Madison Introduction Walk (Self Guided), Madison

Madison, the capital city of Wisconsin, has no shortage of landmarks notable in terms of architectural, historic, and cultural importance. The city's skyline is dominated by the Wisconsin State Capitol dome modeled after the U.S. Capitol. Linking the Capitol Square with the University of Wisconsin campus is State Street, Madison's main thoroughfare, running across Downtown and lined with numerous restaurants, cafes, and shops. It also houses the Overture Center for the Arts and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. To explore all these and other attractions of Madison, take this orientation walk.
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Madison Introduction Walk Map

Guide Name: Madison Introduction Walk
Guide Location: USA » Madison (See other walking tours in Madison)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 12
Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.5 Km or 3.4 Miles
Author: DanaU
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Wisconsin State Capitol
  • Monona Terrace
  • Madison Children's Museum
  • Wisconsin Veterans Museum
  • Overture Center
  • Madison Museum of Contemporary Art
  • State Street
  • Memorial Union
  • Geology Museum
  • Camp Randall Stadium
  • Bear Mound Park
  • Henry Vilas Zoo
Wisconsin State Capitol

1) Wisconsin State Capitol (must see)

The Wisconsin State Capitol, in Madison, Wisconsin, houses both chambers of the Wisconsin legislature along with the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the Office of the Governor. Completed in 1917, the building is the fifth to serve as the Wisconsin capitol since the first territorial legislature convened during 1836 and the third building since Wisconsin was granted statehood during 1848. The streets surrounding the building form the Capitol Square which is home to many restaurants and shops. The Wisconsin State Capitol is the tallest building in Madison.

The first capitol was a prefabricated wood-frame council house without heat or water that had been sent hastily to Belmont. Legislators met there for 42 days after Belmont was designated the capital of Wisconsin Territory. The session chose Madison as the site of the capitol, and Burlington, Iowa as the site of further legislative sessions until Madison could be ready. The council house and an associated lodging house still stand and are operated by the Wisconsin Historical Society as the First Capitol Historic Site. The second capitol was constructed during 1837 in Madison of stone cut from Maple Bluff and oak cut locally. Located on the site of the present capitol, it was a small but typical frontier capitol that cost $60,000 to build. Growing government needs forced the state to construct a new capitol, also on the site of the present capitol. This structure, with a similar U.S. Capitol-inspired dome, was built between 1857 and 1869. During 1882, it was expanded at a cost of $900,000, with two wings to the north and south. During 1903, however, a commission began researching replacement of the structure.

On the night of February 26, 1904, a gas jet ignited a newly-varnished ceiling in the third capitol building. Although the building had an advanced fire-fighting system, the nearby University of Wisconsin–Madison's reservoir which supplied the capitol was empty, allowing the fire to spread substantially before the switch to alternate city water supplies could be made. As a result, the entire structure, except the north wing, burned to the ground. Numerous records, books, and historical artifacts were lost, including the mount of Old Abe, a Civil War mascot. However, by the efforts of university students, much of the State Law Library was saved.

Construction of the present capitol building, the third in Madison, began during late 1906 and was completed during 1917.The architect was George B. Post & Sons from New York. Because of financial limitations and the need for immediate office space to house state government employees, the construction of the new building was extended over several years and emphasized building one wing at a time. The Capitol is 284 feet, 5 inches tall from the ground floor to the top of the statue on the dome, making the building 3 feet shorter than the nation's capitolin Washington D.C. The "Wisconsin" statue on the dome was sculpted during 1920 by Daniel Chester French of New York. Its left hand holds a globe with an eagle on it and her right arm is outstretched to symbolize the state motto, "Forward." It wears a helmet with the state animal, the badger, on top. It is made of hollow bronze covered with gold leaf.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Monona Terrace

2) Monona Terrace (must see)

Monona Terrace (officially the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center) is a convention center on the shores of Lake Monona in Madison, Wisconsin.

Originally designed by Wisconsin native Frank Lloyd Wright, it was first proposed by Wright in 1938. The county board rejected the plan by a single vote. Wright would continue to seek support for the plan (and alter its design) until his death in 1959. For the next four decades, various proposals for a convention center on the Monona Terrace land would be considered and rejected. Several times, it appeared that supporters of the project would be able to secure the public financing to complete the project, but various forces (such as the start of World War II) inevitably sidelined the plan. In 1990, Madison Mayor Paul Soglinresurrected Wright's proposal. Among the arguments against its construction, opponents argued that it wasn't a genuine Wright building, that the costs were too steep for the tax payers to bear and that the construction would adversely affect the environment, specifically destroying the view of Lake Monona from street level on the south side of the Capitol Square. The proposed construction was put to a public referendum in 1992 and it passed. Construction began two years later. In 1997, nearly sixty years after Wright's original inception, Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center opened its doors.

The facility hosts over 600 conventions, meetings and weddings each year that result in an average of $36 million in economic activity for the region. Monona Terrace also runs free community programs that serve approximately 40,000 people each year. Monona Terrace also offers a daily guided tour, a gift shop, a rooftop cafe (warm weather months only), and serves as the home for some of the community's events including the national radio variety show Michael Feldman's Whad'Ya Know?, Ironman Wisconsin, and U.S. Bank Eve.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Madison Children's Museum

3) Madison Children's Museum (must see)

Madison Children’s Museum was founded in 1980 by a group of early childhood specialists. The founding board of directors and volunteers built traveling exhibits that were displayed at neighborhood centers, parks and playgrounds. They also operated a pilot museum in the basement of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters. The success of the pilot program prompted the museum to relocate to a warehouse at Bedford and West Washington. The new location was a success, and the museum was often filled to capacity.

After a successful capital campaign, Madison Children’s Museum opened its doors in another rented location on 100 State Street in 1991. The museum flourished at this site and once again outgrew its space. In 2005, MCM acquired a $5 million, five-story office building through the generosity of W. Jerome Frautschi. The museum undertook a $10 million capital campaign to renovate the building, create an accessible green roof, and install new exhibits. The new facility opened on August 14, 2010, and greatly expands the museum’s capacity to serve larger audiences, older children, and school groups in a strong interdisciplinary program that emphasizes the arts, sciences, history, culture, health, and civic engagement.

The museum is open daily from 9:30 a.m.- 5 p.m.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Wisconsin Veterans Museum

4) Wisconsin Veterans Museum (must see)

The Wisconsin Veterans Museum, located on Capitol Square in Madison, Wisconsin, is dedicated to the soldiers of the state of Wisconsin. The museum is composed of two award-winning galleries that chronicle the history of Wisconsin citizens who served in their nation's wars from the American Civil War to the Persian Gulf War. The Wisconsin Veterans Museum is an educational activity of the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs.

The 19th century gallery showcases Wisconsin's involvement in the Civil War. It includes a large diorama depicting the Battle of Antietam. Visitors are also available to research their ancestors' Civil War records using two state-of-the-art computers available in the gallery.

In the 20th century gallery, exhibits illustrate Wisconsin veterans' roles in the Mexican Border campaign, the First and Second World Wars and also the Korean, Vietnam and Persian Gulf conflicts. Three full-scale aircraft, a Sopwith Camel from World War I, a P-51 Mustang from World War II and a Huey helicopter from the Vietnam War, are displayed in the gallery as well.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Overture Center

5) Overture Center (must see)

Overture Center for the Arts is a performing arts center and art gallery in Madison. The center opened on September 19, 2004, replacing the former Civic Center. In addition to several theaters The center was commissioned by Jerome Frautschi, designed by Cesar Pelli, and built by J.H. Findorff and Son. Frautschi paid $205 million to construct the building, making it the largest private gift to the arts of its kind It was intended to replace the Madison Civic Center, located on the same block on State Street. The building has seven venues, in addition to art galleries: Overture Hall, Capitol Theater, Playhouse, Promenade Hall, Rotunda Stage, Wisconsin Studio and Rotunda Studio, and Visual Art Galleries.

The Overture Center has been the subject of several controversies. After Frautschi's initial gift, some citizens complained that the City of Madison's priorities were skewed. Others said the project would hurt the image of nearby State Street. Still others believed it would be accessible only to the wealthy while limiting access to local and smaller acts and artists.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Madison Museum of Contemporary Art

6) Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (must see)

The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art — MMoCA, formerly known as the Madison Art Center, is an art museum located at State Street. A three-story glass facade "icon" on the corner of State and Henry Streets serves as the museum's main staircase, as well as its architectural landmark. MMoCA has three components: the multi-wing main museum is at the Overture Center for the Arts. Two large galleries frequently display touring exhibits and local works in the MMoCA collections; Henry Street Gallery showcases a rotating selection from the Museum's collections; the theater showing member patron-selected art films, and open to the public. MMoCA is free to the public. The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art obtains most of its funding from museum memberships, the annual Art Fair on the Square, and also private gifts and donations to the collection.
Sight description based on wikipedia
State Street

7) State Street

State Street is a pedestrian zone located in downtown Madison, Wisconsin, United States, near the Wisconsin State Capitol. Today, the street hosts a variety of shops, bars, and restaurants and is popular for its small-town appeal, street musicians, jugglers and other types of busking, making it a common tourist attraction.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Memorial Union

8) Memorial Union (must see)

The Memorial Union, known locally as simply "the Union", is located on the shore of Lake Mendota on the campus of the University of Wisconsin–Madison in Madison. On the lakeshore to the north of the building is the Terrace, a highly popular outdoor space.

The exterior of the main wing was designed by University Architect Arthur Peabody. It opened in 1928, and is run by the Wisconsin Union, a membership organization. Porter Butts, the first director, called it a "college union" because it combines the characteristics of a student union and a student government in an organization that brings together students, faculty, and members of the surrounding community. It has gained a reputation as one of the most beautiful student centers on a university campus. Outside the main building is the Memorial Union Terrace, a stone outdoor dining and recreation area on the shore of Lake Mendota. The Terrace was designed by Peabody's daughter, Charlotte. It is a popular spot for socializing among students and locals with the backdrop of the beautiful lake, sailboats in view, and with the sound of live music, usually free to the public (paid by student fees) in the evening.

Within the Union are rooms and artworks reflecting the local heritage. The largest is Der Rathskeller, a German-style beerhall with elaborate murals that directly connects the ground floor to the Terrace outside, where political debates and card or board games are common among students over a beer.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Geology Museum

9) Geology Museum (must see)

The Geology Museum has its beginnings in the original building of the Science Hall, where the first meeting of the Board of Regents took place. The board's meeting aimed to create a place to exhibit geological and mineralogical items. After the fire of 1884 that devastated a great part of the collections, the plans to build a fireproof building were drawn up. As a result, the Geology Museum opened its doors again within the Science Hall in 1886.

Worthy of special attention, and the museum's major attraction, is the Boaz mastodon. The mastodon's bones were discovered by Dosch children after a storm in 1897. More than half of the skeleton was found. G. M. Schwartz and M. G. Mehl reconstructed it afterward. Today, the skeleton stands at 9.5 feet tall, 15 feet long.
Camp Randall Stadium

10) Camp Randall Stadium (must see)

Camp Randall Stadium is an outdoor stadium in Madison, Wisconsin. It has been the home of the Wisconsin Badgers football team in rudimentary form since 1895, and as a complete stadium since 1917. It is located in the south-central region of the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus. It is the oldest and fifth largest stadium in the Big Ten Conference, and the 41st largest stadium in the world.

The stadium received its name because it lies on the grounds of Camp Randall, a former Union Army training camp during the Civil War. The camp was named after then Governor Alexander Randall, who later became Postmaster General of the United States. After an outcry from veterans over plans to turn the site into building lots, the state bought it in 1893 and presented it to the university. Soon afterward, it was pressed into service as an athletic ground. It was originally used by the track and field team before the football and baseball teams moved there in 1895. However, the wooden bleachers were very difficult to maintain, and a portion of them were actually condemned as unsafe in 1914. The university then asked for $40,000 to build a concrete-and-steel stadium, but only got half of the original request. However, after three sections of bleachers collapsed during a 1915 game, the state readily granted the additional money. The new stadium opened for the first time on October 6, 1917.

After the wooden seats burned down in 1922, more permanent seats were added in stages until it consisted of a horseshoe opening to the south, with a running track around the field. The stadium was renovated at various points to raise the size of the horseshoe by nearly doubling the number of rows around the stadium in stages, placing south stands in front of the Wisconsin Field House.

The field was originally natural grass, and was one of the first in the United States to convert to artificial turf in 1968. A new AstroTurf field was installed in 1990. A new type of artificial grass field, infilled FieldTurf was installed for the 2003 season. A new FieldTurf surface was installed after the spring term in time for the 2012 season.

On October 30, 1993, the Wisconsin Badgers football team defeated the Michigan Wolverines, 13–10, for the first time since 1981. As the final gun sounded, students began to charge the fieldto celebrate, but were blocked by the guardrails surrounding the field. The crowd in the back, not aware of what was going on at the front, continued to move forward, now aided by gravity. Those in front were crushed against the rails and then trampled as the throng spilled onto the field. Seventy-three students were injured, six of them critically, though none were killed. As a result, design changes were made in the stadium which increased the size and strength of the fences, along with better training of stadium personnel to handle a field rush.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Bear Mound Park

11) Bear Mound Park

Madison is a city with the greatest number of preserved effigy mounds in the United States. One of the most impressive mounds is located in the Bear Mound Park and represents a Native American effigy mound in the shape of a bear. According to the religious belief of the Native Americans, the bear symbolizes life on earth. The mounds were usually built in beautiful places with great views of the countryside. The Native Americans consider the mounds to be holy. The mounds are also in the National Register of Historic Places.
Henry Vilas Zoo

12) Henry Vilas Zoo (must see)

Henry Vilas Zoo is a 28-acre (11 ha) public zoo in Madison, Wisconsin, United States that is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Owned by the city of Madison, the zoo charges no admission or parking fees. It receives over 500,000 visitors annually.

In 1904 the city received 50 acres of land from William and Anna Vilas under the conditions that it be used "for the uses and purposes of a public park and pleasure ground". The park was named in honor of the Vilas's son, Henry, who died at a young age from complications related to diabetes. The family stipulated that the park always be admission free. By 1911, 28 acres of the park were partitioned into an animal exhibit, marking the creation of the zoo. The Madison Zoological and Aquarium Society was founded in 1914, and in 1926 became the Henry Vilas Park Zoological Society, which continues today. In 1964, the society was incorporated as a non-profit corporation. For the hundredth anniversary of the zoo, the Society operated a "Zoo Century" campaign to support a $27 million redevelopment of the zoo over the next 10 years. Plans call for a new Arctic Passage exhibit and a redesigned Children’s Zoo.

The zoo hosts an annual Zoo Run Run with a 5K-10K run/walk. The race starts and finishes in the zoo, and uses portions of the adjacent University of Wisconsin–Madison Arboretum.
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Madison, Wisconsin

Create Your Own Walk in Madison

Create Your Own Walk in Madison

Creating your own self-guided walk in Madison is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Architecture Tour

Architecture Tour

Madison boasts of some great architectural masterpieces. There is something for everyone who is into stunning past and present structures. Take this walking tour to the most significant buildings Madison has to offer.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.5 Km or 1.6 Miles
Museums and Art Galleries Walk

Museums and Art Galleries Walk

If you are planning a trip to Madison, it cannot be complete without exploring the city's most important museums and art galleries. Madison is home to many great museums, including the Geology Museum, Chazen Museum of Art, as well as some nice galleries. Take this tour to the best museums in Madison.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.5 Km or 1.6 Miles