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Madison Basics

Madison

Courtesy of the Greater Madison Convention & Visitors Bureau

Built on an isthmus between two lakes, Madison beckons travelers who crave opportunities for outdoor recreation four seasons a year. This city of 233,000 people holds fast to a down-to-earth and friendly attitude that welcomes visitors, invites them to blend in as locals and succeeds in converting some to permanent residents.

Madison was first conceived in 1836, the same year President James Madison died. It is home to the University of Wisconsin’s flagship campus, which attracts top researchers and students from around the globe (and also makes its own cheese and ice cream). The city lives up to its reputation as one of the best college towns in the country when it turns into a sea of red on football Saturdays, and Badger fans celebrate whether their team wins or loses.

A lively restaurant scene flourishes in the blocks surrounding the city’s Capitol Square, offering a strong emphasis on dishes made with the best local ingredients as well as guilty pleasures such as bratwurst and fried cheese curds. The Madison area is also home to a number of award-winning microbreweries and brewpubs crafting tasty beers that are sometimes hard to find outside of Wisconsin. Best of all, most of the city’s top attractions are free, including the Chazen Museum of Art, Henry Vilas Zoo and Olbrich Gardens.

With 43 miles of bike paths and 87 miles of bike lanes, Madison is a haven for travelers who want to explore the city on two wheels. The city hosts an Ironman Triathlon each September, with a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed convention center serving as the backdrop for the start and finish of the 2.4-mile swim in Lake Monona. The city consistently ranks among the best places for entrepreneurs, families and singles, and it has landed on a list of the five best cities for avoiding the real world, making it ideal for a getaway.

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