Best Damn 4-hour Road-trip You Can Take

What to see, eat and do in the Madison, Wisconsin

By The Editors
July 9, 2015 9:00 am

Stipulated: the perfect travel time for a three-day weekend getaway is four hours. More, and you waste your vacation. Less, and you’re still near home. Hence our series: The 4hr. Rule, dedicated to revealing the best destinations that are far away, yet still close to home.

There are places every Chicagoan must visit.

Deep in the American heartland.

Where there is government. Higher learning. Craft beer and fried cheese curds.

Madison, Wisconsin — the City of Four Lakes — is such a place.

And summer’s the time to visit. The students have scurried home, leaving you plenty of room to engage in some reveling of your own.

That’s why we made you this guide on exactly what to do.

Below, we set you up with a personally vetted plan (i.e., your correspondent was there last weekend) for an epic three-day weekend.

For nostalgia lovers, especially those looking to get back to the old glory days, check into the newly opened Graduate Madison, a boutique charmer with a collegiate feel, but adult attitude. A prime home base, walking distance to the capitol building and UW-Madison Memorial Union’slakefront promenade. Liberty Suites are decked out with a wet bar, a spacious living area and tasteful art drawing from the world of academia. Comfy beds, too. And in the lobby, handpies from Portage Pi.

  601 Langdon St. (map)


The stereotype that is Wisconsin’s food scene — brats and cheese — is no where to be found at Sujeo, and Madison’s better for it. From the fermented black bean-chili-garlic stir-fried greens to crispy pork belly Lechon Kawali, Sujeo indicates a food scene in motion. Maturing and evolving. Originality aside, their Banchan is on point. And so are their cocktails.

After-dinner nightcap options, just a walk away: Locals love Coopers Tavern. Or follow the sweet smell of tobacco to Maduro Cigar Bar.

10 N. Livingston St.
(608) 630-9400

Up on King St. just a few doors down from the capitol building lies one of the most premiere menswear stores in America. Brands like Gitman Vintage. Alden shoes. Exclusive leather goods from First Settlement. Handsome, rugged stuff for the Wisconsin wilderness. Or you know, the streets of Chicago.

113 King St.
(608) 250-0113

Name you need to know: The Underground Food Collective. They’ve got a restaurant in town called Forequarter. Known for: Local produce and cured meats. Where to get those cured meats: the Underground Butcher. Stop in and see what’s good with local Madison dining. Then pick up some spruce goat sausage, ghost pepper salami and a sammy or two. You’re gonna need these provisions later.

811 Williamson St.
(608) 338-3421

Nestled along the south shore of Lake Mendota, Picnic Point is where you go to … picnic. It’s about a three-mile walk on the water’s edge from Memorial Union. Take the Lakeshore Path.

Once you hit Willow Creek Woods, you’ll pass fire pits and viewing points on your way up to the tip. Unpack your provisions. Relax and enjoy.

2002 University Bay Dr.
Photo: Phil Roeder


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