Madison, Wisconsin is one of those places I never thought about visiting, but after traveling there a couple of times over the past few years for work trips, I’ve come up with this great things to do in Maidson Wisconsin list!
Every time I hear that someone is going to Madison, Wi for the first time, I send a whole long list of what to do in Madison Wi list to help with planning.
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Many of the things to do on this list can be done during the week and on the weekends. This list did start as a top 10 list but it has grown to a top 21 list!
Madison, Wi is one of the friendliest towns I’ve ever visited (and I’m from New Orleans!). The state capital is one of the prettiest I’ve ever seen!
Many of these tips and tricks are set during the Summer-time, but there are a few tricks that are good for all year round!
I always think that travelers should take full advantage of local cuisine and events while they are visiting a city. If you happen to travel to Madison, Wi anytime soon, here are some areas in and around Madison that I highly suggest visiting!
Things to do in Madison, Wi
1. Wisconsin State Capitol (2 E Main St)
The Madison, Wi State Capitol is one of the most stunning capitol buildings I’ve visited during my travels. Wisconsin’s Capitol Building offers free tours daily and lasts about an hour.
During the summer a sixth-floor museum and observation deck are open to the public.
From the end of June until the beginning of August, Madison is in full summer mode. The best way to enjoy this weather is to be outside as much as possible.
During the summer, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra turns the Capitol’s Square into a concert venue with plenty of food, beer, and wine vendors.
The perfect way to start off your evening at the square is to take a free walking tour of the capital building.
3. Memorial Union Terrace (800 Langdon St.)
The Memorial Union Terrace is one of the best ways to explore some of the beautiful sites of Madison, Wi. To purchase alcohol, you must be a member of the Wisconsin Union, or you can get a guest pass up to three times per year.
There are so many things to do in the Terrance like the Terrance After Dark series where outdoor bands and regional acts perform.
And of course, there is food brats, burgers, ice cream and more!
4. The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art MMoCA (227 State St)
One of the fun, free things to do in Madison, Wi is to visit the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, also known as MMoCA. With no fees, and open late on Friday and Saturday, MMoCA is the perfect way to start the weekend.
MMoCA has rotating exhibits each season to keep everything fresh for its patrons, my favorite part is visiting the rooftop sculpture garden and dining at Fresco Rooftop Restaurant and Bar.
5. Dane County Farmer’s Market
Dane County Farmer’s Market is one of the freshest and tastiest things to do in Madison, Wi.
There are several different markets during the year including the Spring-Fall Saturday and Wednesday Market, the indoor Late Winter Market, and the indoor Holiday Market.
The reason why I love Saturday Farmer’s market is that it reminds me of San Francisco’s Ferry Building Farmer’s Market. The produce and pastries are so fresh, plus you can bring home delicious cheese curds.
Y’all there is a mustard museum just outside of Madison, Wisconsin – HOW WEIRD IS THAT? I first stumbled upon the Mustard Museum when I found an article about the strangest museums in every state.
The museum has over 5,600 museums showcasing the finest mustards from all 50 states and over 70 countries. The museum is free to visit, but a donation of $5 is what I recommend to help these folks keep the museum open (especially if you do not buy any mustard).
The real fun is going upstairs to the store and trying all the different tasty mustard. If you do buy any mustard – please make sure you check your bag on the flight home!
7. Shopping on State Street
One of my favorite things to do in Madison is to walk up and down State Street.
There are so many restaurants, cafes, and unique gift shops to wander in and out of. If the weather is beautiful outside, I would dedicate two hours to walking around this area.
I got one of my favorite Squeaky Cheese Curds T-shirts from a cute shop on State Street.
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After a long week of training, the company gives us two chocolates from Candinas Chocolatier. After my fourth training, I knew I was hooked.
Candinas chocolates are just so delicious!
They are made by a Swiss-trained confectioner and do not have any preservatives (maybe this is why I have to inhale a whole box at one time?).
The unique thing about these chocolates is that you never know what you are going to get – but if you do not like to be surprised, you can always go to their website to figure out what is in your mixed box.
Places to Eat in Madison
I’ve been to the Merchant on almost every single trip up to Madison. Everything is locally sourced, and it is an authentic farm to table restaurant.
Since it is Wisconsin, I make sure to order the cheese curds and a steak or hamburger while in town, and this place serves the best of both!
Dinner is served until 10 pm, and then the restaurant transforms into a late-night eatery with cocktails and light bites available until 2 am. The cocktail menu is nothing to argue with because it is over 60 pages!
If you are looking for some rooftop fine dining, look no further than Fresco Restaurant & Lounge. In the heart of downtown, Fresco sits on top of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, and the rooftop had some permanent pieces to view.
Viewing out of the window, one can take in a breathtaking view of the Capital while enjoying a fresh, rotational menu. When I visited Fresco, I had some of the most delicious chicken I had ever tasted in a restaurant.
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The Old Fashioned is a great way to wrap up a day of leisure or work. Their cheese curds are hands down the best that I’ve tried.
Other items that are delicious to try here: Beer Cheese soup, Wisconsin Burger, Wisconsin’s Best Wurst platter. OF COURSE – you need to try an Old Fashioned.
My favorite to date is the Orange Rum Old Fashioned. For those looking for beer – they do offer a beer flight to try all different Wisconsin beers.
Eating Ice Cream in Madison
This locally owned ice cream shop is one of six in the area. Now, if you haven’t noticed, Wisconsin is one of America’s leading beef and dairy producers.
Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream Co always has a line when I went to grab a cone, and every flavor I tried was a treat for the taste buds.
With tons of flavors to choose from – I played it safe with the Zanzibar Chocolate and Zazimint – both are delicious with a chocolate dipped cone.
14. Daily Scoop (800 Langdon St #1324)
Looking for ice cream and a view? Look no further than the Daily Scoop located in the Memorial Union in the hear of UW-Madison.
The Daily Scoop serves the world famous Babcock Hall Dairy Ice cream with less of a line.
One of the most unique things to do in Madison is to grab a scoop of ice cream.
15. Babcock Hall Dairy Store (1605 Linden Drive)
If you take your ice cream seriously, you can visit Babcock Hall Dairy Store and take a short 20 minute guided presentation. Visitors will be able to see the production line involving milk bottling, ice cream, and cheese making.
After the complimentary tour, many visitors enjoy a delicious scoop of ice cream.
Related Post: Savannah Sweets: Eating at Leopold’s Ice Cream
Places to Get Cheese Curds To Bring Home
16. Brennan’s Market Cheese (8210 Watts Road)
Of course, a blog post would not be complete without including cheese! Out of all the cheese, I have bought – Brennan’s has been the best tasting, and best traveling!
Did you know, you can let cheese out of the fridge for something absurd like 12 hours? That way, you can have the cheese in your carry on and bring all the delicious treats back home.
Even though you probably had your fill of fried cheese curds, bring back some squeaky goodness back home so you can relive the cheese curd fun. Read my Travel Fail when I tried bringing Cheese Curds Home.
17. Dane Country Regional Airport
If you do not have time to go to the grocery store or specialty shop, make sure that you stock up on some cheese curds at the airport! As long as you throw them in your carry on bag, your cheese curds will be squeaky and happy by the time you get home.
Places to Drink in Madison, Wi
The brewery does three tours a day on Sunday, Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday. If you have a group of people or want to make sure you go on the tour when you want/need to – you can book online.
I just showed up on Sunday for the 3 pm tour, and there was a spot for me.
The tour is a 30-45 minute tour going through the entire facility learning about the process and costs $7. For the $7 you can sample 4 beers or receive 1 pint; you will also receive a commemorative glass.
19. The Great Dane Pub and Brewing Company (123 E. Doty Street)
Looking for more beer to drink while in Madison? Look no further than the Great Dane Pub and Brewing Company!
There are many different locations throughout Madison, but the downtown location on Doty Street is the original one and my favorite. If you are going to Great Dane, make sure you go to the beer garden.
Like any proper beer snob, make sure you try one of the beer flights! With 10 rotating beers to choose from, you are bound to find your favorite.
20. Old Sugar Distillery (931 E Main St #8)
Old Sugar Distillery is one of those off the beaten path distilleries that you can sip delicious cocktails while being surrounded by stills. I was so excited to find this distillery with amazing cocktails while exploring fun things to do in Madison.
I highly recommend the Old Fashioned, and the Dark and Stormy.
On Saturdays, for $14, you can take a guided tasting tour and enjoy 5 spirits, 1 cocktail, and have an in-depth discussion about the products and ingredients.
21. Lucille’s Madison (101 King St)
One of my favorite discoveries was Lucille’s in Madison. If you are looking for a well-crafted cocktail, look no further than Lucille.
They also offer great bites and a yummy late night menu.
But, my favorite thing about Lucille’s is that during the holiday season it turns into a beautiful Christmas bar! Many of their cocktails become holiday-themed and are served in super-cute holiday-themed glasses and mugs.
What Else is there to do in Madison?
Those and some of my favorite things to do in Madison, Wi! Each time I go back to visit I put one or two more things on this list!
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