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Madison Wisconsin in January

oldsakoldsak Registered User regular
I will be in Madison for two weeks in January. It seems a terrifying prospect.

I have never been to Madison. Is there anything I should check out on my downtime, or will I be fully occupied trying not to freeze to death?

I have booked a hotel downtown near the University of Wisconsin. Can anyone recommend nearby places to eat, have a drink, kill some time, etc?

I have never experienced anything like a Midwestern winter. How many fingers/toes can I expect to lose?

Posts

  • Gabriel_PittGabriel_Pitt (effective against the Irish) Registered User regular
    Do you have a winter coat, a knit cap, and warm gloves? If yes, you'll be fine. Where are you coming from?

  • oldsakoldsak Registered User regular
    I'm coming from North Carolina, but have spent the last 13 winters in NYC. It looks like NYC's lows are Madison's highs for January.

  • iRevertiRevert Tactical Martha Stewart Registered User regular
    Depends on what you're into though you are coming in at the start of drinking season.

    Particular things that interest you or you'd like to do in the area?

  • Gabriel_PittGabriel_Pitt (effective against the Irish) Registered User regular
    If you can handle NYC at its worst, Madison will present no particular hardship.

  • CreaganCreagan Registered User regular
    I mean, the reason Midwest winters have such a "rep" is because we tend to get a lot of snow, especially close to the lake.

    So, like, the only "special" piece of advice I have is maybe don't wear lots of white so if there's a snowstorm you'll be visible to traffic? Wear boots so your feet don't get soaked? If you don't like being cold, a scarf and wearing mittens instead of gloves can help...

    Also, there's a free to the public zoo in Madison, which might be fun.

  • oldsakoldsak Registered User regular
    iRevert wrote: »
    Depends on what you're into though you are coming in at the start of drinking season.

    Particular things that interest you or you'd like to do in the area?

    I guess I'm game for anything. Is there anything that I should definitely not miss while I'm there? I know nothing about the town.

  • I ZimbraI Zimbra Worst song, played on ugliest guitar Registered User regular
    Dealing with the cold really isn't too bad, and we've had a pretty mild winter so far. You'll want some good boots and good socks if you're spending any time outside. Depending on what the forecast looks like it might be worth it to invest in some long underwear as

    There should be plenty to do around town, depending on what you're into. I'd recommend checking out www.thedailypage.com before you come to see what kind of events are going on.

    State St connects the UW campus to the Capitol, and is where a lot of the shops and restaurants are downtown. There are some more upscale places around the Capitol square. I'd recommend trying The Old Fashioned at least once; I'm not that crazy about their food but it is very Wisconsin-y and they have a great beer list. If you want something fancy there's L'Etoile and The Tornado Room for steaks. There are also a number of good restaurants on Williamson St and Monroe St, both of which are fairly close to downtown. Lao-Laan Xang on Willy and Brasserie V on Monroe St are both high points. There are tons of good restaurants all over Madison, really.

    If you like sports there should be Badger basketball and Hockey games going on while you're here. The men's basketball and women's hockey teams are both pretty good this year.

    If you want to see live music there are plenty of places around downtown to do so. The Overture Center, The Orpheum, and The Barrymore have larger acts come through, while you can catch local and smaller touring bands at The High Noon Saloon, The Majestic, and a number of bars around. There's also plenty of live theater and a comedy club downtown.

    If you like beer check out The Mason, The Old Fashioned, and The Malt House. Those 3 have the best tap lists. If you have a half-day to kill you can drive out to New Glarus and visit the brewery.

    If you like outdoorsy stuff there's snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and ice skating. Even just walking around on the frozen lakes can be a cool experience if you've never done it before.

    There's a good art museum, The Chazen, on the UW campus that's worth a visit. The collection is a bit hodge-podge, but there's cool stuff there. The Overture Center also has a modern art museum with rotating collections.

    Feel free to shoot me a PM if you have any specific questions. @Veevee is also a local and I'm sure has more ideas than me.

  • tinwhiskerstinwhiskers Registered User regular
    The temperature thing is subject to huge variance. It could be 30s and sunny the whole time you are there, It could be 0 with 20mph winds. It's been 5 years since I lived there, but Tuttos on State street had some good Italian food.

    Also Ian's pizza.

    6ylyzxlir2dz.png
    I Zimbra
  • iRevertiRevert Tactical Martha Stewart Registered User regular
    edited December 2014
    The temperature thing is subject to huge variance. It could be 30s and sunny the whole time you are there, It could be 0 with 20mph winds. It's been 5 years since I lived there, but Tuttos on State street had some good Italian food.

    Also Ian's pizza.

    Sala Thai, Tempest, Paul's Pel'meni, Marrakesh, Inka Heritage, Maharani, Weary Traveler, Taqueria Guadalajara, Himal Chuli, Mediterranean Cafe, Short Stack Eats, Oakcrest tavern, Bandung, Tipsy Cow [tipsy burger with sour cream or truffle fries required ordering], Ichiban, Ha Long Bay, and Dave's Jamaican are also worth checking out and also might turn this thread into a "Where to get the best food after getting hammered on a 'tasting tour' of a brewery".

    I guess we should list things other than food for him to do.

    The obligatory Olbrich gardens, Children's Museum (adult night), Old sugar distillery, Chazen, House on the Rock, Michaels, Madison Oriental Market (off Fish Hatch and just pop into the deli for lunch), Fromagination (or Brennan's if you're more of the sampler and less spendy type), Conscious Carnivore, Underground Butcher, Union terrace (not great in winter), Capital, Bernie's rock shop and a ton of various Museums and whatnot in the downtown area that I can't think of.

    EDIT: Be careful around the High Noon Saloon, its a good place but stay the fuck away from The Brass Ring as its been nothing but trouble in the past bit.

    iRevert on
  • VeeveeVeevee WisconsinRegistered User regular
    Most places I could ever to think of mentioning has already been mentioned. Keep in mind that prices here are significantly cheaper than New York City, which can lend to overspending when you do go out. Madison is a very safe place, but that doesn't mean crime doesn't happen so be alert if walking alone by yourself at night. I get done with work at a downtown hotel at midnight 5 nights a week and haven't felt unsafe once, but that doesn't mean I don't stay alert while I walk several blocks to the car.

    Generally think of State street as the place you'll spend 90% of your free time, with the idea being the end by campus is generally student oriented with college bars and quicker places to eat while the capital end is more professionally oriented. You'll also be here when a large majority of the 50k students are home for the holidays, which is a blessing for natives but they can be very entertaining for the touristy crowd.

    Did you rent a car? If so, I would highly recommend cancelling it unless you will need to get somewhere not in the downtown area regularly. Most everything you will need and want (except for a movie theater) is within walking distance to any downtown hotel. The public transit is top notch, and cabs are $20 to $30 to and from the downtown area to just about anywhere in Madison and are very reliable (Uber/Lyft are more expensive, have longer wait times, and the city is actively fighting them). On top of that, the downtown roads can be extremely confusing to people their first time in Madison so if you do get a car please at least look at the route to the hotel on a map before you get on the road, otherwise you could easily find yourself going the wrong way down a oneway.

    As Zimbra said, feel free to PM if you've got anything specific you want to know about.

  • iRevertiRevert Tactical Martha Stewart Registered User regular
    edited December 2014
    Veevee wrote: »
    Most places I could ever to think of mentioning has already been mentioned. Keep in mind that prices here are significantly cheaper than New York City, which can lend to overspending when you do go out. Madison is a very safe place, but that doesn't mean crime doesn't happen so be alert if walking alone by yourself at night. I get done with work at a downtown hotel at midnight 5 nights a week and haven't felt unsafe once, but that doesn't mean I don't stay alert while I walk several blocks to the car.

    Generally think of State street as the place you'll spend 90% of your free time, with the idea being the end by campus is generally student oriented with college bars and quicker places to eat while the capital end is more professionally oriented. You'll also be here when a large majority of the 50k students are home for the holidays, which is a blessing for natives but they can be very entertaining for the touristy crowd.

    Did you rent a car? If so, I would highly recommend cancelling it unless you will need to get somewhere not in the downtown area regularly. Most everything you will need and want (except for a movie theater) is within walking distance to any downtown hotel. The public transit is top notch, and cabs are $20 to $30 to and from the downtown area to just about anywhere in Madison and are very reliable (Uber/Lyft are more expensive, have longer wait times, and the city is actively fighting them). On top of that, the downtown roads can be extremely confusing to people their first time in Madison so if you do get a car please at least look at the route to the hotel on a map before you get on the road, otherwise you could easily find yourself going the wrong way down a oneway.

    As Zimbra said, feel free to PM if you've got anything specific you want to know about.

    I'd argue on the "very safe part" while it might be safer than a similar sized city there are some areas that have gone flat out to shit and a good number of things still occur so he should be careful and on point.

    EDIT: Should we prep him on portion control? Because 1/3 of any given food order he makes is going to be the size he's used to getting.

    iRevert on
  • MichaelLCMichaelLC In what furnace was thy brain? ChicagoRegistered User regular
    edited December 2014
    Just use the same common sense that you would in New York and you will be fine.
    Wear lots of purple and yellow as it helps you stand out against the snow.

    MichaelLC on
    Jokerman wrote: »
    If sigs were still a thing this would be mine.
    KreutzVeeveeSpiritfire
  • oldsakoldsak Registered User regular
    It looks like there's some really good suggestions here.
    iRevert wrote: »
    I guess we should list things other than food for him to do.

    I definitely do not mind an overabundance of food recommendations. I basically have to eat out for 2 weeks after all.
    Veevee wrote: »
    Did you rent a car? If so, I would highly recommend cancelling it unless you will need to get somewhere not in the downtown area regularly. Most everything you will need and want (except for a movie theater) is within walking distance to any downtown hotel..

    Great! That was my impression from looking at google maps, but you never can no for sure until you're there. I have not booked a car as the hotel offers a shuttle to where I will need to go for work.

  • QuantumTurkQuantumTurk Registered User regular
    As a north Carolinian who now lives in Georgia with a partner whos parents are in Madison that we visit over the holidays...you will be fine. Shirt+hoodie/warm up jakcet+wind proof coat+gloves+knit hat+pants+maybe warm socks and you will be fine for anything but a dip in the lake. State street is cool, Wisconsin food is heavy, drink all the new glarus you can if you like beer. Also the student union/center (cant remember) apparently can serve beer, and has a porch where you can sit out and look over the lake. I've only been there over the holidays, but that to me sounds like the sort of thing to do, even if it is -20 out.

  • tinwhiskerstinwhiskers Registered User regular
    As a north Carolinian who now lives in Georgia with a partner whos parents are in Madison that we visit over the holidays...you will be fine. Shirt+hoodie/warm up jakcet+wind proof coat+gloves+knit hat+pants+maybe warm socks and you will be fine for anything but a dip in the lake. ...

    So this reminds me, check to see if any of the polar plunges are happening when you are there. And should totally do it if one is.

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  • QuantumTurkQuantumTurk Registered User regular
    Oh lord yes. As someone who regularly dipped and pressured others into breaking the ice in jan/feb to get into a cowpond...do this at least once in your life.

  • iRevertiRevert Tactical Martha Stewart Registered User regular
    Oh lord yes. As someone who regularly dipped and pressured others into breaking the ice in jan/feb to get into a cowpond...do this at least once in your life.

    IANAD: Make sure you aren't pregnant or have a heart condition before doing this because you can do damage to yourself.

  • chamberlainchamberlain Registered User regular
    I Zimbra wrote: »
    If you like beer check out The Mason, The Old Fashioned, and The Malt House. Those 3 have the best tap lists. If you have a half-day to kill you can drive out to New Glarus and visit the brewery.

    If you have any interest in beer at all make this trip. It is wonderful excuse to have a beer at around 10:00 AM.

  • oldsakoldsak Registered User regular
    edited January 2015
    So this reminds me, check to see if any of the polar plunges are happening when you are there. And should totally do it if one is.

    Sadly it doesn't look like there are. I missed the one in Coney Island this year so I definitely would have gone in Madison.
    I Zimbra wrote: »
    If you like beer check out The Mason, The Old Fashioned, and The Malt House. Those 3 have the best tap lists. If you have a half-day to kill you can drive out to New Glarus and visit the brewery.

    If you have any interest in beer at all make this trip. It is wonderful excuse to have a beer at around 10:00 AM.

    Sweet deal, I do love my beer and will have at least 6 half-days to kill as I'll be there over the Martin Luther King day weekend. I'll definitely look into making a trip out there if they're open over the holiday weekend.

    How about a bar where I can watch the EPL games?

    oldsak on
  • I ZimbraI Zimbra Worst song, played on ugliest guitar Registered User regular
    Pretty sure Hawk's on State St is the spot to watch soccer. Decent food, too.

  • HypatiaHypatia Registered User regular
    If you're going to mostly be in the University/Capitol area, I'd second/recommend:

    Breakfast places
    Lazy Jane's: Definitely try a scone
    Bluephie's
    Marigold Kitchen
    Sunprint Cafe: On the square and a solid meal for pretty cheap
    Mickies Dairy Bar: Close to the stadium, their shakes are really good, this is definitely a greasy spoon

    Cheaper
    Ian's Pizza: Awesome odd kinds of pizzas like Mac & Cheese, or Papa the Bandit (potato, ranch, barbecue, and bacon).
    Dotty Dumpling's Dowry: Arguably the best burgers in Madison
    Graze: It's on the square across from L'Etoile and serves what the chef thinks of as comfort food. They don't take reservations so it's better to try to go there at off hours if you can (e.g., arriving at 5pm for dinner before the rush), they do mostly local ingredients and you can see in the restaurant a listing of the farms that they came from.
    Banzo: Really good falafel pitas, they have some carts that you can stop by by checking their twitter
    Takumi: This would require a drive or bus to get to, but it's the best sushi in Madison if you're feeling like sushi
    Pizza Brutta: Great place for wood fired Neapolitan style pizza, get a full pizza for yourself
    Cooper's Tavern: Usually kind of crowded but their food is pretty good
    Maharani: Good place if you want to do Indian buffet for lunch, it's where a lot of the Indian students order from
    The Library: Close to Union South, this is a great moderately quick place to grab sandwich type meals

    Notes: Sadly, I think Ichiban has recently gone downhill, I think they might have lost their chef. Their chinese is now okay but not great. If you go for lunch, I would argue that Soga on State Street does a better job. I'd also say the the Old Fashioned is ok for appetizers and beer but not the best for food.

    Super fancy
    L'Etoile: French cuisine done by the same chef as Graze, they use all local ingredients so their menu changes weekly. Very pricey and delicious.
    Tornado Club: Less pricey than L'Etoile, this is a steakhouse and I would argue the best one in Madison, Unlike a lot of the other steak places, ordering a steak comes with a salad, bread, and a side, you don't get nickel and dime'd and the steak is just as good if not better.
    Sardine: A little less pricey, usually pretty crowded, good food but could be a bit of a hike from the campus area

    Things to do
    The Vilas Zoo: As people mentioned, it's a pretty amazing zoo, especially when you consider that it's free
    Tour of the Capitol: More interesting than I would have expected when I took it, they give you a nice overview of the building and history
    State Street: Nice to stop by for shopping type purposes
    If you have any interest in the university at all, it could be worthwhile to stop by Memorial Union to see the terrace if you're there. Union South is also decent to hang around in and their food isn't bad.
    I'm not 100% sure that they'll be open, but the Babcock Hall Dairy Store is also worth seeing as they sell sandwiches and cheese from the school's Dairy program. You can also try to schedule a tour of the school's dairy operation if you're interested.

    I'm not sure if it'll be open, but definitely try the Chocolate Shoppe for ice cream if it is. I moved to Madison from close to Vermont and scoffed at the ice cream being comparable, but after trying the Chocolate Shoppe I was a convert, especially of their Zanzibar if you like dark chocolate.

  • HypatiaHypatia Registered User regular
    Just as an addendum, I know there are people who swear by the red brats from the State Street Brat House (e.g., my husband) and they're kind of a Madison institution, to me they're just kind of decent, but maybe if you're a brat connoisseur then you'd really like them.

  • iRevertiRevert Tactical Martha Stewart Registered User regular
    Hypatia wrote: »
    Just as an addendum, I know there are people who swear by the red brats from the State Street Brat House (e.g., my husband) and they're kind of a Madison institution, to me they're just kind of decent, but maybe if you're a brat connoisseur then you'd really like them.

    PvyZNpD.jpg

  • oldsakoldsak Registered User regular
    Hypatia wrote: »
    Just as an addendum, I know there are people who swear by the red brats from the State Street Brat House (e.g., my husband) and they're kind of a Madison institution, to me they're just kind of decent, but maybe if you're a brat connoisseur then you'd really like them.

    I eat vegetarian so it's pretty much a moot point. Actually, I probably should have mentioned this when initially soliciting food recommendations.

  • QuantumTurkQuantumTurk Registered User regular
    If you are veg I remember there being a Himalayan restaurant on state street that was quite tasty. I can't remember the name, but there couldn't be that many of them.

  • I ZimbraI Zimbra Worst song, played on ugliest guitar Registered User regular
    Himal Chuli is the Nepalese joint. And you joke, but there used to be two of them. On the same block.

    If your work takes you out to Verona check out Jordandal Cookhouse. It's all farm to table, fresh, with plenty of veg options. Madison is pretty vegetarian friendly in general so you should have no problems.

  • I ZimbraI Zimbra Worst song, played on ugliest guitar Registered User regular
    Oh, and get ice cream from Babcock Hall on campus. It's made from milk from the cows in the ag department and is damn good.

  • GoslingGosling Looking Up Soccer In Mongolia Right Now, Probably Watertown, WIRegistered User regular
    edited January 2015
    No, it wasn't Himal Chuli. There was a Tibetan one too which I wasn't a big fan of.

    I have a tendency to do book crawls up and down State Street, which is really good for such a thing because you can hit up, and I am not exaggerating here, six different places within about 2000 feet: A Room Of One's Own, Avol's, Rainbow, Browzers Bookshop, Paul's Book Store, and I occasionally find something at Madison Modern Market a little further towards the capitol.) Rainbow and Madison Modern do new books, the others do used.

    Foodwise, I have to disagree with Hypatia here and put in a vote for Wasabi as my sushi fix of choice; it's right off State Street. Ian's Pizza and Chocolate Shoppe, though, ohhhhhhhh yes. Oh-ho yes. And I'd also like to make a mention of Jamerica on Williamson Street (itself a section of town to go check out).

    Also, how has nobody mentioned Whad 'Ya Know tapings Saturday mornings (10 AM-noon) at Monona Terrace?

    Gosling on
    I have a new soccer blog The Minnow Tank. Reading it psychically kicks Sepp Blatter in the bean bag.
  • iRevertiRevert Tactical Martha Stewart Registered User regular
    Gosling wrote: »

    Also, how has nobody mentioned Whad 'Ya Know tapings Saturday mornings (10 AM-noon) at Monona Terrace?

    And even before that you could go and get Smut-n-eggs for that perfect way to start your day.

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