Capital city. University town. Heart of America’s dairyland. Madison, WI, is all these things and more. Although many of the attractions that make Madison a great city are located downtown, you don’t have to live downtown to appreciate all Madison has to offer.
Finding an Apartment for Rent in Madison, WI
Because downtown Madison is nestled right next to the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, renting on the isthmus means being surrounded by dorms, fraternities and sororities, and lots of student rentals.
Did the word “isthmus” in that last sentence trip you up? Don’t worry. Madison residents soon become familiar with this geographical term. Madison’s downtown is located on an isthmus, which is a narrow strip of land between two lakes (in this case, the expansive Lake Mendota and its smaller sister, Lake Monona). But there is much more to Madison than the isthmus, and whether you head east or west, you’ll find a variety of beautiful, eclectic neighborhoods.
Top Neighborhoods in Madison, WI
Because of the isthmus in the middle of town, Madison’s outlying neighborhoods are split into East Side and West Side.
The Willy Street neighborhood, on Madison’s near-east side, begins in the middle of the isthmus and stretches eastward. Willy Street is the local nickname for Williamson Street, an eclectic commercial strip lined with small art shops, a food co-op, and an amazing number of great restaurants packed into just a few blocks. Surrounding Williamson Street is a mix of funky, older rental homes and brand-new apartment developments. The Willy Street neighborhood’s eclectic character is showcased best during the annual Willy Street Fair.
Head a little further east and you’ll enter the Schenk-Atwood neighborhood, which has its own small hub of independent shops and restaurants right next to the Barrymore Theater, a popular music venue. This part of Madison is beloved by bicyclists because of the many bike trails that wind their way through the neighborhood.
Skip over to the near west side of town and you’ll find yourself in the Dudgeon Monroe neighborhood. Monroe Street has yet another cluster of great independent restaurants and shops, and yet another lake: the small but lovely Lake Wingra.
Much more of Madison lies further west, in neighborhoods that feel more suburban in character, with many single-family homes and condos and lots of green space. But there are still plenty of apartments to rent on the west side, and their close proximity to many of Madison’s large corporate headquarters make it a popular place for professionals to rent. The west side also provides quicker access to the Beltline, the highway that connects Madison to the surrounding towns and interstates.
Cultural Attractions in Madison, WI
Although Madison’s East Side and West Side neighborhoods have plenty of options for dining and shopping, downtown Madison truly has the most to offer when it comes to world-class cultural attractions. See a Broadway show or attend a Madison Symphony Orchestra concert at the Overture Center. In the summer, don’t bother buying tickets, because you can catch a concert for free at the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra’s outdoor Concerts on the Square series.
Wherever you are downtown, you can’t miss the Capitol building. Besides being the seat of Wisconsin’s government, the Capitol building is a beautiful architectural attraction and well worth a tour. The building’s huge granite dome makes for a unique skyline that can be enjoyed from spots all over town.
Take a short walk east of the Capitol and you’ll come upon the Monona Terrace convention center. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, Monona Terrace is another popular spot, both for its architectural pedigree and its location right up against the shore of Lake Monona.
Shopping in Madison, WI
When it comes to shopping, you’ll get the most bang for your buck on the State Street pedestrian mall. It runs between the Capitol building and the heart of the UW campus, and offers the widest variety of both chain and independent shops in Madison. Start on campus at the Library Mall, and you’ll find bookstores and plenty of shops offering Wisconsin-themed gear and trendy clothing at student-friendly prices. Keep walking east and State Street shifts to more sophisticated tastes, with designer boutiques and artistic gift shops.
Sports in Madison, WI
Unsurprisingly, the UW-Madison Badgers dominate the local sports scene. Madison’s football, basketball, and hockey teams have a history of dominating the Big Ten Conference, and Badger fans flock to Madison during the fall and spring seasons. If football is your sport, you won’t want to miss a game at Camp Randall stadium. (Like a rowdy crowd? Then try to snag tickets in the student section.) In the spring, cheer on the basketball team or take in a fast-paced hockey game at the impressive Kohl Center. Whatever Badger team you’re rooting for, be on the lookout for Bucky, the university’s beloved mascot. One more tip: if you really want to fit in as a local, you better find someone to teach you how to Bucky.View Apartments in Madison, Wisconsin
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