The badger state's capital settles out comfortably on high, dry, bits of land offset by Lakes Mendota, Wingra, Monona, and Waubesa, a pleasant university town with a rambling range of outdoor activities and cultural pursuits within easy reach. Madison is laid-back government center with a perfectly manageable downtown stretched between the shores of Lake Mendota and Lake Monona.
It's hard to miss the stately cross-shaped Capitol crowning a central plot. Have a wander through to admire the striking interior, get a splendid panoramic view of downtown Madison from the Lantern Balcony, then strike out to explore the city spread out at your feet. Madison boasts a fine range of museums, from contemporary art (Madison Museum of Contemporary Art) to geology (University of Wisconsin Geology Museum) to yes, the world's largest collection of mustard in nearby Mount Horeb(Mount Horeb Mustard Museum). Monona Terrace, a major convention center of Frank Lloyd Wright whimsy, is both a meeting place and a site of architectural interest. Don't linger so long admiring the lake from the roof that you run short on time to take in the lively Farmers Market (Saturdays in season), people-watch on State Street or a enjoy a stroll through the bright Olbrich Botanical Gardens. Entertain the child members of your traveling party with a visit to the Henry Vilas Zoo, but be sure to save some energy for a hike along trails in the UW Arboretum.
While there are plenty of parks in and around town, this very biker-friendly city is a great place to do some peddling. With so much water everywhere, it's not hard to find a place to do a bit of paddling either. Winter brings out cross-country skiers, ice anglers, and ice skaters in abundance; time it right and you just might catch the ice kite festival. If even this laid back urban destination is too driven for the road-weary visitor, take a quick trip out to the countryside stretches close by to do a bit of bucolic wandering.
Madison is about 80 miles due west of Milwaukee and 38 miles from Spring Green.