Farmland abounds in Dane County, occupying more than 66 percent of the land, according to the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation. With so much fresh, homegrown food available, it’s no wonder the Dane County Farmers’ Market on Capitol Square every Saturday from April to November is a popular attraction. A proud local tradition dating back to 1972, it’s the largest producer-only farmers’ market in the U.S., featuring more than 300 vendors—and a few talented musicians and street performers.
Young at Heart
Madison buzzes with infectious energy. What else would you expect from a Big Ten college town where more than half the population is younger than 30? Student enrollment in 2016 at the University of Wisconsin–Madison was 43,338. U.S. News & World Report recently ranked UW–Madison as the 10th best public college in the country. At Epic Systems—an electronic health records company and the largest private-sector employer in Dane County with more than 9,500 employees at its headquarters in Verona—the average employee age is 29. Careful. All this youth could rub off on you!
Big on Bikes
Two wheels rule in Madison, which is ranked by USA Today and Bicycling.com as one of America’s top cycling cities and is one of only four U.S. cities to receive Platinum status for its bike friendliness by the League of American Bicyclists. Madison offers more than 200 bike trails totaling 100 miles. Pedal along scenic Lake Monona or venture into nature on the Arboretum Trail. Don’t own a bike? Rent from BCycle, a bike-sharing program with 40 rental hubs around town. Looking to make new friends? Join a bike club or sign up for biking events.
It’s a “City of Four Lakes,” but there are actually five—Monona, Mendota, Waubesa, Kegonsa and Wingra. The first two are the largest and get much of the attention, but which is which, again? Don’t be surprised when you start asking yourself out loud, “Is that the lake with two n’s or a d?” As you’re driving toward the Capitol, Monona is to the south and Mendota is north. If you’re sitting on the patio eating dinner at Sardine, that’s Monona in your view. When you’re jogging out to Picnic Point, that’s Mendota. You’ll get it, eventually.
Sometimes, Madison is a little out there. Consider the yearly Naked Bike Race and Freakfest, a Halloween block party that takes over State Street. But that just adds to the city’s charm, right?
All Dolled Up
Madison has some familiar names. Middleton, a Madison suburb, is home to the American Girl doll enterprise, started by the Pleasant Company in 1992. Other famous faces from the area include artist Georgia O’Keeffe, born in Sun Prairie, and famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who moved to Madison when he was 12 years old.
We have two great loves: Badgers and beer. Not surprisingly, the two often go hand in hand. The golden libation flows freely out of more than 40 pubs and breweries and scores of restaurants in between. Join a sea of game-day red on Regent Street’s strip of sports bars, or peruse impressive beer lists found throughout the city.
Our Capitol stands tall. No question, the Wisconsin state Capitol steals the limelight downtown. The seat of power mesmerizes 24/7, even from a distance. At 284 feet, it’s the second-tallest capitol building in the U.S., after Washington, D.C., and the tallest building in Madison. In fact, a city ordinance prohibits building any structure in Madison taller than the state’s stunning Capitol.
Madison gets its name from James Madison, the fourth U.S. president. Turn your attention to downtown street signs and you will soon detect a pattern: Jefferson, Hamilton, Monroe. Many streets bear the names of the 39 signers of the Constitution. City planners have woven a daily history lesson into the fabric of this college town.