TOURIST AT HEART
Experiencing the spirit of a city is often the best part of exploring a city! Read on to learn more about Madison's main highlights—reasons why visitors travel here repeatedly and residents stay.
IN THE CENTER OF IT ALL
At the heart of the city lies Wisconsin's State Capitol. The Capitol dome reaches over 200 feet tall, only three feet shorter than the United States Capitol. Tour the building, including the observatory deck on the sixth floor with its stunning views of the entire city.
The Capitol Square is the perfect backdrop for the Dane County Farmers' Market, open Saturdays from April to November. It is the largest producer-only market in the country, and home to arts and crafts vendors and street musicians. Local shops like Fromagination, featuring Wisconsin artisan cheeses, restaurants like Tavernakaya and Brocach Irish Pub & Whiskey Den, and the Madison Children's Museum, Wisconsin Historical Museum, and Wisconsin Veteran's Museum all sit on the square.
Adjacent to the square is State Street, a pedestrian mall that links the Capitol to the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. State Street is known for unique shops such as The Soap Opera and Tailgate Clothing, and dining options such as Wisconsin Brewing Tap Haus, located in one of the oldest buildings on State Street. Numerous museums and galleries also line State Street, as does the Overture Center for the Arts, home to more than 200 performances a year.
UW-MADISON & OUTDOOR ADVENTURES
UW-Madison, home of the Badgers, is recognized for its achievements in research and academics, as well as its location on Lake Mendota. Touring campus is a great place to start, followed by a visit to the UW-Madison Arboretum, home to 1,200 acres of nature trails. And, don't miss your chance to tour Camp Randall or the Kohl Center, home to many winning Wisconsin Badgers teams—you might even spot Bucky!
Experiencing the city while staying active is easy with our numerous biking and hiking trails. Machinery Row Bicycles and Budget Bicycle Center both have rentals, or try Madison BCycle for more casual cycling. Leave time for the Capital City Trail, which winds throughout Madison.
Another great outdoor option is exploring Greater Madison's lakes, which provide countless opportunities both in and on the water. Brittingham Boats, Wingra Boats and Marshall Boats all offer rentals, including stand-up paddle boards, kayaks and canoes.
Madison's parks are full of outdoor fun, including disc golf, hiking, dog parks and more. The area is also home to numerous golf courses as well as beaches, pools and splash parks.
TOURING THE CULINARY SCENE
Madison goes beyond cheese and brats! Our city ranks as a foodie paradise on-par with New York City and Chicago, and touring Madison's culinary scene is a must for any visitor.
Madison Food Explorers offers walking tours through some of Madison's most vibrant neighborhoods and samples from renowned local chefs. This is a great way to learn more about Madison's foodie scene while also learning more about Madison in general. Hop Head Tours offers public and chartered brewery bus tours of Wisconsin craft breweries in Madison and New Glarus.
Coupling food with local brews, wines and spirits is a Madison tradition, and there are many micro-breweries and wineries in the area, including Vintage Brewing Company and Wisconsin Brewing Company, which offers free tours of their brewing operation. Our award-winning wineries such as Fisher King and Wollersheim also offer tastings and tours.
For those interested in distilleries, the Old Sugar Distillery, located in the heart of downtown, uses many local ingredients to create their concoctions. Their Honey Cap cocktail showcases their Honey Liqueur and is refreshing and delicious. Just be careful, they go down easy!
FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT'S CONTRIBUTION
One attraction on many visitors' lists is Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright's home and architecture school. Catch a glimpse into another world by visiting Taliesin in nearby Spring Green and learn more about Wright's impact on Wisconsin's architecture. The Riverview Terrace Café is also on the premises, crafting meals from local and sustainable sources to develop "estate" farm-to-table options. Just up the road is House on the Rock, a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired building full of unique collections and the world's largest indoor carousel. It is definitely a trip you won't soon forget!
Back in Madison, Wright's influence is apparent at Monona Terrace, located on the shores of Lake Monona. Monona Terrace's multimedia gallery was recently renovated and provides the history of this Wright-designed building and his contributions to the area. You can also enjoy the First Unitarian Society meeting house, which welcomes visitors to worship and also offers building tours. Madison City Tours also showcases Frank Lloyd Wright architecture as part of a two-hour van tour.
More about Frank Lloyd Wright can be found on our Discover Mr. Wright itinerary.
AREA MUSEUMS & GALLERIES
Madison's many museums and galleries express the culture and personality of the area and show our devotion to the arts.
For those who appreciate fine art, enjoy some of Madison's amazing displays and collections at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, as well as their programs and events. At the other end of State Street, the Chazen Museum of Art, located on the UW-Madison campus, showcases regional and national artists, and offers complementary educational programming, lectures, films, tours and family activities. The gallery focuses on contemporary Wisconsin artists, Wisconsin art and craft history and works owned by Wisconsin collectors.
If you feel you need to brush up on your history of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Historical Museum has four floors of knowledge. Located on Madison's Capitol Square, this museum highlights the history of our state and has wide-range appeal for people of all ages. The Wisconsin Veterans Museum tells the story of Wisconsin men and women who served in America's conflicts from the Civil War to present and admission is free. The Madison Children's Museum is wonderful for youngsters (and young-at-heart!). Explore and discover the rooftop garden, art studio and a special village for younger visitors. Make sure to grab a slice of Roman Candle pizza before you leave! Finally, the Norwegian Heritage Center gives their immigration story from 1825–1910 through maps, artifacts and a genealogy center.
Our website includes everything you need to help plan your trip, whether you're visiting for the first time or are a seasoned veteran. And don't forget to book your room! We've outlined all the best places to stay on our hotel and accommodations page. For tangible information, request one of our Visitor's Guides—we'd be happy to send it your way.