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Fun Facts

Photo by Focal Flame Photography

Did You Know

Impress your friends with these fun facts.

Fun Facts

Madison’s a good eats kind of a city. A get on your feet kind of city. A city where history and future meet. We’ve got a small-town feel. And big-city amenities. Lake life, campus cool, and endless things to do. Discover more of Madison 

Madison on the Map

  • Madison is one of only two major U.S. cities built on an isthmus. It's nestled between lakes Mendota and Monona.
  • Madison has 120 officially recognized neighborhood associations.

Our Capitol Building 

  • The Capitol was built with 43 types of stone from six countries and eight states. It was completed in 1917.
  • A city ordinance prevents any new building from being taller than the Capitol dome.

By the Numbers

  • 568,593 people live in the greater Madison metropolis.
  • 45,317 students enrolled at UW-Madison
  • 81st largest city in the U.S.
  • 2nd largest city in Wisconsin
  • 77 miles: between Madison and Milwaukee
  • 122 miles: between Madison and Chicago
  • 5: lakes: Mendota, Monona, Wingra, Waubesa, Kegonsa
  • 12: public beaches
  • 15: off-leash dog parks in Greater Madison
  • 14: communities that makeup Greater Madison – (Cottage Grove, Cross Plains, DeForest, Fitchburg, Maple Bluff, McFarland, Middleton, Monona, Oregon, Shorewood Hills, Stoughton, Sun Prairie, Verona and Waunakee)
  • Under 30: The age of more than half of Madison’s population
  • Under 20 minutes: the average commute time for Madisonians
  • 608: Greater Madison area code

HISTORIC TIDBITS

  • Madison was incorporated as a city in 1856 and is named after James Madison, the fourth U.S. President.
  • Many city streets are named for the signers of the Constitution.
  • Madison has 140 properties and districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including Camp Randall, the Gates of Heaven Synagogue and several houses.
  • Thousands of Native American effigy mounds – the biggest concentration in the U.S. – were built along the shores of Madison’s lakes. Twenty-three mounds remain on public land in Dane County.

POP CULTURE

  • Scenes for the 2009 film Public Enemies, starring Johnny Depp, were filmed at the Capitol and surrounding areas.
  • Rodney Dangerfield's classic Back to School is set in Madison and features classic landmarks like Bascom Hill, Lake Mendota, the Red Gym, State Capitol Building, and more.
  • The band Garbage got its start in Madison in 1993.
  • In 1988, The Onion was founded by Tim Keck and Christopher Johnson, students at UW-Madison.

ARTS & MUSEUMS

Madison is home to several  exceptional art institutions, including the Madison Children’s Museum and Madison Central Library, who both earned the National Medal for Museum and Library Service – a prestigious honor in the museum world. Other museums include:

Chazen Museum of Art
Wisconsin Historical Museum
Wisconsin Veteran’s Museum
Madison Science Museum
Madison Museum of Contemporary Art

AG HERITAGE

  • Madison is home to the World Dairy Expo, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2016. The event is the largest dairy expo in the world, and one of the largest trade shows in the world, too.
  • Since 1951, UW has made its own ice cream on campus– a favorite treat for students and alumni to enjoy at the Memorial Union Terrace

FOOD & DRINK

  • The Dane County Farmers’ Market (located on the Capitol Square) is the largest producer-only market in the U.S.
  • Madison is home to the world’s largest Brat Fest, held yearly on Memorial Day weekend. To date, more than 4 million brats have been sold at the festival since 1983!
  • Some of the biggest foodie fests attract visitors from around the country including: Taste of Madison, Yum Yum Fest, Restaurant Week, and dozens of foodie collaborations and pop-up events
  • Madison is known for its superb selection of craft beverages, featured at events like: Great Taste of the Midwest, Craft Beer Week and Isthmus Beer & Cheese Festival. 

ACTIVE LIVING

  • Madison is one of only five platinum-level bike cities in the U.S., and has been named one of the best cities on earth for biking.
  • Madison is home to over 260 parks, 6,000 acres of parkland, and more than 200 miles of off-road and multi-use paths and trails.
  • Madison has 15,000 acres of lakes, where residents enjoy sailing, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, swimming, and stand-up paddleboarding.

MOTTOS & MASCOTS

  • Buckingham U. Badger: affectionately called Bucky, the mascot of UW-Madison
  • Forward: Wisconsin’s state motto, and the name of the statue standing atop State Street since 1914
  • Wisconsin: the name of the gold statue that sits atop the Capitol dome
  • Plastic pink flamingos: the official bird of Madison, since 2009
  • On Wisconsin: the UW-Madison fight song and our state’s song, although the lyrics are different

LOCAL NOTABLES

  • Frank Lloyd Wright – architect
  • Chris Farley – actor
  • Thorton Wilder – playwright
  • Pleasant Rowland – philanthropist and founder of American Girl
  • Georgia O’Keeffe – artist

GREEN CITY

  • Over 40 buildings, including the Dane County airport and the Monona Terrace, earned Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certifications
  • Madison has the most park playgrounds per 100,000 residents
  • Madison is regularly named the greenest city in Wisconsin

MADISON FIRSTS

  • 1917: Wisconsin has the first electric voting machine in the world installed in the Assembly Chamber
  • 1917: WHA radio, considered the oldest radio station in the nation in continuous service, begins broadcasting. Pioneering experimentation in “wireless” led to transmissions of voice and musician 1917 and a regular broadcasting schedule in 1919. Call letters were assigned in 1922.
  • 1968: Using techniques developed at UW-Madison, the first bone marrow transplant in the U.S. is performed at UW Hospital
  • 1998: Researcher James A. Thomson announces the successful cultivation in the laboratory of human embryonic stem cells, primordial cells that have the capacity to develop into any tissue in the body.

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