The Chazen Museum of Art
The Chazen Museum of Art has more than 20,000 works of art. Located on the UW-Madison campus, it bridges students and the community, as well as centuries of artwork under one roof. With mediums ranging from wood and bronze to oil and watercolor, there’s a little of something for everyone. Its permanent collections contain Japanese prints, French sculptures, Italian paintings and medals from around the world.
The House on the Rock
Walk through Alex Jordan’s dreams as you tour The House on the Rock, a Wisconsin-made attraction. This interactive architectural wonder is a sight to behold, full of the sights and sounds that the artist so loved. The world’s largest carousel amazes with 269 handcrafted animals and too many lights to count. A huge boat swallows a 200-foot sea creature in a reverse Jonah and the whale scene. An enormous canon seems ironic next to hundreds of dressed-up dolls. There’s even a million-piece miniature orchestra. Even though the Infinity Room, which mimics walking on clouds in the air, is possible to leave, the memories of this curious attraction will stay with you indefinitely.
For L’Etoile, the sustainable food movement isn’t anything new. It’s been bringing fresh food from farms to its tables since 1976. Not surprisingly, this approach has earned it a reputation as the “shining star” in the Midwest. Its beautiful plates are perfect for special celebrations, especially romantic anniversaries. Begin with a spread of charcuterie and a bottle of wine. First Courses include Foie Gras Torchon and Smoked Artesian Trout that features locally grown beets. Mid Courses will keep you excited for your entrée. Try Black Truffle Crepinette or Korean-Style Stew. Finally, sink your fork into a Fountain Prairie Dry-Aged, Grass-Fed Steak. This meat is carefully paired with confit potato, Sung Haven spinach, mushrooms, Harmony Valley cippolini onions and beauty heart radish compound. Finish your dinner with an adventurous Gingerbread Waffle or Hazelnut Financier. An equally wise choice is Wisconsin’s best – cheese! These artisan selections are served with wonderfully complementing fruits and nuts. If this romantic setting with amazingly fresh food isn’t enough, it recently added a gastropub called Graze.
Casual waterfront dining is always fun, and by now, Nau-Ti-Gal is the expert. Since 1982, it’s been serving up seafood dishes in view of the beautiful Lake Mendota. It has one of the best brunches in Madison and live music on a weekly basis. For dinner, appetizers aren’t the typical fare. Try Shark Bites or Wisconsin White Cheddar Cheese Curds. There is a long menu of sandwiches, burgers and salads. Doesn’t a Cajun Grouper Caesar Salad and a Tex-Mex Panini sound delicious? Inland dinners such as Tortelloni Prima Vera and sea dinners such as Wisconsin Fish Fry are tasty options. Just save room for peanut butter pie.
The Ivory Room Piano Bar
Co-owners Jack Sosnowksi and Julie Stoleson wanted to bring a classy yet cozy feel to Madison, fashioned after piano bars in Chicago. The Ivory Room Piano Bar grew from their vision, and locals and visitors alike are happier for it. Show up to Capitol Square early enough to take advantage of happy-hour and the martini of the month. If you’re looking for a snazzy night out on the town with excellent live music, this is the place.
University of Wisconsin Badgers
We understand if becoming a Packers cheesehead and donning one of those ridiculous hats sounds unattractive to you, but if you just need your fix of live sports, try routing for the Badgers for a day. UW-Madison has 11 men’s and 11 women’s varsity sports teams to choose from. There’s the obvious basketball, football and hockey, as well as wrestling, rowing, tennis, diving and volleyball. Check out the university’s website for sporting events schedules. You never know – they could be playing your Alma matter while you’re in town!
Fromagination is a cozy shop with bold tastes. It sells artisanal cheeses and whatever is paired with them best: Wines, breads, crackers, dried fruits and chocolates all perfect the cheese’s taste. You won’t find cheese wrapped in unbreakable plastic wrap here. Cheese is sold like it’s supposed to be, from the block or wheel. Tastings are encouraged, but you’ll have to wait and let the sample adjust to the room temperature before indulging. Find something very local – Hook’s Eight-Year Cheddar or Aged Swiss – from Wisconsin, or opt for a delicious import. Italy’s Parmigiano-Reggiano is so tasty that you won’t be disappointed it’s not American. If you give 24 hours’ notice, Fromadination will create you a picnic basket with a sampling of cheese, baguette, fruit, and more.
East Towne Mall
East Towne Mall is anchored by Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Boston Store, Dick’s Sporting Goods, gordmans, JCPenney, Sears and Steinhafels. The mall has more than 110 specialty retailers including Aéropostale, American Eagle Outfitters, Buckle, Express, Hollister Co., Justice and Victoria’s Secret. Popular restaurant chains include Outback Steakhouse, Olive Garden Italian Restaurant and Auntie Anne’s Hand-Rolled Soft Pretzels. It’s a great place to spruce up your wardrobe, catch a bite to eat or watch a movie.
Wisconsin State Capitol
Schedule a tour of the Wisconsin State Capitol, where major political decisions are made for residents of The Dairy State. The governor, Wisconsin Supreme Court and state legislature work here, and the surrounding streets are full of restaurants and shops. It proudly holds up the largest granite dome in the world, and its interior rotunda is made from marble imported from Italy, France, Algeria and Greece. Its ornate decorations and exterior stone work make it a worthwhile architectural and artsy destination, in addition to a political and educational place for the family to visit.
Lake Mendota has the privilege of being the largest of Madison’s four lakes. In many ways, this lake defines the isthmus that the city was built upon. The University of Wisonsin-Madison borders its southern shore, and the Wisconsin State Capitol building is not far away. It’s lined with an array of colors in the autumn, and water sports abound. In winter, you can ice skate, ice boat, cross country ski, play ice hockey or go snowkiting. In summer the common activities of canoeing, boating, wakeboarding, fishing, waterskiing, kayaking, sailing and windsurfing can be enjoyed.