I am seriously biased when it comes to Madison WI because I was born in the Emerald City, also known as "X square miles surrounded by reality." This city is jam packed with everything a Midwestern girl could want: laid back ladies, farm-to-table food, theatrical thunderstorms, tasty beer, a decent Big 10 athletic department and most importantly, the lakes. Between the Capitol, the isthmus landscape, the arboretum and the university architecture, one couldn't ask for more postcard-ready moments.
And the walkable neighborhoods of Monroe, Willy and Atwood only make life more convenient and community focused.
All of these city attributes lay the groundwork for an excellent biking city. I remember very clearly the first time I rode on two wheels in Madison in 2001. There were seemingly coral reefs of red at every intersection (also know as game day) and it was a 73 degree, fall day in late September. I had recently relocated from Athens GA to start a professional life post undergrad and I very much attribute my "coming of age" with wandering the city by bike. It was the first time I experienced the exhilaration of biking home from a bar or house party, the first time biking next to a relatively huge body of water and how that smells at night when the earth is cooling down, and the first time biking home sopping wet after a late night skinny dipping with friends at BB Clark beach. My senses are always alive when I visit Madison.
However now, with a 4 year old daughter, I have a slightly different perspective and value playgrounds, protected bikeways safe for her to bike with us and being close to a lot of family.
Regardless of age, what is most comforting about Madison are the people. Never will you meet people more down to earth and friendly, yet educated and cultured. There's a joke that Madison has the most PHDs driving taxis because no one wants to leave the standard of life.
Because of all this, Madison couldn't NOT be included in our pilot year of Bikabout and I hope that many people consider it for a vacation destination.
- Stark River Trail
Favorite Rest Stops or points of interest:
- Weary Traveler - hallmark of Willy Street neighborhood. Specialties include Bob's Bad Breath Burger and veggie options like Tom Ka Tofu and West of the Andes sandwich. Hip culture with no pretension.
- Johnson Public House - pour over coffee in a great atmosphere
- Memorial Union - only student union in the country to serve beer, much less really good beer on a scenic Lake Mendota patio with occasional live music on the weekend. Very family friendly!
- Capitol & Observation deck - the Capitol is the tallest building in Madison so the observation deck commands a brilliant 360 degree view of the city
- Olbrich Gardens - expansive Japanese, Thai and Rose gardens next to Lake Monona
- Elderado Grill - top shelf tequila and happy hour app specials
- Madison Museum of Contemporary Art - our favorite roof deck next to Fresco restaurant plays movies in the summer. The architecture is brilliant and there is even a kids wing.
- Children's Museum - indoor / outdoor museum with roofdeck. Their parking lot in the back of the building was recently converted to a Dutch style traffic garden with tricycles and more for the kids to try.
- Graze Restaurant - farm to table sourcing from the best Wisconsin has to offer in cheese, meats and beer. Try the cheese curds and sit on the patio to take in the Capitol view.
- Dane County Farmer's Market - best market in the country, period.
- Sophia's Bakery - best breakfast spot includes gluten free options.