City: Madison, Wisconsin
Green Cred: Built around or near 5 lakes, and with more than 200 miles of biking and hiking trails, Madison has long been home to a progressive, outdoorsy, and green-minded community.
Madison's credentials as a green town go way back. The state capital has been home to senator and former governor Gaylord Nelson, founder of Earth Day. Aldo Leopold, often cited as the founder of wildlife ecology, taught at University of Wisconsin-Madison. And landscape architect John Nolen, who focused on preserving natural beauty while incorporating the needs of urban life, has fingerprints all over the town and its park system. Today, the city has ranked highly on lists of everything from "Best Places to Live," "Top 10 Greenest Cities," "Best Farmer's Market in the Nation," "Best Outdoor-Oriented Towns," and "Top Cities for Recycling."
The green vein runs deep. In 2010, the highest LEED platinum rating for new construction in the U.S. went to nearby Holy Wisdom Monastery, run by an order of Benedictine nuns. In Madison, it's easy to find excellent independent restaurants that specialize in using locally grown ingredients—and vegans and vegetarians can usually find much more than just a salad to order. If you're here for a while, enroll in the Community Car program and share in a fleet of hybrid-electric vehicles. If you're just visiting, hop in a Green Cab or step out and explore; no matter what the season, there's something green to learn about or experience.
Places You Must Go
- Dane County Farmer's Market on the Square
- Arboretum, University of Wisconsin-Madison
- Eco-Fusion Design
- Aldo Leopold Nature Center
- Thai Pavilion and Garden at Olbrich Botanical Gardens
Things You Must Do
- Rent a bike at Machinery Row Bicycles and ride the Capital City Trail around Lake Monona
- Take a walking tour with the Madison Trust for Historic Preservation
- Visit Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright's Wisconsin home, in nearby Spring Green.
- Take in a seasonal hike or class, like the Solstice Walk or Winter Wonders, at the Arboretum
- Take the kids to the Rooftop Ramble at the Madison Children’s Museum
- Take a mini course in meditation, woodworking, or pottery through the Wisconsin Union
- Learn to reupholster furniture at Madison College
- In the spring, pick up some free mulch from the parks department
- Enjoy a lake view from a seat on the Memorial Union Terrace
- Fine-tune your paddling skills and see the latest gear at Canoecopia
- Participate in Paddle & Portage, where you canoe or kayak on Lake Mendota, portage across the isthmus (passing the scenic state capitol) and finish by paddling Lake Monona.
- Picnic and take in a play at the American Players Theater. Known for their outdoor productions of Shakespeare, Noel Coward, Tennesee Williams, and others, APT now also has an indoor theater that is open year-round.
- Dance to live world music on the roof of the Wright-designed Monona Terrace convention center Dane Dances
- Visit the rooftop native-plants garden or catch an open-air art film at Madison Museum of Contemporary Art
Where To Sleep
Where To Eat
Shops To Visit If You're There For A Day
Shops To Frequent If You're There For a Year
The Best Flea Markets, Antique Fairs, and Thrift Stores
(Images: aerial GMCVB, market Emily Ho, others Therese Maring)