Madison (Wisconsin)

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Travel Guide North America USA Midwestern United States Wisconsin Madison

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Introduction

Sun set at the Lakehouse in Wisconsin

Sun set at the Lakehouse in Wisconsin

© All Rights Reserved Sir Micah

Madison is considered one of the hippest and coolest towns in the midwest. This small town has lot more to offer then great nightlife and sports events. It is also a cultural center with amazing art, restaurants and events. For people more inclined for the outdoors there is great hiking, water sports and hunting nearby. Madison is one of those towns that anyone can find something.

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Neighbourhoods

Isthmus - Madison's downtown area, home to museums, shopping, dining, and great lake views along with diverse neighborhoods.
North - Primarily residential with minimal shopping areas, large public natural areas.
South Central - Home to vast public natural areas, such as the UW Arboretum and Olin-Turville Park, and the Alliant Energy Center/Dane County Coliseum.
West - Unique shopping and dining, retail chains, interesting attractions, quaint neighborhoods.
East - Similar to the West with unique shopping and dining, retail chains, interesting attractions, quaint neighborhoods.

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Sights and Activities

The Memorial Union Terrace, 800 Langdon St, ☎ +1 608 265-3000. A lovely terrace which overlooks beautiful Lake Mendota. Be sure to sample Babcock Ice Cream, made locally at Babcock Dairy Hall, whose profits help fund the UW-Madison dairy program. The Memorial Union also features a wide variety of local and regional beers - perfect for sipping (note: Union membership or University affiliation required to buy alcoholic beverages, but one-day guest passes can be obtained) while listening to live music, or enjoying the view with friends. Boat rentals are also available for the more active crowd.

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Events and Festivals

Holidays

  • New Year’s Eve - The US celebrates the outgoing of the old year and incoming of the New Year quite dramatically. Every state boasts its own parties to ring in the New Year, but none is more extravagant than New York’s Time Square, which sees people overflowing into the neighboring restaurants, bars, parks, beaches, and neighborhoods.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day (officially Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. and sometimes referred to as MLK Day) is an American federal holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around King's birthday, January 15. The holiday is similar to holidays set under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. The earliest Monday for this holiday is January 15 and the latest is January 21. King was the chief spokesperson for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law.
  • St Patrick’s Day - March 17 celebrates the US’s large Irish population. Many cities around the country boast boisterous parades and Irish-themed parties, especially New York and Chicago, where the river is dyed green. Be wary of the drunkenness that dominates as this is definitely a party-day.
  • Memorial Day - Memorial Day is an important holiday throughout the United States, but not for crazy festivities. Parades commemorating wartime heroes are often held and the day is also the ‘unofficial’ start of summer. Most visitors follow the crowds to parks and beaches, which are capped off with informal BBQs.
  • Independence Day - Also known as the Fourth of July, Independence Day celebrates the US’s break from the British during the 18th century. Barbecues, street parties, beach trips, and weekend getaways are commonplace to appreciate freedom.
  • Labor Day is a public holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws, and well-being of the country. It is the Monday of the long weekend known as Labor Day Weekend. It is recognized as a federal holiday. Beginning in the late 19th century, as the trade union and labor movements grew, trade unionists proposed that a day be set aside to celebrate labor.
  • Halloween - Halloween is a fun holiday on October 31 for all generations to dress up in costumes and relive their youth. Children walk around the neighborhood trick-or-treating for candy, while adults attend parties. Other seasonal events include haunted houses, pumpkin farms and carving, and corn mazes.
  • Thanksgiving - On the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving is held in almost every home in the US. Tourists will have a hard time finding anything to do as the country essentially shuts down in observation. A typical Thanksgiving meal consists of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie commemorating the original Pilgrim’s feast at Plymouth Rock.
  • Christmas - On December 25, Christians celebrate Christmas as the pinnacle of their calendar by attending church and opening gifts from Santa Claus. Almost everything shuts down to promote family togetherness. The northern regions hope to experience a “white Christmas,” with trees and festive lights blanketed by snow.

Sport

  • Super Bowl Sunday - the world’s most watched sporting event and one of the highest grossing TV days of the year, Superbowl Sunday is a spectacular extravaganza. Held the first Sunday in February, the Superbowl is the final playoff game between the NFL’s top two teams. The venue rotates every year around America, yet the local parties seem to remain. Pubs, bars and restaurants are great places to enjoy the Superbowl or locals throw their own parties with different variations of betting.
  • The World Series is the annual championship series of Major League Baseball (MLB) in North America, contested since 1903 between the American League (AL) champion team and the National League (NL) champion team. The winner of the World Series championship is determined through a best-of-seven playoff, and the winning team is awarded the Commissioner's Trophy. As the series is played during the fall season in North America, it is sometimes referred to as the Fall Classic.

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Weather

Summer is wonderful. Winter is cold and snowy. Fall is nice as it is beginning to get chilly. Spring brings everyone outside as they can finally take off their winter jackets.

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Getting There

By Plane

Madison's airport is very close to town so very easy to get to. It is more expensive to fly to and from there than Milwaukee or Chicago, so also consider bus trips to those cities as possible parts of your travel plans. There are daily flights to nearby hubs including Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Minneapolis, and Denver. Nonstop service is also offered to cities like Atlanta, Newark, New York City, and Washington, D.C.

By Train

Via Columbus, Amtrak travels east to Milwaukee and Chicago and west to Minneapolis on the Empire Builder route. Columbus is a 30 minute drive north of Madison.
Amtrak also connects to Madison from Chicago via Thruway bus, operated by VanGalder.

By Car

I-39/I-90/I-94 runs along the eastern edge of Madison.

By Bus

  • From Chicago the VanGalder Bus can take you from O'Hare to the University of Wisconsin campus; the stop is on Langdon Street just west of Lake Street, across from the Pyle Center. Tickets are $27 for a one way trip and they can be bought from the bus drivers for exact change, or with credit cards, check or cash at the Memorial Union Travel Center. Fares as of Nov 2010 are $29/$58 to Chicago O'Hare.
  • From Milwaukee the Badger Bus; 877.292.8259; runs multiple trips per day between Madison and Milwaukee. Has multiple stops, including downtown, in both cities; makes stops at Mitchell Int'l. Airport in Milwaukee. Will also stop at Johnson Creek on demand (tickets must be purchased in advance online).
  • Megabus. Low-cost bus company that offers service to Madison from Chicago (several times daily), Milwaukee (4 times daily), and Minneapolis-Saint Paul (4 times daily). Fares can be as little as $1 each way if ordered far enough in advance. Megabus serves two stops in Madison, one on Langdon Street just west of Lake Street, across from the Pyle Center on the University of Wisconsin campus, and another at the bus shelter at the Dutch Mill Park & Ride, located on the northeast side of the US Route 12/18 and US Route 51 intersection. The stop at the Memorial Union is more centrally located, and a much better stop to get off at if you'll be staying in central Madison without a car. Also, none of the services to Milwaukee nor the daytime services to Minneapolis-Saint Paul stop at Dutch Mill.
  • Greyhound. Service from Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and Chicago.

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Getting Around

By Car

On-street parking in the center of Madison - the isthmus - tends to be scarce (and permits, issued annually, are required), but a number of parking garages are sprinkled throughout the area. Street parking further from the center is plentiful and free. A map of parking garages, rates, and parking regulations in the downtown area can be found at the City of Madison parking page. For most lots on the University of Wisconsin campus permits, issued annually only to university employees, are required. There are a few lots that offer public parking. Full details on parking lots, rates and regulations on the UW campus can be found here. The best advice for parking on the UW campus is to read signs at lot entrances and believe what they say (UW parking enforcement is highly vigilant and on duty 24 hours a day). If you are driving from one end of the city to another, the Beltline is a commonly used route.

Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.

For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.

By Public Transport

You can get around much of Madison on the Metro bus system ($2 single trip, $5 day ticket). Coverage becomes spotty and travel times extensive as you get further away from the isthmus, so a car is practically a necessity for regular travel outside the city center.

By Bike

Madison is a very bike friendly city (except for the weather). Bike lanes and dedicated bike paths offer routes all over the city.

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Eat

Madison is said to have the highest number of restaurants per capita in the entire United States. The sheer diversity of and intense competition among Madison's restaurants is enough to put any city of similar size to shame (as well as many larger cities!), making Madison one of the best cities in the country to be a foodie. Take your time to make a selection; you could spend years in Madison without seeing half of what the restaurant scene has to offer.

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Drink

  • Le Tigre Lounge is a funky bar out by the beltline with tigers of all sizes covering all the walls. They have live jazz sometimes along with the basic entertainment of staring at tigers. There is a no swearing policy, which actually does get people thrown out of the bar sometimes.
  • State Street Brats is the University's central "college bar." Weekend nights and other days where there is some type of drink deal you can find this place packed with 18-23 year olds (many of the students have good fake ids). It's also a great place to watch Wisconsin badger football and basketball games, but you should get there early as the seating gets snatched up very quickly. They have brats and lots more bar food, but I would say there are better options for eating in the immediate vicinity.

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Sleep

  • Best Western Plus Inn on the Park, 22 S Carroll St, ☎ +1 608 257-8811. Madison's only Capitol Square hotel. Has a pool. The Best Western Plus Inn on the Park is a full-service hotel on the Capitol Square in downtown Madison, Wisconsin – ideal for business or vacation lodging near the University of Wisconsin – Madison campus, Monona Terrace Convention Center, Overture Center, and the Kohl Center. Free valet parking, free wi-fi, free airport and campus shuttle.
  • Best Western InnTowner and the Highland Club. Located on the near west side of the UW campus in a quiet neighborhood, directly next to the UW/VA Hospitals and just a short drive from State Street. Free wireless high-speed Internet and shuttle. Its concierge-level floor, the Highland Club, won Best Western's "Best of the Best" design award for its renovation.
  • Concourse Hotel, 1 W Dayton St, toll-free: +1-800-356-8293. Larger, nicer hotel located one block from the Capitol Square and one block from the Overture Center for the Performing Arts.
  • Dahlmann Campus Inn, 601 Langdon St, toll-free: +1-800-589-6285.
  • Doubletree Madison. Formerly the Howard Johnson, this smaller hotel is very close to the University (one block from the Kohl Center) and not too far from the Capitol. Free wireless Internet access.
  • Edgewater Hotel, 666 Wisconsin Ave, ☎ +1 608 661-6582. Luxury hotel directly on Lake Mendota at the beginning of Langdon Street, this hotel is about eight blocks from the university. Be sure to sit out on the pier during the summer.
  • Hilton Madison, 9 E Wilson St, ☎ +1 608 255-5100. Complementing Madison's historic charm, this new 14-story, 236-room hotel is named the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center headquarters. Just two blocks from the State Capitol on the shores of Lake Monona, the hotel has some of the city's best views. Indoors, an elegant parlor and lobby set the tone for a first-class stay. Take advantage of a state-of-the-art fitness center and indoor pool overlooking the lake. Or retreat to the 14th-private Executive Club Floor for panoramic cityscapes.
  • HotelRED, 1501 Monroe St, ☎ +1 608 819-8228. Boutique luxury hotel near University of Wisconsin’s legendary Camp Randall Stadium and the eclectic shopping, sites and sounds of Monroe Street.
  • Sheraton Madison, 706 John Nolen Dr, ☎ +1 608 251-2300. On John Nolen Drive and within walking distance of the Alliant Energy Exposition Center, with 237 rooms and suites. Shuttle service is available to and from the Dane County Airport. Ample complimentary parking for guests. The Heartland Grill and Prairie Cafe serve throughout the day, with Harvest Lounge open every evening.
  • University Inn, 441 N Frances St, ☎ +1 608 257-4881. A cheap hotel in the heart of downtown, literally right next to State Street. Has free wi-fi in the lobby. Not known for its quality or service, but it's good if you're on a budget and still want to be downtown. If you're looking for a real hotel, head to the Campus Inn across the street.

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Work

The largest employers are the Wisconsin government and the University of Wisconsin. Additionally, there are a growing number of hi-tech employers and jobs, particularly in the bio-tech field. Madison has a very low unemployment rate compared to the national average.

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Learn

  • University of Wisconsin is considered a great State school and is part of the big ten. When possible you should try to catch a football or basketball game. Remember to wear red and scream "Go Badgers!"

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Keep Connected

Internet

There is a very small internet bar/cafe culture in the USA. Even then most of the internet bars/cafes tend be located in major urban centers. Accessible WiFi networks, however, are common. The most generally useful WiFi spots are in coffee shops, fast-food chains, and bookshops, but also restaurants and hotels more and more have a network to connect on. Some of them might require you to buy something and you might need a password too, especially in hotels.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The general emergency phone number is 911. The USA has a great landline phone system that is easy to use. The country code for the U.S. is +1. The rest of the telephone number consists of 10 digits: a 3-digit area code, and a 7-digit number. Any small grocery store or pharmacy has pre paid domestic or international phone cards. These phone cards are very cheap and offer good rates. The once ubiquitous pay phone is now much harder to find. Likely locations include in or near stores and restaurants, and near bus stops. The cellphone network in the states is slowly getting better but is still not as good when compared to other western countries. Cell phones tend to operate using different frequencies (850 MHz and 1900 MHz) from those used elsewhere in the world (2100 MHz). This used to prevent most foreign phones from working in America. Phones must be tri- or quad-band to work in the U.S. Fortunately, technology has meant that most phones should now be able to pick up one of the U.S. networks. Prepaid phones and top-up cards can be purchased at mobile phone boutiques and at many discount, electronics, office supply and convenience stores. A very basic handset with some credit can be had for under $40.

Post

The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.

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Madison (Wisconsin) Travel Helpers

This is version 19. Last edited at 10:06 on Jun 14, 19 by Utrecht. 3 articles link to this page.

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