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M traveler: Madison


April 2018


Photo courtesy of Graft

Madison provides more entertainment than just a tour of the stunning Wisconsin State Capitol building and a rousing Badgers football game. A center for intellectual thought and healthy debate, it also caters to foodies, art aficionados and nature lovers. In fact, this spring Madison is blooming with reasons to make the drive — and to tote your bike.

Where to Stay

If you want to be in the middle of everything, downtown offers an energetic vibe, brushes with international visitors and plenty of great spots to eat. Afterward, you can rest your head nearby at The Madison Concourse Hotel and Governor’s Club. At the top of the hotel, the Governor’s Club treats its guests to complimentary hors d’oeuvres and cocktails in the private lounge. Enjoy the view of the state Capitol there or, better yet, from your room, where you can relax in a cozy terry cloth robe.

On the other hand, if you want a lake view, the Mendota Lake House Inn features five elegant spaces irresistibly named after writers. The Oscar Wilde, for example, includes a king-size bed, abundant natural light and a hydrotherapy bathtub. Bringing the kids or grandkids along? The James Baldwin’s futon sofa turns into a second bed.

Photo courtesy of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art

What to Do

With both the Chazen Museum of Art and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA), Madtown is a must for art lovers. “BIG,” on view through May 6, dramatically showcases large-scale works from MMoCA’s permanent collection, while in an adjacent gallery Portugal transplant José Carlos Teixeira captures emotionally raw moments in his video essays.

Next door to MMoCA, the Overture Center for the Arts hosts several performing arts organizations, including the Madison Ballet, Children’s Theater of Madison and Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. Look for “LINES: A Theatre LILA Invention,” spotlighting moving stories from five female playwrights of color, at the venue April 20 through 29.

Cure spring fever with a leisurely two-hour bike ride around Lake Monona, the smaller of the two lakes that give Madison its unique location and bragging rights as one of only two U.S. cities on an isthmus. You’ll roll past Olbrich Botanical Gardens, where you can take in the beauty of nature’s palette of tulips, daffodils and flowering cherry trees.

Photo courtesy of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art

Where to Dine

The deservedly celebrated Dane County Farmers’ Market returns to the Capitol Square on Saturdays beginning April 14. Grab a cup of coffee and a muffin or scone as you stroll the stalls filled with goodies. On Sunday, make up for a bakery binge with a green juice or Upbeet — a tasty blend of beets, carrots and apples — from Saints Madison Juice Co. on Willy Street.

On the square, Graft serves an array of delightful small plates, including Brussels sprouts drizzled with a balsamic glaze as well as fried chèvre topped with honey and black pepper gastrique. Arrive early to enjoy the ambiance at the bar and a signature drink. Try the Elder Fashion, a mix of bourbon, elderflower liqueur, bitters, and orange and lime juices.

Don’t limit yourself to the downtown area in this foodie town. A short trip to the East Side brings you to the Weary Traveler Freehouse, a funky corner pub with outstanding fare. Hearty sandwiches, such as the elk burger or grilled walleye, come with a side of local mixed greens plus garlic fried potatoes, thick-cut chips that are pure garlicky bliss.

What’s Next

The next Gallery Night takes place May 4 from 5 to 9 p.m. at locations across town, such as Milward Farrell Fine Art, James Watrous Gallery, Edgewood College Gallery and MMoCA. As the weather warms, explore trails through woodlands, savannas and the world’s oldest restored prairie at the UW-Madison Arboretum. Events for Madison Craft Beer Week from May

4 through 13 will feature food pairings, and you can fill your belly for a good cause Aug. 19 at Yum Yum Fest, which features dishes from the likes of A Pig in a Fur Coat and Sardine.


This story ran in the April 2018 issue of: