Why You Should Take a Mini Vacation in Madison, Wisconsin
Here's what to do in the cooler-than-anticipated town
Did you know you can hop in the car, hit the I-90 and be in an alternate universe in less than three hours? A quick jaunt from Chicago, Madison is the ultimate destination for a boho-chic adventure. From a stress-relieving acupuncture session to a shop every local recommends visiting, here’s how to spend a perfect day in the cooler-than-you-knew Wisconsin town.
9 a.m.: Wake Up at the Graduate Hotel
Drive in the night before and stay at this new hotel with an upscale, preppy vibe. In the lobby, you'll see upside-down canoes as light fixtures and plenty of oil paintings. In the rooms, beds are strewn with pillows that say “Curd” in varsity letters. Which is fitting since the rooftop restaurant, Madison Blind, does serve cheese curds--with chipotle dipping sauce, no less.
601 Langdon St.; 608-257-4391 or graduatemadison.com
10 a.m.: Eat Breakfast at Madison Sourdough
The sun-filled bakery makes for an ideal place to start the day. The coffee is strong, the locals are peacefully reading their morning papers and the breakfast menu has biscuits and gravy, sourdough French toast with vanilla custard and a spicy dish called Eggs Diablo.
916 Williamson St.; 608-442-8009 or madisonsourdough.com
11 a.m.: Get Pampered at Red Sage Health
Pop in for the $15 acupuncture at this mellow healing den. Conducted in a waiting room filled with plush chairs, books and tea, the 30-minute session (for real) took away a neck kink we’d been dealing with all week.
1251 Williamson St.; 608-251-2470 or redsagehealth.com
Noon: Shop at Willy Street Co-Op
There wasn’t a local we chatted up who didn’t mention Willy’s Co-Op. The Whole Foods-like--but more hippie-style--store has a juice bar and natural beauty goods. Don’t leave without checking out the greeting cards, because sometimes Hallmark just doesn’t cut it.
1221 Williamson St.; 608-251-0884 or willystreet.coop
1 p.m.: Eat Lunch at Lazy Jane's Café and Bakery
With mismatched vintage furniture, Lazy Jane’s has an expansive menu that touches on all the comfort-food cravings. The scones are popular, but there are also Reuben sandwiches and vegan specials like seitan hash. Heads up: The place is cash only.
1358 Williams St.; 608-257-5263
2 p.m.: Visit Olbrich Botanical Gardens
True, the 16 acres of outdoor display gardens are extra flowery in the springtime (and inhaling the sweet fragrance of the rose garden is a must). But the wintertime grounds, flush with dark berries and evergreen trees, also make for a charming--and free--excursion.
3330 Atwood Ave.; 608-246-4550 or olbrich.org
6 p.m.: Eat Dinner at Tornado Steak House
The white-linen-tablecloth spot--with neon signs and relish trays--feels like a throwback supper club. The menu has you covered for bone-in tenderloin and Yorkshire pudding; Saturday is prime-rib night.
116 S. Hamilton St.; 608-256-3570 or tornadosteakhouse.com