Capital and captivating, Madison blends big city culture with small town charm. The city center is dominated by the State Capitol, modeled after the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Its stunning rotunda is always open to visitors. Saturday mornings from early spring to late fall, area farmers transform the Capitol Square into an open-air market. There’s everything from twenty varieties of bean sprouts to freshly made summer sausage. The people-watching is unmatched.
Directly south of the Capitol, perched on the edge of Lake Monona, is the celebrated Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center. The center is based on a 1938 design by one of Wisconsin’s most notable native sons, Frank Lloyd Wright.
Downtown, internationally renowned architect Caesar Pelli designed the Overture Center, the city’s performing and visual arts center. The facility’s soaring spaces include the galleries of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.
Nearby, a trio of museums is perfect for a family outing. In the northwestern corner of Capitol Square, the Wisconsin Historical Museum offers three floors of fascinating exhibits from paleo-Indian culture to contemporary social issues. Across the street, the Wisconsin Veterans Museum traces the state’s military history from the Civil War to Desert Storm. Just a few blocks away, the Madison Children’s Museum celebrates imagination and play.
At the opposite end of downtown sprawls the University of Wisconsin campus, a pleasant site for a leisurely stroll. Linking the Capitol and campus is the State Street pedestrian mall dotted with interesting shopping and dining opportunities.
Nestled on a narrow isthmus between two lakes, Madison has been recognized as one of the country’s top canoe towns by Paddler magazine, as well as one of the 10 best bicycling cities by Bicycling magazine.
The city is also a perfect jumping-off point for day trips to dozens of picturesque communities in the beautiful surrounding countryside. Visitors always want to return to Madison where everyone feels welcome.
Don't leave without tasting...
Some of the best ‘classic Madison’ fare! Must-have’s include deep-fried cheese curds at The Old Fashioned and spicy cheese bread from Stella’s Bakery, a favorite at the Dane County Farmers Market.
Must see attractions...
- The State Capitol building, which offers free daily tours
- Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center, a popular Frank Lloyd Wright creation that is free and open to the public
- The UW Memorial Union, a popular gathering spot for the community
- Henry Vilas Zoo, spanning 28 acres and free of charge
- State Street, a pedestrian mall that offers a diverse spread of shopping, restaurants, and art galleries
Head up to the Observation deck on the sixth floor of the State Capitol, catch a riveting performance with your sweetheart at the Overture Center for the Arts, or get lost in the beauty of the flowers at Olbrich Botanical Gardens.
Explore your creative side...
Explore your creative side by touring the art collections at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, located in the heart of downtown. With both a permanent collection and changing exhibitions, there is a great mix of both contemporary and classic works of art. The Museum hosts various events throughout the year, including the outdoor Art Fair on the Square in July and the Holiday Art Fair in November.
Want to travel green?
Looking to travel green? Plan your stay at the Arbor House, Madison’s leading environmental inn. This eco-friendly sanctuary is located right next to the University of Wisconsin’s Arboretum and just minutes from downtown. Once your bags are unpacked, take a tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center to learn about the building’s commitment to green, sustainable practices.