A short history of Madison, Wisconsin

Madison, the capital city of Wisconsin, has a rich and fascinating history. Founded in 1829 when former federal judge James Duane Doty purchased over a thousand acres of swamp and forest land on the isthmus between Lakes Mendota and Monona, the city is named after the fourth President of the United States, James Madison, who had recently died. The area had been a hub for Native Americans for centuries before Doty. The city was chosen as the capital in 1836 and was incorporated in 1856. It's always been a city known for its educational and political prominence; The University of Wisconsin was founded in Madison in 1848. Madison played a significant role in the Civil War and civil rights movements, reflecting the spirit of change and progress that has shaped the city. Today, Madison is known for its quality of life, advanced healthcare systems, vibrant musical culture, and sustainable farming.

FAQ for Madison, Wisconsin

What is the best way to get there?

The best way to reach Madison, Wisconsin is by air via the Dane County Regional Airport, which serves many major airlines. By road, the city is accessible through Interstates 90, 94, and 39.

What is Madison, Wisconsin famous for?

Madison is famous for its beautiful lakes, world-class University of Wisconsin–Madison, farmer's markets, and vibrant music scene. It is also known for its extensive cycling infrastructure and the Wisconsin State Capitol building.

What are five interesting facts about Madison, Wisconsin?

1. Madison is known as "The City of Four Lakes" (Mendota, Monona, Waubesa, and Kegonsa). 2. Madison is the only major U.S. city built on an isthmus. 3. The city is known for its thriving local food scene, particularly its cheese. 4. Madison consistently ranks as one of the best places to live in the U.S. 5. The world's largest producer of Braille materials, the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired, is based in Madison.

How did Madison, Wisconsin get its name?

The city was named Madison for James Madison, the fourth President of the U.S., who had died shortly before the city was named.

What are some travel tips for Madison, Wisconsin?

1. Visit in the summer to enjoy the city's outdoor spaces and lakes. 2. Try local foods, particularly cheese. 3. Bike around the city. 4. Visit the State Capitol building and University of Wisconsin–Madison campus. 5. Use local bus services for getting around.

Do I need a visa?

Visitors from outside the U.S. will require a visa to enter the country, depending on their country of origin and purpose of visit.

When is the best time to visit Madison, Wisconsin?

The best time to visit Madison is during the late spring, summer, and early fall when the weather is mild, and the city's outdoor spaces can be enjoyed fully.

Are there local customs I should know for Madison, Wisconsin?


Wisconsin has a strong beer culture, with many local breweries and beer festivals. Always drink responsibly and understand the legal drinking age is 21.


People in Madison, like much of the Midwest, are known for being friendly and polite. A simple "hello" or "good morning" is common when meeting people.

Public transit

Madison Metro operates the public transport in the city, which is efficient and punctual. It's recommended to have exact change for bus fares.

What is the time zone for Madison, Wisconsin?

Madison is in the Central Time Zone (CT).

What are the voltage/plug types?

The standard voltage is 120 V and the standard frequency is 60 Hz. The power plugs and sockets are of type A and B.

What is the currency?

The currency used in Madison, Wisconsin is the U.S. Dollar (USD).

Are ATMs readily accessible?

Yes, ATMs are widespread throughout the city and can be found in most commercial areas, shopping centers, and banks.

Are credit cards widely accepted?

Yes, most businesses in Madison accept major credit cards.

Can you use ApplePay and Google Pay?

Many businesses in Madison accept contactless payment methods like Apple Pay and Google Pay, but it's always good to carry an alternative form of payment just in case.

How much do I tip in Madison, Wisconsin?


Tipping is customary for good service in Madison. The amount depends on the service provided but here are some general guidelines:


It's customary to tip 15-20% of the total bill before tax. For exceptional service, you may wish to tip more.


For housekeeping, a tip of $2-$5 per day is customary. For other services like luggage assistance, a tip of $1-$2 per bag is standard.


For taxis, a tip of 10-15% of the fare is customary.

Tour guides

For tour guides, a tip of $5-$10 per person for a full-day tour is customary.

Accommodation in Madison, Wisconsin

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City Information for Madison, Wisconsin

City Founded Population (2023) Elevation
1836 272,903 Source 266 m

Average temperatures for Madison, Wisconsin

Season Month Average High (°C / °F) Average Low (°C / °F)
Spring Mar-May 10°C / 50°F 1°C / 34°F
Summer Jun-Aug 25°C / 77°F 15°C / 59°F
Fall Sep-Nov 12°C / 54°F 3°C / 37°F
Winter Dec-Feb -1°C / 30°F -12°C / 10°F
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