For other places with the same name, see Madison (disambiguation).

Situated on an isthmus between Lake Mendota and Lake Monona, Madison is the capital of the State of Wisconsin.



Madison is a fairly large city in south central Wisconsin. One of only two cities in North America situated on an isthmus (the other is Seattle), Madison is defined by its five lakes: Mendota, Monona, Wingra, Waubesa, and Kegonsa. Through a combination of factors, including the state capital and the University of WisconsinMadison, the city has more to offer than might be expected from a metropolitan area of about 500,000. Madison has many excellent restaurants, an active theater community, a great music scene, and good shopping. Madison is also just minutes away from a beautiful rural countryside featuring larger fields and a more scenic and hilly terrain, depending on which direction one travels outside of the city.

National groups and magazines rank Madison highly for being a very bike-friendly city, a great place to raise a family, having a healthy and fit population, and an overall high quality of life. Madison is a melting pot of the Midwest. You'll find professionals, students, families, hippies, musicians and everything in between. It has a vibrant nightlife scene with lots of live music and pubs. It shares many qualities of other well-known college towns like Berkeley and Austina creative and educated populationbut retains a small-town feel.

Madison's weather is typical of the Midwest: warm and humid in summer, often very cold in winter, and temperate spring and fall conditions.

Visitor information

State Street at dusk

Get in

By plane

By car

By bus

View of Lake Monona from Monona Terrace

By rail

Get around

By bus

You can get around much of Madison on the Metro bus system. Coverage becomes spotty and travel times extensive as you get further away from the isthmus, so a car is practically a necessity for regular travel outside the city center.

By car

On-street parking in the center of Madison - the isthmus - tends to be scarce (and permits, issued annually, are required), but a number of parking garages are sprinkled throughout the area. Street parking further from the center is plentiful and free. A map of parking garages, rates, and parking regulations in the downtown area can be found at the City of Madison parking page . For most lots on the University of Wisconsin campus permits, issued annually only to university employees, are required. There are a few lots that offer public parking. Full details on parking lots, rates and regulations on the UW campus can be found here . The best advice for parking on the UW campus is to read signs at lot entrances and believe what they say (UW parking enforcement is highly vigilant and on duty 24 hours a day). If you are driving from one end of the city to another, the Beltline is a commonly used route.

By taxi

There are several cab companies and when downtown there is never a taxi far from sight. That said, taxis operate on an appointment-only basis, so be sure to call at least 15-20 minutes before you need a ride (allow for more time during busy periods or inclement weather). With most of the cab companies you can also make a reservation for a specific time by calling at least 24 hours in advance - this is highly advisable if you are going to take a cab to the airport.

By bike

Bike trail

Madison has consistently been rated among America's most bicycle-friendly cities, and the city maintains a map of Madison's bike paths.


Local Flavor

Dane County Farmers Market


Flamingos in Henry Vilas Zoo


Madison Municipal Building
Wisconsin State Capitol




Masonic Temple


The largest employers are the Wisconsin government and the University of Wisconsin. Additionally, there are a growing number of hi-tech employers and jobs, particularly in the bio-tech field. Madison has a very low unemployment rate compared to the national average.



Madison is said to have the highest number of restaurants per capita in the entire United States. The sheer diversity of and intense competition among Madison's restaurants is enough to put any city of similar size to shame (as well as many larger cities!), making Madison one of the best cities in the country to be a foodie. Take your time to make a selection; you could spend years in Madison without seeing half of what the restaurant scene has to offer.





Bars, Brewpubs, and Burgers

Madison is well known for upholding the Wisconsin "supper club" tradition, offering a variety of German-inspired establishments that serve top-notch American food during the day, convert into bars late at night, and give you an absolutely unrivaled selection of beer regardless of whether it's 10AM or 1AM.






Bed and Breakfasts/Specialty Lodging



Madison's telephone code is 608. This telephone code covers much of Southwestern and South Central Wisconsin.


Many businesses will offer wifi. Computers are available at locations of the Madison Public Library.

Stay safe

Overall, Madison is a very safe city. However, as with all cities, be cautious at all times and pay attention to your surroundings. The downtown area is well populated and fairly well lit. South Madison is considered to be the "bad" part of town, and has a higher crime rate than the rest of the city. The areas that are recommended to avoid at night are isolated bike paths/alleys, Allied Drive, Badger Road, South Park Street (South of Regent Street) and also Britta Drive, Britta Parkway and Helene Parkway in the Dunn's Marsh Neighborhood, as well as Troy Drive on Madison's North Side. Bright red emergency markers are posted around the University of Wisconsin campus and its Lakeshore Path; press the button and the police should show up very quickly.

The Madison police are generally lax on drinking and rowdiness. However, they significantly step up enforcement during the weekends of Halloween and the Mifflin Street Block Party, and have even brought in riot police to disperse nonviolent crowds. Hundreds of arrests are made every year during these two events. The police will not hesitate to arrest you for extremely minor offenses - the most common being underage drinking, open containers in public, and public urination. Do not urinate in public under any circumstances (the police check alleys and corners for this specifically), and if you're underage, don't get obscenely drunk and call any attention to yourself. During Mifflin, make sure you drink only on private property; the police will immediately arrest anyone who attempts to walk down the sidewalk or cross the street with an open container. Out-of-towners make up a significant portion of the arrested every year, and the city responds by clamping down on the students - don't ruin Madison for the rest of us! Be advised that crimes do occur during the Mifflin Block Party. In 2011, there were two stabbings. Robberies, assaults and sexual assaults have also occurred in past years. As a response to the stabbings; however, a proposal was made to address the elevated crime rate (the proposal being that parties are required to be registered, among other things), and results from the proposal have been positive. It's still a good idea to be careful around Mifflin during the party.

A tip to motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists: Each should always be on the look out for the other two. This is especially true downtown and in the area of the UW campus. Cars racing through red lights as they change, pedestrians crossing streets in the middle of the block with traffic present, and bicycles running red lights and weaving in and out of traffic are all commonplace, along with a number of other similar behaviors. Also, pedestrians on and near the UW campus should always be on the look out for students driving mopeds and scooters on sidewalks; even though this is illegal in the City of Madison it is quite common.



Go next

Routes through Madison

Wausau/Rochester Portage  N/W  S/E  Janesville Rockford
Saint Paul Portage  W  E  Johnson Creek Milwaukee
Wisconsin Dells Prairie du Sac  NW  SE  Whitewater Lake Geneva
La Crosse Spring Green  NW  SE  Janesville Harvard
Prairie du Chien Verona  W  E  Waukesha Milwaukee
Wausau Portage  N  S  Stoughton Janesville
Dubuque Verona  SW  NE  Columbus Manitowoc

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, January 11, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.