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The 8 Best Things to Do in Madison, WI

When you think Wisconsin, you probably think cheese curds and Packers football. Though Madison has all the cheese curds you can eat, its also home to countless adventures you never saw coming. Everyone will find something to love in Madison, from the summer camp-inspired bar on Graduate Madison’s rooftop to the unique experiences on the University of Wisconsin campus and off.

Whether you’re a UW-Madison grad reliving your glory days or a visitor in search of Madison’s midwestern spirit, take on the town with our eight favorite things to do, see, and eat.

1

The Old Fashioned

As the name suggests, The Old Fashioned keeps it old-school through dishes like fried cheese curds, haystack onion strings, and, you guessed it, a killer old fashioned. This Madison favorite is known for their laid-back take on Wisconsin fare, from potato chips drenched in Wisconsin cheese sauce, chicken-fried steak, and poutine with a creamy sausage gravy. 

Though The Old Fashioned is as local as it gets, they invite other flavors onto their menu. Stop by for their daily fish fry to order off of the Amelia’s Cocina menu, old-world Mexican favorites cooked up by one of the restaurant’s long-time chefs.

Insider Tip

The house-made fresh Wisconsin beer battered cheese curds were voted Wisconsin’s Best Cheese Curds!

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an old fashioned
2

Heritage Tavern

Sip on hand-crafted cocktails just one block off Madison’s historic Capitol Square. Though Capitol Square is the seat of Wisconsin-state government, neighboring Heritage Tavern is a place to cut loose. Their farm-to-table food and relaxed atmosphere make for a memorable dining experience, whether that’s for the thoughtful dishes or dark-stained wooden bar. 

Dine in at the cozy eatery or take their culinary creations to go, be that for a picnic at the Capitol or a night in at Graduate Richmond.

Insider Tip

Creations range from pub-style sandwiches to elaborate spreads, like the broken-down whole rabbit and lobster dish, served family-style on a rustic wooden board.

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3

Overture Center for the Arts

Treat yourself to a night out at the theater. The Overture Center for the Arts is Madison’s answer to Broadway, welcoming everything from award-winning musicals to stand-up comedy. Sit back and watch the more than 700,000 arts and educational experiences the center hosts each year, some of which swing by from around the country, others of which are put on by ten resident companies. 

Though the shows are awe-inspiring, the theater itself is equally swoon-worthy. The Overture Center for the Arts opened in 2004 and features several theaters including the beloved Capitol Theater. Capitol Theater brings with it almost 100 years of Madison history and is an icon in Madison’s arts district. 

Insider Tip

Check out their 2021-2022 Broadway at Overture series, including Fiddler on the Roof, Mean Girls, Hairspray, Dear Evan Hansen and Hamilton.

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Auditoreum
4

Madison Children’s Museum

Curious minds will meet their match at Madison Children’s Museum. This colorful and engaging museum features exciting educational experiences ranging from permanent exhibits to rotating programming, all of which emphasize sustainability. 

Bring the kids to wander the Wonderground outdoor play space, learn about architecture by walking in the footsteps of Frank Lloyd Wright, or get up close to the composting process at the Urb Garden.

Insider Tip

Looking for an activity to do with the kids? The Bakke Art Studio is all kids need to create their newest masterpiece, featuring pieces made by local kiddos and activities like drawing, weaving and sculpting.

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5

Memorial Union Terrace

Students gather at the Memorial Union Terrace. Sun-burst chairs and lake views create the perfect backdrop for summer hangs, whether that’s settling in for an outdoor film or digging into some campus-favorite foods. Though the chairs may be the most iconic part of the Terrace, the experience is also unique to the University of Wisconsin. 

Order a meal and soak up the sun or attend one of their live events. Alumni and campus newcomers alike will enjoy this UW-Madison staple.

Insider Tip

The Terrace Shop is the only place you’ll find the iconic Terrace chairs & furniture.  All proceeds support the Wisconsin Union & our student-led events & activities.

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6

Little Luxuries

For 30 years, Little Luxuries has welcomed Madison visitors and locals alike to emphasize the little things. Their little luxuries range from cookbooks to candles to handbags, all of which have the power to liven up any outfit or living space. Peruse the shop’s packaged shelves to discover new favorite wares, then bring something home to remember your time in Madison. 

Owner Amy Moore is also an interior designer, and her experience shows through in the thoughtful home goods. If you’re on a stroll down State Street, don’t forget to pop in and see what gifts and goods they have in store.

Insider Tip

In town for a celebration? Shop their Wisconsin Maker’s Set gift box, featuring local artisans, and give the gift of local.

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7

Madison Modern Market

Madison Modern Market is your go-to for thoughtful and of-the-moment lifestyle goods. Hats, mugs, macrame plant hangers, and more line the shelves at Madison Modern Market. Their carefully-curated selection has something for everyone, so you’ll be hard-pressed to leave empty-handed. 

Remember your trip with an illustrated map of Madison, or detail your trip in a luxurious journal. Whatever your tastes, you’re sure to find something to love at Madison Modern Market.

Insider Tip

Embrace your star sign with unique fragrances from Monroe-based Zodica Perfumery. They also carry their Eau de Wisconsin fragrance!

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8

Fromagination

As the name implies, Fromagination is all about cheese. Their name plays on the French word for cheese, “fromage,” just like the store plays out your biggest cheese dreams. Shop 60 artisanal Wisconsin cheeses and the sides that go with them, from crackers to cocktail syrup to rich, local chocolates. 

Fromagination isn’t just a place to buy cheese, but also a place to learn about it. Take a peek into charcuterie board making, the secrets of beer cheese, and all the tips you’ll ever need to entertain with cheese. Whichever class you take, we dare you to leave without a block of five-year-aged cheddar, moody blue, and more. 

Insider Tip

Take a class online like Charcuterie, Cheese and Chocolate, Fondue at Home, or Cheese & Beer! 

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