This summer, we had the pleasure of visiting Madison, Wisconsin, the state capital, and had such a great time. We’re grateful the city is gold-rated walkable and platinum-rated bikeable. We needed movement after indulging in the numerous award-winning restaurants, tasting local favorites at their food festival, and exploring their growing mocktail scene. From couple’s spa experiences to paddle boating, there are many cool date ideas and ways to have fun and connect with your spouse in Madison.
In this article, we will give you our entire itinerary and a few other options we wanted to try or heard great things about. We know that sometimes you just want to book your ticket and go. With this blog post, you can do precisely that. Grab your plane ticket or gas up your car and head to Madison, Wisconsin. We’ve already done the planning for you!
Check into Your Hotel
We stayed at the AC Madison Downtown. It’s nicely appointed and sits in the center of downtown, just a few steps away from the capital building. We loved the location as it was super convenient. We woke up in the mornings and took walks along the waterfront and the capital building. It was nice to experience the stillness of the morning there. It was also a great base to explore as it was within walking distance of the farmer’s market and several restaurants and activities we did while visiting.
Nibble at the Country’s Largest Producer’s Only Farmer Market, Dane County Farmers Market
This Madison tradition has been around since 1972 and currently occurs every Wednesday and Saturday. Yearly, there are over 275 producers, and at least 150 every Saturday. All the items for sale were grown, raised, and produced in Wisconsin by the person behind the stand. There are a ton of stands to check out according to what you like. The Stella Cheese Bread is highly recommended by everyone, and we, well I, since my husband doesn’t eat cheese, thought it was terrific! I’m craving it as I type.
I also really liked the sconuts from Chris & Lori’s Bakehouse and the ground tomatoes from Young Earth Farm. (SN: I’m convinced that Wisconsin has some of the best tomatoes in the country, but more on that later). Leslie, my husband, devoured the Caramel Kettle Corn from Steinke Popcorn, so if you like popcorn, you may also want to check it out. They have a ton of flavors.
We hope you don’t get too full at the Farmer’s Market because next it is time for brunch…
Brunch at Graze
1 S Pinckney St, Madison, WI, 53703
This farm-to-table restaurant serves seasonally inspired dishes by Chef Tory Miller, a James Beard award winner. The menu deliciously celebrates his Wisconsin and Korean heritage with menu items ranging from bibimbap and cheese curds (a local told us that these are some of the best in the city).
Take a Free Tour of the Wisconsin State Capitol
2 E Main St, Madison, WI, 53703
The Wisconsin State Capitol is an icon in Madison’s skyline. This incredible grandeur building also features the only granite dome in the United States. The Office of the Governor, the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and both chambers of the Wisconsin legislature are housed here. The free tours are offered every day on the hour, and in the summer months, visitors can see the sixth-floor museum and observation. Check the website for exact hours.
If you aren’t able to do a tour, make sure you at least stop by the outside for a photo. We particularly loved how it lit up at night; it was very picturesque.
Cheese Tasting at Fromagination
12 S Carroll St, Madison, WI, 53703
This European-style cut-to-order cheese shop showcases award-winning Wisconsin artisan cheeses. Let me tell you, it was some of the best cheese that I have ever tasted! Our tasting in itself was low-key due to us visiting over a holiday weekend and me being the only cheese eater and lover in my marriage. Lol, But Fromagination also offers several public and private cheese classes where you can spend an hour learning about Wisconsin cheese and tasting it. You can book a class here.
There are tons of cheeses to choose from in the shop. So, you’ll be in cheese heaven. My favorites, which I also purchased to continue enjoying at home, were Triple Play: Extra Innings, Wild Boar Truffle, Gjetest, Delice de Bourgogni, and Cranberry Wensleydale.
Take a Break, Stare into your Partner’s Eyes, or Simply Enjoy Some Downtime!
By now, you probably need a break, so take it! If not feel free to take a walk along the State Capital Square or the nearby Lake area.
Pre-Dinner Ping Pong + Cocktails or Mocktails at Imaginary Factory.
1401 Northern Court, Madison, WI, 53703
When we visited, an event was hosted by a local artist, Ethan Jackson. He was featuring an exhibit that used art as a social practice and avenue of therapy. He won’t be there every night, but check the Imaginary Factory Instagram page or call to see if there will be any events while you are in town.
Overall, even if there isn’t anything special going on, this is a cool distillery and tasting room with minimalist vibes to catch the breeze.
Dinner at Mark Mint
1929 Winnebago St, Madison, WI 53704
This produce-forward restaurant showcases some of the best of Wisconsin’s bounty, and it is so delicious. My taste buds are still watering from the Tagliatelle, this delicious toast covered with a burrata spread and topped with the most mouth-watering tomatoes. I wanted to circle back for round two for the toast, but sadly, there wasn’t enough time. I also really enjoyed the cauliflower. The menu evolves according to the season, so check it out before you visit.
The atmosphere is airy and verdant, and apparently, there is an outstanding Fish Fry on Fridays. If you go on a Friday, let us know how you like it!
Pro Tip: If you sit at the bar, you can see the food being prepared and may even be able to chat with the chef.
Enjoy Nightcap Mocktails, Cocktails, or Wine with a View at Eno Vino
1 N Webster St, Madison, WI 53703 (located inside of the AC Madison DowntownHotel)
With floor-to-ceiling windows, this is a great place to enjoy a great view of the Capital Building with your nightcap. Eno Vino serves hand-crafted mocktails and cocktails and offers 300+ wines by the bottle & another 40 by the glass.
Rise and Shine for Breakfast at Sardine
617 Williamson St, Madison, WI, 53703
This lakeside bistro and bar is a local favorite. Sadly, we didn’t make it here as planned. But we heard good things about it. Their breakfast/brunch menu features unique dishes like a combined crab, bacon, and shrimp cake, baked creamed eggs, and more familiar items like Belgium waffles and brioche french toast.
Relax and Recharge at Kosa Wellness Spa & Retreat
3241 Garver Grn Ste 260, Madison, WI 53704
This 4,500-square-foot spa is located at the historical Garver Feed Mill. It offers facials, Ayurvedic massages, wellness consultations, organic meals, and personal retreats with steam and sauna rituals. A husband and wife team created KOSA to invite people to find their true nature, connect with each other, and connect with the world around them. And in doing so, they can feel better and live happier lives.
So prepare to let the stress leave your body with one of their relaxing and calming services. We both had Ayurvedic massages and thoroughly enjoyed the personal retreat w/the steam and sauna ritual. The personal retreat provides you and your spouse (or whoever you book it for) with a private sauna and steam room.
Take in some nature at Olbrich Botanical Gardens
3330 Atwood Ave, Madison, WI 53704
Olbrich’s boasts two gorgeous sides- One side features an outdoor garden with 16 acres of stunning landscapes and Midwest-hardy plants, and the other side houses the tropical Bolz Conservatory, filled with exotic plants, orchids, birds, and a waterfall. The outdoor garden is free but accepts donations, and the Bolz Conservatory is only $6 per adult.
If you’re walking impaired, feeling lazy, or super hot, let the trolly take you around the gardens! You can just sit back and enjoy the scenery.
Check out the Special Events in Madison
When we were in town, Madison was celebrating the 40th year of Taste of Madison, the largest picnic on Capitol Square. It features 70+ food vendors and live music entertainment. We tried fried ice cream, yummy Birria tacos, and had award-winning Mac & Cheese.
Leslie also tried a vegan hot dog. With over 70 vendors, you won’t have a shortage of options. If you go during Labor Day weekend, check it out. For other events throughout the year, check out the Destination Madison website.
Enjoy Mocktails and NAs or Cocktails at Merchant
121 S Pinckney St, Madison, WI, 53703
Since 2010, Merchant has served as an energetic industrial-chic café, craft cocktail bar, and late-night destination specializing in no-nonsense, seasonal fare and drinks steeped in the classics.
Merchant understands that you may not want to be confined to water and juice just because you choose not to drink alcohol. So, they offer over 15 uniquely crafted N/A and mocktail options to help quench your thirst.
Enjoy an Italian Dinner at Cento
122 West Mifflin Street, Madison, WI, 53703
This premier Italian restaurant in Downtown Madison combines old-world Italian traditions and modern techniques. Their delicious menu includes handmade pasta, slow-roasted meats, and pizzas from a wood-burning stove. We both loved the Creste di Gallo.
Along with an extensive wine and cocktail list, they also offer several N/A options, including N/A wine!
Grab a quick breakfast at your Hotel or a Nearby Cafe.
Walk down State Street to Campus
State Street is a great place to stroll, shop, and sip in all seasons, as it is lined with boutiques and restaurants.
Choose Your Adventure: Visit Memorial Union or Chazen Museum Of Art
Memorial Union: 800 Langdon St, Madison, WI, 53706
Memorial Union is an enduring, cherished, and historically significant icon in the UW-Madison campus’s heart. Across generations, it has retained its revered status, serving as a hub for social gatherings, relaxation, and study sessions and a source of nourishment for all who visit.
The Chazen Museum of Art: 800 University Ave, Madison, WI 53706
The Chazen Museum of Art is esteemed as the largest collecting museum in the Big 10 and the second-largest art collection in Wisconsin. The 176,000 square feet museum holds a collection of nearly 23,000 works of art covering diverse historical periods, cultures, and geographic locations from modern Africa to 18th-century Japan to the Soviet Empire to Moghul India and ancient Greece and Western Europe. If you enjoy art, you don’t want to miss this. Oh, and admission is free. Just make sure to check the hours.
Lunch at Everly
2701 Monroe St Ste 270, Madison, WI, 53711
This light, bright, and friendly restaurant offers veggie-forward, So-Cal-inspired food and drinks with meaty dishes and gluten-free fryer options. I really liked the calamari steak fries.
Grab Ice Cream or a Non-Dairy Delight at Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream
2531 Monroe St, Madison, WI, 53711
This local favorite has been serving happiness in every scoop since 1962. They manufacture over 100 super-premium flavors and have won countless awards. If you are an ice cream lover, definitely stop by! I had a Biscoff milkshake that was crazy good, and Leslie enjoyed his Italian Ice.
Try Boating at Wingra Boats
824 Knickerbocker St, Madison, WI, 53711
From kayaking, canoeing, row boating, paddle boating, and much more, there is no shortage of ways to get out on the water for boating fun. We had a hilarious time paddle boating! I thoroughly enjoyed myself, but my husband says that’s because he was doing all the paddling. Lol
- Fine dining at L’Etoile
- Learn how to make a Charcuterie Board from a professional at Not So Tricky Foods or Madison Cheese Boards
- Indulge in artisan award-winning chocolate while supporting Black- Owned businesses at CocoVaa
From its cultural gems and culinary delights to its calming lakes and fun activities, Madison truly has something for everyone. We hope this itinerary encourages you to put Madison, Wisconsin, on your radar and that you have the best time on your trip!
This blog post and trip were sponsored by Destination Madison, but all opinions are our own.
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