Wisconsin

Snow-cation's All I Ever Wanted - Exploring Madison Amidst the Polar Vortex

It’s February. It’s the time of year where many-a-people run from the cold and flock to somewhere warm. It’s the high season for tropical, beach-y destinations like Hawaii, Turks and Caicos, and Cabo.

Call us crazy (maybe it’s our rebellious side coming out), but we highly suggest doing the opposite.

Sure, mai tai’s on the beach sound great - but let’s be real. You’ll be fighting the crowds, and you’ll be paying a high premium to do so. We think tropical getaways are always better during the off-season, where prices are practically slashed in half, and your chances of having the beach all to yourself are significantly greater!

So this winter, we decided to head somewhere different. Somewhere snowy. Somewhere that’s up-and-coming, full of winter activities (both indoor and outdoor), culinary experiences, and that friendly, Midwest charm. We got two round-trip tickets to Madison, Wisconsin, packed our winter coats (and hand warmers), and prepared for some sub-freezing exploring.! Here’s what we did, and what YOU should do when you head that way!

Great photo opps in front of the Capitol building!

ICE SKATE AT TENNEY PARK

Have you ever ice skated on a frozen lagoon before? We hadn’t either! Tenney Park is something out of a storybook - with snow covered trees, picturesque bridges, and dozens of families skating across the lake. You can rent ice skates for only $6/hour, and you can warm up with a hot cup of cocoa at the warming center after you’re done. If you’re a seasoned skater or hockey player, bring your stick and slide into one of the pickup hockey games.

Tenney Park kisses

STATE STREET

One of the most iconic streets in Madison is State Street, that runs from The Capitol Square to the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. State Street has everything from fine dining to quirky boutiques, the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, lively bars, and more. We found ourselves on State Street every day that we were in Madison - there was simply too much to see! Some of our favorite spots were Cask & Ale, Paul’s Book Store, August, The Soap Opera and Little Luxuries.

State Street views with the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art on the right

Having snow-much fun on State Street

Ready to warm up with a cocktail inside Cask & Ale

Our first Wisconsin-style Old Fashioned’s

University strolling in the snow

Exploring the University of Wisconsin

BREWERY HOP

There’s no doubt that the craft beer scene is thriving in Madison. It’s “microbrew country”, as they like to say, with several fantastic tasting rooms and award-winning breweries. And we can’t think of a better way to spend a snowy day, then “hop-ping” (Get it?) around a few! There are breweries for any kind of beer fanatic - we took a liking to Ale Asylum, Karben 4, and ALT Brew.

Ale Asylum goods

Karben4 IPA time

OLBRICH BOTANICAL GARDENS

Find yourself needing a warm escape from the cold air? Well, we’re happy to say that a tropical oasis DOES exist in the middle of the snow! While the Olbrich Botanical Gardens has over 16 acres of outdoor gardens, they also are home to the Bolz Conservatory - a warm and sunny escape from the oftentimes below freezing temperatures outside. There’s tropical plants, pretty birds, lakes with koi, and temperature in the conservatory is always kept between 65-95 degrees! And with admission at only $2/person, it’s an easy and affordable way to spend an afternoon! And don’t forget to brave the cold and walk around some of their gorgeous outdoor gardens… you’ll feel as though you’ve entered a different land!

Looking for pretty birds

Found one!

Thai temples in Wisconsin? You bet!

THE EDGEWATER SPA

We’ll take any excuse to have a spa day - and wintery weather is the perfect excuse! The Edgewater Madison is home to a luxurious, waterfront spa that’s cozy and welcoming and offers every kind of treatment one could want. If you’re heading there with your significant other, we highly recommend their signature Couples Massage. Complete your spa day with a glass of champagne, and a dip in the relaxation pool! Does it get anymore romantic than that?

Heading down to our massage

MADISON HOTEL WEEK

If we’ve convinced you to head to Madison, you’re in luck. February 8-18 is Madison Hotel Week, where you can find discounted room rates at some of the best hotels in the city! We stayed at The Edgewater Madison, and absolutely loved it. They’re offering a discounted rate of $125/night during Madison Hotel Week, which we think is a lovely time for a Valentine’s Day Getaway.

Views from our balcony. Can you see the “I Love U"?

Our balcony after the snowy evening :)

The staircase inside the Edgewater is beautiful!

Madison, Wisconsin blew us away. The friendly locals, the lively downtown, the stunning, snowy scenery… We loved every minute of it. And we can’t wait to return.

Beyond the Cheese: Eating Our Way Through Madison, Wisconsin

What’s the first thing you think of when you think of Wisconsin?

Cheese?

Us too. As self proclaimed cheese-lovers, a state known for its cheese curds sounds quite heavenly. We couldn’t wait to explore! There’s no denying that Madison, Wisconsin is home to some of the most delicious cheesy dishes in the US. Places like The Statehouse, The Old Fashioned, Fromagination, and The Tipsy Cow have the most mouth-watering cheese curds we’ve ever tried. But what really caught our attention is how varied and impressive the foodie scene in Madison is in general! Because after awhile, even cheese fanatics like us tend to say “Cut the cheese!” (get it?), and desire a change of flavor. Here are a few of our Must-Try spots the next time you’re in Madison!

Give us all the cheese!

We can never get enough cheese!

CAMP TRIPPALINDEE

Anyone else love summer camp as much as we did? The games, the bonfires, the quirky counselors and the Capri Suns… Can we go back?! Well, probably not. But you can go to Camp Trippalindee, where those stories and memories can be relived! Grab a seat at their outdoor bonfire, wrap yourself in a blanket, make s’mores and sing camp songs (optional). Or sit at the bar inside, chat with the friendly bartenders and dine on juicy burgers and hearty sweet potato fries. Wash it all down with a Boozy Capri (an adult version of a Capri Sun) and play a round (or three) of Jenga! Those nostalgic summer camp feelings coming back yet? We thought so.

GRAZE

We love a brunch spot with a good view. Located across the street from the Capitol Building, with floor to ceiling windows, Graze has just that! Pair the view with tantalizing brunch options like the sticky bun, chilaquiles, or the loaded breakfast sandwich, and you’ve got the recipe for a perfect Saturday morning! And if that cup of coffee at brunch wasn’t enough, walk across the road to Colectivo Coffee, where you can get a strong, smooth cup of joe!

ENO VINO

Speaking of good views, Eno Vino just might have the best one in town! This Spanish-inspired tapas and wine bar sits on the top floor of the AC Hotel in downtown Madison, and features jaw-dropping views of the Capitol Building. They have an extensive wine and craft cocktail menu, and their small bites are great for sharing. They even have a “Merienda Hour” with specials on wine, cocktails, and more - which we’re planning to hit up next time!

ALE ASYLUM

Madison is home to some of the best craft breweries in the US! Being there amidst the polar vortex, we weren’t able to get out to as many as we’d have liked. One of our favorites was Ale Asylum, which not only had amazing draft beers (Try their Hopalicious or Velveteen Habit), but also some solid pub grub too! We recommend their Honey Mustard Brisket, Hummus Plate, and Chips with their IPA Cheese Sauce. (OK, we know. More cheese. But it’s SO GOOD!) We also loved the beer at Karben4 Brewery - try their Fantasy Factory or Tokyo Sauna!

CANTEEN

Mexican food in Wisconsin? That’s a thing? We were just as surprised as you are! We were even more surprised that it’s actually really tasty and authentic. Canteen is a trendy, modern Mexican cantina that serves affordable street tacos with a twist. And they even make a mean margarita! Go at happy hour, when Pacifico Pints and Signature Margaritas are half off!

Ian’s

We always have to find a good pizza place. Thankfully, Madison did not disappoint in this department. Ian’s is a pizza-by-the-slice shop known for it’s creative pies. Seriously, have you ever had slices like these… Mac-N-Cheese, Portabello Pesto, Macho Nacho, Cheesy Potato with Ranch, or Smoked Brisket and Tots? They look, smell, and taste incredible! Unfortunately our stomachs didn’t have room to try them all!

Mac N Cheese pizza?!? Yes!

Are you hungry yet? Good - us too. Those are just a handful of dining options in Madison. Whether you’re cheese-crazed or lactose intolerant, there’s plenty of epic culinary adventures yet to be had in this up and coming town. Leave a comment and let us know what spots we should check out next time we’re there!