Open-air shopping at deep discounts is the name of the game in downtown Madison each year on the third weekend of July during Maxwell Street Days. The epic sidewalk sale has been a Madison tradition on State Street for more than 45 years and continues to uphold the expectation of being Madison's summertime "urban bazaar."

So why is Maxwell Street Days hosted on State Street? The tradition started as a mimic of a former outdoor market in Chicago of the same name by the owner of Martin's, a since-shuttered clothing store. Although many of State Street's shops and restaurants have come and gone over the years, the anticipation for the massive sale continues. 

Ready to check out what Maxwell Street Days is all about? Here are our tips for mastering the beloved event.

Bring your Game Face

Maxwell Street Days is a choose-your-own-adventure shopping experience. Casual browsers can float about, perusing racks and glancing at displays for things that catch their eyes. But the serious shoppers who love diving, digging and dashing for the best deals will be thrilled to find some serious setups of bins, piles and deep racks waiting to be scoured. 

Those who bring their A+ shopping game are certain to be most rewarded. Be ready to spend a lot of time peeling through displays if you want to score the best deals. Not looking for that? No problem. There are plenty of shops offering relaxed setups with great deals.

Stores will keep their shops open in addition to their sidewalk displays so you can see their full selections.

Arrive hungry

The multi-day shopping extravaganza is about more than clothes, jewelry, outdoor equipment, gifts and home goods. About a dozen or so restaurants, coffee shops and bars also participate in the event offering deals and specials. 

The event lasts all day, which means you have plenty of time to start your day off with coffee and breakfast, do some shopping, stop again for lunch before doing more shopping and end the evening with dinner and drinks.

Don't limit yourself to one day

It's possible to enjoy Maxwell Street Days in one swoop, however, with stores bringing out new inventory each day, it's worth it to spread the fun over the weekend and take the opportunity to explore more of Madison. 

Where to stay

For the most convenient stay, with a whole lot of style, you'll want to check out The Graduate located right along State Street. The hotel is known for its vintage UW-Madison-inspired decor and great location in between campus and the heart of downtown.

The Madison Concourse Hotel and Governor's Club is just two blocks from State Street and offers luxury accommodations with great downtown views. The Park Hotel is the only hotel on the Capitol Square and makes for a great, quick walk to State Street. 

More downtown hotels

Plan your shopping weekend

If you really want to shop until you drop, you'll want to check out some of Madison's iconic neighborhoods like Williamson (known as Willy) Street featuring artsy and eclectic shops or Monroe Street which is a great place to scope out gifts of all kinds. 

On Madison's west side, Hilldale offers an outdoor shopping experience with a mix of local and national retailers. And on the other side of town, Garver Feed Mill is home to several shops, restaurants and experiences while also being a great place to relax or catch an event.

More Madison must-dos