#LauraGoesToMadison and visits the chair outside Union South across from my apartment.
PictureIce cream, beer and Lake Mendota.
#LauraGoesToMadison was the hash tag my girlfriend, Laura Moderhock, used when she began her trip to spend Memorial Day weekend with me here in Madison. It being the first weekend I had in Madison I had a slew of things I wanted to see and Laura was the perfect person to explore with. 

First up: Memorial Union Terrace for a taste of Babcock Dairy Ice Cream at the Daily Scoop, beer and live music. 

This was a great way to start the weekend off after my first two days at the Wisconsin State Journal. The terrace was buzzing with energy and nearly every table was taken. Families with children, college students, middle aged couples on double dates and a few elderly couples still having date nights made up the crowd that waited for the Trinidad Tripoli Steel Drum Band to perform. We snagged a table and watched the sunset over Lake Mendota while chatting. 

Jim Nelson, a former professor and co-worker at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, urged me to become a frequent customer of the Union Terrace and I can say this is one instruction I’m not going to discard. 

Eats, drinks and entertainment:
  • That night we ate mocha chip ice cream, just as Jim recommended, and it was delicious, A+.
  • Though coupling beer with ice cream made Laura and I both raise our eye brows it turned out to be delicious. When in Madison, I believe we said.
  • The music? It started a bit late, but we were not in a rush and stayed for a few songs until my grandma tendencies began to show and I admitted to wanting to go to bed around 10:30. 
  • Check out a Vine video Laura made of our night. 

PictureDane County Farmer's Market at Capitol Square.
The next morning we hit up the Dane County Farmers' Market at the Capitol Square. We drove instead of walking or biking because of the list of things we wanted to accomplish and driving and parking was easier than expected. The ramps were reasonably priced since they are metered. The next time I go, if solo, will be on bike. 

On the checklist was: 
  • Cinnamon roll and coffee for Andrea
  • Something tasty for Laura
  • Mixings for our taco pie dinner: tomatoes, onions, salsa

We arrived a bit later than we had hoped but the market was still wild with energy and filled with locals carrying their Dane County market bags. There was no right way to really walk, though the traffic seemed to move east to west and we followed suit. 

As we walked I found myself realizing Madison has an eclectic mix of people that  reminded me of the diversity I found in Uptown in Minneapolis, the east side of Milwaukee and everywhere on the streets in Spain. 

My mouth watered as we strolled and made one complete loop without making purchases, and then headed back to stands we had our eyes on. 

What we walked away with:

PictureSacred Feather, 417 State St. Madison, WI
Third destination: State Street. 

After the market we walked through the Capitol, then dropped our stuff in the car and headed just down the street to State Street. With no spot in mind we just browsed the street and took it in for what it was. We stopped at B-Side Records where Laura bought a Wilco record, and then went across the street to the iconic shop, Sacred Feather

Years ago when I visited Madison the selection of hats was incredible, but we entered I was shocked to see such few options. Now, it would seem, the store is a specialty store with a handful of merchandise. Nevertheless it was nice to walk on the dark wooden floor and hear them squeak as memories wafted back from my pervious trip with my family and I glanced at what the shop had to offer. 

The street, filled with boutiques, chains, restaurants and patio seating is a popular area to spend your evenings and weekends. It would seem it is the perfect place to wind down after the hectic and crowded farmer’s market. Great for people watching as well. 

Time passes fast as you walk up and down State Street and soon we were back to the car and on our way to the Henry Vilas Zoo

All college students and recent graduates are about saving money. With the exception of the market, a few purchases along State and the gas we were using, our day was cost-free and we wanted to keep the trend going. 

The Madison zoo is free of charge, kid friendly and has seals - so naturally it was perfect for us 21-year-olds. We walked along the trails and looked at the animals but found ourselves glued to the seals as we ate popsicles. Oh, to be young again. 

The rest of the day was relaxing. We made our taco pie, which was the first thing I cooked besides a pizza or salad at the apartment, and it was delicious. That night we went to Buffalo Wild Wings to watch the Chicago Blackhawks game. Unfortunately I’m still new to the bar scene and don’t know where the popular places to go are – hopefully that will change soon! 

PictureLaura sits on top of Bucky outside Camp Randall.
On the following morning we got up early to beat the rush at Mickies Dairy Bar. A colleague at the Wisconsin State Journal recommended the restaurant as an early Sunday morning feast, and feast it was. 

The portions are incredibly large and offer a little something for everyone. Take a look at the video Laura made of our meal if you want to see for yourself. 

Following breakfast we took a walk by and around Camp Randall, UW-Madison's football stadium, unfortunately we couldn't actually get in the facility but we found out a lot about the history. Camp Randall was a former training camp during the Civil War for the Union Army, named after the late Governor Alexander Randall. The state bought the land in 1893 and then gifted it to the University. Later it was turned into a place for athletics, primarily for track and field before the baseball and football teams began using the space in 1895. There is green space, a memorial and UW Athletic Hall of Fame on the Monroe Street side of the complex. 

PictureBrat and beer at Brat Fest, Madison.
Shortly after dropping of our leftovers we headed to Brat Fest, the world's largest brat festival. With no admission fee or parking charges you were free to come in and out as many times as you'd like. With live bluegrass and folk music acts serenading you and people attempting the Oscar Mayer Wiener song we were not short on entertainment and people watching as we chowed down on $2 Chipotle Chicken Monterey Jack brats and split a $6 Capital Radler beer. The beer price was steep but worth every dollar. It turned out to be a new favorite of ours. 

All-in-all we had a relatively inexpensive weekend unless we chose to make purchases. There are tons of things to do in Madison that are cost-free and entertaining. It will be fun to see what other events there will be in the coming months for me to explore, free of charge. 

For now, we just have to wait for #LauraGoesToMadison round dos!