David Abolafia

The Marvels of Madison

David Abolafia

Capital at dusk

At any time of year, visiting Madison, Wisconsin, is a capital idea. Not just because it happens to be the capital of the Badger State – also known as America’s Dairyland – but because there are so many fascinating things to see and do, that – no matter what your interests – you can pack your itinerary and have an exceptional adventure during your stay.

For example, if you like to explore museums, Madison has quite the lineup waiting for you. The Chazen Museum of Art is home to the second-largest collection of art in Wisconsin: more than 20,000 works include paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints, photographs and decorative arts. The permanent collection covers diverse historical periods, cultures, and geographic locations, from ancient Greece, Western Europe and the Soviet Empire, to Moghul India, eighteenth-century Japan, and modern Africa. The museum also presents frequent temporary exhibitions that highlight the collection or are borrowed from other museums, broadening the offerings to visitors. These temporary exhibitions may be local, national, or international, contemporary or historical in scope. The Wisconsin Veterans Museum is an educational activity of the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs to commemorate, acknowledge and affirm the role of Wisconsin citizens in American military history, past and present. The collections of the Wisconsin Historical Museum contain more than 110,000 historical objects and nearly 400,000 archaeological artifacts documenting the history of Wisconsin from prehistoric times to the present. Collections include anthropology; business and technology; costumes, textiles, and personal artifacts; domestic life; and political and military life. The University of Wisconsin-Madison Geology Museum serves both the scientific community and the public at large. In addition to the hundreds and hundreds of rocks, minerals and fossils on display, the collection contains over 120,000 geological and paleontological specimens used in education and research.

If you prefer the sporting life, Madison is definitely a “game on” kind of town. Home to the University of Wisconsin-Madison Badgers, Camp Randall Stadium is the centerpiece of the school’s athletic complex. Distinguished by its impressive double-deck structure, the stadium has been the Badgers’ facility since its opening game on November 3, 1917. Its 80,000+ capacity ranks among the nation’s largest for school-owned stadiums, making game day something to be experienced. As noted in The New York Times, “There are plenty of rowdy stadiums in college football… but perhaps no stadium rocks more than Wisconsin’s Camp Randall.” The Madison Mallards are a collegiate baseball team that plays 72 games per season in the Northwoods League, from late May through mid-August. The Mallards are one of 18 teams in the Northwoods League, a summer collegiate league that provides an opportunity for college players to display their talents to professional scouts. The team’s home field is Warner Park, on Madison’s north side. The Kohl Center is home to the University’s men’s basketball and ice hockey teams, as well as the women’s basketball team. It is the second largest indoor venue in the state and the largest outside Milwaukee. And for a little hell on wheels, there are the Mad Rollin’ Dolls, an all-women flat-track roller derby league that skates at Alliant Energy Center Exhibition Hall.


Kohl Center Trivia

The sporting arena is named after former United States Senator and Milwaukee Bucks owner Herb Kohl, who donated $25 million to the building project. Because of the donor’s first name, the arena is sometimes locally referred to as the “Herb Garden.”


If you prefer to get back to nature on your vacations, Madison provides a number of picturesque settings. At Olbrich Botanical Gardens, you can stroll 16 acres of outdoor gardens featuring stunning landscapes and Midwest-hardy plants. Visit the tropics in the Bolz Conservatory, filled with exotic plants, flowers, orchids, birds and a waterfall. The Henry Vilas Zoo serves to conserve and protect the wonders of the living natural world and to help build understanding between people and animals by promoting conservation and providing a high quality recreational and educational experience to visitors. Its attractions include a rainforest aviary, “Arctic Passage” (home to grizzly bears, polar bears and harbor seals), the Primate House, a children’s zoo and much more. The Ice Age National Scenic Trail stretches 1,200 across Wisconsin. The trail roughly follows the location of the terminal moraine (glacial accumulation) from the last Ice Age. As the route traverses the moraine, it sometimes meanders into areas west of the moraine, including the Driftless Area in southwestern Wisconsin. The trail passes through 30 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties, from the northwestern part of the state to the Lake Michigan shoreline in the east.

For a touch of history, there is the Wisconsin State Capitol, which houses both chambers of the Wisconsin legislature along with the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the Office of the Governor. Completed in 1917, the building is the fifth to serve as the Wisconsin capitol since the first territorial legislature convened during 1836 and the third building since Wisconsin was granted statehood during 1848. It is the tallest building in Madison, a distinction that is preserved by city legislation. The Unitarian Meeting House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, was commissioned by the First Unitarian Society in 1946. It is recognized as one of the world’s most innovative examples of church architecture. In 1960, the American Institute of Architects designated it one of 17 buildings to be retained as an example of Wright’s contribution to American culture. The Meeting House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, and in August 2004 it was officially declared a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service.


Madison Trivia

On the TV show “The West Wing,” Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford) often made fun of his senior assistant, Donna Moss (Janel Moloney), for being from Wisconsin. Whitford himself was born in Madison.


And if you like to eat your way across your travel destinations, consider these delicious departures: If you’re hungry for good food and knowledge, Madison Food Explorers take you on a walking culinary tour of Madison’s savory neighborhoods. Discover hidden Madison restaurants, taste local, fresh Madison food and learn about Madison’s history, architecture and culture. Each tour includes meal-like portions. Madison Eats brings you the very best in Madison’s local food scene by sharing a passion for great food and supporting Madison’s  local producers through restaurant tours and food-focused events. Check out the Foodie Fridays! Tour, or a B-Cycle Brunch Tour. Finally, for a sweet finish, head over to Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier. This confectionary turns out deliciously exotic hand-crafted fine chocolates inspired by the finest single-origin chocolates, freshest ingredients and the mood of the maker!

To plan your trip to Madison, or any other terrific place you might imagine, give us a call at (888) 269-0182 Mon-Fri 9am to 5pm.

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