By EMILY RAMSEY
Madison, Wisconsin, is home to a lot: the state capitol; the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with over 30,000 students; lakes galore, making it a haven for water lovers during its pleasant, too few summer months; and so many bars and restaurants it would keep visitors busy for a year of night-outs, at least.
Therefore, even with its brutally long and harsh winters, unsurprisingly, the city welcomes thousands of tourists and students each year.
Below are some highlights from my recent trip; however, far more enjoyments than can be recorded here await you if you choose to visit this sought-after city:
Wisconsin State Capitol
Even if visitors do not choose to explore the building and its historical exhibits, the impressive structure can be seen from numerous areas of the city, sitting as a beacon of light and magnificence for visitors like me as they enter the city on Washington Avenue. With the city’s downtown streets running circular, revolving around the Capitol building, the city is set up so that the beautiful structure is almost perpetually within your gaze.
Dane County Farmers’ Market
Madison is home to what’s considered to be the nation’s largest producer-only farmers’ market. The Saturday morning market is home to nearly 400 produce, meat, cheese, bakery and plant vendors. Beyond that, on adjoining streets, are arts and crafts vendors. The market runs for about seven hours, so you will have plenty of time to shop. But the earlier visitors can arrive, the better. The crowds grow as the hours pass.
Outdoor and Water Activities
Devil’s Lake State Park is about an hour’s drive from Madison. The area features 27,000 acres of parkland, including water recreational areas for floating, swimming, kayaking and canoeing. Beyond water activities, visitors can hike, bike, camp, rock climb, bird watch and more. Wisconsin is home to more than 60 state parks, so there’s much exploring to be done. There is also kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding available on Madison’s local lakes—Lake Mendota, Lake Monona and Lake Wingra—and water gazing on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which sits right on the water and is open for the public to enjoy.
Olbrich Botanical Gardens
This lakeside garden property features 16 acres of gardens, adjoining Lake Monona. The garden property saw its beginnings in the early 1900s thanks to Michael Olbrich. When he unexpectedly passed away, the garden was named in his honor. The 16 acres of display gardens includes areas of shrub roses, tropical plants and the Thai Pavilion, which is the only pavilion in the continental United States and the only one outside of Thailand surrounded by a garden. The park offers a very real walk through nature, with many of its manicured gardens still left very natural, with an almost English garden feel. The gardens are free to explore with a small cost to wander its conservatory.