An aerial view of Downtown Madison and the isthmus lit up as dusk approaches

Photo by OVJ Photography


Ready to start exploring? Downtown Madison is the heart of the city. Fresh lakes all around. Bike trails connecting urban to nature. Creative dishes that deserve an Instagram post and crafty cocktails made to toast. Let’s start with the lay of the land.

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Where can I park?

We’ve got transportation tips and parking info for cars, motorcycles, mopeds, bikes and boats on our Downtown Parking & Transportation page.

How can I experience the Farmers Market?

Each Saturday morning our beloved Dane County Farmers’ Market circles the Capitol Square and draws hundreds downtown to shop. Although temporarily held on the Alliant Energy Center grounds, the spirit of community remains. You’ll find flowers, honey, cheese, fresh bread and pastries, and every vegetable you could imagine – all from local producers. Friendly farmers are up for a chat, to answer questions, or provide advice on how to use their products. Check out our blog post ‘How to Shop Dane County Farmers' Market’ for more.

Is the State Capitol open?

The Wisconsin State Capitol is open to visitors Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Drop-in tours are available for groups less than 10. Reservations are required for groups of 10 people or larger. Visitors are also invited to do a self-guided tour. Please note, the Observation Deck and Museum are not open.

When is... Art Fair on the Square? Maxwell Street Days? Taste of Madison?

Find all these answers & more on our frequently updated list of Annual Downtown Madison Events. See all upcoming events on the Event Calendar.

Where can I find visitor information in Downtown Madison?

We’ve got you covered. Maps. Suggestions. Event info. Our passionate teams will help you navigate the area. Connect with information centers while in the area or reach out before heading our way.

Downtown Madison
Stop by and say hi at the Downtown Madison Visitor Center. Located at 452 State Street, this info center is staffed from June to December. Pick up a map, learn about events and tap their team for suggestions on things to experience in the area. Current hours are:

  • Monday & Tuesday: Closed
  • Wednesday: 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
  • Thursday: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Friday & Saturday: 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
  • Sunday: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Another spot to stop is the Downtown Visitor Booth, open seasonally and located at the top of State Street. Hours are as follows:

  • Monday & Tuesday: Closed
  • Wednesday: 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
  • Thursday: 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
  • Friday & Saturday: 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
  • Sunday: 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Wisconsin State Capitol
The Wisconsin State Capitol is open to visitors Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Enter through the doors on Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. (facing Starbucks). Their helpful team are located at the Information Desk on the first floor in the Rotunda.

Where can I find visitor information for UW-Madison?

Connect with UW-Madison Visitor Services staff for answers to questions about campus or to pick-up materials for self-guided tours.  

The Union South Campus and Community Information Desk is open Monday – Saturday, 8 a.m.– 5 p.m.

The Memorial Union Campus and Community Information Desk is open Monday – Sunday, 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.

The University Book Store desk located at 711 State Street is open Fridays & Saturdays, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.

For the most up-to-date information, check out the Visiting Campus page.

How can I get out on the lakes?

Downtown Madison is one of only two major U.S. cities built on an isthmus, aka a narrow strip of land with bodies of water on each side. Nestled between lakes Mendota & Monona, you’re in a prime location to enjoy the urban outdoors.

Paddle: Brittingham Boats on Lake Monona and Outdoor UW on Lake Mendota offer a variety of water craft experiences including stand up paddleboards, single and tandem kayaks, and

Boat:  Access Lake Monona at Law & Olin Park and Lake Mendota at Tenney Park. Check out Madison Parks website for more information on lake access permits & launch sites. 

Cruise: Offering cruises 7 days a week, Betty Lou Cruises picks-up guests on the north side of Madison and offers a boat tour on Lake Mendota.

Splash: Jump in the water at B.B. Clarke Beach and Brittingham Park. To splash into Lake Mendota, check out James Madison Park and Tenney Beach.

Where are the food carts?

The food cart scene in downtown is an exciting way to explore local eats, street side. Check out this great feature on the 2021 cart scene in Madison. Tip: the Capitol Square and Library Mall are the two common spots for cart sightings.

Where are the best places to picnic?

Grab food from a downtown spot to enjoy right on the Capitol lawn, or State Street’s Lisa Link Park. Period Garden Park provides a lush environment, right off Gorham Street. While James Madison Park has room to spread out. Find more parks here.

Where can I find outdoor dining?

Downtown dining al fresco is the best way to take in the full vibe of downtown. Explore restaurants with outdoor dining or make your way to one of the new streateries in the area. Popular streatery spots include down State Street and along S. Pinckney, King, and E. Main Streets.

Where is the best biking downtown?

Pick up our most popular path, the Lake Monona Loop, right below the Monona Terrace. Or cruise down State Street, over to campus to hit the Lakeshore Path.

The Southwest Commuter Path connects downtown to the west side of Madison (and beyond), while the Capital City State Trail provides a great tour of the surrounding area.

Need a bike? BCycle rental stations are located across the downtown area.

Where are public restrooms located?

You’ve got options. From the State Capitol building down to Memorial Union. Many businesses offer restrooms to patrons.

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