When it comes to living in Madison, Wisconsin, you might not think there would be a lot to talk about- small college town, home to the Wisconsin Badgers, and the capitol of Wisconsin. That’s about it. Well, there’s a lot more to Madison than people tend to think, making Madison (in my eyes) an ‘underdog’ city. Mentioned below (in no particular order) are Madison’s best features. These attractions truly make Madison the place it is today!
Wisconsin State Capitol
When it comes to visiting state capitol’s, this is one you don’t wanna overlook! Home to the only granite dome in the United States, the Wisconsin Capitol is open year round to the public, offers free tours, and has an observation deck (open in the summer) that provides views of Madison you just can’t pass up. Located on Capitol Square, the Capitol can be seen as you drive into Madison, and is the focal point of downtown Madison, as it sits at the end of State Street. When you walk into the Capitol you will get goosebumps, and your jaw will drop- that’s how amazing this place is.
Camp Randall Stadium
I don’t even know where to begin! First a little background- Camp Randall originated as a major military training center for troops during the Civil War. In 1917, Camp Randall was transformed into the home of the Wisconsin Badgers. To this day, Camp Randall is the 4th oldest college football stadium in the country. Holding a capacity of around 81,000, football saturday’s in Madison are among the best in the nation. Camp Randall literally turns into a “sea of red” as Badger faithful pack the stadium to the brim and root for the red and white. Camp Randall is also home to the very rowdy and unpredictable Wisconsin student section. Though students continue to file in until about halftime, students know how to root on the Badgers while having tons of fun. Whether it’s the various chants, singing to Camp Randall Classic’s (Sweet Caroline, Build Me Up Buttercup), or Jumping Around to begin the fourth quarter, the students do it best.In 2012, Madison was voted the #1 college town in America. This is largely due to the phenomenal atmosphere, sports, and fans, but Camp Randall also turned in college football’s best tradition, Jump Around. When Jump Around is blasted through the PA system, Camp Randall literally shakes. I’m not joking! Well, I could go on and on about this place, but we must move on. Whether you take in a football game, tour, movie night, whatever, Camp Randall Stadium is definitely not to be left off your list!
The time to be in Madison is the summer, and there is no better place to spend an afternoon/evening than at the Memorial Union Terrace. Enjoy brats, burgers, sodas, Babcock ice cream, and most importantly, pitchers of beer! Known for its colorful chairs, the Terrace attracts tons of students and local residents in the summer time, and provides breathtaking views of sunsets and Lake Mendota. The Terrace also has live music from local artists. The food is good, the beer is great, and the views are priceless. Don’t miss out!
Shopping, restaurants, music, more shopping, more restaurants- that’s State Street. I might be biased, but State Street is probably Madison’s most popular place. Beginning at the Humanities building on UW’s campus and extending seven blocks to Capitol Square, State Street has anything of everything, and something for everyone. If you’re in town on Halloween weekend, State Street is full of costumes, music, and thousands of locals and students for a massive party! On a beautiful sunny day, State Street is easily the busiest and most fun place to be in Madison!
Overture Center for the Arts
Located just off State Street, the Overture Center is the premier place to catch plays, musicals, and concerts in Madison. Right as you walk in you are greeted by a magnificent piece of art. As you continue into the main concourse area, you are joined by upscale amenities and drink bars. The Overture Center features four different theaters, all of different size. The biggest theater, Overture Hall, has four levels and seats 2,251 people- there isn’t a bad seat in the house! Over the summer there isn’t much going on, but once the school year kicks back up, musicals are in town every 4-6 weeks, and the Madison Symphony (highly recommend) is back at it. The Overture Center is truly a remarkable theater, and Madison is lucky to have such a beaut! For more information, check out their website.
Henry Vilas Zoo
Located inside Vilas Park, the Vilas Zoo features animals from around the world. The Zoo is small and family-friendly. Parking is a bit of a hassle with a very small parking lot, but street parking is also available. The Henry Vilas Zoo is the perfect place to spend an afternoon with the kids, and guess what? It’s free! For more information, check out the Zoo’s website.
Home to the Wisconsin Badgers Basketball & Hockey teams, the Kohl Center is centrally located on the UW campus. Seating capacity for sporting events is 17,142, and between 15,000 – 17,000 for concerts and other events. For basketball, the Kohl Center is one of the loudest college basketball arenas in the country, and features the almighty “Grateful Red” (student section). For more information on the Kohl Center or Wisconsin sports, check out uwbadgers.com!
The Nitty Gritty
The Nitty Gritty is the premier Birthday Bar of Madison, as thousands ring in their birthday’s each year. The Gritty has the World’s smallest sundae! You also receive a balloon and a birthday mug! The burger of choice is the Gritty Burger, which is basically a burger but with their secret Gritty sauce! Whenever the Badgers are playing a home game, whether football, basketball, or hockey, the Gritty attracts hundreds each game day, and proves why it’s the popular place to be before, during, or after games.
The Madison Mallards
New to Madison is the Madison Mallards. The Mallards are a baseball team in the Northwoods League, which is like an all star league for college baseball players who want to go pro. The Northwoods League has the reputation of providing family fun, and they do just that. At “The Duck Pond”, the Mallards have various in-game promotions and activities, great food selections, and is a cheap night at the ballpark! Mallards games provide fun, affordable baseball for all ages!
Looking for something to do Saturday mornings? On Capitol Square, Madison’s popular Farmer’s Market takes center stage from early morning until 1PM in the afternoon. With broad selections of cookies, cheeses, breads, flowers, smoothies, & more, it’s no wonder the Madison Farmer’s Market is a popular attraction! Vendors line up all around Capitol Square, which is where the Capitol itself is located. And, feel free to walk State Street, as there will be live music, dancers, and tons of happy people!
One of Madison’s newest buildings, Union South is located on the west end of campus, right across from the Camp Randall walkway. Union South has various dining options, as well as bowling, rock climbing, a movie theater, and there is even a hotel on the top floors of the union! On football saturdays, Union South is hoppin’ all day long, and is where the official tailgate before Badgers games occurs. About 30-45 minutes before game time, the Badger Band performs ‘classics’, and then takes the field at Camp Randall for their pre-game performance.
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