Situated on an isthmus between Lake Mendota and Lake Monona, Madison is the capital of the State of Wisconsin.
Madison is a small city in south-central Wisconsin. One of only two cities in North America situated on an isthmus (the other is Seattle), Madison is defined by its five lakes: Mendota, Monona, Wingra, Waubesa, and Kegonsa. Through a combination of factors, including the state capital and the University of Wisconsin–Madison , the city has more to offer than might be expected from a metropolitan area of about 500,000. There are many excellent restaurants, an active theater community, lots of music, and good shopping, yet Madison is just minutes from the beautiful rural countryside.
National groups and magazines rank Madison highly for being a very bike-friendly city, a great place to raise a family, having a healthy and fit population, and an overall quality of life. Madison is a melting pot of the Midwest. You'll find professionals, students, families, hippies, musicians and everything in between. It has a vibrant nightlife scene with lots of live music and pubs. It shares many qualities of other well-known college towns like Berkeley and Austin—a creative and educated population—but retains a small-town feel.
Madison's weather is typical of the Midwest: warm and humid in summer, often very cold in winter, and temperate spring and fall conditions.
Madison Welcome Center, 21 N Park St, ☎ +1 608 262-4636, . M-F 9AM-4:30PM.
From Chicago the VanGalder Bus can take you from Downtown Union Station, O'Hare, or Midway Airports to Memorial Union  on the campus of the University of Wisconsin. 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 11/17/2010 are $29/$58 to Chicago O'Hare, and $31/$62 to Chicago Midway.
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) and Minneapolis (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 at the Memorial Union 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.
Greyhound, . Service from Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and Chicago.
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 bus. You can get around much of Madison on the Metro  bus system. 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 car. On-street parking in the center of Madison - the isthmus - tends to be scarce (and permits are required in a few areas), 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).
By taxi. There are four major cab companies in Madison - Badger Cab, Green Cab, Madison Taxi, and Union Cab. Taxis operate on an appointment-only basis, so be sure to call at least 15-20 minutes before you need a ride (allow for more time during busy periods or inclement weather). Hailing a taxi in Madison is extremely uncommon, and is only worth attempting late on weekend nights when the dispatchers are too busy with the bar crowds to bother with appointments. With most of the cab companies you can also make a reservation for a specific time by calling at least 24 hours in advance - this is highly advisable if you are going to take a cab to the airport.
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.
Monona Terrace, 1 John Nolen Dr, ☎ +1 608 261-4000 (email@example.com, fax: +1 608 261-4049), . 8AM-5PM daily. From the roof of Monona Terrace, one can see views of downtown Madison, including the Capitol and a panoramic view of Lake Monona. There are weekly events during the summer, including Dane Dances, concerts on the rooftop, and free Tai Chi.
State Street — the core of the city is State Street, which extends from the Capitol Building west to the UW campus. This is the center of activity in Madison and is a must-visit. You will find unique shops, restaurants, bars, sidewalk cafes, coffee houses, museums, and an array of street performers. State Street is well-known for its yearly Halloween celebration, called "Freakfest". Maxwell Street Days is held on State Street the third weekend of July each year.
Monroe Street Cute, colorful, and catered to near-west Yuppies. Most of the businesses on Monroe are concentrated near Regent Street just past Camp Randall Stadium, and it includes unique curiosities such as a flatbread pizza shop, an oriental rug outlet, a Belgian restaurant, and a store that specializes in home brewing & winery materials.
Willy Street The center of the free-spirited hippie neighborhoods of Madison's near east side. Williamson Street, affectionately referred to by locals as "Willy Street," is home to several co-ops, dive bars, and head shops. Some of the best restaurants in Madison are located past the Yahara River, where Williamson turns into Winnebago Street and intersects with Atwood.
East Johnson Street This up-and-coming neighborhood contains a small selection of cheap, high-quality shops and cafés that will give the average Madison hipster wet dreams. Everything of interest is concentrated between Brearly and Blount streets.
Henry Vilas Zoo, 702 S Randall Ave, +1 608 266-4732, . Every day, excepting holidays, 9:30AM-5PM. Founded over a century ago, this is one of the few free zoos left in the country. The zoo houses over 40 species within its 30-acre grounds, and additional attractions include a zoo train, carousel and a children's play area complete with tree house.
Olbrich Botanical Gardens, 3330 Atwood Ave, +1 608 246-4550 (fax +1 608 246-4719), . These sixteen free outdoor gardens have many ponds and greens, as well as the only Thai Pavilion in the continental United States. There is a $1 fee to enter the conservatory, which houses over 650 exotics and tropicals.
UW Arboretum, 1207 Seminole Hwy, +1 608 263 7888, . A massive, man-made nature reserve that has been carefully planned out with several different types of forests and plant species. Excellent for bike rides, birdwatching, cross-country skiing, and long walks.
Wisconsin State Capitol — the current State Capitol Building, modeled after the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., was finished in 1912 after the previous Capitol Building burned down. Its dome is one of the largest in the world in terms of volume. The mural under the dome is actually hanging from the top. Tours leave many times a day, always at the top of the hour at certain hours and tour the Senate, Assembly, Hearing Room, and Governor's Cabinet Room. There is also an observation deck 90 feet up open Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Governor's Mansion, ; The mansion of the governor of the state of Wisconsin is located in nearby Maple Bluff, right on Lake Mendota. Tours are offered most afternoons.
Wisconsin Veterans Museum, 30 W Mifflin St, ☎ +1 608 267-1799, . Chronicles the sacrifices made by Wisconsin Veterans from the American Civil War to the present day. The 20th Century gallery of the museum includes full-size replicas of a WWI Sopwith Camel biplane and a P-51 Mustang, as well as an authentic Huey Helicopter.
Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, 227 State St, ☎ +1 608 257-0158, . A unique three-story collection of works created by artists based in Madison and beyond, containing many interactive exhibits and free tours which you can listen to on your cell phone. The fourth floor houses an upscale restaurant and bar, and offers a magnificent view of State Street.Free.
Chazen Museum of Art, 800 University Ave, ☎ +1 608 263-2246, . A classic art exhibit inside the University of Wisconsin's art school, containing several different sections ranging from ancient sculptures to modern-day photography. The exhibits are changed regularly, the museum is quiet and uncrowded, and admission is free.Free.
Madison Children's Museum, 100 N Hamilton St, ☎ +1 608 256 6445, . A new and award-winning children's museum located right next to the State Capitol. The whimsical and mind-bending interactive exhibits will delight both adults and children alike.$7.95.
Overture Center, 501 State St, +1 608 258-4177 . This venue is home to Madison's most prominent performing arts organizations, including the Madison Ballet, Opera, Symphony, Repertory Theater, and Children's Theater. The facilities also include the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, and galleries housing work by local visual artists. The building itself is gorgeous - the rooftop garden is particularly impressive - and well worth a stop as one meanders down State street. Private tours are available.
Token Creek Chamber Music Festival, . An annual festival held every August featuring great classical music in an intimate, rural setting.
Great Taste of the Midwest, 1156 Olin-Turville Court, . This beer festival, put on by the Madison Homebrewers and Tasters Guild, is one of the biggest in the nation, with over one hundred brewpubs and microbreweries in attendance, and over 5,000 guests. The number of tickets is limited, and the popularity of this event means that they typically sell out within days.
Concerts on the Square, . This very popular weekly summer concert series by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra is held on the grounds of the State Capitol. Attendees sit on the lawn around the building, and most people bring a blanket to spread on the ground and picnic foods to eat.Free.
Rhythm and Booms, Warner Park, . Saturday before 4th of July. This Independence Day celebration includes food, music, children's events, carnival rides, and other activities, culminating at dusk with the Midwest's largest fireworks display, timed to music broadcast by a local radio station.
Mifflin Street Block Party. A massive student-run block party held on the first Saturday of every May. Several blocks of West Mifflin Street are cordoned off for drinking, music, and food in what is one of the largest public gatherings in the country. Keep an eye out for overzealous policemen - read the stay safe section for more information.Free.
Taste of Madison, Capitol Square, . Held Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day weekend. Showcases many local restaurants, in addition to beverage stands and 3 entertainment stages. Participating restaurants sell a vast variety of unique and traditional dishes in small portions - one of their advertising taglines is that nothing costs over $4. No admission fee.
Dane County Farmer's Market, . Runs year-round, outdoors from April to November, indoors from November to April. Outdoor market located on Capitol Square on Saturdays, on Martin Luther King Jr Blvd on Wednesdays. Indoor market located at Monona Terrace before Christmas/New Year's Day, at Madison Senior Center after the holidays. The largest producer-only farmers’ market in the country. All items are produced locally by the vendor running the stand. No admission fee.
Ironman Wisconsin Triathlon, . Held the Sunday following Labor Day Weekend. Start/finish area located downtown at Monona Terrace and Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. Swimming in Lake Monona (with excellent views from Monona Terrace rooftop). Cycling and marathon held on streets of Madison and roads of Dane County. No admission fee.
Wisconsin Badgers, Multiple Venues on the UW Campus, ☎ +1 608 262-1866 for general info; 1.800.GO.BADGERS for ticket info, . University of Wisconsin intercollegiate athletic program fields teams in 23 NCAA Division I men's and women's sports. Fields highly competitive teams in football, men's and women's basketball, men's and women's ice hockey and women's volleyball. Football and men's basketball sellout and tickets can be very difficult to obtain, but tickets for other sports can be readily available, often at low prices.
Art Fair On The Square, Captiol Square, . Held second weekend of July. Features works for sale by more than 400 exhibiting artists. Mixed media, ceramics, drawings, graphics, prints, fiber, leather, furniture, glass, jewelry, metal, paintings, photographs, sculpture, 3D mixed media, and wood. Artists from all over the United States apply to exhibit and sell their works. Organized by Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. No admission fee.
Art Fair Off The Square, Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, . Held concurrent and adjacent to Art Fair On The Square on second weekend of July, but features only Wisconsin artists. More than 100 exhibitors each year. No admission fee.
Madison Mallards, The Duck Pond at Warner Park; 2920 N Sherman Ave, ☎ +1 608 246-4277, . Collegiate summer baseball team that is part of the Northwoods League. A number of Mallards have gone on to play in the Major Leagues. Tip: If you catch a foul ball, return it and get a free hot dog.
University of Wisconsin-Madison, +1 608 263-2400 . Located in the center of town, the university has been in operation since 1848, with more than 41,000 students enrolled each year.
Edgewood College, 1000 Edgewood College Dr, +1 800 444-4861 . Located on Lake Wingra near the UW-Madison Arboretum, Edgewood College is a small, Catholic, liberal arts college.
Madison Area Technical College, 3550 Anderson St, +1 608 246-6100 . MATC has several campuses in Madison and surrounding communities and offers a variety of two-year programs as well as non-credit courses.
Madison Public Library, . All Madison public libraries offer free wireless internet access. Computers with internet access are also available, but time limits may vary.
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.
East Towne Mall, +1 608 244-1387 . M-Sa 10AM-9PM, Su 11AM-6PM. A standard shopping mall on the east side of Madison, not far from I-39/I-90/I-94.
West Towne Mall, +1 608 833-6330 . M-Sa 10AM-9PM, Su 11AM-6PM. A standard shopping mall on the west side of Madison.
Madcity Music Exchange, 600 Williamson St, +1 608 251-8558 . M-F 11AM-7PM, Sa 10AM-5PM, Su 12PM-5PM. An independent music store featuring a very large selection of new and used vinyl records. A diverse selection of new and used CDs are also on hand for a healthy sized non-vinyl inventory.
Hilldale Mall, 702 N Midvale Blvd (Right off University and Midvale), . M-Sa 10-9, Su 11-6. Lots of independent stores, Morgan's Shoes, Playthings, Fair Indigo, etc. Also has some bigger more well known stores; Macy's, Anthropology, The North Face, Bath and Body Works. Has a grocery store, and also one of Robert Redford's Sundance Cinemas . Many restaurants, sit-down or to-go. Also nail and hair salons are present. Very nice, upper-scale mall.
WILLY Tech Shop (Madison's Original MacShop), 804 Williamson St, ☎ +1 608 270-4444, . M-F 10-6, Sat 10-3. Madison’s independent, locally-owned, full-service technology resource offering sales, service & training. Features a great selection of tech products including their own unique "ECO shop" of green tech products, local artists products, used Macs, iPods & more. Very warm and welcoming as the tech shop where everybody knows your name. Be sure to "say hi" to their very popular store mascot "iFish" when visiting.
Madison is said to have the highest "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.
Food Carts, Library Mall (at the end of State St, away from the Capitol). Look out for food carts, some of Madison's best sources for a quick bite, clustered at the end of State Street near Memorial Library from spring to fall. Buraka and Jamerica are excellent, and don't miss Loose Juice smoothies! $5-6 lunch with a view of the lake within a 2 minute walk. There are also a growing number of food carts on and near Capitol Square.
Nam's Noodles, 1336 Regent St, +1 608 287-0475. Excellent Chinese food located close to the University. Their "Nam's Fried Rice" is outstanding. Sit-down or take-out, no delivery.
Vientiane Palace, 151 W Gorham St, +1 608 255-2848. Just off of State Street, the best Lao-Thai food in town. Great curries and noodle dishes.
Ian's Pizza, 319 N Frances St and 100 State St, +1 608 257-0597 . Campus favorite with a gourmet twist and locally sourced ingredients. Excellent New York-sized pizza by the slice, featuring old standards like pepperoni and new variations like mac and cheese (don't knock it until you've tried it -- it's the top seller!), Black Bean Feta Avocado and Steak 'n' Fries. Daily and monthly specials served by the most charming staff in town.
Mediterranean Cafe, 625 State St. This narrow room is a Madison gem and a favorite with the university crowd. Great Middle Eastern food, such as shwarma (similar to gyros) and felafel (fried chickpeas). Almost always busy, but it moves fast. Cheap prices, but only accepts cash.
Roman Candle Pizza, 1054 Williamson St, +1 608 258-2000 and other locations at 2685 Research Park Dr., 1920 Parmenter St.  There's plenty of good pizza in this town, but the pizza-by-the-slice here is out of this world. Pair it with their roasted red pepper soup and you can't go wrong.
Mickies Dairy Bar, 1511 Monroe St, +1 608 256-9476. A classic diner close to the University, and right across from the football stadium. It has arguably the best shakes in town. If you think you can eat a lot, try the scrambler. Be aware, it is cash only and is always packed full of people on game day.
Greenbush Bakery, 1305 Regent St, +1 608 257-1151. Excellent doughnuts, which just happen to be kosher. Must try the cream filled doughnuts, and the apple fritters are literally big enough to feed the whole family.
Madison Sourdough Bread Company, 916 Williamson St, +1 608 442-8009 . M-Sa 6:30AM-5PM, Su 8:0AM-5PM. Breakfast and lunch are served until 2:30PM daily. Excellent, fresh sourdough bread can be found here. Try their baguette - artisanal bread at its best. It can be found at some local grocery stores, including Willy Street Co-op .
Bluephie's Restaurant and Vodkatorium, 2701 Monroe St, +1 608 231-3663. Unorthodox "New American" food. The Salmon BLT is hard to beat!
Ella's Deli, 2902 E Washington Ave, +1 608 241-5291 . Su-Th 10AM-10PM, F-Sa 10AM-11PM. A great place to take kids, and adults will have fun too. The entire restaurant is decorated with animated toys, and about half of the tables have glass tops that allow you to look at interesting things, including a running model train and a baseball card collection. Their ice cream is excellent, their pastrami is unbeatable, and it's all kosher. Sandwich sizes are often smaller than one would expect from a kosher-style deli.
Greenbush Bar, 914 Regent St, +1 608 257-2874. In a town of many great pizza places, this is one of the best thin-crispy-crust pizzas you'll find. It's located in the basement of the Italian Workman's Club building in what was Greenbush, Madison's (sadly) long-gone Italian district.
Himal Chuli, 318 State St (on State St 300 block). Excellent Nepalese food, cozy atmosphere. Some of the most delicious food in Madison and you always feel good after you have eaten here because it is healthy as well. Try the momochas or anything else.
Glass Nickel Pizza, 5003 University Ave, +1 608 333-4845 and other locations at 2916 Atwood Ave. and 3191 Muir Field Road.  On the corner of Whitney way and University Ave. Madison's favorite and multiple award winning pizza, Glass Nickel. A large menu to choose from including: Pizza, salads, pasta, and numerous appetizers. The fetalicious is a Madison favorite.
Eldorado Grill, 744 Williamson St, ☎ +1 608 280-9378, . Great southwestern food and drinks. Recommend the pan-seared tenderloin with chipotle blue butter and a margarita.
The Green Owl Cafe, 1970 Atwood Ave, ☎ +1 608 285-5290, . M-Th 11AM-9PM, F-Sa 11AM-10PM, Su 11AM-3PM. Vegetarian cuisine created by chef/proprietor Jennie Capellaro.$5-12.
Umami Ramen & Dumpling Bar (Umami), 923 Williamson St (btw Paterson & Brearly), ☎ +1 608 819-6319, . M-Th 5PM-10PM, F-Sa 5PM-11PM, Su 5PM-9PM. Authentic Japanese ramen and Chinese dumplings, including pork buns and other Asian comfort foods. Vegetarian friendly.$7-15.
L'Etoile, 1 S Pinckney St, +1 608 251-0500 . Open M-Th at 6PM, F at 5:30PM, Sa at 5PM. Nationally-acclaimed restaurant focusing on locally grown ingredients, often found at the Farmer's Market. While pricey, it is worth it. Make reservations in advance.
Harvest Restaurant, 21 N Pinckney St, +1 608 255-6075 . M-Th 5:30PM-close, F-Sa 5PM-close. Located next door to L'Etoile, it is nearly as good and more likely to offer a reservation on the same day.
Tornado Club Steak House, 116 S Hamilton St, +1 608 256-3570 . American-style steak house that also serves excellent cocktails. Not cheap, but offers late-night dining.
Samba Brazilian Grill, 240 W Gilman St, ☎ +1 608 257-1111, . Located just off of State Street, Samba delivers table-side meat service, in the churrascaria fashion, and a massive gourmet salad bar. Rather pricey for Madison, but it is all-you-can eat. Pace yourself and practice self-control!$40.
Bars, Brewpubs, and Burgers
Madison is well-known for upholding the Wisconsin "supper club" tradition, offering a variety of German-inspired establishments that serve top-notch American food during the day, convert into bars late at night, and give you an absolutely unrivaled selection of beer regardless of whether it's 10AM or 1AM.
The Old Fashioned, 23 N Pinckney St, +1 608 310-4545. Right on the Square, with a great view of the Capitol, this newer favorite serves supper club fare with a slightly upscale bent in a warm, lively atmosphere. From deep-fried cheese curds to artisanal cheese plates, from pickled eggs to Nueske's bacon and natural-casing bratwurst, this is the perfect place to go before a performance nearby. Busy, but well worth it. The Old Fashioned also has one of the largest beer menus you will ever see. Do not miss the fried cheese curds - they are widely regarded as the best in town. They also have a great Saturday brunch.
The Essen Haus, 514 E Wilson St, ☎ +1 608 255-4674, . Great beer, great atmosphere - and the perfect example of the thriving German culture in Madison. With live Oompah music nightly, you'll be drinking all of your beer from a boot from now on!$.
Great Dane Brew Pub, 3 Locations: 123 E Doty St (downtown), 357 Price Pl (next to Hilldale Mall on the near-west side) and 2980 Cahill Main (near the intersection of Fish Hatchery and County PD in Fitchburg). A very large selection of hand-crafted microbrews and excellent food, including fresh-baked pretzels and several vegetarian selections; each location has similar menus with subtle tweaks and different atmospheres.
Dotty Dumpling's Dowry, 317 N Frances St, ☎ +1 608 285-5290, . M-W 11AM-11PM, Th-Sa 11AM-1AM, Su 12PM-10PM. If you're looking for a good burger in Madison, this is the place to be. Dotty's unarguably serves one of the best burgers in Madison, if not the very best.$8-15.
Brickhouse BBQ, 408 W Gorham St, ☎ +1 608 257-7675, . Features in-house smoked meats, sandwiches, and daily specials. 40 micro-brewed beers on tap which rotate often—the largest tap line-up in Madison! A rather fancy interior for a BBQ joint, but provides a very pleasant atmosphere.$5-$16.
Village Bar, 3901 Mineral Point Rd, across the street from the Glenway Golf Course. This friendly neighborhood bar dates back over 65 years when Westmorland was a village outside the City of Madison. The fried summer sausage sandwiches are great.
The Avenue Bar, 1128 E Washington Ave. Frequent favorite on the local "fish fry" scene, with excellent deep fried cod and a new special each night of the week. The bar's not bad either, and Monday nights feature live polka music.
The Weary Traveler, 1201 Williamson St, +1 608 442-6207. A decent local bar/restaurant consistently packed with friendly locals from the Willy St Neighborhood. The service can be a bit slow, but the food is great. Don't forget to try their specialty: the Bad Breath Burger.
The Esquire Club, 1025 N Sherman Ave, +1 608 249-0193. Another fabulous all-you-can-eat Friday fish fry place with a great Wisconsin supper-club atmosphere. Very busy on Friday nights, so you may want to make a reservation and/or plan to hang out in the bar for a while.
Ancora Coffee Roaster. Four locations around town that feature excellent coffee. Try the fabulous white coffee.
Victor Allen's Coffee. Several locations around town; another popular local coffee roaster.
Steep & Brew Coffee, State St. Two Madison locations, including one on State Street. Excellent selection of delicious coffees and teas.
Michelangelo's Coffee House, 114 State St, +1 608 251-5299. Every day 7AM-11PM. Sandwiches, pastries, coffee and other drinks make up the menu at this comfy downtown meeting and reading spot.
Plan B, 918 Williamson St, . 7PM-close. A gay-friendly bar in one of Madison´s most progressive neighborhoods. European-style dance club with great lights, sound system, and lots of cool, open-minded people. Great place to go and dance all night long. 18 & up on Thursday nights. Weekends are definitely the best time to go.$4 rails, $4 beers.
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.
Clarion Suites at the Alliant Energy Center, 2110 Rimrock Road, +1 608-284-1234,  140-room all suite hotel connected to the Exhibition Hall of the Alliant Energy Center. Offers complimentary breakfast, social hour, pool & whirlpool, wireless Internet and airport shuttle. Gold Award Winning Hotel is a short drive to downtown.
Concourse Hotel, 1 W Dayton St, +1 800 356-8293, . Larger, nicer hotel located one block from the Capitol Square and one block from the Overture Center from the Performing Arts.
Doubletree Madison, . Formerly the Howard Johnson, this smaller hotel is located 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 located 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, . Complimenting 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 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 located 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, . Located 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 located 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.
Baymont Inn & Suites Madison West, 8102 Excelsior Dr, +1 608 831-7711 . Situated in the growing west side business district. Free high speed internet, breakfast and more. Kids stay free and will enjoy the huge indoor pool, whirlpool and game room.
Comfort Suites Madison West Hotel, 1253 John Q Hammons Dr, +1 608 836-3033 . Gold award winning all-suite hotel. Features a cocktail lounge, indoor pool, whirlpool, oversized suites and free breakfast. Two-story suites and whirlpool suites available. Walking distance to Greenway Station Shopping Center.
Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Madison West, 1109 Fourier Dr, +1 608 826-0500 . Home to Crawdaddy Cove Indoor Water Park, this hotel is ideal for family fun. Water Park passes are included with your room.
GrandStay-Madison, 5317 High Crossing Blvd, +1 608 241-2500  Suites for business travel or family vacations that combine luxury with the comforts of home.
Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel, 3841 E Washington Ave, ☎ +1 608 244-2481, . checkin: 3PM; checkout: 11AM. Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel in Madison Wisconsin is located near Madison’s Regional Dane County Airport, on the far East side of town. It is on East Washington Avenue near the intersection of Wisconsin’s Interstates 39, 90, and 94. Nearby towns include Middleton, Verona, Sun Prarie, and Cambridge Wisconsin.
Hampton Inn & Suites Madison West, 483 Commerce Dr, +1 608 271 0200 . Complimentary On The House Hot Breakfast, Free Hi-speed Internet access, enhanced indoor pool area, whirlpool, fitness center and 100% Unconditional Satisfaction Guarantee.
Magnuson Grand Hotel Madison, 3510 Mill Pond Rd, ☎ +1 877 747-8713, . The Magnuson Grand Hotel is conveniently located near Interstates 90/94/39. 100 room, 4 floors, pet friendly hotel and a short drive to many local points of interest.
Bed and Breakfasts/Specialty Lodging
Arbor House, 3402 Monroe St, +1 608 238-2981, . A specialty inn with an environmental emphasis visible in its sustainable construction, renewable resources, native gardens, natural linens and fresh food.
Mansion Hill Inn, 424 N Pinckney St, +1 800 798-9070, . Madison's only AAA Four Diamond property, this Victorian bed and breakfast is located about five blocks up the street from the Capitol and ten blocks from the university.
HI-Madison Hostel, 141 S Butler St, +1 608 441-0144, . Part of Hostelling International, this small hostel is located two blocks to the east of the Capitol Square. Closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day.
Countryside Apartments, 2801 Coventry Trail, +1 608 271-0101 . Short-term housing in apartments with one to three bedrooms. They also provide rental cars.
Overall, Madison is a very safe city. However, as with all cities, be cautious at all times and pay attention to your surroundings. The downtown area is well populated and fairly well lit. South Madison is considered to be the "bad" part of town, and has a higher crime rate than the rest of the city. The areas that are recommended to avoid at night are isolated bike paths/alleys, Allied Drive, Badger Road, South Park Street (South of Regent Street)and also Britta Drive, Britta Parkway and Helene Parkway in the Dunn's Marsh Neighborhood. Bright red emergency markers are posted around campus and the Lakeshore Path; press the button and the police should show up very quickly.
The Madison police are generally lax on drinking and rowdiness. However, they significantly step up enforcement during the weekends of Halloween and the Mifflin Street Block Party, and have even brought in riot police to disperse nonviolent crowds. Hundreds of arrests are made every year during these two events. The police will not hesitate to arrest you for extremely minor offenses - the most common being underage drinking, open containers in public, and public urination. Do not urinate in public under any circumstances (the police check alleys and corners for this specifically), and if you're underage, don't get obscenely drunk and call any attention to yourself. During Mifflin, make sure you drink only on private property; the police will immediately arrest anyone who attempts to walk down the sidewalk or cross the street with an open container. Out-of-towners make up a significant portion of the arrested every year, and the city responds by clamping down on the students - don't ruin Madison for the rest of us! Be advised that crimes do occur during the Mifflin Block Party. In 2011, there were two stabbings. Robberies, assaults and sexual assaults have also occurred in past years.
A tip to motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists: Each should always be on the look out for the other two. This is especially true downtown and in the area of the UW campus. Cars racing through red lights as they change, pedestrians crossing streets in the middle of the block with traffic present, and bicycles running red lights and weaving in and out of traffic are all commonplace, along with a number of other similar behaviors. Also, pedestrians on and near the UW campus should always be on the look out for students driving mopeds and scooters on sidewalks; even though this is illegal in the City of Madison it is quite common.
Cedar Grove Cheese, . A fun dairy about 30 miles west of Madison. One of the oldest dairies in the area, they make excellent cheese and purify their own water using a living machine.
Devil's Lake, . The most popular of Wisconsin's state parks, Devil's Lake is about an hour northwest of Madison, south of Baraboo. It includes miles of hiking trails, some of them on bluffs of moraine overlooking the lake, created 10,000 years ago by the leading edge of the Wisconsin glacier. The park has two pleasant beaches, and you can hike, bike, boat, swim, climb, hunt, or fish. Gets crowded in the summer.
Dr. Evermore's Forevertron, . An impressive junkyard sculpture garden, about 20 miles north of town. Fantastical animals, futuristic devices and creepy bugs all made out of rusting scrap metal.
Mustard Museum, . Located in Middleton, WI, just outside of Madison, they sell over 800 varieties of mustard, all of which you can sample, and have more than 4,100 varities on display. 7477 Hubbard Ave Middleton, WI 53562. Open 10-5 daily.
New Glarus Brewing Company, . An excellent brewery only 45 minutes from Madison in the very quaint Swiss town of New Glarus .
Prairie du Sac hosts the annual Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throw every Labor Day Weekend.
Spring Green is home to a pair of architectural wonders: the House on the Rock, one of the weirdest museums you'll ever see, and Taliesin, the family home and architectural school founded by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. It's about 45 minutes west of Madison.
Stoughton is famous for its Syttende Mai festival commemorating the Norwegian Constitution Day on May 17. Also home to Victorian Holiday in December the Stoughton Fair in July.
Ten Chimneys, . Located 60 miles east of Madison in Genesee Depot. Ten Chimneys is the estate lovingly created by Broadway legends Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. Guests enjoy an excellent barrier-free, docent-led tour of the National Historic Landmark. Tours May through mid-Nov, Tu-Sa, rain or shine.