Madison, Wisconsin is a city known for being the home of the University of Wisconsin Badgers, but we are here to tell you that it is so much more than just another college town! It is a treasure trove of culinary delights, magnificent views, and outdoor activities that make it a destination worth adding to your travel list! We had the pleasure of spending one full day experiencing Madison to the fullest, and we loved every second of it! From the amazing Hotel Indigo to the Olbrich Botanical Gardens to the gorgeous Capitol Square, Madison didn’t cease to impress! We’ve put together what we think is the perfect way to spend a day in Madison if you’re on a tight schedule like we were! Let's dive in...
*Check out our "1 Day in Madison" travel vlog for a closer look at our time there!
To get the day started, we decided to enjoy the complimentary breakfast that was included in our stay at Hotel Indigo (901 E Washington Ave), but if you’d rather get out and taste a little more of what Madison has to offer, we’ve provided you with some great options!
Side note: If you are headed to Madison and haven’t booked your accommodations yet, we highly recommend Hotel Indigo! It’s built in the old Mautz Paint Company building and they have done an excellent job of not letting that history be lost in the new incarnation of the space.
9:00 am: Coffee/Breakfast
Bradbury’s Coffee (127 N Hamilton St)
Crescendo Espresso Bar (1859 Monroe St)
Ancora (107 King St)
Monty's Blue Plate Diner (2089 Atwood Ave)
Short Stack Eatery (301 W Johnson St)
Mickies Dairy Bar (1511 Monroe St)
After getting your morning caffeine kick, you’re going to head to the award-winning Olbrich Botanical Gardens. Olbrich Botanical Gardens is a 16 acre outdoor botanical garden (FREE) and 10,000-square-foot conservatory ($2 normally, $6 when we went due the extra staff needed for re-opening) filled with beautiful plants and flowers from around the world! They even have an authentic Thai Pavilion which is the only one in the continental United States and the only one outside of Thailand surrounded by a garden. It’s a real treat that’s worth checking out!
*If botanical gardens aren't your thing, another great option would be to visit the Henry Vilas Zoo which is free as well!
10:00 am: Olbrich Botanical Gardens (3330 Atwood Ave)
After walking the 16-acre gardens, you’ve probably worked up an appetite, which is a good thing, because Madison has a plethora of delicious dining options! We ate lunch at Tex Tubb’s Taco Palace and were honestly very surprised with just how good it was! The ingredients were fresh, the portions were huge, and the service was friendly. What more can you ask?! But, if you’re not in the mood for Southwest/Mexican food, we’ve got some other options for you!
12:30 pm: Lunch
Tex Tubb’s Taco Palace (where we went) (2009 Atwood Av)
Bassett Street Brunch Club (444 W Johnson St)
Oakcrest Tavern (5371 Old Middleton Rd)
With a full belly, you’re probably in need of a little walk, and a highlight of our time in Madison was walking around the Capitol Square area just exploring the different shops that it offers. And one of those shops that is a MUST in our opinion is Fromagination! Fromagination is a proper European-style cheese shop offering over 100 different types of cheeses as well as Wine & Beer, Crackers & Preserves, Honey & Jam, and more! If all of this just sounds overwhelming, don’t worry, they have an excellent staff of cheesemongers that will help you find the perfect pairings! They also have a small basket at the register filled with what they call their “orphan cheese” which is the trimmings that were too small to put back in the case. It’s the perfect way to try a cheese without purchasing a large quantity, so take some time to dig through the basket! We found some amazingly delicious cheeses in there!
Also, Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream Co. is a great locally owned and operated creamery that has been in operation since 1962! And just in case you were wondering… You can never go wrong with “Cookies & Cream”!
2:00 pm: Explore State House area/State Street
Fromagination (cheese shop) (12 S Carroll St)
Ragstock (vintage clothing shop) (329 State St)
Little Luxuries (gift shop) (230 State St)
Anthology (gift shop) (230 State St)
Fontana Sports Specialties (outdoor sporting goods store) (216 N Henry St)
The Orpheum Theater (216 State St)
Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream Co. (468 State St)
Insomnia Cookies (462 State St)
You’re probably ready to start winding down after a busy day of exploring, which is why your next stop is at Eno Vino! Eno Vino is located on the 10th Floor of the AC Hotel right in Capitol Square and gives you the BEST views of the Capitol Building and is an excellent choice for taking in a beautiful midwest sunset while sipping on your favorite beer or cocktail!
5:30 pm: Happy Hour at Eno Vino (1 N Webster St)
You can of course stay at Eno Vino for dinner after your happy hour wind-down, but if you’d like to try another Madison eatery, there are plenty of great options! We went to DLUX because we heard that the cheese curds there were a must, and they didn’t disappoint! But if you’re looking for something more than an upscale burger joint, The Old Fashioned is an excellent option, and if you’re wanting more fine dining, Graze is your spot!
7:00 pm: Dinner
And just like that your day in Madison has come to an end! We hope that this itinerary helps you plan your next getaway to this beautiful city! Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us through social media (@AdventuresofMattandNat) if you have any questions about our time in Madison! Also, be sure to follow Visit Madison on all of their social media pages (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter) for more tips on how to make the most of your time in Madison!