Hidden Gems in Madison

by Lexi Carr

Just an hour away from the Lake Michigan lays the beautiful Wisconsin capital, Madison. Founded in 1829, Madison has represented the ideal American town. It boasts as the homeplace to the University of Wisconsin Madison, one of the oldest and most historical buildings and schools in Wisconsin. Madison is revered as a classic college town, offering residents an array of activities and lifestyles to fit every need. However, there are some hidden gems all around Madison that truly make this city the best place to live.

Amazing Theaters

Madison offers plenty to those who enjoy a good production. Consider Broom Street Theater, a non-profit, member-controlled theater located in Marquette. Founded in 1969 by the famed director Stuart Gordon, Broom Street Theater is a great place to catch original shows year round. Not only was Broom street started by a star, it is also the home of many other talented artists, such as Native American stand-up comedian Charlie Hill and television actor Lance Baker.


The Overture Center for the Arts is another great pillar of Madison’s love for the theater. The Overture is great place to see a touring Broadway show, as well as a the best place to see performances from one of the ten resident companies, including Kanopy Dance and the Children’s Theater of Madison.

Outdoor Wonders

Looking for a more nature filled experience? Check out The Badger State Trail, heading south. Although the trails starts right in town, it stretches 40 miles south towards the Illinois border. The Badger States Trail is one of the many local paths in the Rails to Trails program, which converts old railroad paths into recreational trails for walking and biking in the warmer seasons and snowmobiling and cross country skiing in the winter. Not ready for such a far trek? Hop in a perfect car for road trips and take a ride to the highlight of the trail, the 1,200 ft long, curved Stewart Tunnel.


Of course, not all of Madison’s gems involve trekking out of town. The University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum is another Wisconsin treasure. The 1,200 acres of land are tended to by managers, scientists, students, and volunteers who are passionate about the Arboretum’s mission – conserving and restoring Arboretum lands, advancing restoration ecology, and fostering the land ethic. The Arboretum is a leader in ecological research and contains several different types of ecosystems within their lands and neighboring properties. Be sure to check out their world- famous lilac collection and garden tours in the spring!


One of the most beloved treasures in Madison is Picnic Point in the Lakeshore Preserve. Picnic Point is found on the peninsula stretching into Lake Mendota. Surrounded by a lush landscape and an old orchard along the side, Picnic Point is a local favorite for university students year round. Be sure to hike out to the tip to grab a kiss at one the most popular kissing spots in Madison.

Local Hotspots

Nothing says Madison like the local scene. The State Street pedestrian mall was created after the major roadway was closed off the vehicles in the 1970’s. State Street is home to many of the city’s best bars, restaurants, shops and is a popular place for many major events to take place in. Bookended by the University on one end and the Wisconsin State Capital on the other, State Street is busy and full of fun.


Another great local hotspot is the Terrace at memorial Union. Located in the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus off of Lake Mendota, the Union is home to a number of restaurants, and coffee shops. It’s also a great place to hear live music, see a film, or see some of the many performances put on there throughout the year. With its iconic colorful chairs, it’s hard not to understand why the locals dub the Terrace the heart and soul of the town.


Looking for an exciting way to spend an afternoon? Try looking for fossils in the Capitol Building! The Capitol building one of the most beautiful historical buildings in Wisconsin, complete with a famous observation deck overlooking the entire Madison isthmus and a full museum on the sixth floor. Free, guided tours through the building are staples in many Wisconsin elementary students’ childhoods, and children throughout the years have marveled at the discovery of gastropods, brachiopods and ammonite fossils embedded into the marble walls and staircases. While you may prefer trying to find the fossils yourself, consider getting a pamphlet or guide book for a little assistance and helpful hints!


And best of all, summers in Madison are full of music. Every Wednesday during the summer months the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra puts puts on their performance series  Concert on the Square in Capitol Square. Unlike their traditional performances, these concerts are free, and the crowds grow large in anticipation. In addition to the fabulous performances, attendees are welcome to bring their kids to play in the Kids Area and are encourage to shop and eat from the local vendors before the show.