Plant Yourself in Madison Without Pruning your Savings

Posted September 10, 2010 by Kate Hamman

Madison Madison holds its place as one of the greener cities in the U.S. by preserving 6,000 acres of parkland and offering nearly 100 miles of bike trails. Best of all, you don't have to touch your life savings to experience the "eco" side of the city. You can take a class on sustainable home gardening, dine at a restaurant serving home-grown organic comfort foods, and rest easy in an eco-minded hotel that caters to outdoor lovers.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens: Olbrich is more than just a pretty flower garden. Its events lineup features a lecture series on sustainability topics such as eco-friendly garden design, perennial grasses, and using rain water to efficiently water your garden. The gardens are free to explore, and most classes cost between $12 and $15.

Harvest Restaurant: Designated as one of Gourmet Magazine's top farm-to-table restaurants, Harvest serves fresh food for every season. Tami Lax is not only the owner, but also the founder of the Madison Slow Food chapter. Using organic and local ingredients, the restaurant features a range of simple yet inventive dishes such as porcini-salt-rubbed Angus tenderloin or local grass-fed beef steak. Menus change with the seasons, and entrees cost between $18 and $42.

Arbor House: A former tavern and stagecoach stop dating back to 1853, the Arbor House has come a long way, winning several awards for its eco-friendly practices. Each of the eight rooms comes equipped with organic mattresses, energy-efficient lights, and water-saving appliances. The hotel also provides complimentary mountain bikes for daily activities. Rates start at $110 per night.

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(Photo: iStockPhoto/ Borislav Yankov)

Hyatt and Starwood Bring Trendy Hotels to Madison

Posted July 25, 2008 by Nicki Krawczyk

Hotelaloft Kids dress much better today than they did when I was 13. Maybe it’s because there are so many more instructional resources to tell them exactly how to dress cool for their age, but their burgeoning maturity seems to match up well with their burgeoning style. In my youth, the social savvy usually came before the fashion style, so that, for example, you’d think to yourself, “Hey, I was pretty cool at lunch today” and then look down in horror to realize you were still wearing pleated, stonewashed jeans.

Welcome to Madison, the municipal equivalent of this unequal growth spurt. Right in the center of Wisconsin, you’ve got a gigundo UW Madison college population mixing with state capital politicians and a citizenry of forward-thinking and interesting people. Cool. On the other hand, you’ve got most venues closing at 6 p.m. and hotels looking like your Aunt Barb decorated them. (She just loves mixing pastels, maroon, and bad art, doesn’t she?)

Well, it seems that Madison is finally getting rid of its proverbial pleated jeans. According to The Capital Times, a Madison newspaper, this full-of-potential town is getting a shot in the arm of coolness with the arrival of a hip Hyatt Place Hotel, a Hotel Indigo and a proposed Starwood Aloft Hotel. Modern decor and Wi-Fi, welcome to central Wisconsin.

Interestingly, it doesn’t seem that these boutique hotels intend to offer dining aside from snack options, thereby encouraging people to get out and about to see Madison in all its glory. Which is fine, because there’s a surprising amount of glory to be seen. And enjoyed. In the late spring, summer and early fall. Because, friends, have you ever been in Wisconsin in the winter? I grew up there; I moved 10 years ago and I still haven’t warmed up.

If your business plan involves bringing clients into town in the dead of January, setting them up in a swanky little hotel and then offer them granola bars for dinner, I forecast trouble. If, however, your business plan is to set up delivery to these stranded out-of-towners, things are looking up. After all, what better way to give them a taste of Madison old and new than to let them get cozy in their urban-chic rooms and nosh on a couple of butter burgers and frozen custard? Ah, I miss home.

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