built in 1917.
the city hosts the world’s
largest brat fest.
Continued on page 16
Wisconsin’s free-spirited college town provides
affordable fun for all ages by MARY BERGIN
SPORTS LOVERS KNOW Madison, Wis., as the home of the University of Wisconsin’s (UW) flagship campus and sports powerhouse in the Big Ten. But here’s the complete score: The
winning, playful and progressive vibe of Wisconsin’s capital city extends
well beyond UW’s borders.
Madison routinely earns national acclaim for its high standard of living. That all began in 1948, when “The Good Life in Madison, Wisconsin”
was the featured cover story in Life magazine. The city of approximately
250,000 people is youthful (more than one-half of residents are under 30);
bike-friendly (with 200 miles of trails); and good for water lovers (with
15,000 acres of lakes).
It’s quirky, too. The plastic pink flamingo became Madison’s official
bird in 2009. Brat Fest, held during Memorial Day weekend, is
the world’s largest festival of its kind. Two UW students started
The Onion in 1988, and the then-weekly newspaper’s biting
satire is now known all over the U.S.
Capitol Square — comprised of the streets that circle the
1917 domed building, which serves the state’s government — is
the heart of Madison. It’s rich with local-centric restaurants
and events that stop traffic during summer weekends. That
includes the Dane County Farmers’ Market. It’s the largest
producer-operated market in the nation, which means that
what visitors buy is grown, raised or produced by the market’s
more than 275 vendors.
A prime view of the city can be found atop the five-story
Madison Children’s Museum. The rooftop houses chickens,
gardens and a two-headed, 3,400-pound bird sculpted from
reclaimed materials. Inside, the museum is just as offbeat: A
human-size gerbil wheel is sturdy enough for adults to take a spin.
Hourlong tours of the State Capitol, which was constructed
with 43 kinds of stone from six countries, are free and include
the sixth-floor observation deck during summer. The struc-
ture, softly lit at night, is Madison’s beacon; by city ordinance,
nothing can be built taller.
Don’t miss the funky shops, watering holes and cafes