Just over a year and a half ago I enrolled in the University of Wisconsin - Madison and began making Madison, Wisconsin my temporary home. Through my nearly four semesters on campus, I have discovered so many amazing things about the city. Although I'm still faithful to Chicago, Madison is the perfect city to have a love affair with. The countless restaurants, shops, and scenery that line the streets make me smile every time I walk around. It also helps that the weather is warming up and I can finally remove my knee-length coat and clunky boots.
Madison in the summer is a sight for sore eyes. The streets are lined with people, restaurants are booming, and grassy areas are peaceful retreats for studying, picnicking, and napping. It always baffles me how a little sunshine and a temperature above 50° can make me remember how much I love a place, but it also never ceases to amaze me. Madison is the perfect city to visit when the sun starts to shine, and I recommend you do not miss these five fun activities.
Madison is the state capital, therefore there is a big, beautiful building that you've probably seen pictures of when searching through guides to the city. While it may seem like a touristy activity, it's actually really fun to check out. The outside of the building may be great, but the inside has gorgeous architecture and a great view. If you stand in the very center of the Capitol and look up, you'll see a stunningly designed ceiling that lets some of the outdoor light in. If you want an even better view, trek up to the observation deck for 360° views of Madison.
Memorial Union Terrace
While it may seem like a haven for students, the Union terrace is a perfect place for anyone to relax, grab a cold drink (or an ice cream scoop), and enjoy views of the lake. That is, if the weather is right. Wisconsin winters can be pretty harsh, but late spring, summer, and early fall are fantastic times to experience the beauty of the isthmus. Madison is sandwiched right between Lake Mendota and Lake Monona, and the Union terrace will give you breathtaking views of Mendota, while the Monona terrace will show you, you guessed it, Lake Monona. I'm partial to the Union terrace because if you catch it in season, you can situate yourself on an iconic sunburst chair. The absolute best (and busiest) time to go is right as the sun is setting.
Dane County Farmer's Market
This may not be a site to see, but it is certainly an activity you don't want to miss. Beginning mid-April and continuing through the late fall, the farmer's market will be your go-to Saturday morning activity. Head up to Capitol Square with an empty stomach and a full wallet for samples of cheese curds, cheese popcorn, and my personal favorite, hot & spicy cheese bread. After all, it is the dairy state. I even like to make a game out of trying to get a sample from every cheese vendor. Besides stuffing your face with cheddar and colby jack, pick out some in-season fruits and veggies, grab a gooey cinnamon roll, or try out a new flavor of homemade jam. Whatever your taste, the farmer's market will have something for you. But be sure to save some room for all the delicious restaurants Madison has to offer - there are enough for a completely separate article.
Madison houses many museums, and the majority of them are actually free. If you're an art lover, visit either the Chazen or the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. The former houses mostly traditional art, while MMoCA is all about the modern pieces (there's also a delicious restaurant on the top floor!). If history is your thing, check out the Wisconsin Veterans Museum or the Wisconsin Historical Museum. Both share the stories of Wisconsin's development and are perfect for learning more about the state. Lastly, if you need to please children (or, let's be real, anyone with a youthful heart), head to the Children's Museum. There are interactive exhibits and a rooftop play area, which can basically be interesting for all ages.
Lastly, don't miss out on some of Madison's beautiful theaters. The Overture Center is a wonderful place to see shows without the overwhelmingness of a larger city's theater scene. In addition, the Orpheum is a concert venue that was originally built in 1926 for vaudeville and movies. The original style of decor is still noticeable, and staring up at the ornate, golden ceiling is one of my favorite parts about seeing a show there. Madison also has a handful of tiny, hidden venues, like the Majestic Theater and High Noon Saloon, where you can see a small band or singer without the pressure of a large crowd.
Have you ever visited Madison, WI?