An ideal weekend getaway awaits in Madison, a city teeming with cultural gems and delicious eats with scenic lake views in spades.
The Edgewater is a short walk from the Capitol.
For all the comforts of Chicago without its big-city inconveniences, Madison, Wis., knows how to deliver. A vibrant community situated on an isthmus between two lakes, the Badger State’s capital features a winning combination of world-class dining, culture and enviable scenery—all conveniently bundled together just three hours from Chicago.
Start things off at The Edgewater (suites from $250 per night, 1001 Wisconsin Ave.), where history meets luxury. The World War II-era art moderne hotel expanded in 2014, doubling its footprint on the shores of Lake Mendota and adding a ballroom, an ice skating rink and the Edgewater Spa. The owners sought “to create an urban resort appealing to today’s traveler,” says Amy Supple, chief operating officer. “The Edgewater has been ‘Madison’s place’ since 1948, and it continues to be. It’s a great place to enjoy a relaxing spa weekend or celebrate summer.” Indulge in a seriously soothing 60-minute Stress Reliever Massage ($120), which combines Swedish and deep-tissue techniques to melt away all tension. Adjoining the spa are a steam room and beautifully lit relaxation pool, perfect for some post-massage Zen. Afterward, the hotel’s sweeping views can best be taken in at The Statehouse, its all-day steakhouse touting locally farmed ingredients dressed up in dishes like roasted beet salad topped with Wisconsin chevre or rabbit nestled in a bed of wild mushrooms and gnocchi.
Heritage Tavern’s deviled eggs
A key aspect of The Edgewater is its proximity to downtown Madison, where shop-lined streets radiate out from the majestic Capitol building. Fromagination (12 S. Carrol St.) is a first-rate artisanal cheese shop, while the rugged Context (113 King St.) and refined Karen & Co. (307-309 State St.) boast high-end fashion finds. Nearby, James Beard semifinalist Daniel Fox—an alum of Chicago’s Everest—whips up delectable, inventive Midwestern fare at Heritage Tavern (131 E. Mifflin St.). While the menu is ever-evolving, a recent dinner included perfectly pan-seared bass with roasted sunchokes and the most eclectic deviled eggs around. Those looking to enjoy the state’s best brews should head to cult favorite New Glarus Brewing Company (2400 State Highway 69, New Glarus), perched atop a rollicking country hillside. For something less ubiquitous, check out Octopi Brewing (1131 Uniek Drive, Waunakee), where a 5 Rabbit Cervecería co-founder and a former Goose Island brewmaster are set to unveil a $10 million expansion this summer.
The spacious galleries at the Chazen Museum of Art
Finish your trip with a visit to the University of Wisconsin’s Chazen Museum of Art (750 University Ave.). On the way, stop by Sardine (617 Williamson St.) for an irresistible French brunch of duck confit salad or indulgent creamed eggs. Once at the Chazen, live music fills the galleries on the first Sunday of each month, making for an artistic oasis of thoughtful exhibitions and notable collections of modern prints and 20th-century paintings. Finally, stroll over to Memorial Union Terrace to dip your toes in Lake Mendota, and soak it in before heading back home.
Photography by: chazen photo courtesy of the chazen museum of art; edgewater photo by kyle hulse, drone pals/courtesy of the edgewater; heritage tavern photo by paulius musteikis/courtesy of heritage tavern