Madison always has a little… ok… a large space in my heart. Although I grew up in a small town outside the city, I practically spent every weekend in Madison. When I was a kid I went to the zoo, once I got older and could drive you would find me and my friends on State Street, the mall, at a 24- hour diner or by one of the many lakes. And, on many occasions, the west side Taco Bell at 2am. Robin grew up in Madison, so once we started dating I really felt like I lived there. I’m happy I left – San Francisco is where I need to be right now, but dang, Madison has its charm. So, I’ve gathered my top 10 favorite things to do in and around the city so if you ever find yourself in the area, you’ll know how to find a good time.
1. Beers at the UW Madison Memorial Union Terrace: I raved about this in the last post, but to sum it up: huge terrace by the lake, great sunset views, cheese curds and *amazing* beer options. You can dip your toes in the water and watch the boats mill about. Spent many a summer nights here.
2. State Street: Easily the most iconic area of Madison, State Street is a long street that leads from the UW campus to the Capitol. It’s lined with bars, restaurants and hippie shops and is oh-so very fun. You can get lost for the whole day here. My favorite bar on the street is the State Street Brats. It’s a campus bar but is classic Madison. You’ll enjoy it. Have a brat while you’re there.
3. Henry Villas Zoo: I know that I’m 24, but I freaking LOVE the zoo. Cute animals get me every time.. anyways, the Henry Villas Zoo is free and has some neat exhibits. It’s also right by Lake Wingra so you can pop over to the beach afterwards.
4. Lake Wingra: Speaking of Lake Wingra… this lake is great for kayaking or paddling boarding. On one far corner you can even see the Capitol. During the winter you can go ice skating here.
5. Governor Dodge State Park: About an hour and a half drive from Madison. Gov. Dodge is my FAVORITE state park. I used to spend at least a handful of summer days here. I love this park since it has two lakes, and one of them you can swim across the lake to a secluded hiking spot. It also has horseback riding trails, camping sites and lots of hiking trails. Totally worth the drive if you’re looking for some classic Wisconsin outdoor scenery.
6. Treinen Corn Maze: If you’re in Madison during the fall, you have to go to Treinen Farms Corn Maze. We used to go here every fall and I even took Robin here a few times. What makes Treinen so unique is that they make a new, highly detailed design each year so it’s always different. You start out with just one portion of the map and have to find all 8 to complete it. The extra fun part is they hide about 10 hole punches around the maze and if you find them all, you get a piece of candy and the proud feeling of knowing that you’re awesome at mazes. Once you’re done with the maze you can pet animals, kids have a lot of things to play on you can sling shot pumpkins into a small lake which is really fun, go on hay rides and even pick your own pumpkins. They have food trucks and also sell hot apple cider which is amazing to have on a chilly fall night. Highly recommend this place.
7. Arboretum Hikes: The Arboretum is this great nature reserve that is fun to hike year round. Obvi the summers you get to walk around prairies in a more traditional hike, but in the winter you can go snow shoeing, which is a really really good workout.
8. Go Paddle Boarding: Ok, seriously every lake offers paddle boarding. I’ve never been, but I feel like every other person in Madison has.
9. New Glarus Brewing: New Glarus makes some of the best beer known to man kind. If god brews beer, this is it. It’s true. I’ve never been on a brewery tour but Robin went when we visited home and came back raving about how fun it was. So, now i’m jealous of course. And you need to go on a tour if you are ever in Madison.
10. Tyrol Basin Ski Hill: Love to ski? Head over the Tyrol Basin during the winter to get yo ski on. Fun fact: I used to work here in highschool. The owners are lovely and even though it gets packed on weekend nights, it’s still really fun and affordable. Plus, they have amazing hot chocolate. And you know how much I love chocolate.
If you haven’t gathered yet, the key to being a true Wisconsinite is drinking beer and being outdoors. As long as you have a large bottle of bug spray or a heavy winter coat, depending on the season, you’ll be set.