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They aren’t suburbs, really.
That’s what one city mayor explained to writer Mary Erpenbach in 1999 about Madison’s surrounding communities.
“I have never used that term, ‘suburb,’” said Dan Ramsey in 1999, when he was mayor of Middleton and was being interviewed by Erpenbach for the first Rating the ’Burbs survey that ran in Madison Magazine.
What he meant was that Dane County suburbanites don’t really consider their communities offshoots of Madison. These surrounding cities claim their own histories and traditions. “They were farm towns or railroad stops or lakeside vacation spots, for instance,” Erpenbach wrote in the 2013 report.
Most suburbs were born with no relation to Madison, she reported. In fact, some communities, including Stoughton and Cambridge, both founded in 1847, came just over a decade after the isthmus city was marked on the map in 1836. And while proximity to Wisconsin’s second-largest city does qualify these outliers—like Verona, Mazomanie, Waunakee, Fitchburg, Oregon and other nearby communities—as suburbs, the same can still be said about the ’burbs Ramsey described nearly 20 years ago.
They’re standalone gems in their own right. And in the 20 years since the magazine first published an in-depth rating that quantified each suburb based on a specific set of criteria, two things are clear: Suburbs have experienced exponential growth in population and economic development, at certain points outpacing the growth of the city, and despite the interconnectedness of the Madison area, these communities continue to write their own stories while preserving and celebrating their histories.
And while the Rating the ’Burbs reports—which ran in Madison Magazine for 15 years—dubbed a single ’burb the reigning champion of that year, we’ve come to the conclusion that numbers will never adequately determine which ’burb rises above the rest. They’re all interesting places to live, work or visit, and the qualitative factors certainly outweigh the statistics.
So instead, this year we give you just one number—103. Here are 103 things to do in Madison’s suburbs this summer.
GO TO A WINERY
GRAB A SLICE OF ’ZA
A ’burb original and the reigning champ of tomato pies is Patrick DePula’s Salvatore’s Tomato Pies. Check out the newly relocated and renovated restaurant on the corner of East Main and King streets in Sun Prairie.
PLAY AT THE PARK
SMELL THE FLOWERS
Visitors flock to Pope Farm Conservancy for the annual Sunflower Days, where 9 acres of sunflowers are at their peak. This year, the best bloom is expected August 12-20. Verona
VISIT A MUSEUM
Savor a Bavarian smorgasbord of wiener schnitzel, spätzle, kraut and more the first Monday of every month and also the third Monday, June-October, at Dorf Haus Supper Club. Sauk City
Enjoy more than just dinner and the mixologist’s creations at The Wall Street Gallery & Bistro—its stellar featured artists give the restaurant a gallery feel. Mazomanie
Even with new owners taking over Green Acres in 2017, the great food and fun times promise to continue at this longstanding restaurant. Sauk City
Come for the crab cakes and the cozy yet upscale atmosphere at Big Sky Restaurant and stay for the outstanding homemade desserts. Stoughton
BOWL A PERFECT GAME
INDULGE YOUR SWEET TOOTH
If you’re looking to celebrate National Pecan Pie Day on July 12, National Lemon Meringue Pie Day on Aug.15 or any other pie holidays, Hubbard Avenue Diner and Bakery has you covered. Middleton
Previously a line cook for Estrellón and a baker at La Brioche, Vincente Sacramento recently opened Monona Bakery and Eatery, where you can pick up Mexican conchas (sweet bread), a delicious cinnamon morning bun, a cupcake or other pastries. Monona
Vegan and gluten-free treats never tasted so good. Bloom Bake Shop’s flagship bakery storefront is the place to go for delicious goodies (and somewhat nutritious offerings, too). Middleton
CATCH A SHOW
Stop by the Stoughton Opera House during the Catfish River Music Festival, July 7-9, and throughout the year for great musical selections. Stoughton
Summer is the time for American Players Theatre’s newly renovated outdoor amphitheater. Catch “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Cyrano de Bergerac” or “The Maids” this summer. Spring Green
Check out “Ragtime the Musical” Aug. 10-13 at the Middleton Players Theatre for a story on the American Dream. Middleton
EAT A BURGER
When you want the mac daddy of all burgers, order up the Shack Daddy at The Shack Bar & Grill. It’s a handmade half-pound fresh burger that comes with everything. Black Earth
Watch your patty get the flip on the flattop grill behind an old-school bar at Village Green. It’s a no-frills bar burger, but it’s inextricably tasty. Middleton
Varsity Bar & Grill’s flagship burger is a 1/3-pound patty with pepper jack cheese, bacon and hand-battered deep fried onions on a pretzel bun with a special Varsity sauce. Sun Prairie
Who could forget the award-winning Gritty Burger at the Nitty Gritty? It’s the traditional (and oh-so-official) burger to get at “the official birthday place.” Middleton and Sun Prairie
MAKE BREAKFAST PLANS
APPRECIATE GOOD ART
Catch a gallery opening on July 28 at Abel Contemporary Gallery (formerly Artisan Gallery), where you can enjoy the works of Randall Berndt. There’s also “Exquisite,” a new group show, and “Building the Future,” an exhibit that looks toward the future of buildings. Belleville/Paoli
Find a selection of original paintings, limited edition prints, offset lithographs and fine American crafts at Gary’s Art & Frame Shop. Middleton
What started as a one-man potter’s studio has grown into the bustling factory Rowe Pottery Works. Cambridge
Catch the soulful tunes of The Jeffrey James Show on July 21 while perusing the art gallery at River Arts on Water Gallery. Prairie du Sac
If you’re looking for the perfect piece of North American art, check out Artisan Woods Gallery, where handmade woodcrafts from more than 80 different artisans are for sale. Mount Horeb
DRINK A BEER
PICK IT YOURSELF
Listen to some folk and bluegrass music under the apple trees or take a horse-drawn hayride at the Norwegian-style farm Eplegaarden. Fitchburg
There’s a lot more than just heirloom apples at Door Creek Orchard—get your hands on fresh pears, grapes and apple cider, plus yarn and roving from the Black Welsh Mountain Sheep the family raises. Cottage Grove
After you pick strawberries or raspberries, take a stroll through the oak savanna at Appleberry Farm, which has breathtaking views toward Blue Mounds. Cross Plains
Starting at the end of August, explore a 4-acre corn maze or play with barn kittens during your visit to Sutter’s Ridge Farm. Mount Horeb
Don’t miss Orchard Days in September and the Fall Festival in October for some family fun at Eugster’s Farm Market & Petting Farm. Stoughton
SLEEP IN AT A B&B
Madison’s suburbs are dripping with chocolate offerings at several storefronts and chocolatiers. Pick up a box for a loved one (or treat yo’ self) at Paul’s Chocolates in Prairie du Sac, Sjölinds Chocolate House in Mount Horeb, The Chocolate Caper in Oregon or Candinas Chocolatier in Verona.
JUST KEEP SWIMMING
EXPLORE THESE ATTRACTIONS
If you haven’t already, it’s worth spending a day to check out these well-known landmarks: House on the Rock, Spring Green; Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin, Spring Green; Cave of the Mounds, Blue Mounds
SHOP ’TIL YOU DROP
WATCH THE SUNSET
Hauge Historic District Park offers a breathtaking view of Blue Mound, made even better at nightfall. Mount Horeb
Let your feet dangle off a dock at Lake Kegonsa State Park while you breathe in a spectacular sunset over Lake Kegonsa. Stoughton
Watch a tangerine skyline drip into Lake Mendota and dip behind the bluffs at Maple Bluff Marina or Maple Bluff Beach Park. Maple Bluff
PARTY AT A FESTIVAL
Andrea Behling is managing editor of Madison Magazine. Maija Inveiss is web editor of Madison Magazine.