This article is part of the Hipmunk #CityLove Project
Featured header image by Richard Hurd
Many travelers head to Madison, Wisconsin for its excellent restaurants, energetic nightlife, University campus, and political attractions, and as these are some of the best in the country, you can’t really blame them. For those wanting to travel differently and head further off the beaten path, Madison has some spectacular natural attractions which are highly underrated.
Think magnificent waterfalls, fascinating national forests, pristine beaches, and mysterious caves. Think terrain left by glaciers from the last ice age, stunning glacial lakes, and beautiful limestone buffs.
Located in the heart of Wisconsin, Madison is teeming with natural wonders, and travelers who can look past the vibrant nightlife and university culture to seek out more will reap the rewards.
It is also teeming with cheap hotels, and if you’re looking for ways to get a cheap hotel in Madison, go to Hipmunk’s Madison Hotels guide page. There you’ll find out what the average price per hotel is during the season, and whether or not you should tempt fate with lodging at a hostel.
Stunning Hikes and Natural Beauty
Plenty of outdoor recreation is on offer in Madison, and it’s not worth sleeping in to miss out. Over 250 parks means an excessive amount of hiking and biking trails, all of which wind past some of America’s most stunning natural attractions.
Don’t overlook The Ice Age Trail, a National Scenic Trail which is broken up into a number of smaller hikes. Take popular segments from Janesville to Milton, or The Devil’s Staircase, and explore terrain left by glaciers from the last ice age, a natural wonder you won’t find anywhere else in the U.S.
Cave of the Mounds
A mere 20 minutes west of Madison, Cave of the Mounds is a spectacular National Natural Landmark and a true geological wonder.
One of the premier caves in America, taking the time to venture out of Madison and explore this area means that you could discover gemstone mines, participate in a fossil dig, and witness colorful crystal formations which illuminate the darkest corners of this century old cave.
House on the Rock
Built in the 1940s, House on the Rock is a unique attraction which is perched on the 60-foot chimney of a rocky tower, featuring 218 feet of unsupported boardwalk and soaring 156 feet above the valley floor.
Awe-inspiring views are only half of this attraction. Touring the house itself is an astounding experience, as each room has been integrated into and around the rock chimney on which it sits.
Exotic and unusual exhibits and collections are on display in each room, including the world’s largest carousel, a massive sea creature longer than the statue of liberty is tall, and a Japanese Garden including 14-foot waterfalls which plummet into a garden pond.
An architectural oddity, you will drive 45 minutes west of Madison along Highway 23 to reach the entrance.
Traveling off the beaten path in Madison is one of the best ways to really experience everything Wisconsin has to offer. Yes, the university scene is fantastic and the nightlife is truly amazing, but your travel experience could be so much more.
Don’t limit your experience in Madison to the traditional tourist attractions – be sure to allocate time to discover it’s stunning surrounds.