Wisconsin | How to Relive Your College Days in Madison

I went to my TEN-YEAR college reunion this summer. While I definitely don’t feel as old as someone who graduated ten years ago, I don’t necessarily feel as young as I was then either, especially after having an intense allergic reaction to Miller Lite, of all things. A few weeks before I traveled back to the University of Delaware for alumni weekend, my friend Kristyn and I relived our college days in Madison, Wisconsin. In some ways, the University of Wisconsin-Madison reminded me of our alma mater, but in other ways, I was envious of the current Badger population. Here’s how to relive your own college days in Madison:

Drink Like Your First Class Tomorrow is at Noon


A few weekends before heading to Wisconsin, Kristyn and I had been with a few former Badgers who all talked about New Glarus Spotted Cow beer – a “Naturally Cloudy Farmhouse Ale – fun, fruity, and satisfying”. New Glarus beer is not available anywhere but in Wisconsin. We tried a few varieties of the beer while we were there (I even had one bartender mix two together for me at one point), but Spotted Cow, was our favorite, hands down.

While you should absolutely get your fair share of New Glarus beer while you’re in Wisconsin, try some other local beers as well, even if you might be able to get them elsewhere. Banjo Cat, a black IPA from One Barrel Brewing in Madison and Hinterland Cherry Wheat from Green Bay are good choices.

Since you’re too old to be at the frat house, some classier establishments to drink include Cooper’s Tavern and Augie’s Tavern (in the Edgewater Hotel, mentioned further below).

Cure a Hangover


The morning after drinking all the New Glarus beer you can handle, you’re going to need a hearty breakfast. One recommendation is Bassett Street Brunch Club for Chicken and a Biscuit {a fried chicken fillet topped with a sunny side up egg, served with a house-made biscuit, sweet corn-sausage gravy, and an apple-bacon salad}. BSBC is also known for their homemade doughnuts, which I’d wish we’d stocked up on for the bus ride back to Chicago.

The second morning we were in town, we were blown away by the breakfast at Marigold Kitchen. Kristyn and I split the blueberry pancakes and the breakfast sandwich. Both were delicious but, wow, that breakfast sandwich. On the menu, it’s described as: fried egg, cheddar-spiked boursin, bacon, tomato and green onion on toasted ciabatta, but I’d describe it as the best breakfast sandwich I’ve ever had.

Waste Time Outside With Friends


If you have as beautiful weather in Madison as we had, make the most of it by walking around the University of Wisconsin campus, along the water of Lake Mendota and Lake Monona, up Baskum Hill, through the free public Allen Centennial Gardens, or spend your time on the terrace at Memorial Union along Lake Mendota.

The Badgers totally beat the Blue Hens with the outdoor paradise that is the Memorial Union Terrace. Imagine our delight when we found out we could drink more New Glarus Spotted Cow with a bratwurst sandwich at a picnic table in the sunshine. We laughed as we listened to some current students complain about their professors and shared stories with each other of our own times at UD. The terrace is loved for its iconic sunburst metal chairs in yellow, orange, and green and even though I am not an alum, maybe I’ll purchase a few if I ever have a backyard in my life.

Learn Something


Just as you should have done some studying and learning while you were in college, there’s plenty to learn about in Madison. The best place to do that is at the State Capitol. In Madison, nothing is taller than the Capitol building, which is modeled after the White House. Free tours are given on the hour for most of the day (not at noon) and they’re worth it to get a peek inside some beautiful historical rooms and halls as well as get a good explanation of the comings and goings in Wisconsin.

Eat Like You’re in Your 20s


Ahhh, remember when you were in college and you could eat anything without feeling like garbage? When I was in college, my main vice was mozzarella cheese fries from Pizza University for $2.99 that they would deliver without a minimum order. In Madison, instead of cheese fries, they have fried cheese, or cheese curds, which you’ve no doubt heard of. Kristyn and I got ours at The Old-Fashioned. They were absolutely one of the greatest fried foods I’ve ever had BUT a few bites would have sufficed. Go with a few other people and share them or you may feel a little weak the rest of the evening.

If you somehow haven’t inhaled enough dairy from the cheese curds, there are a few options for you around town. Fromagination is a delightful specialty food shop with every kind of cheese you could possibly want and other local Wisconsin products to go with it. Other shops of note are Red Elephant Chocolate and Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream Co. At the second, I devoured a cone of half Peanut Butta {scrumptious Wisconsin-made caffeinated chocolate ice cream with peanut butter ripples and peanut butter cups} and half Munchie Madness {sweet cake batter ice cream swirled with a salted caramel ripple and brimming with Oreos, M&M pieces, and peanut butter cups}.

Though we didn’t try any of them because we ran out of room in our stomachs, the food truck scene in Madison looks legit. I don’t know if food trucks are even the right term because they were all smaller than food trucks I’ve seen elsewhere, almost like tiny sheds on wheels, each decorated to match the style of food they were hawking. We found them all outside of the University bookshop, but as they’re mobile, who knows where they’ll be during your own visit.

The farmer’s market is also renowned in Madison, though it was not taking place either of the days we were in town. You may find some healthier options there, although what we were told about was, you guessed it, the cheese bread.

Decorate Your Dorm Room


If you don’t want to decorate your dorm room with advertisements from Vogue and for liquor like my college roommate and I did, there are tons of adorable shops in Madison for you to source from including Little Luxuries, Mimosa Books & Gifts, and The Soap Opera. Don’t forget to get your cheese-inspired products and kitchen items from Fromagination, mentioned above. I didn’t buy anything because of this whole not having an apartment thing, but I did get some good ideas if I do settle down at some point.

Sleep Like You Have No Worries


If you’re more than a few years out of college, you’re too old to hang out in the dorms or the frat houses, which I had to explain to my friends when attending our own alumni weekend a few weeks later. Treat yourself to a night or two at the appropriately named Edgewater Hotel, on the edge of the water on Lake Mendota. I wrote a whole post about the hotel here. but suffice it to say it was the best night of sleep I’d had in weeks, and not just because I had been dog-sitting for two adorable pups who whined all night if I didn’t allow them to sleep directly next to my face.

Learn more about the Edgewater and reserve on Booking.com here (affiliate).

While there’s no need to relive the days you spent hungover watching Real Housewives marathons or the night you threw your phone in a parking lot because your boyfriend at the time was being his horrible self, it is super fun to relive the good times. If it’s just not the same when you return to your own alma mater or if you just want to add another state to your list, Madison, Wisconsin is the spot.


This post contains an affiliate link, which means that at no additional cost to you, I earn a tiny commission when you purchase something (in this case, a night at the hotel) so that I can continue to bring you great travel content for free!

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Many thanks to the Edgewater Hotel and Visit Madison for enhancing our trip. Opinions are always my own.

6 Responses

  1. Julianne

    I love this!! Never been to Madison, but it’s on my radar for beer 🙂 And an allergic reaction to Miller Lite?? That sucks, but it could be worse (I mean, you don’t wanna be allergic to Guinness… ha!).


  2. I didn’t attend Madison but liked your blog. I love the fact that you included Hinterland Cherry Wheat. I just was at the Hinterland Brewery as I was celebrating my birthday, Cherry Wheat was tops.


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