Madison, WI

Travel Guide
Photo provided by Visit Madison
Wisconsin’s capital and second-largest city offers spectacular natural and architectural beauty and many ways to enjoy watersports.

With five lakes, more than 250 parks and hundreds of miles of biking and walking trails, Madison is loaded with outdoor attractions. The city center is perched on an isthmus between two lakes, Mendota and Monona. There are thousands of acres of fields, parks and dairy farms just outside the city. This natural environment contributes to Madison’s relaxed way of life.

Enjoy the watersports offered year-round on Lake Mendota, including water skiing and canoeing in summer and ice boating and ice hockey in winter. Stroll through the wetlands, prairie and forest of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum.

Visit Downtown Madison to see the seat of Wisconsin’s state government, the only state capitol built on an isthmus. Take one of the free daily tours to admire the rotunda’s extravagantly decorated ceiling and the building’s art and hand-carved furniture.

If you appreciate great architecture, head two blocks south of the Wisconsin State Capitol Building to the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center. The building is based on a design by Wisconsin native, Frank Lloyd Wright. Often considered one of the greatest architects of the 20th century, Wright designed many civic structures and homes in the city.

Madison regularly appears on lists of the country’s “most walkable” cities and is easy to get around. Since by law, new and redeveloped roads must accommodate pedestrians and bikes as well as cars, the city is constantly increasing areas with non-car access. If you want to pedal around the city, use Madison B-Cycle urban bike-share program. For information about bike paths, visit the City of Madison’s website. Alternatively, use the Metro Transit bus service. Driving in the city center is not recommended since parking is scarce and permits are required in some areas.

Madison’s residents may place a strong emphasis on healthy living, but they also know how to celebrate. Every Memorial Day weekend at the end of May, the city hosts four days of food, music and fun, dubbed “The World’s Largest Bratfest,” featuring thousands of juicy bratwurst sausages.

Where to stay in Madison

Madison showing a garden, a house and flowers

Downtown Madison

The ample dining options and fantastic lake views are top of the list for many visitors to Downtown Madison. A stop by Orpheum Theater or Overture Center for the Arts might round out your trip.

Downtown Madison
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Situated on Lake Monona's southeastern shore, this Madison suburb boasts the historic Indian Mounds Park, a site on the National Register of Historic Places.

Madison's first and best Thai restaurant. I can't imagine Pad Thai tasting any better than how they make it.


4.5/5(45 area reviews)

While visiting Marquette, you might make a stop by sights like Yahara Place Park and Orton Park.