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Madison WI - Overview
Picture in your mind’s eye
two pure blue, clean and clear glacial lakes surrounded by rolling hills.
Fill in the picture with a charming Wisconsin city bustling with people who are
eager to welcome visitors and to share this idyllic scene, and you will be
envisioning Madison, Wisconsin.
Much of the activity in
Madison centers upon the 18,000 acres of lake surface within or just outside the
city limits. The heart of Madison is built on an isthmus that divides Lake
Mendota and Lake Monona. From the state capitol, which is surrounded by a huge
plaza called Capitol Square, several major streets radiate outward like spokes
on a wheel. One of those streets, State Street, is closed to traffic, except for
a few buses. On this pleasant oasis, many of the city's best museums, shops and
restaurants are located. This area adjoins the campus of the University of
The university occupies much
of the isthmus west of Capitol Square. Mansion Hill is a historic neighborhood
of grand limestone houses north of the Square near Lake Mendota. The upscale
Marquette neighborhood is east of the Square.
Consistently ranked among the best places to live in the U.S. by national
magazines, Madison's population is growing about twice as fast as the rest of
the US. Madison is a great area for bicycling, cross-country skiing and other
outdoor activities. It is a lively city with a progressive attitude and a deep
respect for culture and education. Many who come to Madison to study at the
University never leave.
A visit to Madison in the
summer is delightful. The weather is balmy and the Farmers Market has a
wonderful collection of colors, smells and tastes. Capitol Square, where
hundreds of vendors set up stalls every Saturday, is really the center of town
and a good place to start a tour. The white-domed capitol building contains
delicately crafted glass mosaics and is surrounded by well-tended gardens.
Moving along State Street toward the UW campus, there is the Veterans Museum,
and also the Children's Museum with hands-on activities for the whole family.
The Madison Art Center displays the latest in modern art.
Other fine museums nearby
include the Elvehjem Museum of Art and the Geology Museum, which displays the
skeleton of a mastodon that roamed Wisconsin during the Ice Age. The Babcock
Hall Dairy on campus has demonstrations of cheese and ice cream preparation
(and samples of the products.) The university's arboretum has more than 20 miles
of marked trails that are open year-round for biking, walking and cross-country
skiing. A walk or drive around the campus area always rewards you with its
Away from campus, visit the
Olbrich Botanical Gardens, and stroll through the specialty gardens, as well as
a conservatory that contains a rain-forest habitat. Another interesting stop,
especially for children, is the Henry Vilas Zoo. Children can ride a camel
there on Sunday morning.
Madison has several
buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright including Monona Terrace Community and
Convention Center, which is called a new Wright building because the
exterior was designed by Wright in 1938 but wasn't built until 1997. Wright's
Unitarian Meeting House, built between 1947 and 1951 under his direct
supervision, is open for tours in season.
Madison summers are short
but are exceptionally beautiful. Weekly outdoor performances by the Wisconsin
Chamber Orchestra and the Mad City Water Ski Team, along with a full roster of
festivals celebrating everything from art to beer, make summer the busiest
season on the city's calendar. Performing-arts groups and University of
Wisconsin athletics provide outstanding entertainment the rest of the year.
Madison is truly a place for all seasons.