Ah, Madison. Honestly, before I met my husband, I didn’t know much about Madison, or Wisconsin, except that it was known for its cheese and farms, and if I thought about it that much it was never.
But some years ago, I met the love of my life, my “cowboy” I used to call him when I found out where he was from, and not too long after that once we found out we were pregnant with another child, we kissed New York City buh-bye and left, never imagining we would ever return. Turns out though, that my man was not a “cowboy” at all, never even lived on a farm or milked a cow. But, such were the images in my mind.
Life in Madison, WI was (is) in so many ways, and certainly in comparison to New York City, comfortable. There’s a lot of open spaces, no noise, no crowds. People tend to say, and this is how her husband convinced her to move there, that Madison is a diverse city. But Mama would argue that this statement is in great part made because of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s campus, and by people who have never been to New York City. It does however have a strong artist community, and like New York, a its share of hippies, intellectuals, and such. What Mama liked most about a lot of the people she met and became friends with there is their overall down-to-earth-ness. The realness that can be found in most people. She misses a lot of the friends they have there and know that people like that will be hard to come by in the big city.
It is also a beautiful town and I was very excited when we purchased our modest 3 bedroom ranch, white picket fence included. We had two babies in Madison, (if I had to have another baby-which I will not-but if I did, I would go there to deliver for sure) and we got a dog, and had jobs that were never too challenging and allowed for us both to put family first.
But the lack of diversity, and a wonderful professional opportunity for my husband brought this biracial family back to the NYC we swore we would never return to, not because we didn’t love it, but because we thought it impossible to raise a family here. This of course, has proven to be a misconception.
In visiting Madison however, I felt the sense of peace that made me fall in love with the place in the first place. From the minute we entered the airport, everything seemed to slow down. People were friendlier, more laid back, things from getting the luggage to getting the rental to driving to our destination was just so, so easy.
We took advantage of a slow rainy day and decided to stop at a few of our favorite places during our stay. One of these is Monty’s Blue Plate. I love their bakery selections, and if not ordering their “Special Scramble” which changes from day to day, I order the Breakfast Burrito, which is what I did during this visit. Monty’s is one of the many local eateries developed by Food Fight Group, a local organization which has helped aspiring restauranteurs to establish eateries in the area. Other favorites in Madison under the Food Fight umbrella are Texas Tub’s, and El Dorado Grill.
The waitress at Monty’s recognized us (after not seeing us for an entire year!) and even said she had wondered what had happened to us (how sweet)! We bumped into our former landlord, whom we had rented from when we had first arrived to Madison, and who adored us. No one cared that the kids were especially animated on that morning, nor that they kept going to people’s table to say hi. It’s just that kind of place.
Across the street from Monty’s is the popular Barrymore Theater, which always has some band or performer best recognized by my husband.
The Capitol is a great building, offering tours and its surrounding grounds serving as host to the weekly (every Saturday morning) farmer’s market, which I always loved to take advantage of. If you ever visit Madison, I encourage you to tour the Capitol building, and climb to the top. It is truly a beautiful structure. The nearby State Street is a popular place to eat, drink and just hang out. A lot of cute shops there too.
My oldest likes to say that when he goes to college he would like to go to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Only time will tell, and he has much to see and learn, but there is no argument that it is an impressive and beautiful campus. My husband, who attended University of Wisconsin-Greenbay, often laments not having gone to this school instead. Its buildings and grounds are a great source of pride for Madison, as they should be. The school spends millions a year maintaining and building, to the point that things that weren’t there a year ago are standing tall, and new ground is being broken for new structures.
The outdoor of their Student Union, better known as The Union, is a fabulous lake front locale where both students and locals alike frequent for drinks (beer), grilled goods, and entertainment from local bands. On sunny, warm days the family and I would frequent this location and have ice cream while the babies slept in their strollers. Although the day of this picture was cold and grey, on a sunny day, this spot is beautiful and a great hang out.
A structure that was completed shortly before our departure is the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA). This beautiful building, designed by architect Renzo Piano (who also designed the recently opened New York Times Headquarters in NYC), hosts rooftop jazz parties, though the fees can a bit much for Madison. A great place to visit will be the soon to arrive, newly developed Children’s Museum. The one they already had was a bit old and in need of TLC. It was great news for us to hear that they were finally getting a bigger, newer museum for the kiddos!
It’s a shame I didn’t take more pictures of the many lakes found in Madison. It is definitely one of the things that make it such a pretty town. I also wasn’t able to get pictures of Monona Terrace, Madison’s gorgeous conference center. A great spot for family concerts and events all year round, and a wonderful waterfront spot for weddings.
I did get a chance to drive by one of the kid’s favorite spots before calling it a day and going home to warm up: Olbrich Gardens, the town’s botanical gardens. Had it been a more beautiful day I would’ve taken pictures, it truly is a nice garden, small in size, but with a peaceful garden, which has no admittance fee (the indoor exhibits, including the rain forest do share a fee).
There are many other areas outside of Madison that are great, fun vacationing spots, like Wisconsin Dells, best known for their insanely huge water parks, and Door County, best known for their great B&B’s and camping grounds…or the gorgeous Washington Island.
The boys had a lot of fun revisiting Madison, and it is pretty accurate to say it is our second home. We love it there.