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This Sober City Guide of Madison, Wisconsin was guest-written by Sarah Kristin.
Whenever I travel out of state and someone asks where I’m from, I say, “Wisconsin,” and almost every single time the response is, “Oh, so you eat a lot of cheese?” While it IS true that we eat a lot of cheese (I mean, who doesn’t love cheese?!), there is a lot more to Wisconsin than that. Unfortunately, most of it tends to revolve around drinking.
According to a 2018 report by 24/7 Wall Street on the Top 20 Drunkest Cities in America, Green Bay, WI ranked #1 on the list. Not only that, but other cities in Wisconsin – Eau Claire, Appleton, Madison, Oshkosh, Wausau, La Crosse, Fond du Lac, Sheboygan, and Milwaukee – also made the list. That’s HALF the list!
So what’s a sober person to do in Madison, WI? Don’t fret .. there’s plenty to do! Despite its heavy drinking reputation, Madison ranked #3 on the 2016 Top 100 Best Places to Live and made Buzzfeed’s list of 10 U.S. Cities Perfect For A Weekend Getaway.
Madison is also recognized as one of America’s greenest cities – there are more bikes than cars and over 75 miles of bike paths!
There is plenty of alcohol-free activities to do when visiting. That’s why I put together this Sober City Guide of Madison, Wisconsin.
10 things to do when visiting Madison, Wisconsin:
Madison Farmers Market
The Madison Farmers Market is the largest producer-only farmers’ market in the U.S. It is held each Saturday from mid-April through the first week of November on the Capitol Square. Hundreds of people gather around the square to buy fresh produce, beautiful bouquets of flowers, and sample all the cheese you can get.
Pro tip: If you go to the market, don’t forget to pick up some Spicy Cheese Bread. Just say, “Spicy Cheese Bread,” and someone will show you the way!
It’s easy to spend a whole day hanging out on State Street in Downtown Madison! The 7-block stretch is lined with museums, theaters, restaurants, bookstores, art galleries, coffeehouses, gift shops and more. It’s also great for people-watching … Madison is an interesting town!
Downtown Madison (aka, The Isthmus) is sandwiched between two large lakes – Mendota and Monona. And both lakes are always buzzing whether it’s summer or winter! In the summer, you can grab a chair at the Memorial Union Terrace for live music and spectacular views of the sun setting over Lake Mendota. In the winter, go ice skating along the lake at the Edgewater Hotel!
For a fun night out on the town, check out one of Madison’s awesome music venues. The Barrymore, the Majestic, and the Orpheum are iconic landmarks with a history dating back to the early 1900s. Other popular venues downtown include High Noon Saloon and the newest addition, The Sylvee. In the summer, try an outdoor concert at Breese Stevens Field!
The Old Fashioned
If you come to Wisconsin and you don’t order fried cheese curds, you’re doing it wrong. Make sure to check out The Old Fashioned, right off the Capitol Square. They won Best Cheese Curds in Best of Madison 2019. I mean … LOOK AT THESE THINGS! *Drool*
Mickeys Dairy Bar
Looking for a good breakfast spot? Check out Mickeys Dairy Bar. This classic “hole-in-the-wall” establishment has been around since 1946. The restaurant serves outrageous portion sizes with pancakes bigger than your head.
Camp Randall Stadium
For the sports fans, make a stop at Camp Randall Stadium while you’re in town. Camp Randall is the oldest and 5th largest stadium in the Big Ten Conference. And if you’re here during football season, try to snag some tickets to the game and get ready to JUMP AROUND (a UW football tradition)!
Henry Vilas Zoo
Henry Vilas Zoo is open year-round. The best part is that parking and admission are free! There’s everything from Grizzly Bears and Polar Bears to Giraffes and Flamingos!
House on the Rock
The House On The Rock is located about a half-hour outside of Madison in Spring Green. Constructed in 1960, the quirky house is full of strange architecture, bright furniture, wax statues, and old artifacts. Rooms are set up in a maze-like pattern with different themes at every turn.
And the craziest part? The entire place is built out of the rock it sits on. Honestly … you just have to go and see it for yourself.
See Madison, Wisconsin sober!
Whether you’re making a trip to Wisconsin or just driving through the Midwest, make sure to check out Madison for some fun … and don’t forget the cheese curds!
This post was guest-written by Sarah Kristin. For sober meetups in the Madison area, follow her on Instagram at @soberinwisco.
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Need more sober travel inspiration? Check out these blog posts:
- Booze-free in Banff
- Sober City Guide to Memphis, TN
- Sober Solo Travel: The 5 Hardest Challenges
- How to Find a 12 Step Meeting While Traveling