Wisconsin’s Capital City
Madison is Wisconsin’s capital city and it’s just over four hours from the Twin Cities making it a great place to visit for a long weekend. Madison is a vibrant and lively city with bike lanes, great restaurants, beautiful lakes and the stunning Capitol building. Once you arrive in Madison, just about everything you’ll want to see is within walking distance. Read on for the best things to do in Madison, Wisconsin!
1. Take a Tour of the State Capitol
The Wisconsin State Capitol is in Madison and it’s a great way to start your trip. Learn about Wisconsin’s history and past politicians by taking a free guided tour, or walking around at your own pace. Built in the early 1900s, it’s a replica of the capitol in Washington DC. Be sure to head up to the observation deck and walk around for a complete 360-degree view of Madison.
2. Shop at Fromagination
Wisconsin is known for having great cheese! Stop by Fromaginaiton, which is across the street from the Capitol. You’ll find a great selection of cheese to bring home and make your own charcuterie board. They also sell great gift items like tea, chocolate, cutting boards, and knives.
3. Eat Cheese Curds at Cooper’s Tavern
Cooper’s Tavern is a gastropub known for having some of the best cheese curds in Madison. This spot feels like an upscale Irish pub with a great selection of burgers, salads, sandwiches, cheese curds, and 28 craft beers on draft.
4. Can You Find All the Bucky Statues?
Bucky the Badger is the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s mascot. Scattered all over Madison are Bucky statues, which were made by local artists. There are dozens of statues spread across the city, how many can you find?
5. Watch the Sunset from Union Terrace
Madison is uniquely positioned in between two lakes, making it a great city for views of sunrise and sunset. Memorial Union Terrace sits on Lake Mendota and offers the best sunset views in Madison. Grab an ice cream cone, coffee, sandwich, or a pitcher of beer and relax in the sun. Additionally, you may see live music and of course the iconic brightly colored chairs.
6. Visit the Historical Museum
The historical museum is across the street from the Capitol and is free/donation-based. Learn how Madison and Wisconsin have changed over the last several hundred years. There are exhibits on Native Americans and Tribes, the immigrant experience, agriculture, frontier life, and politics.
7. Rent Bikes to See More of Madison
Madison is a great city for bikers because there are so many bike lanes. If you don’t have your own bike, rent one from Madison BCycle. Download the app on your phone and set up your payment information ahead of time. These bikes are scattered all over the city and the app will tell you specific locations near you. Bike around the city to check out different neighborhoods, or circle Lake Mendota for a 15-mile ride.
8. Enjoy Dinner at DLUX
Madison has a ton of restaurants, and one great spot in the heart of town is DLUX. You’ll find a large selection of cocktails, wines, burgers, and salads. The brightly colored art on the walls and natural sunlight streaming in makes this a fun and relaxed place to go with friends. I really enjoyed the chicken and avocado salad with a glass of zinfandel.
9. Grab Beers at Young Blood Beer Co.
For delicious beer and a great atmosphere, check out Young Blood Beer Co. The inside is decorated with a lot of plants and hanging vines. There are large windows that let in a lot of natural sunlight. In nice weather, you can grab a seat outside on the sidewalk and sip your beer while also getting a nice view of the Capitol. They also have a great selection of beers from Lagers and Hazy IPAs to fruity Sours and refreshing Pilsners.
Where to Stay
We stayed at a quiet Airbnb about one hour from Milwaukee and 30 minutes from Madison. Rock River Rest is a beautiful home with two bedrooms and two bathrooms. There is also a large kitchen with a dining room table and a spacious living room. You’ll also find a washer and dryer and a large refrigerator. Finish the day by sitting out back on the patio and watching the sunset behind the river.
Madison is a Great City
Madison, Wisconsin is a great city and you could easily spend a three-day weekend here! From restaurants, and museums, to beautiful lakes and the Capitol, there is so much to experience. Looking for more Wisconsin travel ideas? Check out my blog posts on La Crosse, Vilas County and Milwaukee!