Wisconsin State Capitol

Know Before You Go

It's hard to capture Madison in words.

Maybe it's the vibe. A palpable energy pulsing through the city's veins. Each street crackling with personality.

Maybe it's the people. An eclectic collection of thinkers, innovators, artists, and blue-collar souls. All ravenous in pursuit of their passion.

Maybe it's the scenery. Manicured green-space nestled between sparkling lakes in the heart of a compact city. A distinct harmony of development and nature.

Maybe you have to experience it for yourself.

We can't wait for you to get here and explore Madison.

Here are some handy tips to help you discover our destination in comfort.

MADISON ON THE MAP

As the capital of the State of Wisconsin, Madison has made its mark on the map in a number of ways. Our estimated population in 2013 was 243,344 (more than 500,000 people live in the Greater Madison area) and we are located 79 miles west of Milwaukee, 136 miles southwest of Green Bay and 147 miles northwest of Chicago.

GETTING AROUND

Madison is famous for its ease of access and active lifestyle.

We’re one of the top five biking cities in the world – and we do it year-round despite the snow. Pick up an electric, rentable bike from 45 BCycle stations around downtown and join the culture. If activity is appealing, but biking isn’t, Madison is an excellent city for a stroll. We rank as the Number 2 Most Walkable City.

Active transportation isn’t for everyone. So Madison has a variety of other transportation options. Catch a taxi, metro bus, Lyft, or Uber for simple navigation.

Downtown Map View Online or Print (PDF)

Central and Greater Madison Accommodations Maps 

Central and Greater Madison Restaurant Maps
 

WEATHER & ATTIRE

We have four seasons, each with their own unique requirements.

Spring in Madison is a breezy time with a freshness to the air. Temperatures are most volatile this time of year, so it’s crucial to bring layers. A light sweater, jacket, or cardigan will keep you covered in the brisk mornings and evenings while still allowing you to enjoy the warm afternoons.

Summer in Madison is a lively time. Lake life takes hold, and the sun provides plenty of warmth. Standard summer attire like shorts, t-shirts, and sandals are perfect for basking in the sun. Make sure to bring a rain jacket. June is our wettest month.

Fall in Madison is an exciting time. Changing leaves, Badger game days, and Freakfest offer plenty of opportunities to enjoy the crisp air. Temperatures tend to be comfortable, but a bit chilly. We suggest layering so you can adjust as necessary.

Winter in Madison doesn’t slow us down. We bike, snowshoe, and celebrate the season no matter the cold. It is a cold season, so we advise you to pack warm coats, hats, and mittens. Madison gets a fair amount of snow, so a pair of waterproof boots are essential to all-day comfort. 

  • Jan: 11˚-26˚ (avg snowfall 13 in)
  • Feb: 15˚-31˚ (avg snowfall 11 in)
  • Mar: 25˚-43˚ (avg snowfall 7 in)
  • Apr: 36˚-57˚ (avg snowfall 3 in)
  • May: 46˚-68˚
  • June: 56˚-78˚
  • July: 61˚-82˚
  • Aug: 59˚-79˚
  • Sept: 50˚-72˚
  • Oct: 39˚-59˚ (avg snowfall 1 in)
  • Nov: 28˚-44˚ (avg snowfall 4 in)
  • Dec: 16˚-30˚ (avg snowfall 14 in)

OVERVIEW OF OUR CULTURE

FUN FACTS

Madison has a couple of fun quirks to be aware of before you come:

  • Madison is one of only two major cities in the U.S. to be built on an isthmus.
  • A water fountain is often called a bubbler.
  • You can get cheese curds at many local restaurants, but locals know they're fresh if they're squeaky.
  • Friday nights are synonymous with fish fry.
  • Our official city bird is the plastic pink flamingo – an homage to a 1979 prank in which students filled Bascom Hill with more than 1,000 of the birds overnight.
  • The City of Madison is named after James Madison – the fourth U.S. president – and many downtown streets are named after those who helped draft and sign the U.S. Constitution.
  • Madison has 15,000 acres of lakes and 6,000 acres of parkland. Madison leads the nation with 11.6 parks – 282 in all – per 10,000 residents.
  • We’re one of the top 5 cities on earth for biking, and we do it year-round – despite the snow. More than 200 miles of bike paths allow for endless exploration.
  • You may know Jump Around is a beloved Madison tradition. But did you know it registers on the Richter Scale?
  • If you go to the Dane County Farmers' Market on the Capitol Square, it is customary to walk counter-clockwise around the square. It is frowned upon to go against the grain.
  • We’re one of two major U.S. cities built on an isthmus – a piece of land surrounded on two sides by water.

THINGS TO DO IN MADISON

There is no shortage of ideas for fun in Madison. Our online itineraries detail many of Madison's favorite places to play. Love local libations? Want exclusive Madison experiences? We’ve got you covered.

FAST FACTS

EMERGENCY NUMBERS

For all life-threatening medical, fire and police emergencies, call 911.

For non-emergency calls, dial the following numbers:

City of Madison: 608.261.9694 (police); 608.266.4420 (fire)
Dane County: 608.261.9692 (sheriff's office); 608.266.4420

 

RULES TO REMEMBER

It is illegal in Wisconsin for anyone under 21 years old to consume alcohol in any quantity. To purchase alcohol in a bar, restaurant or store, you must be able to produce photographic identification that proves your age. Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI) is a serious offense in Wisconsin. The state prohibits the operation of a motor vehicle by a driver that has a .08 percent or above blood alcohol (BAC) concentration.

In Wisconsin, the driver and all passengers must wear their seatbelts at all times when traveling in a car. Any child too small to be protected by a seatbelt must be secured in a child safety seat.

Wisconsin law prohibits smoking in restaurants, bars, theaters, auditoriums, museums and most other public buildings.

Keep your eyes on the road, as Wisconsin has a texting ban for all drivers. We also recommend that you play it safe and use a hands-free controller if you must use a phone while on the road.

For additional information on state-by-state legislation (such as concealed carry) contact the Wisconsin Department of Justice.

 

CURRENCY & BANKING

Bank-card, bank-cash and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are located throughout the city. Members of participating banking networks and credit card companies can obtain U.S. currency by using an ATM card or credit card and a Personal Identification Number (PIN). If you need to exchange foreign currency, contact Travelex Currency Services at 1 S Pinckney Street in Madison, 608.259.8462.