Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Travel Notes: Madison, WI

Madison managed to shock the heck out of us.  When we talked about where we wanted to move once Steve started teaching, Madison was on the list because it was half-way between our parents.  It was quickly knocked out for being too cold, and that's still true.  But until visiting, we had no idea it would be such a perfect town for us.  Progressive and active and beautiful.  The most environmentally-friendly city and literate city in the United States, apparently.  It was the first time I'd seen recycling bins in a hotel room, and finding food for our kids was a breeze there.  Apparently, the triathlete population is hoppin' there too.

Serious kudos to Madison for being top-notch.  Steve says he'll move there as soon as they get a bio-dome over it for the winters, which is saying something since it has no ocean.

Some suggestions on what to do and where to stay:

HOTEL

The first night, we stayed at a Comfort Suites with a two-story suite and whirlpool in the room.  At under $100 with AAA, we thought that was a good (great!) deal.  Also came with 3 free cocktails per adult (which were wasted on us, unfortunately) and free breakfast. 

The following 2 nights, we stayed at the Holiday Inn- the only hotel with a waterpark in Madison (likely because Wisconsin Dells is 45 minutes away). No breakfast, but they had suites with poolside balcony for under $100 if you use an Entertainment card.  We went online and bought an Entertainment book on sale for $7.99, which saved us over $100 over 2 nights.  If you have kids, this option is a hands-down winner.

FOOD

We ate at Ella's Deli, which might rank as one of the most fun restaurants I've ever seen. The kids were delighted by all the things to see there.  Also includes a carousel.  Don't go through Madison without stopping here, if you have little ones.

THINGS TO DO

Olbrich Botanical Gardens: We went during Blooming Butterflies, so admission was a bit higher.  But normally it's $1 for adults and free for children.  We never moved beyond the conservatory, actually, and the highlight was the carnivorous plants.  Much more to see there, and the outdoor gardens are always free.

Vilas Zoo:  I was stunned that this was free, as it was one of the nicest children's zoos we've seen.  The playground area was great for running off steam and we could get so close to the tigers.  Simone's face when the tiger stared at her (an inch away) was priceless. The carousel is $1/child and so is the train.

Madison Children's Museum:  Goodness knows we would have gone if they were open, as we love children's museums.  But they're closed until mid-August of 2010...so if you're reading this after that date, go and think of us.  I've heard excellent things about it.

Farmer's Market:  We left on Friday, so we were a day short of checking this out.  But apparently, it's not your normal farmer's market.  They have performers and all sorts of things to see and do.  Next trip, we'll plan around it. :)

Madison, we love you.

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