophistication from its role as state capital. Lakes and a famous market encourage outdoor fun.
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Madison Museum of Contemporary Art
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The Old-Fashioned Tavern and Restaurant.
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Horicon Marsh
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Betty Lou Cruises Step aboard a Betty Lou motor yacht for a leisurely cruise around Lake Mendota or Monona.

Capitol It’s a straight shot from Monona Terrace on Lake Monona to the state Capitol. Free guided tours highlight architecture and art—mosaics, stained glass and murals.

Chazen Museum of Art The building is a work of art. Galleries display African, Asian and 21st- century international works.

Dane County Farmers Market The nation’s oldest farmers market is also the country’s largest producer-only market, with 280 vendors selling produce, flowers, meats and more on Capitol Square.

Horicon Marsh Considered one of the nation’s top birding spots, the marsh sits an hour northeast of Madison. Split into state and federal wildlife refuges, the 33,000-acre preserve harbors an estimated 300,000 birds every spring and fall. Nearly 300 species have been sighted, including the rare trumpeter swan and yellow-billed cuckoo.

Lake Monona See it from a Betty Lou motor yacht during a Champagne brunch cruise or from a bike on trails that pass lakes Monona and Mendota.

Madison Museum of Contemporary Art The airy Overture Building near the Capitol houses more than 20,000 pieces of modern art, some in a rooftop garden.

Madison Trust for Historic Preservation Walking Tours Participate in a brisk, hour-long introduction to the history and architecture of town.

Monona Terrace Tours and an exhibit address the controversy around the building of this Frank Lloyd Wright-designed convention center on Lake Monona.

Monroe Street Indie shops and restaurants line a 1½-mile stretch west of downtown.

National Mustard Museum Exhibits and video make a quirky yet classy homage to ketchup’s counterpart, 7 miles west of Madison in Middleton.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens The 16 acres encompassing a Rose Garden showcase hardy shrub varieties in a space inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie style.

State Street This area bustles with more than 370 shops, galleries, restaurants and nightclubs.

University of Wisconsin Arboretum These 1,200 acres feature prairie, savannah, marsh and deciduous forest, plus 20-plus miles of trails.

Wisconsin State Historical Museum The compact museum covers four centuries of state history, including inventions by Wisconsinites.

Wisconsin Veterans Museum Engaging exhibits tug on emotions while telling stories of combat and life back home through letters, poetry, photos, artifacts and lifelike vignettes.


43 North Restaurant The name references the latitude Madison shares with Sapporo, Japan, in a hint at the food’s international flair.

Alchemy Everything exceeds bar food expectations, but especially the sweet potato fries with their dipping sauces like jalapeño-blackberry jam.

Babcock Hall Dairy Store The public face of the UW’s food sciences program, this parlor sells campus-made ice cream.

Bluephies Restaurant and Vodkatorium What’s not to love about a hip place that’s family-friendly and offers a vodka flight? Fun dishes include chocolate chip cookie dough egg rolls.

Brasserie V Fountain Prairie Farm dry-aged Highland beef fills the V burger at this European-style restaurant focusing on rustic French food and Belgian beers.

Dotty’s Dumpling’s Dowry Dotty’s claim to be the world hamburger headquarters gets lots of support from the char-grilled, out-of-this-world burgers.

Glass Nickel While you're noshing on the best-selling Fetalicious pizza, with its tender mushrooms, fresh spinach, tomatoes and crumbled feta, sip a hearty Scottish ale or peppery Cabernet and enjoy the restaurant's Bohemian-chic decor.

Graze Taste the region’s terroir in seasonally inspired dishes like a pickle board with daikon, kimchi, escabeche, beets and cucumbers.

Harvest The menu follows the seasons at this upscale favorite. Check the website for themed monthly Sunday dinners.

Ian's Pizza This eatery on State Street cemented its reputation selling pizza by the slice (and opened satellite shops in Chicago's Wrigleyville neighborhood and in Milwaukee). Patrons gobble up its top-selling mac 'n' cheese pizza.

L’Etoile Fine dining about as fine as it gets. A mere canapé of rosemary shortbread with raspberry crème fraîche and chives made us swoon.

Marigold Kitchen Heaping platters of brioche French toast and pancakes fuel whatever plans you have for the day.

Merchant Restaurant Like its cocktails crafted by mixologists, Merchant mixes the best of food and fun: It’s a restaurant, bar, grocer, butcher and night club all in one.

Mickey’s Tavern Follow locals to this slightly worn gem. In a 1902 flatiron building, Mickey’s features a retro bar, living room-style dining areas and a spacious patio. Mickey's Tavern Facebook page

Monty’s Blue Plate Diner An updated diner serves breakfast all day and vegetarian options that go way beyond a tofu burger.

Quivey’s Grove Housed in structures from the mid-1800s, this restaurant on the city’s outskirts is an elegant celebration of Wisconsin. (608) 273-4900;

Sprecher’s Grill and Pub Wisconsin-inspired fare (a burger with sauerkraut, sauerbraten over spaetzle) pairs with the popular fire-brewed beers and sodas.

Sunroom Cafe The brunch has a range of omelets and scramblers, plus whole wheat pancakes to keep Madison’s granola reputation intact.

Supper clubs Head to one for Friday night’s old-school meal of fried fish. We recommend Avenue Bar and Grill, The Old Fashioned Tavern and Toby’s.

Weary Traveler Freehouse Bob’s Bad Breath Burger (made with garlic, onions and cream cheese) is wickedly tasty.


Arbor House Organic mattresses and sustainably harvested wood characterize this green lodging.

Best Western Inn on the Park Capitol Square Perks at this convenient downtown hotel include sizeable, clean rooms and free parking.

HotelRed Comfort and chic blend in the 48 guest rooms at a boutique hotel across from Camp Randall Stadium (from $159).

Hyatt Place Madison/Downtown Between lakes Mendota and Monona, this hotel puts much of Madison in walking distance (from $149).

Mansion Hill Inn In the Mansion Hill district near downtown, the German Romanesque Revival building’s 10 rooms feature plush linens and gas fireplaces (from $280).

The Speckled Hen Inn At this modern home in a bucolic setting, you’ll dine on a breakfast of eggs from the inn’s chickens and herbs grown on its 50 acres (from $165).

For more information: Greater Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau

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