Girlfriend weekend in Madison!
September 27, 2021 3:29 PM   Subscribe

Need local knowledge for two 50-something totally chill friends convening in Madison WI over Oct 15-17. Where to stay? We'd love to share a place on or walkable to water, bonus if somewhat central and able to access some great places on foot, but not a must.

Are hotels or Airbnbs our best option? We'd rather not share a bed, but perfectly great to share a room. We will both have cars and need parking. No objection at all to driving places, but it's a short weekend and we don't want to spend a lot of driving or hunting down parking since we'll both have driven 2-3 hours to get there. We will absolutely be tourists, probably more along the lines of outdoor activities, enjoying the fall colors, walking, eating outside, sculpture parks, gardens, people watching, etc. Not into sports or joining the late partying crowd, or being inside for hours if it's nice out...especially in a pandemic.

General neighborhood ideas are great, as are specific lodging suggestions, probably we'd like to spend no more than $100 each per night (so max of $200 for a room with two beds). Love to hear about local unique food places too. We are adventurous and generally healthy eaters and like to check out local favorites. Quirky/funky is always welcome. We are vaccinated FWIW.

posted by AnOrigamiLife to Travel & Transportation around Madison, WI (10 answers total)
If you can change your weekend to one that is NOT a home UW Football game, your options will be much more diverse, especially downtown or near campus.
posted by rockindata at 3:56 PM on September 27, 2021 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: ohhh now THAT is very valuable information, thank you. To further the conversation, let's say we pick the following weekend.

Otherwise we'd be looking for other great places to convene someplace more or less midway between Rochester MN and Chicago... is Dubuque anything to write home about?
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 4:36 PM on September 27, 2021

I would say Galena, IL, in between. Lots of artsy stuff and a winery.

Madison is a great weekend, and don't be put off from it. It's always crowded. I used to sell soap there. There are many great things and restaurants. Please don't stay away based on one comment, those people are not going to affect your experience in downtown Madison.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:16 PM on September 27, 2021 [1 favorite]

It’s less the people (it’s true, outside of right around Camp Randall it’s basically fine) and more that a hotel room anywhere walkable is 750 a night versus 225-300 a night any other weekend.

I would pay a bit more than your budget if possible so that you can stay downtown and walk most places.

Breakfast at the Capital Square Farmers Market on Saturday, and Marigold Kitchen on Sunday.

Old Fashioned or Coopers Tavern for a pub food, Graze or Graft for farm to table locavore options.

Fromagination for cheese and fancy sandwiches.

Wonderstate for fancy coffee.
posted by rockindata at 5:32 PM on September 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

Madison has my favorite feminist bookstore, A Room of One's Own. This doesn't fit your agenda and I have no other suggestions but I have to recommend it.
posted by gideonfrog at 5:32 PM on September 27, 2021 [5 favorites]

Here to second many hotels will be booked or charging much higher rates for a football weekend. I avoid downtown during these weekends as there's often nowhere to park. Pick a non football weekend and enjoy a walk to picnic point.
posted by Kalmya at 3:55 AM on September 28, 2021

Seconding A Room of One's Own bookstore!

The Madison Concourse Hotel is centrally located, has good rooms and good service, and was renovated within the last few years.

I've had a lovely meal at Fresco with nice views. They're on a rooftop so maybe they'll be doing outdoor dining. I believe I've also enjoyed HopCat and The Great Dane.
posted by brainwane at 10:24 AM on September 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

If they like French food, Sardine is excellent.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:27 PM on September 28, 2021 [2 favorites]

I believe I've also enjoyed HopCat and The Great Dane.

HopCat is closed, permanently.

The football game is going to complicate this, but only if you're committed to downtown. You could find an AirBnB maybe a touch above your budget - right now, there's a place basically in the Arboretum for $250/night. It's walking distance to Lake Wingra, and it would be a very nice walk.

Traffic would be garbage in the hour before the game and the hour after the game, but beyond that, you could easily avoid the football stuff.
posted by rocketman at 3:01 PM on September 28, 2021

Response by poster: Closing this with a note that we skipped Madison altogether to avoid the football crowds. We met in Wisconsin Dells because it was about halfway for each of us. It was a cultural experience to be sure. Fascinating slice of humanity—glad I went and don't ever need to return. Completely mediocre food, a 'winery' that is really quite awful and generally found the town to be kind of ...gross... with a Vegas-spring break-anytowntouristboardwalk vibe. So much development that apparently appeals to a lot of people and wow, if this is us, it definitely illustrates why we're circling the drain.

But it was all in the context of making memories with a friend. The Upper Dells slow boat tour was really quite nice. Within a relatively short drive, we hiked at Devil's Lake and visited Dr. Evermor's Sculpture Park, which was flippin cool. Saw a girl fight (among women in their 40s) in a bar, a real spectacle and a first for me, which surprised my friend who laughed and said "Welcome to Wisconsin!" seriously WTF? but yeah a funny/ridiculous memory and a story to tell.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 12:30 PM on November 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

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