It’s no wonder that the roots of America’s environmental movement were planted in Madison, Wisconsin, and the conservation approach that led to Earth Day started here. Plan a visit to Madison centered around sustainability and experience the city while being green.
Eat Like a Local
In the United States, most of the food on our plates travels thousands of miles to get to us. Locally-grown and raised food not only tastes fresh (because it is fresh), it's also so much better for the planet. Madison has always been at the forefront of true farm-to-table fare. It’s not uncommon to find lists of local purveyors proudly on display at breakfast, lunch and dinner spots around the city, or to see chefs selecting the ripest tomatoes early Saturday morning at the farmers' market that you'll find on your plate that evening. From meat raised by the chef at Heritage Tavern to Pasture and Plenty’s all-natural farm-to-table deli and all the can’t-miss dining options in between, locally grown cuisine is easy to find in Madison.
In recent years, the number of people pursuing plant-based diets has skyrocketed. While folks enjoy vegan and vegetarian fare for many reasons, sustainability and land use are popular ones. If you're looking to try a plant-forward meal in Madison, the plant-based scene here is fun, fresh and innovative. Enjoy full menus of vegan dishes or experience vegan options at a whole host of local restaurants.
@destinationmadison The food at Pasture & Plenty is 🥰 #madisonwi #madisonwisconsin #wisconsin #travel #food #foodie #foodtok #farmtotable ♬ Storytelling - Adriel
Shop the Farmers’ Market
The Dane County Farmers’ Market happens year round, moving indoors for the winter. No matter the season, the farmers’ market is a must in Madison. In April through November, fresh food, folks happy to chat about their favorite finds and green space galore makes for the perfect Saturday morning on the Capitol Square. Not only is it a fun, fresh way to fill a Saturday morning, shopping for produce, baked goods and meats locally is a great way to support local farmers and the food they grow, raise and bake. And, if you're looking for a gift to bring back from your trip, it doesn't get more Madison than picking up a jar of honey, an assortment of scones or a fresh tulip bouquet from the largest producer-only farmers' market in the country.
The Dane County Farmers’ Market is is big—like 275+ vendors with over 150 attending each week—big. With booths offering only what they produce, vendors can (and do) sell out.
Pro Tip: Arrive early and be willing to try new fruits, veggies, baked goods and more.
Reconnect with Nature
Madison is a city surrounded by lakes where you’re never more than a 10-minute walk from a park. Spending time outside allows us to reconnect with nature and the value it has in our lives, and it's a great way to experience a new place while leaving a small environmental footprint. Explore parks and beaches (with options for kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, boating and more) and hiking and biking trails.
Olbrich Botanical Gardens teaches sustainability through example, focusing on designing and maintaining sustainable gardens the public can access for free. This gorgeous, 16-acre botanical garden is a place to relax and stroll through nature while learning about disease resistant plants and sustainable gardening practices. (No matter where you're adventuring, explore sustainably with these tips.)
Pro Tip: No bike? No problem. Madison Bcycle makes it easy to rent electric bikes around the city.
Experience the Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright
When you’re at Monona Terrace Community & Convention Center, you’re in an architectural dream realized. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who pioneered an organic approach to architecture, originally proposed the idea of Monona Terrace in 1938. Fifty-nine years later, his vision came to life and Monona Terrace officially opened. The journey of Monona Terrace is documented by an in-house exhibit in the Level 3 Gallery. This exhibit is a great way to gain appreciation for and understanding of such a monumental Madison building. The building itself honors Frank Lloyd Wright’s commitment to sustainability and nature and is LEED Platinum certified (which is the highest certification buildings can receive). When you visit Monona Terrace, you're helping to support their efforts in composting, recycling, reducing water waste, green energy, energy-efficient lighting and more. Monona Terrace's rooftop gardens feature native plants that attract pollinators and help reseed other Madison greenspaces.
Pro Tip: Monona Terrace offers low-cost tours every Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 1:00 p.m. where people can learn more about Frank Lloyd Wright and the building itself.
@destinationmadison One of Frank Lloyd Wright’s greatest works in also a Madison icon (also the exhibit is FREE to enjoy). #madison #wisconsin #franklloydwright #franklloydwrighthouse #architecture #travel ♬ IMPERIAL PIANO - Treia Music
Relax, Unwind & Find Balance
Located in the historic Garver Feed Mill, Kosa Spa focuses on clean, mindful and customized self-care with natural products and a holistic approach to wellness. With a mission statement to “honor people, nature, and your body,” Kosa is the perfect spot to relax and connect with yourself in a sustainably minded space.
Pro Tip: Garver Feed Mill is a foodie and wellness destination for locals and visitors, so plan to spend extra time exploring the renovated feed mill and all it has to offer.
@destinationmadison Anyone else in need of a new year wellness retreat 🙋♀️❄️ #madisonwi #wisconsin #madisonwisconsin #madison #travel #wellness #spatour #spa #newyear ♬ Relaxing lofi music(1014185) - Akase
Cheers to a Sustainable Trip
Breweries and distilleries alike along the Madison On Tap Craft Beverage Trail are working toward sustainable initiatives that are well worth a “Cheers!” End your evening by raising a glass to those people and businesses in Madison who make some of our favorite beverages while also caring for our planet. From State Line Distillery's grain to glass model to Grumpy Troll Brewery's solar panels, there's a sustainable drink for everyone in Madison.
And, if you'd rather raise a glass filled with coffee, local shops like Alice Good are walking the walk of sustainability. Often, countries that produce coffee beans see little to no profits after exporting the coffee. Alice Good aims to return as much of the economic benefits of their business as they can to Colombia, where their beans are grown and roasted. From the glasses the coffee is served in (which are made by people in vulnerable situations from recycled bottles) to their bags (which are compostable and made from corn), Alice Good is intentional in its efforts to leave the world a better place.
Pro Tip: Visit the rotating art gallery in the back room of Alice Good to see some local art while sipping your coffee.
Madison has long embraced sustainable practices, and visitors to Madison can, too. In every corner of the city, you'll find locally grown food to try, people and businesses passionate about sustainability, and parks and lakes to explore. No matter where you're adventuring, explore sustainably with these tips.