If you're planning your next adventure to Wisconsin, let Alina Dix help you with your itinerary to Madison. She is a Wisconsin native and can help you with the best places to visit and great restaurants to try in this fun college town and state capital.

First, find a place to stay in Madison!

What to do and where to eat in Madison

As the capital of Wisconsin, Madison is always bustling with activity. With summer around the corner, this is the perfect time to visit this historical city. The city is situated between Lakes Mendota and Monona. Madison was named after the fourth president of the U.S., James Madison. Also, the streets were named after the other 39 signers of the U.S. Constitution.

Things to do in Madison

Visiting the Capitol building is a must when you’re in town. It was built in 1906 and designed by architect George B. Post. This building is at the center of the city and everything stems away from here. Directly to the north (about two blocks) is the Madison Children’s Museum, which is currently featuring an exhibit on dollhouses and everything miniature. Encircling the Capitol grounds is the Dane County Farmer’s Market, which is held on every Saturday (except certain holidays) from April to November. Rain or shine, all sorts of vendors and customers come to mingle and barter. West of the Capitol is the Overture Center for the Arts and starting soon will be productions of the musical The Lion King. There’s more to Madison than just the Capitol building and surrounding area.

Keep going west and you run into the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW) campus. Believe it or not, there’s a lot to do on campus even if you aren’t a student! The Chazen Museum of Art is a free museum that houses over 20,000 works and features rotating exhibits. Currently, the museum is featuring an exhibit of Jay Katelansky works that runs until the end of May 2016. There is also a Japanese Masterworks exhibit that runs until August 2016. The university also has a geology museum, which was established in 1848. Admission is free, but if you want the guided tour, there’s a $2.00 charge. The main attraction here is a Boaz mastodon that stands 9.5 feet tall and is 15 feet long. That’s big! If museums aren’t your thing, then maybe stop by the UW-Arboretum and take a tour of either the Longenecker Horticultural Gardens or the Wisconsin Native Plant Gardens. The tours are free and you will see and learn about thousands of plants.

If the water is calling to you, then you must take advantage of the two lakes that are on either side of Madison. There are trails along both lakefronts, which makes for an amazing run or bike ride. Hop on board one of the boats at Madison Fishing Charters for a peaceful day on the water catching a variety of freshwater fish. If you have your own boat then feel free to bring it, but remember to pick up a boating pass from the City of Madison Parks Department. Don’t have a boat? Take a leisurely cruise with Betty Lou Cruises. Madison also has 13 beaches so you can go swimming and soak up the sun during the coming summer months.

Where to eat in Madison

Let’s talk about what’s really important though, food! If you’re visiting even just for a couple days, you’re going to get hungry. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner there are some great places to catch a bite to eat in this city!


It’s only open on the weekends, but Sophia’s Bakery & Café on Johnson Street is worth it and the perfect way to start your day! Another town favorite is Marigold Kitchen on Pinckney Street and I’ve been told it’s the only place you need to go for breakfast!


If you’re looking for a lighter lunch, head to Barriques on W. Washington Avenue. The sandwiches and salads are phenomenal and so is the coffee. To be honest, if you’re near the Capitol then you only need to look around and there are restaurants lining the streets. For example, The Old Fashioned is right there and it brings Wisconsin traditions to the modern day.


Again, all of the restaurants around the Capitol are truly great. It’s quite unfair to put so many great options in such a small space. However, the best suggestion is to just hop around from one to another and try them all. If you want a view while you enjoy your meal, then go to Sardine to enjoy a view of Lake Monona and some exceptional French cuisine.

It can be done, but spending only two days in Madison will be tricky. There’s so much to do and see, I know you’ll be back for more!

This article was written by Alina Dix.

Ready to go? Find a place to stay in Madison!