Referred to as the Seattle of the Midwest, Madison, Wisconsin has more than football to offer the unassuming visitor. A handful of lakes, beautiful countryside, and a plethora of good eats are just a few of its charms. Not to mention great beer and friendly people to boot. Should you find yourself staying a weekend in Madison, Wisconsin during the summer months, make sure that you take part in at least one of the many activities available to both locals and visiting tourists alike. Here are some weekend things to do in Madison, Wisconsin.
Things to Do in Madison on a Weekend
Watch the Sunset at Memorial Union Terrace
Chill out with your friends and family at Memorial Union Terrace located on the edge of Lake Mendota. The terrace is the heart and soul of the University of Wisconsin – Madison campus where students have been coming together for decades to listen to music, watch movies at twilight, or just have a chat and share a bite with friends. There’s a stall that sells quick bites like burgers, hotdogs, and popcorn. They also sell several draft beers including a couple of local ones to those over 21 years of age. If you have a sweet tooth, make sure you get a scoop of ice cream from the Babcock Hall Dairy Store trolley where all proceeds benefit the dairy program at the university.
Roam Around the Olbrich Botanical Gardens
With over 16 acres of curated gardens, there’s plenty to admire at the Olbrich Botanical Gardens. Visitors who come here can learn about the different types of plant and flower species as well as a number of sustainability methods used for gardening. Check out the Rose Garden, which radiates sweet scents when in full bloom, or the Herb Garden where you can get ideas on what to plant in your own backyard. What makes the Olbrich Botanical Gardens a must in this list of things to do in Madison on a weekend is the stunning Thai Pavilion, presented to the Thai Chapter at the University of Wisconsin by the Thai government. The authentic pavilion was transported from Thailand and reassembled in Madison by Thai artists. It’s the only one like it in the continental United States.
Water-Related Activities by the Lakes
The four lakes: Mendota, Monona, Waubesa, and Wingra are part of the daily lives of Madisionians. They also present visitors with a number of things to do in Madison on a weekend. Boating, kayaking, or stand up paddleboard are a just a few to start you off. Brittingham Boats in Lake Monona has canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards. They also have fishing boats available. For those looking to bring a large group together, Wingra Boats on Lake Wingra offer pontoon boat rentals.
Frank Lloyd Wright left an indelible imprint in Madison and one of his masterpieces is the imposing Monona Terrace right on the banks of Lake Monona. Primarily used as a convention center, the terrace also holds a number of free events and low cost art related programs such as painting and dancing for kids and adults. This attraction is a must visit whether it’s day or night. In addition to the fluid architecture, Monona Terrace also has great views of Lake Monona and the Capitol building.
Saturday Farmer’s Market
One of the biggest and oldest fresh farmer’s market occurs in Madison, every Saturday in the Capitol Square. Ask every local and he/she will tell you that the Dane County Farmer’s Market should be on top of the list of things to do in Madison on a weekend, particularly if the weather is dry. Dozens of local farmers put up a stand and sell their fresh fruits and produce while local bakeries and butchers join in to sell sweet and savory items. Make sure to stop by Stella’s Bakery and get yourself a roll of hot and spicy cheese bread.
Friday Fish Fry at Old Fashioned
Friday fish fry has been a long-standing Wisconsin tradition and rightfully belongs in this list of things to do on a weekend in Madison. Every restaurant in the city does it but if you want the best fish at a traditional setting, there’s nothing like an order of white perch, lightly battered and then fried with thinly cut fries from the Old Fashioned. Located right near the Capitol Building, it beckons the classic style of beloved supper clubs and taverns. Come early or be prepared to wait.