It’s time for a Madison area staycation

Whether you’ve lived in the Madison area your entire life or just a year, there is plenty to be discovered during a staycation.
Graduate with boats on the ceiling as chandeliers
Photo courtesy of Graduate Madison

Many are laughing as they look back at their 2020 New Year’s resolutions to travel more or visit new places.

In addition to concerts, events and weddings, vacations were canceled for most of 2020. If working from home has slowly transitioned into living at work, or if you’ve been numbed by a truly terrifying news cycle, it might be time for an escape from reality, even if that means just one weekend free from TV, email, Slack and video chats.

Whether you rent a room for a night at a hotel to get out of your home or take a daytrip to explore a city in southern Wisconsin, staycations are a great alternative to wider travel in today’s world. We’re defining a staycation as a period of rest and recreation that may or may not require an overnight stay somewhere other than home but doesn’t require you to drive a long distance. A staycation checks three big boxes right now: It limits travel, which means you’re less likely to further spread or contract COVID-19; you’re putting money back into the local economy, which feels good when the business owners we know and love need the support; and it’s likely a less expensive option than long-distance travel, making it a smart choice during uncertain economic times when saving money is top of mind.

couple swinging their child in a fall area

Picnic Point (Photo by Focal Flame Photography/Courtesy of Destination Madison)

Rob Gard, the director of public relations and communications at Destination Madison, says the area has lost an estimated $54 million from the cancellation of 81 Destination Madison events, some of the largest being the CrossFit Games and Ironman. Last year visitor spending in Dane County added up to $1.4 billion. Many businesses rely on big events to bring people to town.

“Every dollar you spend here on your staycation is another dollar in the pocket of somebody who really needs it here in Dane County,” Gard says. “That’s what we’re trying to stress right now.”

Olbrich Thai Temple in the fall

Olbrich Botanical Gardens (Courtesy of Katy Nodolf – Olbrich Botanical Gardens)

Over the summer, Destination Madison introduced a series of 12 iconic adventures encouraging Madisonians to explore the outdoors. The team traveled to different areas and shared fun itineraries. Many of the highlights will come as no surprise to seasoned locals, but you never know what you might learn about the Madison area. After the 2018 free public art event Bucky on Parade, Gard says it was eye-opening for Destination Madison’s staff to hear how many locals said finding the Bucky statues introduced them to new places. He says it showed that there was room for people in Dane County to further explore where they live.

“[We wanted to] specifically promote [the iconic adventures] to the people who lived here, who weren’t going to be going on those long-distance trips,” Gard says, “and also help them discover their community in a way that they haven’t done before, and keep all these businesses and organizations afloat.”

Destination Madison plans to do something similar on its social media platforms in the fall and winter to showcase activities in Dane County. Gard says they are also stressing how important it is to help some of the city’s most beloved and iconic businesses stay open during this challenging time.

Fire Pit at Lone Girl Brewing Co.

Lone Girl Brewing Co. (Courtesy of Lone Girl Brewing Co.)

“There is so much uncertainty with the public health situation and how quickly things can change,” Gard says. “If you hear about one of these iconic adventures, or if there are some restaurants that you’ve heard about that you want to try, you can keep that in the back of your mind and make it a staycation goal to experience some of those things.”

Local hotels are increasing cleanliness practices to make sure they’re as safe as possible. This includes removing excess amenities like pens and paper from hotel rooms, regularly sanitizing high-touch spaces, requiring masks, allowing mobile check-in and deep-cleaning rooms after every use. If you’re considering a staycation, we suggest following this cardinal rule: Use common sense to decide what’s safe, responsible and within your comfort zone. Right now, a successful staycation may require calling ahead, asking questions and getting tested for COVID-19 before venturing out.

couple walking in Olin Park

Olin Park (Photo by Focal Flame Photography/Courtesy of Destination Madison)

The best part about a staycation is you can customize the experience — you have more freedom when you know the lay of the land. Whether that means going on a short adventure to pick up carryout from a restaurant farther from home, spending a day doing physically distant winter activities or creating a relaxing dinner at home, it’s your staycation to construct. The ultimate goal of a staycation is to embrace a much-needed break. Seriously, turn off notifications. Reacquaint yourself with Madison by becoming a tourist in your own town.

For more on Staycations in the area, click one of the links below.

A Good Night’s Stay: Meet Madison’s Hotels

View from a room overlooking Lake Mendota

Photo courtesy of The Edgewater

While the coronavirus may have nixed international and some cross-state travel, Madison’s boutique hotel scene offers a few prime options for a close-to-home escape. Featuring retro digs, relaxing day spas, elegant dining atmospheres and the like, these lodging experiences provide much more than the average hotel stay.

10 Restaurants Worth the Trip (Even If It’s For Carryout)

burgers and beers at Lucys

Courtesy of Geronimo Hospitality Group

One of the best parts about travel is getting to try new restaurants. Take the drive to explore charming nearby towns and the great dining experiences they have to offer.

Vacay at Home

camp sleepover set up

Courtesy of Ash + Arrow Events

Here are five ways to make time off at home feel like a getaway.

B&B for some R&R

exterior of Speckled Inn with sheep in the pasture

Courtesy of Speckled Hen Inn

For a quiet and quaint stay, book a night at an area bed-and-breakfast.

See Another Side of the City

lobby of SpringHill Suites by Marriott Madison

Courtesy of SpringHill Suites by Marriott Madison

There’s much to be explored, even by a local on all sides of town. Consider a stay at one of these hotels in three distinct Madison neighborhoods.

Venturing to the ’Burbs

Car driving on a board game version with wisconsin towns

Illustration by Tommy Washbush

There are amazing places to discover at every turn. While staying close to home, consider going on an adventure and get to know one of Madison’s nearby towns.

Safety during Staycations
Traveling anywhere, even to a local hotel, poses a risk to your safety and the health of your loved ones.

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