This university-anchored city gets an extra dose of sophistication from its role as state capital. Lakes and a famous market encourage outdoor fun. Check out our picks for what to do, where to eat and where to stay in Madison.


Capitol 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.

State Capitol and Monona Terrace
Monona Terrace and State Capitol

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 More than 650 animals live at the free community-supported zoo just north of Lake Wingra. Vilas Park, surrounding the zoo, features playgrounds, a beach and a lagoon.

Lake Monona See it from a Betty Lou motor yacht cruise, a kayak or a winding lakeside bike trail.

Madison Eats Food Tours Bring your appetite and book a tasting tour of downtown Madison, global eats on Willy Street, or "brews and chews" in Atwood.

Madison Museum of Contemporary Art The airy building near the Capitol houses more than 5,500 pieces of modern and contemporary art.

Madison Museum of Contemporary Art
Madison Museum of 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.

Monona Terrace Rooftop gardens and a seasonal rooftop cafe overlook Lake Monona and downtown Madison. The Frank Lloyd Wright-designed convention center opened in 1997 after 60 years of controversy.

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 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.

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

Tenney Park 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.


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

Brasserie V The European-style restaurant focuses 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 chargrilled, out-of-this-world burgers.

Dotty's Dumpling Dowry
Dotty's Dumpling's Dowry

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 food bounty in seasonal dishes, such as gyro lamb sausage with summer squash and grilled flatbread.


Heritage Tavern 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.

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 dinner for two might include braised ham hocks, whole milk ricotta spaetzle, fresh-baked pretzels and apple strudel.

Marigold Kitchen Under new ownership in 2021, the Capitol Square area breakfast and lunch spot expects to reopen by June.

Merchant 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.

Nook 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.

Quivey's Grove Housed in structures from the mid-1800s, this restaurant on the city's outskirts is an elegant celebration of Wisconsin.

RED The glam sushi restaurant serves seasonal craft cocktails along with favorites like the riceless Lollipop Roll (tuna, salmon, cucumber and asparagus).

Short Stack Eatery Exquisite blueberry pancakes and a Bloody Mary full of fresh veggies are just two reasons to visit. Plus, it's open overnight on Saturdays.

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.

Tornado Steakhouse 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.

Working Draft Beer Company The brewery specializes in IPAs and lagers with flavors like Peachin' to the Choir.


AC Hotel Madison Downtown A central location and sleek design attract guests to the 165-room lodging. Floor-to-ceiling windows at Eno Vino Wine Bar and Bistro on the 10th floor afford panoramic city views.

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

The Edgewater The hotel pier gives easy access to Lake Mendota. An on-site spa within the 202-room building ups the lake-luxe ante.

The Edgewater Hotel. Madison, Wisconsin.
Photo courtesy of The Edgewater

Graduate Madison Canoes hanging from the lobby ceiling and cheery plaid furniture reflect the Wisconsin-influenced decor. 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.

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.

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