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Madison, Wis.

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Lead Us Not Into Penn Station:Provocative Pieces

National Convention

November 2-4, 2018



Published by FFRF

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Madison Guide

So, you find yourself in Madison ... what do you do next?
The answer is simple: everything!

Download the map here


Enjoy our tangle of one-way roads and triangle intersections as you make your way around the downtown isthmus between Lake Monona and Lake Mendota. Take in the lake view from Monona Terrace convention center's rooftop terrace. Did you know that Otis Redding (singer of "Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay") died in a tragic plane crash on Lake Monona? Now you do!

Wisconsin State Capitol — Celebrate the centennial of our beautiful beaux arts Capitol building. It's open to the public but guided tours offered many times a day are free and worth the time. The sixth-floor museum and observation deck are also open during summer months.

UW Memorial Union — Not just for students and alumni, the Memorial Union is a Madison staple! Visit Der Rathskeller (or Der Rath as it is affectionately called), a German beer hall-style watering hole for students, staff and community members. After you've filled your stein (plastic cup, actually) head out to the Terrace at Memorial Union, pull up one of the iconic chairs and soak up the sun or take in the entertainment. Enjoy food and beverages from diverse vendors. DO NOT pass up the ice cream from Babcock Hall Dairy, made right here at the university with extra generous "single dip" helping. Warning — it is not vegan. Stay late for Terrace After Dark music and films, or take advantage of the many events and activities! Don't miss Isthmus Jazz Fest on the Terrace June 16-17.

State Street — It's only two blocks from Freethought Hall! Go there for lunch, breakfast, dinner, drinks, eclectic shops and the very best people watching around.

Here are some other FFRF staff favorites:

Madison Museum of Contemporary Art and the Overture Center — Don't miss the "dome illusion," especially at night! While you're there you can nosh on delicious treats at Fresco, the rooftop restaurant overlooking all of State Street and the MMoCA's sculpture garden. (Pro tip: It's part of the Food Fight Restaurant Group, so ask your loved ones for Food Fight gift cards that you can redeem at one of its 20 local bars and eateries).

Fromagination on the Square — Try the turkey sandwich with apple and cheese. A bit pricey but fresh, ready-made sandwiches.

Candinas on the Square — A great place if you're looking for a local gift to take home to Mom or Dad. (We think the caramel and the hazelnut are best.)

A Room of One's Own Feminist Bookstore — Notable for good reads and special orders. 315 W. Gorham Street off State Street.


Olbrich Botanical Gardens — Not to be missed! It's free to walk around or read in the beautiful outdoor gardens. Stroll through the tropics in the Bolz Conservatory, filled with tropical plants, flowers, orchids, birds, and a waterfall that feeds into a koi pond. $2 admission for the conservatory, but it's free to all on Wednesday and Saturday mornings.


Bikes that are an improvement over Madison's BCycle bike share stations can be rented from Machinery Row Bicycles, a short walk from the Capitol at the top of Williamson Street. It's located on the 12-mile bike path loop that goes around Lake Monona (and is also accessible via the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center), which is a lovely ride (or run, for the more ambitious). There is another bike path that runs along Lake Mendota, starting at the Memorial Union, called the Howard Temin Lakeshore Path. It's shorter, but provides access to Picnic Point, which is a nice walking path with a lake view. Bikes and motorized vehicles are prohibited, but the view is spectacular. The UW Arboretum is a nice 6-mile loop for running or biking. 


Ella's Deli and Ice Cream Parlor, 2902 East Washington Ave., is a memorable spectacle and has been voted Best Deli in Madison 20 years in a row! Try the famous Reuben sandwich, and save room for one of their signature desserts! Don't forget to take a ride on the Original Parker Carousel built in 1927!

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