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Madison, Wisconsin

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Personality Types that Like it Best

Did You Know … ?

  • The city was named for James Madison, but streets were named for others who also participated in writing the U.S. Constitution.
  • The city’s convention center debuted in 1997, 59 years after Frank Lloyd Wright designed its exterior.
  • The world’s first electric voting machine was installed in the legislature’s Assembly chamber (1917).
  •  The local WHA is considered America’s oldest radio station in continuous service.
  • An estimated 1,300 Native American effigy mounds survive in Madison and area.

Discovering Madtown

Madison — with a metro area population of around 600,000 — boasts employment opportunities and a natural environment that consistently land the city on lists of best places to live in America.

It sits on an isthmus between two glacial lakes surrounded by rolling hills, but three additional area lakes, more than 260 parks and more than 120 miles of shared-use trails and paths also lure outdoor enthusiasts.

As the capital of Wisconsin, Madison is a government city, and as the home to the huge University of Wisconsin-Madison campus (more than 40,000 students), it is a college town. In addition, high-tech and biotech sectors are newer additions to this mix.

The city calls itself Madtown, referring to the lively nature of its political side as well as the fun to be found on campus or around town. In part because of the university, the city offers a broad range of cultural activities, restaurants and nightspots suitable to multiple tastes and budgets. In addition, the university’s sports teams are a huge draw for their fans. The sports competitions are a major reason many people visit Wisconsin’s capital.

Some visitors are architecture buffs, and specifically lovers of Wisconsin-born Frank Lloyd Wright. In Madison and the area, they can spot several examples of his designs as well as visit Taliesin, the home he designed for himself west of the city.

Other tourists are drawn by Madison’s potent combination of urban delights, attractive natural setting and opportunities for cycling, cross-country skiing, kayaking and other outdoor activities.

Madison also is a gateway to the Badger State, most immediately, to the Wisconsin Dells, often called the waterpark capital of the world and an area of spectacular natural beauty. It is about an hour’s drive north of the city.

The more active and venturesome may tap Madison for an urban component to an itinerary that gives greater emphasis to the area’s lakes and other natural playgrounds. These visitors also generally have a real appreciation for the uncrowded nature of rural America.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Madison and the surrounding area have more than 100 miles of bike trails. Use them. One is the 12-mile scenic bike trail that encircles Lake Monona.
  • See the Mad Rollin’ Dolls, Madison’s professional women’s roller derby team, in action. Ticket proceeds benefit local charities.
  • When Madison’s lakes freeze over, get a license and go ice fishing.
  • Sample the new or unusual in theater at the Madison Repertory Theatre or the Broom Street Theatre.
  • Act like a local. Don winter garb and extend your golf season into November. Also, eat fried cheese curds, another local thing.
  • Snap up the option to go snowboarding in the city’s Elver Park. Alternatively, test your skills at the Boulders Climbing Gym, which has indoor and outdoor climbing walls.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Drive to Spring Green for a tour of the Taliesin complex, the Wisconsin home and studio designed and built by Wisconsin-born architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.
  • Get your workout on cross-country skis using the 20 miles of trails at the University of Wisconsin Arboretum. Also, the city grooms trails at seven parks and two municipal golf courses. Or, ski on Madison’s lakes, which are normally frozen over by mid-December.
  • Madison, because it is on an isthmus that sits between two lakes, is well known as a good place to rent and paddle a canoe.
  • If a beer lover, take a tour at the Capital Brewery and Bier Garten — and, in summer, spend time in the beer garden.
  • Enjoy the free beaches on Lake Mendota, Lake Monona, Monona Bay and Lake Wingra (by the zoo).
  • Attend a University of Wisconsin football or men’s basketball game, but plan ahead to get these popular tickets.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Cruise on an enclosed motor yacht on either Lake Mendota or Lake Monona.
  • Join guided tours of the state capitol building and the governor’s mansion. Also, attend a reenactment event at the Nathaniel W. Dean House, a brick house built before the Civil War. The restored house and the events are meant to recapture images of the lives of Victorian Age farm families.
  • Consider spending time in the 16 acres of outdoor gardens, as well as the glass-enclosed conservatory, at the Olbrich Botanical Gardens and Bolz Conservatory.
  • On the University of Wisconsin campus, watch the production of milk, cheese and ice cream — then buy and eat some of the highly praised ice cream.
  • Eight Frank Lloyd Wright structures survive in Dane County where Madison is located. Look for them. The homes are private but you can tour the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center. The master designed the exterior.
  • Request a tour of the effigy mounds on the grounds of the University of Wisconsin Arboretum.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Greater Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau at www.visitmadison.com