30 Things You Need To Know About Madison Before You Move There

Sure, you'll get sick of hearing your neighbor's snow blower every morning, but once you start exploring this city, you'll never stay home no matter how hard the weather hits!
  • Leah McBride Menching
  • 111,819 views
  • 94 comments
  • Leah McBride Menching
  • 111,819 views, 94 comments

1. Concerts On The Square Is The Definition Of Summer

30 Things You Need To Know About Madison Before You Move There

Source: Flickr user Ryan Tir

Pack a picnic and bring a blanket or folding chairs to the King Street corner of Capitol Square every Wednesday evening June 25 through July 30. You can set up your picnic starting at 3 p.m., and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra begins playing at 7 p.m.

2. You Will Learn The Difference Between 'Cold' And 'Arctic'

30 Things You Need To Know About Madison Before You Move There

Source: Flickr user Alex Gaylon

Starting in October/November, temperatures in the 40s will feel cold, and you'll pull your heavier jacket out of the back of the closet. In the winter, day after day of sub-zero temperatures will make you come to understand what it's like to wear four pairs of pants at the same time, and you'll be able to tell the difference between -20 degrees, 0 degrees and 20 degrees (which will feel warm after a week of temperatures below zero). By spring, when temperatures rise back into the 40s, you'll be ready to put on your flip-flops and go out for ice cream, all while telling everyone how hot it felt on your drive to work. When summer rolls around, you'll miss the winter chill as you stand in front of your open freezer.

3. Lake Mendota Is Beautiful In Every Season

30 Things You Need To Know About Madison Before You Move There

Source: Flickr user Sara

Of the four large lakes in Madison, Lake Mendota is the biggest and also one of the most studied in the country, thanks to having the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Center for Limnology resting on its southern bank. Lake Monona, Lake Waubesa and Lake Kegonsa are the other large lakes on the Yahara River. Recreational activities can be found on and around each, including boating, canoeing and kayaking, camping, fishing, picnic areas and more. And when winter rolls around, the frozen lakes are gorgeous.

4. The Food Is Fresher Than Fresh

30 Things You Need To Know About Madison Before You Move There

Source: Flickr user Emily Mills

The Dane County Farmers' Market is the largest producer-only farmers' market in the country. That means the man or woman behind the table is the one who produced what's being sold. The market is open every Saturday (around the Capitol Square) and Wednesday (on the 200 block of Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd) during the summer, and moves indoors during the winter. It's held at the Monona Terrace Nov. 15 - Dec. 20, and at 330 W. Mifflin St. Jan. 4 - April 12.

5. I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream For (Babcock) Ice Cream!

30 Things You Need To Know About Madison Before You Move There

Source: Flickr user Christopher Holden

Leave it to Wisconsin to create a perfect dairy product. Grab some ice cream at the Babcock Hall Dairy Store on University of Wisconsin's campus and, if the weather is warm enough, eat it on the Terrace while enjoying a view of Lake Mendota and people-watching. Just give yourself enough time; there's usually a line.

6. Madison Is The Cheesiest

30 Things You Need To Know About Madison Before You Move There

Source: Flickr user Patrick Kuhl

While we're on the topic of dairy products, cheese must be mentioned too. This is Wisconsin, after all. Most grocery stores here feature Wisconsin cheese, but there are local artisan cheese shops as well; Fromagination on the Carroll St. side of Capitol Square and Carr Valley Cheese store in Middeton are a couple of favorites. There are so many types of cheese to choose from; you'll have to try as many as possible. Cheese curds, fried cheese, string cheese (the real stuff, not the individually packaged sticks that won't expire for a year), chocolate cheese (don't question it, just try some), and more.

7. The University Of Wisconsin-Madison Is One of the Midwest's Best Universities

30 Things You Need To Know About Madison Before You Move There

Source: Flickr user Joshua Mayer

One of Madison's biggest draws in the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the state's oldest and largest public university. It is made up of 20 schools and has a student body of more than 29,000 undergraduate students and more than 8,000 graduate students. The school is a land-grant institution, and is known for its high research activity in the classroom and its students political and social causes and protests and, shall we say, extracurricular activities, outside the classroom.

8. Take A Stroll Through Olbrich Botanical Gardens

30 Things You Need To Know About Madison Before You Move There

Source: Flickr user Lena

Whether it's summer or winter, a walk through the beautiful public gardens is fun and free (except for the Bolz Conservatory, which costs $2 for those ages 6 and up). There are more than 15 gardens, both indoors and outdoors, which include exotic and native plants.

9. You Never Know What You'll Find At The Library

30 Things You Need To Know About Madison Before You Move There

Source: Flickr user Emily Mills

Looking for a good book? You're in luck; the Madison Public Library has nine branches. The library also goes beyond just checking out books. It provides a series of special events and programs, such as The Bubbler, which hosts pop-up workshops that connect participants with local experts who share their talents and physical resources. (Note: What most everyone else in the country calls a drinking fountain or water fountain, people in Wisconsin call a bubbler).

10. Trips To The Zoo Are Free

30 Things You Need To Know About Madison Before You Move There

Source: Flickr user William Prost

Continually voted as a favorite (free!) activity, the Henry Villas Zoo has been around for more than 100 years. Even extras, like a merry go round ride or train ride, only cost $1. The zoo is small, which means you can take your time and not rush to see everything, and you can also bring your own picnic lunch.

11. Madison Practically Invented Vitamin D Out Of Necessity

30 Things You Need To Know About Madison Before You Move There

Source: Flickr user Richard Hurd

Your body makes vitamin D when sunlight shines on your skin. That's great, unless it's winter in a northern climate, where it's cold and dark, and we stay inside a lot. It's probably no coincidence that vitamin D was discovered at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a place where everyone would be wise to take a vitamin D supplement.

12. The Capitol Building Is Gorgeous

30 Things You Need To Know About Madison Before You Move There

Source: Flickr user Kara Harms

Madison's current capitol building, built between 1906 and 1917, is situated between Lake Monona and Lake Mendota, and is the only state capitol to be built on an isthmus. The building is the state's fourth capitol. The first was a building rented in 1836 in what is now Leslie, in Lafayette County. The second was built in 1838 in Madison, which was replaced by a larger building in 1863, and was destroyed by a fire. You can take a free tour of the building weekdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends and holidays.

13. Madison Is A Biker's Dream

30 Things You Need To Know About Madison Before You Move There

Source: Flickr user Emily Mills

A network of bike trails connects the entire city and surrounding communities. A popular event that combines winter and biking, of which Madison has plenty of both, is the Cyclo Frost Cyclocross, part of the Madison Winter Festival.

14. You Can Find A Place To Play Pretty Much Anything

30 Things You Need To Know About Madison Before You Move There

Source: Flickr user Richard Hurd

There are 247 parks and four golf courses to enjoy in the city, and in those parks you can find everything from ski trails, to football fields, to beaches, to ice skating and more. Even Fido is invited to come out and play; there are parks with both on- and off-leash areas.

15. You Can Feel (And See) The Rhythm And Booms On July 4th

30 Things You Need To Know About Madison Before You Move There

Source: Flickr user The National Guard

When Independence Day rolls around, get ready for some noise. Rhythm and Booms is the largest fireworks display in the Midwest. It begins with concerts, and ends with a fireworks show set to music.

16. Mac And Cheese + Pizza = Happy

30 Things You Need To Know About Madison Before You Move There

Source: Flickr user John Fischer

Leave it to the cheese state to add macaroni and cheese as a pizza topping. The Mac n' Cheese pizza made Ian's Pizza famous and must be tried, but don't be afraid to tackle a new item on the menu each time you return (because you will be back). Other Ian's pizza creations include the Smoked Brisket and Tots pizza, the Portabella Pesto Blues pizza and the Salad Pizza, to name just a few.

17. It's The City Of Many Nicknames

30 Things You Need To Know About Madison Before You Move There

Source: Flickr user click-see

Madison is a city with many facets, and almost as many nicknames. Some nicknames are: Mad City, Madtown, the Berkeley of the Midwest, the People's Republic of Madison, the Athens of the Midwest, 78 square miles surrounded by reality, Lake City and the City of Four Lakes.

18. Wear Your Eating Pants To Mickies Dairy Bar

30 Things You Need To Know About Madison Before You Move There

Source: Wikimedia user Daniel Simanek

The downtown area is full of great restaurants across price points, ranging from hole-in-the-wall to upscale. One favorite that pretty much everyone can agree on is Mickies Dairy Bar, a beloved diner that serves up big portions of breakfast, lunch and dessert Tuesday through Sunday. But get there early; it's in high demand, especially on game days.

19. Madison Is Full Of Kids

30 Things You Need To Know About Madison Before You Move There

Source: Flickr user Richard Hurd

More than 57 percent of residents are age 34 and under, giving the city a youthful feel.

20. Walk The State Street Pedestrian Mall

30 Things You Need To Know About Madison Before You Move There

Source: Flickr user Emily Mills

A great spot for strolling, shopping, eating and people watching is the downtown State Street Pedestrian Mall. On one end is the Capitol Square and on the other end is the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. Only buses and taxis are allowed on the street, which is also home to landmarks such as the Orpheum Theater and the Overture Center for the Arts.

21. UW Arboretum Is Perfect For Nature Exploration

30 Things You Need To Know About Madison Before You Move There

Source: Flickr user Richard Hurd

You don't have to leave the city to explore tall grass prairies, forests, wetlands and savannas, either by walking or biking. The Arboretum is home to the oldest and most varied collection of restored ecological communities in the world, all on 1,200 acres, and 513 additional acres in other properties.

22. Venture Outside The City

30 Things You Need To Know About Madison Before You Move There

Source: Flickr user Richie Diesterheft

Although you can stay in Madison and still get one of the best things the state has to offer (New Glarus Brewing Co. beer, of course!), why not drive 30 minutes southwest to New Glarus and visit the source? The New Glarus Brewing Co. makes some of the best beer in the world (Spotted Cow and Moon Man are two year-round favorites), and you can go there for a tour and tasting. And, if you go on the last Saturday in October, a stop in Belleville for the annual UFO Day festival is a must. Within a half hour in any direction of Madison, you're sure to find beautiful nature and wildlife preserves and parks and quaint towns, and, if you're up for an hour-long drive, the Wisconsin Dells to the northwest is home to the world's top water parks, and is a great year-round getaway.

23. Everyone Rallied At The Capitol During The Teachers' Union And Workers' Rights Protests.

30 Things You Need To Know About Madison Before You Move There

Source: Flickr user United Steelworkers

Or at least their friends did.

24. It Leans To The Left

30 Things You Need To Know About Madison Before You Move There

Source: Flickr user David Berkowitz

Madison is well known for its liberal politics and generally elects a democratic majority, at least in city council. Also, on a completely unrelated but awesome note, the official city bird is the plastic pink flamingo, named by the Madison Common Council in 2009.

25. Frank Lloyd Wright Left His Mark

30 Things You Need To Know About Madison Before You Move There

Source: Flickr user E. Nekervis

Like many other lucky areas across the country (and around the world), Frank Lloyd Wright built some beautiful structures in the city. He lived here for much of his childhood and studied at the university for a while, and came back to gift the city with his Eugene A. Gilmore House (Airplane House), Eugene Van Tamelen House, Herbert and Katherine Jacobs First House, John C. Pew House, Monona Terrace Community & Convention Center, Robert M. Lamp House, Walter Rudin House and the Unitarian Meeting House.

26. It's Home To Oscar Mayer

30 Things You Need To Know About Madison Before You Move There

Source: Flickr user Jim Simonson

Oscar Mayer opened a factory in Madison in 1919, and moved its headquarters here in 1957. Today, the company is owned by Kraft. And, if you're a college senior who would like a shot at driving the weinermobile, interviews take place in Madison.

27. Madison Gave Birth To The Onion

30 Things You Need To Know About Madison Before You Move There

Source: Flickr user hildgrim

We're not talking about the tear-inducing vegetable; we're talking about "America's Finest News Source." This satirical news publication was founded in 1988 by Tim Keck and Christopher Johnson, who were then juniors at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

28. (Almost) Everyone Works In Government Or Education

30 Things You Need To Know About Madison Before You Move There

Source: Flickr user college.library

The two largest employers in the city are the Wisconsin state government and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. However, consumer services and high-tech jobs are growing.

29. You Can Taste Some Great Beer

30 Things You Need To Know About Madison Before You Move There

Source: Flickr user Jordan Scott

The Great Taste of the Midwest craft beer festival is held every second Saturday in August. Established in 1987, it is the second largest and second oldest running beer festival in the United States. If you want to go, prepare to buy your tickets promptly. In 2013, tickets sold out within an hour of going on sale.

30. Go Badgers!

30 Things You Need To Know About Madison Before You Move There

Source: Flickr user Phil Roeder

Madison is the greatest college sports town in America, according to ESPN's Scott Van Pelt and Sports Illustrated. The reason for all that greatness? The University of Wisconsin-Madison Badgers, of course. The Badgers are in the NCAA's Division I, and are a founding member of the Big Ten Conference. Represented by team mascot Buckingham U. Badger (better known as Bucky Badger) you'll see a lot of cardinal and white while you're in town.


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Posted on: February 24, 2014
111,819 views, 94 comments
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New Listings in Madison
7 Settler Hill Cir, Madison, WI
$424,900
  • 3 Beds
  • 3 Baths
  • 2,746 Sqft
  • 0 Days on Movoto
407 Sugar Maple Ln, Madison, WI
$279,900
  • 3 Beds
  • 2 Baths
  • 1,577 Sqft
  • 0 Days on Movoto
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