Madison, Wisconsin, Trip Guide

The state capital tempts for weekend getaways with its famous farmers market, locavore eateries, outdoor rec–and Badger fandom.

What to do

Thai Pavilion. Photo Courtesy of Jeff Epping/Olbrich Botanical Gardens.

Betty Lou Cruises Step aboard a Betty Lou motor yacht for a leisurely cruise around Lake Mendota or Monona. (608) 246-3138;

Chazen Museum of Art A $43 million expansion (opened in 2011) is a work of art itself. Inside, dedicated galleries display African, Asian and 21st-century international works. (608) 263-2246;

Dane County Farmers Market The country's largest producer-only market is a colorful way to start a weekend in Madison. It's open Saturday year-round and Wednesday in summer. (608) 455-1999;

Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.

Madison Museum of Contemporary Art Housed in the airy, expansive Overture Building near the capitol, the museum holds engaging exhibits from global artists. (608) 257-0158;

Monroe Street Indie shops and restaurants line a mile-and-a-half stretch of Monroe west of downtown. Favorites include Orange Tree Imports.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens Amid 16 acres of outdoor gardens, the 2-acre Rose Garden showcases hardy shrub varieties in a space inspired by Wisconsin native Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie style. Free admission to outdoor gardens; $2 for conservatory. (608) 246-4550;

State Street This area bustles with more than 370 shops, galleries, restaurants and nightclubs.

University of Wisconsin Arboretum This 1,200-acre oasis features prairie, savannah, marsh and deciduous forest, plus gardens and more than 20 miles of trails. (608) 263-7888;

Where to eat

Avenue Bar Friday night fish fries have drawn patrons here since the 1970s. (608) 257-6877;

Babcock Hall Dairy Store.

Babcock Hall Dairy Store The public face of the UW's food sciences program, this parlor sells campus-made ice cream. (608) 262-3045;

Bluephies Restaurant and Vodkatorium What's not to love about a hip place that's family-friendly and offers a vodka flight? Fun dishes include chocolate chip cookie dough egg rolls. (608) 231-3663;

Glass Nickel While you're noshing on the best-selling Fetalicious pizza, with its tender mushrooms, fresh spinach, tomatoes and crumbled feta, sip a hearty Scottish ale or peppery Cabernet and enjoy the restaurant's Bohemian-chic decor. (608) 245-0880;

Harvest The menu follows the seasons at this upscale favorite. Check the website for themed monthly Sunday dinners. (608) 255-6075;

Ian's Pizza This eatery on State Street cemented its reputation selling pizza by the slice (and opened satellite shops in Chicago's Wrigleyville neighborhood and in Milwaukee). Patrons gobble up its top-selling mac 'n' cheese pizza. (608) 257-9248;

L'Etoile This fine dining is about as fine as it gets. A mere canapé of rosemary shortbread with raspberry crème fraîche and chives made us swoon. (608) 251-0500;

Mickey's Tavern Follow locals to this slightly worn gem. Housed in a 1902 flatiron building, Mickey's features a retro bar, living room-style dining areas and a spacious patio. Try the Sexy Fries—potato wedges tossed in white truffle dressing and sprinkled with Parmesan and red pepper flakes—and the mac 'n' cheese bathed in melted smoked Gouda. (608) 251-9964;

Monty's Blue Plate Diner An updated diner, it serves breakfast all day and excellent vegetarian options far beyond the tofu burger. (608) 244-8505;

The Old-Fashioned Tavern and Restaurant.

The Old Fashioned Tavern and Restaurant This take on a classic supper club balances retro (Friday fish fries) and chic (artisan cheese flights). (608) 310-4545;

Quivey's Grove Housed in structures from the mid-1800s, this restaurant on the city's outskirts is an elegant celebration of Wisconsin. (608) 273-4900;

Sunroom Cafe The brunch menu has a range of omelets and scramblers, plus whole wheat pancakes to keep Madison's granola reputation intact. (608) 255-1555;

Weary Traveler Freehouse Bob's Bad Breath Burger (made with garlic, onions and cream cheese) is wickedly tasty. (608) 442-6207;

Where to stay

Photo Courtesy of HotelRed.

HotelRed New in 2011, a 48-room boutique hotel across from Camp Randall Stadium offers a sophisticated stay. (608) 819-8228;

Arbor House Organic mattresses and sustainably harvested wood characterize this green lodging. (608) 238-2981;

Best Western Inn on the Park Capitol Square Perks at this convenient downtown hotel include sizeable, clean rooms and free parking. (800) 279-8811;

The Mansion Hill Inn A luxe B&B in the Mansion Hill district is within walking distance of downtown. Ten rooms feature plush linens and gas fireplaces. (608) 255-0172;

Speckled Hen Inn.

The Speckled Hen Inn This lodging opened in 2000 on 50 acres of bucolic land just outside town. Flowers come from cutting beds outside the front door, and breakfasts feature eggs from the inn's chickens and herbs grown on-site. (877) 670-4844;

For more information: Greater Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau (800) 373-6376;


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