Explore your world
Madison, Wisconsin | © 12019 / Pixabay
Madison, Wisconsin | © 12019 / Pixabay

How to Spend 24 Hours in Madison, Wisconsin

Picture of Victoria Borisch
Updated: 28 February 2018

Influenced by the University of Wisconsin, Madison is a vibrant, young city full of life. In order to get the best sense of what the city is all about in a short span of time, the best advice is to keep it local when it comes to dining, drinking, and entertainment. When visiting Wisconsin’s capital on a time crunch, be sure to check out these spots. 

Day One

6 p.m.: Check out the Sunset Music Series

If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in Madison during the summer, make the most of the lovely weather by heading straight to the city’s Sunset Music Series. You’ll enjoy scenic views of Lake Monona and the Capitol building while sipping on cocktails and feasting on treats from some of the best food carts as the sun goes down. The laid-back vibe makes it a great place to wind down after a long travel day.

Sunset Music Series, 3735 Monona Drive, Madison, WI, USA

Sunset over Lake Monona | © The Cut/flickr

Sunset over Lake Monona | © The Cut / Flickr

9 p.m.: Have a drink and a late-night bite at the Great Dane Pub & Brewing Company

For a fun night out and some of the best beer in Madison, check out the Great Dane Pub & Brewing Company downtown. Located in a National Registry of Historic Places building, visitors can enjoy a drink in the Rathskeller or outside in the beer garden. Their beer is brewed from the best raw ingredients, and they use traditional guidelines, ensuring that each pint is authentic to its style. On top of an envious beer list, the pub’s food menu goes beyond traditional fare, so everyone is sure to find something that will satisfy late-night cravings.

Great Dane Pub & Brewing Company, 123 E. Doty Street, Madison, WI, USA, +1 608 284 0000

Day Two

10 a.m.: Visit the Dane County Farmers’ Market

The Dane County Farmers’ Market is a Madison tradition, so if you find yourself in the city on a Saturday or Wednesday, be sure to check it out. It’s the largest producer-only farmers’ market in the USA, meaning that there are no re-sales allowed and the people selling the products are the ones who produced them. From fresh foods and flowers to crafts and street musicians, take in the sights, sounds, and smells of one of the best farmers’ markets in the country.

Dane County Farmers’ Market, 330 W. Mifflin Street, Madison, WI, USA, +1 608 455 1999

Saturday Morning at the Farmers' Market | Courtesy of Dane County Farmers' Market

Saturday Morning at the Farmers’ Market | Courtesy of Dane County Farmers’ Market

12 p.m.: Have lunch at Hawk’s Bar & Grill

Conveniently located on State Street in the heart of downtown, Hawk’s Bar & Grill is a great place to stop for lunch. Don’t forget to save room for dessert after savoring one of their tasty sandwiches—both deep-fried Oreos and Twinkies are on the menu. There are also a handful of Madison-based beers on tap for those looking for a taste of something local.

Hawk’s Bar & Grill, 425 State Street, Madison, WI, USA, +1 608 256 4295

2 p.m.: Explore State Street

A trip to Madison would not be complete without a stroll along State Street. This pedestrian-friendly stretch of road is full of quirky shops and restaurants just waiting to be discovered and is popular with the university crowd. State Street will provide you with an endless number of options for your afternoon, including sunbathing on Bascom Hill or touring the State Capitol building.

State Street, Madison, WI, USA

State Street Madison | © PROedwardhblake/flickr

State Street Madison | © edwardhblake / Flickr

4 p.m.: Feast on a delicious meal at The Old Fashioned

To finish off a short trip to Wisconsin’s capital, treat yourself to an early farewell dinner at The Old Fashioned. The menu includes a number of the state’s favorite dishes, including specialties made using ingredients from small, local Wisconsin producers. So, enjoy some beer-battered cheese curds, and toast a PBR to your 24 hours in Madison.

The Old Fashioned, 23 N. Pinckney Street, Madison, WI, USA, +1 608 310 4110