Hey CrossFitters! Welcome to Madison, Wisconsin! We hope you enjoy our community as much as we do. We are here to make your visit as enjoyable as possible. Below are some helpful tips on things to do, great neighborhoods and more.
Local Terms you should know:
The Square – Wisconsin’s State Capitol is Madison and the Capitol Building is a huge landmark. The Capitol is surrounded by 4 streets and those 4 street blocks making that up are referred to as “The Square” (makes sense right?) The Square is where you will find the Saturday morning Farmer’s Market as well as a great variety of restaurants, bars, and shops. The earlier you go to the Farmer’s Market, the less busy it will be (and it gets busy.) When walking The Square for the Farmer’s Market, note that traffic always walks counter-clockwise. I am not sure why, but we do. And be sure to check out Stella’s Bakery for the hot, spicy cheese bread!
The Beltline – Madison is a big city, but even freeway and downtown traffic aren’t as bad as really big cities. I used to live in a much bigger city and now chuckle at what Madison calls “rush hour.” I’m not saying it isn’t slow and frustrating, but it could be so much worse. “The Beltline” is the main thoroughfair from one side of town to the other. (It is also Highways 12/14.) Most people will give directions based on exits off of The Beltline. (I am not exactly sure why it is called The Beltline though…) The Games site is located right off The Beltline and you can actually get there very easily from either the John Nolen Drive or the Rimrock Road exit. (The Alliant Energy Center is located at that intersection.) There’s even a “secret” back parking lot entrance off of Rimrock Road – turn left at the lights before the Clarion Suites and follow that around to the gates.
The East Side and West Side – the west side is known for it’s limitless shopping centers, big box stores and wide streets designed for autos. The east side is known for a slower way of life that’s a little more laid back, we’re home to the creative class of Madison, great restaurants and bars, numerous bicycle trails like the Monona Lake Loop and Capital City State Trail, and the festival scene of Madison. In short, the east side is where you’ll want to be (we may be a little biased).
Atwood Avenue – The east side is made up of several eclectic neighborhoods but one thing they all have in common—great restaurants and bars! Some excellent choices are Stalzy’s Deli & Bakery, Next Door Brewery, and Daisy Cafe & Cupcakery. The iconic Barrymore Theatre is the place to be on the east side for live music and concerts. Atwood Avenue features a plethora of great eateries, craft cocktail joints, classic Wisconsin taverns and some excellent festivals. While you’re here, be sure to visit AtwoodFest on July 29 & 30. This will be an excellent induction into the way of life in Madison. If you’d like to remember your visit to Madison with a piece of fine art, then Gallery Marzen is a must.
One the the must see stops for your visit to Madison is Olbrich Botanical Gardens. 16 acres of meticulous gardens including the Rose Garden, the Thai Pavilion, and the Bolz Conservatory is the perfect way to spend a morning or afternoon. After your visit to the gardens, be sure to visit The East Side Club’s tiki bar which is perfectly nestled on the eastern shore of Lake Monona. You may even be able to catch a concert on the lawn for their Sunset Music Series on Thursday nights.
Williamson Street – Known by the locals as Willy Street, this area is known by its funky, hippy vibe, great bars and a variety of excellent locally owned restaurants and cafes. Madisonians cannot get enough of Willy Street so be sure to visit this gateway to downtown Madison. You really cannot go wrong with any of the restaurants you select on Willy Street.
Cottage Grove Road – An up and coming area in Madison that is home to several classic Wisconsin taverns and some notable restaurants. Chief’s Tavern, V.F.W. Post #7591 will give you a taste of Wisconsin from the past. Restaurants that should be on your list are the renowned Culver’s Frozen Custard (a Wisconsin chain founded in Sauk City, WI by Craig Culver) and North of the Bayou—serving Madison’s finest New Orleans cuisine.
Monona Drive – Monona Drive is a boulevard with 29 eateries in a two mile stretch, most of which are locally owned and ethnic. ‘The Drive’ as it’s referred to by locals, is the downtown for the City of Monona. The City of Monona was a resort community when it was first established in 1938. It’s a small waterfront community on Lake Monona with a population of about 8,600 people. Places you must visit if you find yourself in Monona are Swad Indian Restaurant, Waypoint Public House, Rosie’s Coffee Bar & Bakery, Fraboni’s Italian Specialities & Deli, Java Cat, Ken’s Meats & Deli, Mr. Brews Taphouse, Silver Eagle Bar & Grill, Tully’s II Food & Spirits and Elie’s Family Restaurant. Some quick stops would include Taco John’s, Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar, and Qdoba Mexican Eats.
One of the highlights of this area is the Aldo Leopold Nature Center which features a state-of-the-art interactive indoor exhibit, and seven acres of native prairies, ponds and woodland habitats. Watch for the Sandhill Cranes, turtles and numerous other wildlife that call this nature center home.
Be sure to contact us at the Monona East Side Business Alliance if you have questions about things to do and how to get there. We’re here to ensure that your stay is the best that it can be! (608) 222-8565