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Tips for Planning a Trip to Madison

This article is part of the Hipmunk #CityLove Project

Madison, Wisconsin is a vibrant university town with a large outdoor recreation scene, a favorite US city among international travelers.

Visitors head here for world-class restaurants, an energetic nightlife, political attractions, and stunning nature. Glacial waterfalls, lush national forests, beautiful limestone buffs, and mysterious caves make Madison one of the leading tourist destinations within the United States.

Sunset over Lake Mendota. Photo CC by Richard Hurd

Here are the main considerations for planning a trip to this beautiful city.

Pack Comfortable Walking Shoes

Madison was voted America’s most walkable city in 2014, and is incredibly easy to get around on foot. The city is fairly compact, with all of the main attractions within walking distance of each other.

The city is also known for its outdoor recreation, boasting over 250 parks and an extensive network of scenic hiking and biking trails. With so much spectacular nature on offer, including glacial lakes and beautiful lush forests, if you don’t pack comfortable walking shoes you are truly missing out.

Madison Arboretum. Photo CC by Richard Hurd

Madison is easily up there as the most picturesque capital city within the US – make sure you walk!

Travel Throughout Winter for Cheap Hotel Deals

Madison’s peak season is summer, and visitors flock to take advantage of its many beaches, lakes, and nature trails. Though there is still a fantastic range of activities and attractions during winter, and it is during winter (January – March) that you will find the cheapest hotel deals.

You won’t be able to partake in summer water-sports, but there are still may theatres, galleries, and a wide range of winter sports which take place throughout the city including cross-country skiing and ice skating.

Remember Football Season

When planning a trip to Madison, it is crucial to consider football season.

A large University town, Madison is all about college football. Those with no interest in attending a game should make sure their travel falls outside football season – hotels sell out citywide for game day, and the streets become packed with fans and traffic.

From August and December football games are on every Saturday; if hitting Madison specifically for a game, make sure to book your trip well in advance. Also noteworthy is the hockey season which starts in October.

Madison’s Best Hikes

Hiking fanatics should research trail options before traveling to Madison – there are over 250 parks, and a large number of scenic hikes – you’ll never be able to complete them all, so be sure to plan ahead and budget time for those which are most appealing.

Those with time should consider the Ice Age Trail, a National Scenic Trail split into a number of smaller hikes which passes glacial lakes from the last ice age.

Madison hiking in winter. Photo CC by Richard Hurd

The most popular segments of this hike are from Janesville to Milton and The Devil’s Staircase.

How to Get to Madison

Dane County Regional Airport is connected to most major airports within the US by connection, and then the airport is only a short 15 minutes from the city center.

Many travelers choose to drive from Chicago, which is an easy 2½-hours via Interstate 90.

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Meg Jerrard is an Australian Journalist who has been travelling and blogging around the world for the last 7 years to inspire others to embark on their own worldwide adventure!  Her husband Mike is an American travel photographer, and together they have made the world their home.

Follow their journey on FacebookGoogle+ and Twitter.

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