Venture out to the ’burbs

While staying close to home, consider going on an adventure and get to know one of Madison’s nearby towns.
symbols of the various suburbs riding a car

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.

Across The River

view overlooking Wollersheim's vineyard

Courtesy of Wollersheim Winery

Take the bridge over the Wisconsin River to explore neighboring Sauk County. A good way to enjoy the area is to do a local wine, spirit and beer hop. Start in Sauk Prairie, the combined region consisting of Prairie du Sac and Sauk City. There you can get local wine and spirits at Wollersheim Winery, Distillery & Bistro and local beer from Vintage Brewing Co.’s Sauk Prairie location. (If you visit the area on Friday night, stop by Green Acres Restaurant for some Wisconsin fish fry.) Venture farther north to Baraboo to enjoy award-winning spirits from Driftless Glen Distillery. For wine, there is Balanced Rock Winery, Von Klaus Winery and Baraboo Bluff Winery. Stop at one of the area’s newest spots, Tumbled Rock Brewery & Kitchen to try beers in a variety of styles and comfort food from an expansive menu. One of the main reasons to visit Baraboo is the AL. Ringling Mansion, the home of circus showman AL. Ringling, and Circus World. While you’ll find plenty of local drink options, Sauk County also has plenty of natural areas to enjoy. Mirror Lake State Park is the place for winter adventuring — trails of various lengths are groomed for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. For ice fishing, Devil’s Lake State Park is a good option. Two good spots to consider for winter hiking are Natural Bridge State Park and White Mound County Park. -MI

A Piece of Norway

plate of eggs and pastries with eggs

Courtesy of Wildwood Cafe

Norwegian immigrants flocked to Stoughton throughout the 1800s and into the early 1900s. Stoughton proudly exhibits its Norwegian roots at Livsreise (meaning “life’s journey”), a Norwegian heritage center that offers free admission. Learn from emigrants’ personal stories and how they made Wisconsin home. After a stop at Livsreise, take time for a coffee break (which Stoughton claims was created in its city) at the cozy Wildwood Café. If you need a sweet pick-me-up to accompany your coffee, stop at Fosdal Home Bakery, an 81-year-old operation known for its doughnuts. While on Stoughton’s Main Street, shop at Dune Gift and Home, Grasshopper Goods, Nordic Nook, All Through The House, The Next Generation, Cheesers, Diakonos Designs and A Day in the Country. Before you leave, grab a couple beers at Viking Brew Pub or a handcrafted hard apple cider from Mershon’s Cidery. While events are currently on hold due to COVID-19, it’s worth enjoying a show at Stoughton Opera House when things are up and running. -MI

Stopping Along the Way

Kickstarter campaign so close we can practically taste the artisan cheese

Landmark Creamery’s award-winning Petite Nuage, or “little cloud,” is a fresh sheep’s milk cheese inspired by the cheese shops of Paris. (Courtesy of Landmark Creamery)

Landmark Creamery's award-winning Petite Nuage, or "little cloud," is a fresh sheep's milk cheese inspired by the cheese shops of Paris.

Sometimes it’s more about the journey than the destination. Make the trip to New Glarus even more enjoyable with a stop in Paoli. A visit to Paoli requires a stop at Landmark Creamery. Stock up on some cheeses and pick up a fancy grilled cheese for the road. If you’re looking to eat or drink, rest up at Paoli Schoolhouse American Bistro, Molino Taqueria or The Hop Garden. After spending some quality time in Paoli, continue on to New Glarus. While New Glarus Brewing Co. is closed for the rest of 2020, there is still plenty to do in what has been dubbed America’s Little Switzerland. Sample local wines at Hawk’s Mill Winehaus and Bailey’s Run Vineyard or shop at Hutch + Hide, Esther’s European Imports or The Bramble Patch. If you’re hoping to enjoy the outdoors, New Glarus Woods State Park is a great spot to go snowshoeing. After trekking on 24 miles of trail, stop at Glarner Stube for some Swiss food like Wiener schnitzel, meatballs and schüblig, a beef sausage made by Ruef’s Meat Market. -MI

The Land of Trolls

interior of Cave of the Mounds

Cave of the Mounds

When in Mount Horeb, going on a troll scavenger hunt is a must. Make a day out of visiting all 34 of the locally created troll statues that are spread around Mount Horeb. You can find a map of all the locations on the Mount Horeb Chamber of Commerce website. A good spot to start is the Grumpy Troll Brew Pub. Grumpy Troll is home to the troll Ægir, named after the Norse god of beer. Grab some local brews and an Uff Da Pretzel. Near the Grumpy Troll is the Driftless Historium, home to two trolls, a museum, exhibits and a programming space showcasing the Driftless region. Satisfy your sweet tooth with a chocolate bar from Sjölinds Chocolate House or a rosette from Schubert’s Diner and Bakery. Mount Horeb is near several winter activity destinations. The first attraction is Cave of the Mounds a few miles west in Blue Mounds. This massive underground site is filled with incredible rock formations, including the oft-confused stalactite and stalagmite (the former hangs from the ceiling like an icicle while the latter protrudes from the ground). Visitors can go on a tour of the cave — which was discovered in a 1939 quarry blast. The cave is constantly at 50 degrees, so on a balmy or frigid winter day, it provides a perfect escape. Five miles northwest of Mount Horeb, sportier visitors can head to Tyrol Basin, a skiing, snowboarding and tubing destination for those who want to hit the slopes. For a more serene activity, complete your visit with a stroll through the beautiful Blue Mound State Park, which has more than 20 miles of hiking, off-road biking and cross-country ski trails. -MI and CY

Relax in Hometown USA

Pouring wine at Toot + Kate's

Toot + Kate’s Wine Bar

When the pandemic began, people started finding new ways to get outside and remain physically distanced. This could be the winter for trying new activities while getting out and embracing the cold. If you’ve always wanted to snowshoe, be aware Verona is home to three county parks with designated trails: Scheidegger Forest, Prairie Moraine County Park and Badger Prairie County Park. A Dane County snowmobile trail also runs through Verona. If the thought of being in the snow makes you scowl, embrace hygge at The Sow’s Ear or Tuvalu Coffeehouse & Gallery. Both spots serve coffee and tea that will keep you warm if all you want to do is curl up with a good book and escape. At night, grab drinks at Hop Haus Brewing Co., Wisconsin Brewing Co., Fisher King Winery or Toot & Kate’s Wine Bar. Verona is home to Epic Systems Corp., and you’ll feel as if you’ve escaped reality on a walk around its whimsical headquarters. While self-guided and community tours are suspended due to COVID-19, once things start again, taking a tour needs to be on your next staycation list. -MI

The Other Downtown

carious mustards from the Mustard Museum

Courtesy of the National Mustard Museum

The town of Middleton, tucked into the western suburbs of the Madison area, is home to some delicious eateries and spectacular, pastoral views. Over the past couple years, downtown Middleton has blossomed into a dining and shopping destination. Visitors can enjoy a classic breakfast at the 1950s-style Hubbard Avenue Diner, which is also known for delicious fresh pies. From key lime to the iconic coconut cream, you can’t leave Hubbard without sampling a slice (yes, we’re giving you permission to enjoy breakfast pie). Afterward, take the short walk to the National Mustard Museum if you have a hankering for a particular condiment. The museum sells almost every variety of mustard you’ve never heard of and showcases more than 6,090 mustards from around the world. If you need a pick-me-up, stop at Barriques for an Irish coffee made with coffee, Kahlúa and Irish whiskey. Dining doesn’t stop there. Downtown restaurants include Compadres Mexican Restaurant, The Free House Pub, K-Peppers, Longtable Beer Cafe, Louisianne’s Etc., Sofra Family Bistro, Taigu, Takara 88, Villa Dolce and The Village Green. Need to walk off a meal? Check out Pheasant Branch Conservatory. Enjoy the conservatory’s beautiful landscapes, hiking trails and stunning flora and fauna. For a great ending to a day in Middleton, stop at Capital Brewery for some local brews or Grape Water Wine Bar to serve yourself some tap wine. -CY

The Only Waunakee in the World

Fire Pit at Lone Girl Brewing Co.

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

Venture outdoors in Waunakee, a fast-growing suburb north of Madison. With four skiing trails — Morningside Trail, Oak Savanna Trail, Redtail Hawk Trail and Woodland Trail — Governor Nelson State Park is a good spot for cross-country skiing. The Waunakee Village Center offers daylong cross-country ski rentals at $15 per pair for residents and $20 per pair for nonresidents. It also provides snowshoe rentals if you’re more interested in that. For snowshoeing, stop at Yahara Heights County Park and enjoy views of the upper Yahara River Basin. While other winter activities are permitted, Waunakee Marsh Wildlife Area is a beautiful place to simply go on a walk. For something a bit different, drive past Endres Manufacturing Co. In the summer you can pet goats outdoors in Endres’ mini petting zoo, and the company — whose work includes the American Family Children’s Hospital, Madison Public Library and The Sylvee — also has a unique Bavarian-inspired building that’s worth checking out. Waunakee is also home to Octopi, a contract brewery that serves Untitled Art beer and delicious food. The Lone Girl Brewing Co., another great beer destination, has what are surely the best rooftop deck spaces in the suburb. While on Main Street, indulge in some retail therapy at Red Barn Company Store, Kee-Kee Boutique, Cibus Italian Market, Wisconsin Candle Co. and Simply Unique Decor. Before you leave, make a stop at Drumlin Ridge Winery to bring some wine home with you.

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