15 things you must do in Wisconsin's capital city

Ah, Madison. It's the state capital and flagship university. Squeezed onto the isthmus between Lake Mendota and Lake Monona, there are three other lakes in the area. There are plenty of bike trails and outdoor activities, as well as restaurants and bars.

All of these qualities make Wisconsin the second most populous city and a popular destination for visitors, especially future, current and past college students.

So what do you do when you're done visiting campus or hopping around Camp Randall?

There are many options and everyone's must-do list is different. But here are some typical Madison things to do that every visitor should do at least once.

Wisconsin State Capitol
A visit to the capital to see the Capitol wouldn't be a tour. There are free tours every day and tours of this building, which is modeled after the U.S. Capitol. The dome is the only granite dome in the country and one of the largest in size. The building is the tallest in Madison - cemented by a state statute that prohibits taller buildings within a mile. In the summer, visitors come to the sixth-floor museum and observation deck to take in the views from near this highest point.

It is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends and holidays. Free tours are offered every day of the year, except for a few holidays. Tours begin at the information desk in the central rotunda from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 1 to 3 p.m. on Sunday (except at noon), and there is an additional tour at 4 p.m. on weekdays in the summer. The tour lasts 45 to 55 minutes and goes up to the fourth floor. Reservations are not required. Check tours.wisconsin.gov or call (608) 266-0382 for more information.

Memorial Union Platform
The University of Wisconsin's Union Memorial Terrace at Lake Mendota is a great place to spend a summer in Madison. Colorful day-glow chairs and tables are scattered around the terrace for summer weekends with views of the lake and live music, and a giant chair serves as a prop for graduation photos. Outside there are kids, burgers, BBQ and beer, and inside there are pizzas, salads, ice cream, coffee and more. On the west side of the patio, the outdoor UW rents kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards to paddle around the lake.

State Street Bank
State Street is located in downtown Madison and connects the UW campus to the Capitol. The street is open only to pedestrians, bicyclists and buses and is lined with stores, bars and restaurants ranging from chain stores to local favorites. It's about a half-mile walk from the west end to the east end, perfect for a leisurely stroll while shopping, eating and drinking.

At the west end, the University Bookstore sells a wide variety of University of Washington clothing, as well as textbooks for students.

Also near the west end, State Street Brats is a typical college bar and one of the best places to watch the game if you're not going to Camp Randall or the Kohl Center. The bar-cum-restaurant is known for its little red sausages made from pork and beef, which give it a red color. The rest of the bar's menu is extensive, including burgers and cheese curds, as well as vegetarian and gluten-free options. On a good day, the beer garden outside fills up quickly.

Near the east end is the Orpheum Theater, built in 1926 as a vaudeville venue and movie theater, which today hosts local and national productions throughout the year.

Also near the east end is Paul's Club, a popular bar known for a large fossil oak tree that stands in the center of the bar and survived a fire in 1993 and a move in 2012.

Picnic spot
Part of the University of Washington Lakeshore Nature Preserve, this peninsula extends into Lake Titus, offering 360-degree views of the lake, the Capitol and the University. The Point is less than a mile (1.6 km) from Auction Site 130 along a wheelchair-accessible trail. six reserved fire pits are scattered along the trail and provide firewood and grates.

Picnic sites are a small part of this 300-acre preserve, which stretches along 4.3 miles of shoreline. A handful of trails run through the preserve, including through a lush prairie to Frautschi Point for even more spectacular views and Raymer's Cove, which is lined with small sandstone cliffs.

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