A thread for the surprisingly large number of Hatrack-ers who hail from Madison. I've wanted to go to Madison for some time. Ever since moving to Waukesha, WI actually, but I have yet to do anything but drive through. And now I'm dating someone who also has lived here for a period of time and has yet to go to Madison. But I honestly am not sure what I'd do once I got there. I did a little searching online and nothing jumped out. I hear nothing but good things (and believe those things) so I'm hoping some here can point me to fun things to do in Madison. And perhaps point me toward a place to get hiking shoes because I've tried every single, relevant store in the Milwaukee area.
I've heard the Memorial Union Terrace is a great place to go. It's part of the UW campus, and I've been told it's especially nice during the summer when most of the students are gone. There is frequently live music and street performers from what I've heard. Supposedly the Babcock ice cream (made on campus) is good.
The National Mustard Museum (no, really. We've discussed this on Hatrack before...) has moved from Mt. Horeb to Middleton. It's also free, with a gift shop.
If you try any of these, let me know how they are. My summer is pretty booked up, with weddings and moving and such, so it'll be some time before I can check them all out. But so far we really like living in Madison.
Posts: 2069 | Registered: May 2001
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Thanks for the suggestions (and any more are quite welcome ). I'm hoping we'll be able to go next Saturday; it was orginially going to be this Saturday but something came up. Which will probably happen again but we'll get out there.
quote:Also Taliesin if you are a Frank Lloyd Wright fan.
I am not (as a structural engineer, I'm not sure I'm even contractually allowed to be) but I can appreciate the history at least.
Oh, man! I only just now saw this. I'd give you a tour, but next Saturday we're actually camping up at the Dells (which, by the way, actually have real hills and a few bluffs -- so if you're getting tired of all the flatness, having only recently moved to the Midwest, you should hit Devil's Lake and Parfrey's Glen.)
Things to see in Madison if you're visiting for a day, especially on a Saturday:
1) The downtown Farmer's Market, which circles the capitol and shuts down traffic for a half-mile around. Get there EARLY -- like before 9AM -- if you actually intend to shop.
2) The capitol building itself, which runs regular free tours on weekends and features a surprising number of badgers, including a couple painted by a Frenchman who had no idea what badgers looked like.
3) Fromagination is right on the square and sells some of the best cheese in the country (especially if you like sharp cheddars), including the incomparable Hook's 15-year. (Carr Valley makes a decent 5-year cheddar, if you don't want to spend that much; their main factory and showroom is a bit northwest of Madison along Hwy 12, in Sauk City.)
4) A few blocks off the square, the Children's Museum has some really, really astonishing examples of functional folk art -- even if you're not a kid.
5) Walk down State Street from the capitol towards the university. This will take you past a weird modernist white building, Overture Center, which also hosts our museum of modern art, and a number of quaint stores and excellent restaurants. (This may be your only opportunity to try Nepali/Ethiopian fusion cusine.) At the end of State you'll hit the university quad, which is across the street from the student union and adjacent to the Chazen Art Museum. The union itself has a lovely terrace with frontage along Lake Mendota, although if you don't drink alcohol some of its appeal -- nice microbrews -- will be missing.
6) Observatory Drive takes you up Bascom Hill (a very interesting hike, especially once you consider that the football team is forced to run up and down it four times at the start of every practice) from the student union towards Babcock Dairy, which is UW's experimental dairy -- and makes some of the best ice cream in the state. (The union sells it, too, but the dairy will give you tours if you ask.) You should also buy some Finnish-style bread cheese (also called leipäjuusto or juustoleipa) if you've never had any; the kind with jalapenos is by far the best.
7) Vilas Zoo is free, and surprisingly nice for a free zoo. It's large but compact, and located right on the shores of Lake Wingra; you can stroll across a bridge and be at Vilas Beach, which is also free (although, speaking as someone who grew up on the shore of the Great Lakes, it'll never compare to the beaches along Lake Michigan). There's a little cafe across the street from the main entrance, Zuzu Cafe, that does some pretty good iced coffee.
8) Vilas Beach rents canoes and other watercraft, and arguably one of the best ways to see Madison is to hop in a canoe and circle the lakes. (The other recommended way is by bike; it's a very bike-friendly city.)
9) The UW arboretum has some marvelous prairie plants and some gorgeous walking trails through flowering trees -- although, with the season so hot and dry, it's more prairie than flowers right now. If you like grasses, though, it's still a nice stroll. You may also enjoy the Anita Purvis Nature Center, which has a fairly large exhibit on reclamation.
10) One of the most pleasant walks in Madison is at Olbrich Gardens, on the near east side along Lake Monona. The grounds are absolutely free (and enormous, but well-designed, with multiple water features and pleasant paths), and the hothouse -- which is marvelous -- asks for a $2 donation per person. The grounds don't quite have the scope of the Frederick Meyer Gardens in Grand Rapids, but I think they otherwise compare favorably.
11) If you haven't had pho, or if you really love it, Madison has some excellent pho joints. Restaurants in general, in fact, are a strong point; we have some really fantastic food. Don't eat at a chain while you're here, or you'll be missing out.
12) If you want to head a bit farther afield, Middleton (to the immediate northwest) has a nice splash park, the Mustard Museum, and the best chinese place in the area; Mt. Horeb has the Cave of the Mounds -- worth a trip, although it's not exactly Mammoth Cave -- and the House on the Rock (which is absolutely worth visiting, if you've never seen it); and Sauk City has a nice riverwalk and the Carr Valley cheese factory.
It's actually hard to make a list like this, because to my mind one of the finest things about living in Madison is the sheer number of easy day trips. We're around an hour away from Milwaukee, the Wisconsin Dells, and Rockford, and around two to three hours away from Chicago, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Dubuque.
Imperial Garden, just before the Beltline on University. It's gotten more hit-or-miss in recent years, as the original owners have retired, but it's still the best source of (Americanized) Chinese food in the area. Madison's actually spoiled for choice when it comes to Vietnamese, Thai, and even Korean, but Chinese is generally of the "cheap buffet" style. Hong Kong Cafe on Regent is decent, too, if you're downtown.
For "authenticity," if that matters, I'm told that Ichiban (rather ironically, given the name) does the most authentic Sichuan in the area. I enjoy it a great deal, but we don't eat there very often because I'm the only person in my family who can tolerate any heat.
Posts: 36475 | Registered: May 1999
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Thanks for all the advice everyone! We didn't get a chance to go this weekend, and I know we can't next, but I'm hoping now for the Saturday following. We need to plan out a day there. I think we might try making it in time for the farmer's market so it will certainly be a long day.
So we finally decided when we're going (for the first time, I imagine the city will still be there afterward): this Saturday. I certainly want to see the capitol, she'll probably like the zoo, and I think we'll try to make it in time for the farmer's market. Outside of that it's still up for grabs. Sadly we'll have to be back in Milwaukee by 6:00 at the latest. Anyway, this is going to be fun!