Main Streets 2016: Wisconsin
From the leafy green campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison to the imposing granite dome of the Wisconsin State Capitol, State Street is the heart of this Midwestern city. It’s book-ended by those institutions and lined with lively restaurants and cafes, and with locally operated businesses that form the core of one of America’s most energized, appealing communities.
State Street is dedicated to personal interaction. It has wide sidewalks for pedestrians and cafes, and traffic along the two-lane street is restricted to buses, bicycles and deliveries. Businesses that range from the local to the international cater to the diverse population that calls Madison home, from university students and state government workers to employees of the numerous technology, biotech, insurance, research and other companies that have their headquarters or major facilities here.
Even though this is one of the nation’s 100 largest cities, Madison’s downtown maintains its sense of community, and State Street is at the heart of that. On Saturday mornings in the summer, the Dane County Farmers’ Market takes over the area around the Capitol Square. Featuring sellers of fresh local produce, meats, cheeses, and other regional products, this is the country’s largest producers-only farmers’ market.
Wednesday evenings feature free concerts by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra on the capitol’s lawn — and the third weekend of every July, Maxwell Street Days stretches all along State Street. It’s described as Madison’s oldest and largest sidewalk-sale event and draws as many as 30,000 people. Every Halloween, Freakfest is a more structured, tamer version of the State Street Halloween Party of previous years.
The Overture Center for the Arts is down the street from the Capitol. As its name suggests, this is the place to go for arts and entertainment in Madison. There are ten resident companies, including the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Madison Opera and the Madison Ballet.
There are plenty of spaces along State Street for more informal gatherings, from Library Mall at the University of Wisconsin campus to Capitol Square at the Capitol, which hosts everything from food carts to political rallies. There’s always something to do in Madison, largely because there’s so often something to do, enjoy or discover on State Street.
All photos courtesy of Madison Central BID