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Your Guide to a Girlfriend’s Getaway in Madison, WI

Madison, WI: Your Guide to a Midwest Adventure

“Madison is like the Portland of the Midwest.” It’s the first thing locals said to me upon finding out I called the Rose City my home. Admittedly, I hadn’t spent much time in the Midwest and was genuinely surprised by how outdoorsy, fun, and progressive Wisconsin’s capital is.

While there, I learned that Millennials are flocking to Madison because of it’s inclusive and diverse culture, incredible food and entertainment scene, and awesome outdoor recreation—all of the same things that make it a perfect destination for a girl’s getaway.

If you are looking to check out the Midwest, or simply want to explore a cool city with tons of opportunities for adventure, then Madison, WI should be on your radar. I’ve put together a women’s guide to Madison, WI that is packed with women-led activities, women-owned businesses, and must-experience entertainment and recreation opportunities.

Madison, WI
photo by Katey Wheeler via Flicker

A Girl’s Guide to an Epic Madison, WI Adventure

Woman-Owned and Run Activity Offerings

Get Creative at Revel
Owned by Sarah Van Dyke, this cool DIY spot has an array of craft projects to choose from. Unleash your creative side while sipping a glass of wine or enjoying a cocktail. Craft options include painting, felting, basket work and more.

Escape This
Owner Renee Thomas runs this real-life puzzle activity. Work your mystery-solving muscles with an escape room theme like Sherlocked, Forgotten Pharaoh, or In Check. See how your friendship holds up under stress as it’s put to the test while trying to escape.

Madison, wi
photo via Madison Eats FB & taken by  Maureen Cassidy

Go on a Food Tour
If you aren’t sure where to start or how to go about checking out Madison’s food scene, book a food tour. Both Madison Eats owned by Otehlia Cassidy and Capital City Food Tours, which owned by Brittany Hammer, offer tours of the city’s best cuisine. Both businesses include a dose of history and historical landmarks with your dining experience.

Treat Yourself at Indulge Spa
Owner Blair Dehnke has created the perfect place for women to treat themselves right. There are a number of cool body treatments including the Contour Body Wrap and Good Karma Mud Wrap to try out, and you’ll definitely want to enjoy a massage. Best of all, you can order a spa party for you and your crew and enjoy a series of experiences together.

photo via Bubble Up Bar FB page

Bitters Boot Camp
Basically a booze boot camp—what more do I need to say?  Avenue Club and Bubble Up Bar is co-led by general manager Liz Stolz and teaches guests about the history of the old fashioned—Wisconsin’s most popular drink. You’ll get to sample some supper club snacks, and then make your own bitters to take home.

Woman-Owned Eateries

Madison’s food scene is incredible, and women are leading the way with their next-level eateries. Before you head out for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a drink, consider supporting these awesome women by visiting their establishments.

Imperial Garden: Owned by Karen Meyer, this spot was voted best Chinese Restaurant in Madison, WI. Stop by and enjoy their authentic fare.

The Old Fashioned: Experiences the food and spirits that made Wisconsin famous at this awesome eatery. Owned by Tami Lax, you can order up killer mac and cheese, chicken & biscuits, a fish fry and more.

Short Stack Eats: This mouthwatering spot serves breakfast—and only breakfast. Owners Alex Lindenmeyer and Sinead McHugh have created a menu that will make you ravenous upon reading.  Buttermilk and blueberry pancake stacks, waffle stacks, eggs benedict, corn beef hash…and you can have breakfast for dinner.

photo via Infusion Chocolates FB

Ugly Apple Café:  Chef Laurel Burleson started the Ugly Apple in a food cart and today it’s a cozy café that serves as a perfect spot to start your day. Try the Biscuits and gravy or market frittata. And don’t forget to order a cup of coffee. It’s made by local roasters True Coffee!

Chocolaterian Café: It’s a chocolate café! Owner Leanne Cordisco has created a place that serves dessert all day. Try an ugly cookie or a Monona bar. You’ll find truffles that go on forever. There’s even and unwrapped truffle. Oh…they also serve other stuff…but my attention won’t let me move past the lemon tart.

Infusion Chocolates: As long as we are talking dessert, you won’t want to pass up this shop. Owned by Anne Culligan, this confectionary spot creates one-of-a-kind truffles with names like Caribbean Fire, Exotic Caramel, and Szechuan Peppercorn. Of course, there’s an old fashioned and there’s even one that comes filled with booze.

Speaking of booze! Head to the Ale Asylum owned by Hathaway Diba for a beer or raise a glass at Table Wine, a wine and spirits bar owned by Molly Moran.

madison, WI
photo via Visit Madison FB

Madison, WI Entertainment & Adventure

If you are looking for a fun night out on the town, consider taking in a show at one of Madison, WI’s awesome music venues. The High Noon Saloon is a rustic venue that feels a bit like a saloon right out of the old west. It hosts a variety of genres of music and serves up beer and pizza too. Build in 1926, the Orpheum Theater is a former vaudeville venue and hosts live music and comedy.

Want to go dancing? If you are looking for a queer venue, head to the FIVE Nightclub. City Bar is a hip lounge and offers cocktails with house-infused vodkas as well as tasty bar food.

Located on an isthmus between Lake Mendota and Lake Monona, Madison, WI offers outdoor enthusiasts a unique experience. Adventure on both water and land abounds. Grab a canoe, kayak, or get ready to swim because the capital city is surrounded by 15,00 acres of stunning lake. If you like to fish, you’ll want to check out Madison Fishing Charters. If boating is your things, you can get detailed information about lake access permits from the City of Madison Parks Department. Madison also boasts 200 miles of beautiful biking and hiking trails and 260 parks and beaches for land lovers. Experiencing the great outdoors while in Madison, WI is an absolute must.

madison, wi

Where to Stay

If you want to relax in luxury, book a room at the AC Hotel in Downtown Madison. Designed with a European feel, this cool spot is right in the middle of everything and is home to a rooftop bar with stunning views.

Another great option is the Hilton Monona Terrace. Also located in the heart of downtown Madison, this hotel has well-appointed rooms that make you feel right at home. You can enjoy stunning views of Lake Monona or the State Capitol and there is onsite dining too.

feature image via Visit Madison FB


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Annette Benedetti
Annette Benedetti
Annette is a writer, editor and photographer from Portland, OR. Her work appears in a variety of publications including Bust, Red Tricycle, Motherly and Domino. When she’s away from her desk she can be found teaching women yoga at wilderness retreats, exploring new cities across the states and hiking the trails at Mt. Rainier—one of her favorite places on earth.
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