Set on an isthmus between two scenic lakes, the city of Madison is Wisconsin’s second largest city and the state capital. Madison is home to many different attractions including the State Street pedestrian mall, many restaurants, great lakes, world class bike paths, great museums and galleries and so much more. In addition to this list of possible activities and notable places, more information about Madison can be found on the Visitors Bureau web site.
The City of Madison is served by most major airlines at the Dane County Regional Airport (MSN), located approximately 10 km from the city center. Use the free courtesy phones in the airport, located both on the arrivals concourse and in the middle of the baggage claim area, to contact your hotel to send a free shuttle.
If you are flying through O’Hare Airport (ORD) or Midway (MDW) in Chicago and your flight is delayed, there is an excellent bus service directly from these airports to the Memorial Union on the University of Wisconsin campus. The cost is approximately $30 US one way.
Memorial Union - Located on the edge of Lake Mendota, the Memorial Union has one of the best views of the largest lake of Madison. These views can either be enjoyed through from inside or, weather permitting, on the large terrace that extends all the way to the edge of the lake. The union also houses the Rathskeller a lounge that pays homage to the German heritage of the state.
Monona Terrace - First conceptualized by the legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the Monona Terrace has spectacular views of Lake Monona both from the terrace on the roof and from nearly every spot inside. Tours are also available for those that are interested in the unique architecture of the building.
State Capitol - The very center of downtown, the State Capitol is often identified as one of the most beautiful state capitols in the country. The Capitol is only three feet shorter than the national Capitol and sits in the center of Capitol Square, which features well-groomed public lawns and gardens. Tours are available on most weekdays allowing visitors to scale the stairs to the top of the rotunda where breathtaking views of Madison can be experienced.
State Street - Connecting the state capitol and the University, State Street is a mile-long pedestrian mall features a unique blend of cafes, restaurants, and shops that are as eclectic as Madison itself. It is an excellent place to grab a bite to eat or do some shopping.
Overture Center for the Arts is a stunning architectural landmark located on State Street, right in the heart of Madison’s thriving cultural arts district. In addition to housing ten resident organizations and presenting more than 200 performances, art exhibitions, and educational and community events each year, the Overture Center offers a variety of venues for performances, corporate meetings, conventions, trade shows, weddings, banquets, and receptions. The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art and several smaller galleries as well as the gift shop are a highlight on a stroll down State Street.
Chazen Museum of Art - The Chazen Museum of Art is the University’s teaching museum which displays exhibits ranging from antiquity through modern art.
Babcock Ice Cream - As one of the preeminent sources of dairy related research, the University of Wisconsin has extensive facilities related to the processing of dairy products including ice cream. The University makes its own fresh ice cream and cheese on campus atBabcock Hall which is served in many locations, including the Memorial Union and Union South.
Brewery Tours - Like much of Wisconsin, Madison features a large number of craft breweries. Many of the local breweries, notably:New Glarus, Capitol Brewery, and Ale Asylum, among others, are available for tours. In addition, late fall usually brings about a large number of unique seasonal brews.
Below are some common dining suggestions in the downtown area. In a city that has one of the highest number of restaurants per capital, this list is far from comprehensive. I highly recommend asking one of the conference organizers for suggestions.
Great Dane Pub & Brewing Co. - Located a block from the capitol, the Great Dane is a Madison establishment known for its combination of historic ambiance, excellent food, and large variety of beers. The menu is so large that it is printed as a newspaper that can be browsed while enjoying one of their house brews in the pool hall or the Rathskellar bar in the basement. Web site
Mediterranean Cafe - Located on State Street just a little over a block from the Pyle Center the Mediterranean Cafe is known for having some of the best Mediterranean offerings in Madison.
Samba - Located just off State Street, Samba offers a unique dining experience. Waiters go from table to table with skewers of different meat that they will carve for guests upon request. Samba also features a large buffet of various salads, roasted vegetables, artisanal cheeses, breads and much more. Web site
Brocach Irish Pub and Restaurant - Located on the Capitol Square, Brocach features full lunch, dinner and late night menus including Irish specialties well as fine contemporary cuisine and daily lunch and dinner specials as well as many imported beers. Web site
Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry - Located one block from the Doubletree, Dotty Dumpling’s features some of the best hamburgers in Madison as well as a relaxed atmosphere reminiscent of the mid-20th century. Web site
The Old Fashioned - Located on the Capitol Square, the Old Fashioned is known for serving traditional fare inspired by Wisconsin’s rich cultural heritage. Experience the best of the foods and spirits that Wisconsin is best known for. Web site
Harvest - Located on the Capitol Square, Harvest is known for utilizing the great variety of local and organic ingredients raised in the region. The award winning menu is constantly evolving from season to season depending on the availability of the ingredients. Web site
Sardine - Located on the shores of Lake Monona and a few blocks east of the capitol, Sardine offers a menu inspired by French bistros with some Mediterranean touches. In addition to the menu, Sardine also features a relaxed yet sophisticated atmosphere looking out across Lake Monona. Web site
Ocean Grill - Located a block from the Capitol, the various French and Asian inspired dishes created by the chef are known for featuring unique flavor combinations using fresh seasonal ingredients and seafood shipped every day. Web site
Dayton Street Grille - Located a block from the capitol, the Dayton Street Grille serves contemporary American cuisine with various global influences. The head chef has also been awarded the title of best local chef by various polls. Web site
AJ Bombers – Peanuts, burgers and beer! Travel Channel’s “Food Warriors” Champion from Milwaukee. AJ Bombers has moved into downtown Madison at 201 Gorham Street. Serves brunch, burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, vegetarian. Web site
Graze - Located one block from the Capitol, Graze features traditional comfort foods served with slight variations and executed to perfection. As the name implies, the restaurant goes to great lengths to use animals that are raised naturally. Web site
Wisconsin State Capitol
Dane County Farmers’ Market
Overture Center for the Arts
Madison Museum of Contemporary Art
Madison Children’s Museum
Henry Vilas Zoo
Wisconsin Historical Museum
Wisconsin Veteran’s Museum
Olbrich Botanical Gardens
University of Wisconsin-Madison Campus
Chazen Museum of Art
UW-Madison Geology Museum
Allen Centennial Gardens
University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum