Top Things to Do in Madison, Wisconsin
It's a straight shot from Monona Terrace on Lake Monona to the state Capitol. Stroll around the exterior of the domed 1917 building, and check on the availability of free guided tours that highlight the interior's architecture, history and art.
Chazen Museum of Art
Galleries display a diverse collection, including African, Asian and 21st-century international works, at this museum on the University of Wisconsin campus.
Dane County Farmers Market
Find produce, flowers, cheeses, breads and meats at the nation's largest producer-only market. (Vendors grow, cure and harvest everything they sell.) Held Saturdays at Capitol Square; a smaller market is held Wednesdays in the 200 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
Henry Vilas Zoo
Related: 36 Hours in Madison, Wisconsin
Madison Eats Food Tours
Bring your appetite and book a tasting tour of downtown Madison or "brews and chews" in Atwood. Private tours available as well.
Madison Museum of Contemporary Art
The airy building near the Capitol houses more than 5,500 pieces of modern and contemporary art.
Madison Trust for Historic Preservation
Tours of areas such as Mansion Hill West focus on the city's history and architecture.
Memorial Union Terrace
Students and visitors love hanging out on the terrace overlooking Lake Mendota. Grab a snack from one of the terrace's dining spots or maybe catch a free concert.
Rooftop gardens overlook Lake Monona and downtown Madison. The Frank Lloyd Wright-designed convention center opened in 1997 after 60 years of controversy. Public tours available Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 1 p.m.
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 at the free museum, 6 miles west of Madison in Middleton.
Olbrich Botanical Gardens
The 16 acres encompass a rose garden, sunken garden, and Thai pavilion and garden. It's free to stroll the grounds and $6 to enter the conservatory.
This downtown area bustles with shops, galleries, restaurants and nightclubs.
Picnic with a view of Lake Mendota or spend the afternoon fishing or relaxing on the beach at Madison's first city park, dating back more than a century. In winter, ice-skate on the lagoon.
University of Wisconsin Arboretum
The 35-acre Longenecker Horticultural Gardens display more than 2,500 types of plants, including a large lilac collection, while two other gardens feature native plants and viburnums. Throughout the 1,260-acre arboretum, more than 17 miles of trails wind through restored prairie, woodlands, wetlands and other habitats.
Wisconsin Historical Museum
Stand in a replica 1,000-year-old home, walk into a lead mine or climb in a tractor cab as you explore exhibits on state history.
Eat and Drink
Babcock Hall Dairy Store
The public face of the UW's food sciences program, this parlor sells campus-made ice cream.
The European-style restaurant focuses on rustic French food and Belgian beers.
Dotty Dumpling's Dowry
Dotty's claim to be the world hamburger headquarters gets lots of support from the chargrilled, out-of-this-world burgers.
While you're noshing on the Glass Nickel's 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. Multiple locations.
Taste the region's food bounty in seasonal dishes, such as gyro lamb sausage with summer squash and grilled flatbread.
Pork stars here (the chef breeds his own heritage hogs), right down to the vintage boar-theme dinnerware. But there's plenty for seafood-lovers and for vegetarians too.
This eatery on State Street cemented its reputation selling pizza by the slice (and opened satellite shops). Patrons gobble up its top-selling mac 'n' cheese pizza.
Fine dining about as fine as it gets. A dinner for two might include braised ham hocks, whole milk ricotta spaetzle, fresh-baked pretzels and apple strudel.
Under new ownership in 2021, the Capitol Square area breakfast and lunch spot serves creatively prepared breakfast burritos, house-made soups, and hearty salads such as the Roasted Beet, Warm Goat Cheese and Grapefruit with champagne vinaigrette.
Pair a Ploughman's Board of local cheese and charcuterie with an expertly crafted seasonal cocktail at this gastropub.
Monty's Blue Plate Diner
An updated diner serves breakfast all day and vegetarian options that go way beyond a tofu burger.
This tiny special-occasion restaurant seats just 12 and offers a tasting menu of 10 to 14 courses, with optional wine pairings. Expect inventive dishes from the chef owners.
Housed in structures from the mid-1800s, these dinine areas on the city's outskirts are an elegant celebration of Wisconsin.
The glam sushi restaurant serves seasonal craft cocktails along with favorites like the Mermaid Roll (shrimp tempura, avocado, pickled jalapeño, mango.).
Short Stack Eatery
Exquisite blueberry pancakes and a Bloody Mary full of fresh veggies are just two reasons to visit the all-day-breakfast restaurant.
Taiwan Little Eats
Taiwanese street food comes to State Street with sweet potato fries dusted in plum powder and popcorn chicken over rice. Wash it down with an iced matcha or a cup of taro milk tea.
Wood-paneled walls, cozy booths and white linen tablecloths will take you straight back to the Mad Men era at this classic Wisconsin supper club.
Weary Traveler Freehouse
Bob's Bad Breath Burger (made with garlic, onions and cream cheese) is wickedly tasty. Wash it down with a Wisconsin beer at the Weary Traveler.
Working Draft Beer Company
The brewery specializes in IPAs and lagers with flavors like Peachin' to the Choir.
AC Hotel Madison Downtown
Best Western Premier Park Hotel
Perks at this convenient downtown hotel include sizeable, clean rooms and an indoor pool.
Canoes hanging from the lobby ceiling and cheery plaid furniture reflect the Wisconsin-influenced decor at Graduate Madison. Try fried cheese curds at the rooftop restaurant, Camp Trippalindee.
Hotel Indigo Madison Downtown
A 1915 brick building—once the site of a paint company—is now home to a boutique hotel in the heart of downtown. Colorful murals on each floor pay homage to the building's paint history. ihg.com
Hyatt Place Madison/Downtown
Between lakes Mendota and Monona, this hotel puts much of Madison in walking distance.
The Speckled Hen Inn
Relax in one of five guest rooms at this modern home on a bucolic 20-acre property.
For more information visitmadison.com