The Ho-Chunk ancestors who lived here called the area Teejop, or Four Lakes. Today, those bodies of water—Mendota, Monona, Waubesa and Kegonsa—frame a city that’s cool with a capitol C.
couple on lake monona madison wisconsin
Credit: Focal Flame Photography

My Perfect Day

My motto is "You never know when you'll need a baked good," so start with a coffee and something savory (like a Gruyère croissant) to go from Batch Bakehouse. 

Rent a bike from a BCycle station and follow the 13-mile Lake Monona Loop through tree-lined neighborhoods of midcentury modern and Prairie-style homes. 

Hit the brakes at Monona Bait and Ice Cream for a sweet treat. The Biergarten at Olbrich Park provides another great lakeside break. Prost!

Dinner is at Lombardino's for orecchiette with local Fraboni's sausage. Eat at the bar, where a red lampshade glows against a 1950s mosaic backsplash.

Bucket List

Dane County Farmers' Market

The largest producer-only market in the nation buzzes with more than 150 vendors every Saturday, looped around the State Capitol. Don't miss Stella's Hot and Spicy Cheese Bread.

Memorial Union Terrace

Spot live Badgers at this UW-Madison hangout with colorful chairs overlooking Lake Mendota. Grab a beer, a brat or a legendary Babcock Dairy cone as live music plays.

State Street

In short: no cars, but big college-town mood on State Street. Snag all-day breakfast (cheese grits!) at Short Stack Eatery, then take your pick of specialty shops and independent cafes—plus the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art and the Overture Center for the Arts

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Wander 16 acres of alfresco beauty for free at Olbrich Botanical Gardens. The Thai Garden features a glittering gold pavilion—the only one in the continental U.S. built in Thailand.

Madison Boats

Rent kayaks, canoes, pedal boats and SUPs from one of three locations, each offering a unique perspective of the city. For a full-on party, helm a cruise on a pontoon boat.

The Harvey House
Credit: Nick Gerard

Where to Eat


Check out local favorite Lazy Jane's Cafe for fresh scones and scrambles. Or relax over Bloody Marys and brioche French toast at Sardine bistro, with Lake Monona views.


It's all about the Russian dumplings—filled with potato, beef and other morsels—at Paul's Pel'meni. Order them with The Works: butter, sour cream, cilantro, chili sauce and curry seasoning.


Located behind a historic train depot, The Harvey House is straight-up elegant with a chaser of supper club charm. Chef and co-owner Joe Papach is a veteran of restaurants with three Michelin stars. 

National Mustard Museum
Credit: Kevin J. Miyazaki

Family Hits


East Johnson Family Restaurant cheekily calls itself "Madison's coziest, greasiest spoon since 2022." The menu includes vegetarian dishes, plus Morn Dogs—cornbread-battered sausages with maple syrup and Dijon mustard. 


Get creative at Monroe Street Arts Center, home to a Family Art Making Studio (FAMS) every other Friday, plus art and music classes on the regular. 

Budget Pick

Celebrate ketchup's better half in all its brown, golden and nose-clearing variety at the free (and oddly fascinating) National Mustard Museum in nearby Middleton. In August, catch the zany National Mustard Day festival. 

Where to Stay

Graduate Madison celebrates vintage Wisco decor one block off the UW-Madison campus. Toast summer camp vibes from its rooftop hangout, Camp Trippalindee, and down an Old-Fashioned before lights-out.