This popular and historical street hosts a number of restaurants, bars, and shops, making it the perfect place to spend an afternoon shopping and chatting in cafes or checking out some of the best nightlife that Madison has to offer. Begin your State Street experience near UW-Madison's Library Mall (close to Lake Street), walking towards the Wisconsin State Capitol building on the square. State boasts a surprising variety of foreign restaurants and plenty of lovely fair-trade coffee joints, which make for perfect breaks from your perusing of the shops. There's just as much fun to be had outside as there is in, so don't forget to stop and enjoy a street performer or musician before you leave!
Known by locals as "the farmers' market," it's the largest producer-only market in the U.S. It is best experienced between April and November, when it's located on the Capitol's square. In warmer months rise with the sun, head to the square, and appreciate the refreshing quality that the lakes add to your morning. Take in the smells of the summer flowers and freshly baked breads and pastries at the bakery stands. Sample from the large variety of cheese curds available, and remember: the squeakier the better! This is your chance to truly understand Madison locals' proclivity for fresh, healthy, fairly priced goods and to interact with some of the friendliest folks around.
Enjoy the Union during summer months when you can grab friends or family and head to its location off the shores of Lake Mendota. Here a bench seat and free live music await you by the docks. Grab a pitcher of New Glarus Spotted Cow or Leinenkugel's Honey Weiss, both popular Wisconsin beers available on tap at the Union, and watch the sun set over the lake.
Camp Randall is your express ticket (no pun intended) to living the life of your average, die-hard Badger fan. Madison is an eclectic city, but one of its most defining qualities is being a vibrant college town. The camaraderie and overzealous admiration for the football team that you'll experience creates more of a small-town feel. So slap on some red and white, enjoy the world-class band, and whether you're from Madison or not, you'll find yourself screaming along with the other Bucky fanatics by the end of the game.
The Kohl Center is the second largest indoor venue in Wisconsin. It can be rearranged to host Badger men or women's basketball, hockey, or a concert. Whether you seek a night out to see your favorite musician in concert, or a high five from Bucky and soft pretzels and cheese, the Kohl Center has it. You will understand why the arena has the reputation of being difficult for opposing teams to play in once you see the famed student section. Affectionately named the Grateful Red, their impressive synchronized movements and chants used to distract the other team may be the only reason you need to visit the Kohl Center while you're in town.
Vilas Zoo is big enough to be interesting but small enough to not be overwhelming, especially for families with children, or adults with short attention spans. The zoo itself is free and the fun activities within are quite affordable. Ride the train, go see the big carousel, or bring a penny for the penny press machine and choose which animal you'd like!
The High Noon Saloon's brick exterior gives it a rustic feel, and the nightly live music performances here just can't be beat. It offers an impressive variety of musical genres and leaves many satisfied not only with the tunes but with the service they received from its staff. Be aware that some musical events require a cover charge or tickets, but isn't a great live band and a Spotted Cow worth it?
When you drive towards the city center from John Nolen Drive, this building is one of the most noticeable within Madison's skyline on Lake Monona. The terrace itself is a convention center with a great view of the lake from its shore-facing side. Relax watching the waves lap up on shore while people jog by on the running path, or get in on one of the daily tours.
These gardens are everything you would want them to be in the summertime. They boast 16 acres that include but are not limited to rose, rock, wildflower, and herb gardens, a tropical conservatory, and a gilded Thai pavilion. Olbrich Gardens can be a romantic getaway from the city, or a refreshing daytime walk among the blooming flowers.
The Overture Center is a stunning building with seven unique venues in the building in addition to art galleries (including the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art). Some of the noteworthy performances that have taken place here are The Lion King, Wicked, and Marry Poppins musicals, the Wisconsin Singers and The Nutcracker. Plenty of musicians and bands that fit your taste can also be seen live if you're hungry for an exhilarating performance while you're in town.