There’s nothing quite like discovering a destination that knows how to embrace the cold. I love winter, and I’m always looking for places that love it just as much. This city is the kind of place where a famous architect built his hometown church, where cheese is made and mongered, and suppers are wonderfully old fashioned. Join me as I explore the many reasons why Madison, Wisconsin is a Place to Love.
PLACES AND STORIES TO LOVE
University of Wisconsin Madison
Can you believe the University of Wisconsin-Madison is one of the most archaeologically rich campuses in the United States? I joined Aaron Bird Bear, the university’s first director of tribal relations, to explore the grounds and learn more about the sacred land on which the university sits. A sight not to miss? One of the many effigy mounds located around campus. The one we saw was shaped like a bird from above and estimated to be around 1,000 – 1,500 years old!
Tornado Steak House
When it comes to eating in Madison, or anywhere in Wisconsin, you have to try out a supper club. These popular restaurants are the working class’ answer to country clubs where people from all backgrounds can come to enjoy a generous meal, linger, and meet others. These often independently-owned establishments are only open for dinner and focus on creating a community just as much as they focus on delicious food. I joined travel writer and supper club aficionado Mary Bergin at the Tornado Steak House to see just what makes Wisconsin supper clubs so unique. From Old Fashioneds to relish trays and frog legs, this is one thing you don’t want to miss!
Since Anne Picket established the first Wisconsin cheese factory in 1841, this state has taken this delicious piece of dairy very seriously. Whether it’s Packers fans donning the famous cheeseheads at football games or the 1,500 factories that produce 500 million pounds of cheese a year, Wisconsinites don’t mess around. (Actually, should I be calling them Cheeseheads instead of Wisconsinites?!) One of the best ways to enjoy the many varieties found in Madison? Perfecting the art of the cheeseboard. I stopped by Fromagination, a specialty cheese shop, to get a lesson from the owner himself, Ken Monteleone. You’ll have to see how our board ended up looking!
First Unitarian Society of Madison
When it comes to redesigning your entire church, knowing the most famous architect of the 20th century certainly makes things a lot easier. Luckily the First Unitarian Society of Madison (FUS) was founded by the same people who Frank Lloyd Wright called mom and dad. Wright returned to his hometown to help build a new church for the FUS, completing it in 1951 when he was 84 years old. Fitting with Wright’s organic agricultural tradition, the church is incredibly distinctive with its triangular shape and low roofing. At the time, it looked like no other church, which fit perfectly with the Unitarians’ forward-thinking traditions. As unique as the outside is, you just have to see how beautiful the inside is!
National Mustard Museum
Mustard lovers rejoice! Right outside of Madison, in the town of Middleton, sits the National Mustard Museum. Yes, you read that correctly, mustard! Founder, curator, and CMO (that’s chief mustard officer if you’re wondering) Barry Levenson started growing his prolific collection back in 1986 while he was working for the Wisconsin Attorney General’s office. He opened the museum in 1992 to showcase everything he loves about this delicious condiment and add silliness back to the world. As you might guess from being such an expert, Levenson judges the World-Wide Mustard Competition, and this time I got to help!
Mustard is a surprisingly global condiment. In the museum, you can find 6,400 different types of mustards that come from all 50 states as well as 80+ countries. There is also a huge selection of mustards to taste and buy.
National Mustard Museum
7477 Hubbard Ave
Middleton, WI 53562
Once a grain factory, locals rallied to save the historic Garver Feed Mill and transformed it into a space that houses a number of businesses, from wellness studios to eateries and more. One of those spaces is the utterly relaxing Kosa Spa, an approachable Ayurvedic destination for anyone who wants some relaxation on their trip. Founder, Shilpa Sankaran, has tapped into her Ayurvedic roots to help visitors with wellness and balance. The name “Kosa” refers to the five kosas that make up yoga philosophy – physical (earth), energetic (water), mental (fire), intellectual (air), and soul/heart (ether) and how this philosophy applies to the self. She has several treatments at her spa, including the one I got to experience called abhyanga. Any guesses on what that means?
WHEN YOU VISIT
Extend your experience with Kosa Kitchen. All dishes are made in-house with Ayurvedic principles and organic, pesticide-free, local ingredients. They’re also vegetarian and gluten-free.
KOSA Wellness Spa & Retreat
3241 Garver Green Suite 260
Madison, WI 53704
Madison Curling Club
I know what you’re thinking. Curling – the sport we all watch during the Olympics and wonder, “What the heck is going on?” Well, in Madison, I got a chance to actually experience what the heck is going on! Two-time Olympian Becca Hamilton took me to Madison Curling Club to teach me all about this sport and get me ready to try it out myself. The club dates back to 1921, when some locals made a sheet of ice under a set of bleachers. Today, it’s in a proper building and one of the largest of its kind in the United States. How do you think I did? Should I try out for the 2026 Olympic team?
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Believe it or not, sweepers aren’t just sweeping regular ice. What we can’t quite see on the TV is that this ice is pebbled, and the way sweepers’ sweeping affects the direction and speed of the curling stone.
Madison Curling Club
4802 Marsh Rd
McFarland, WI 53558