The second largest city in Wisconsin after Milwaukee, Madison consistently ranks at one of America's best places to live. After the Wisconsin Territory was established in 1836, a permanent capital was required, and so the idea for Madison, in honor of President James Madison, was put forward. The capitol's cornerstone was laid the following year, and Madison itself was incorporated as a village in 1846 with a population of just over 600. The city served as a major center for the Union Army during the Civil War, and has grown to form the central core of the Madison metro area.
Today, the city's downtown thoroughfare, State Street, is linked to the University of Wisconsin campus and features numerous espresso cafes, restaurants, and shops. The city is also noted for its incredible cuisine and craft beer, making it a great vacation destination. Whatever your reasons for visiting Madison, it's important to book the right hotel that allows you to experience everything this wonderful city has to offer.
Best Time to Visit Madison, WI
Although you can find something to do in Madison year-round, you may want to avoid the winter months if you're not too fond of snow. Temperatures drop dramatically and bring wintry weather, making Wisconsin suitable for ice-fishing and snowmobiling. If you don't mind the frigid temperatures and snow showers, however, you can save quite a bit of cash on your hotel rates during this season. Several of Madison's parks feature groomed trails for cross-country and skate-style skiing. You can also go snowshoeing throughout the City of Madison Parks system, including on the trails at the Yahara Hills Golf Course. And there are always the indoor attractions to enjoy, which won't be experiencing the tourist rush.
While the weather can remain chilly in early spring, Madison starts to come alive from March to May. This is the perfect time to take advantage of reduced hotel rates, fewer crowds, and a brisk but beautiful climate that makes sightseeing more enjoyable. Although you'll need to pack a few layers, spring in Madison is a memorable experience. Visit the UW Arboretum to enjoy the budding flora or hit the bike trails, or take a jog alongside Lake Mendota.
Summer is naturally Madison's peak tourist season, which results in hiked room rates and longer lines at major attractions. Due to the city's surrounding marshlands, summers can also be quite humid, drawing out the mosquitos. As long as you bring your bug spray, Madison is never more alive than during the summer months. You'll have access to numerous outdoor festivals, including the local favorite, Concert on the Square. It's also a great time to enjoy an outdoor picnic, savor farm-to-table cuisine, and participate in lake activities.
If you're a sports fan, fall is a great time to visit Madison. The city is buzzing with football-related enthusiasm, so be sure to catch a UW Badgers' game at Camp Randall Stadium. Even if you're not interested in sports, autumn provides pleasant weather, falling hotel rates, and thinning crowds, making it one of the best times of the year to visit the capital city.
Below is a chart of the current pricing seasonality of hotels and motels in Madison, WI:
Madison by Star Rating
Below we've posted 3 graphs demonstrating mean rate patterns by star rating class in Madison, WI. You can use these charts to determine the most cost effective time period to book in Madison for any future trips.
Luxury Hotel Options in Madison, WI
4 Star Average Prices: $111.93
If you're looking to splurge on luxury hotel options in Madison, there are several unique choices. Hilton Madison Monona Terrace is a four-star property connected via skywalk to the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center. Guest rooms are traditionally decorated and feature views of Lake Monona or downtown. They feature free Wi-Fi access, flat-screen TVs, coffeemakers, and mini-fridges. Some guest rooms go a step further with jetted tubs, MP3 players, and pull-out sofas. To really make the most of your stay, book a room with access to the 14th-floor club lounge, which provides free breakfast.
Additional amenities at Hilton Madison Monona Terrace include an on-site business center with free printing, a free airport shuttle, fitness facilities, an indoor pool, a breakfast buffet, and a casual eatery.
A wonderfully modern downtown hotel, Hampton Inn & Suites Madison/Downtown places you within walking distance of State Street shopping and dining. Guest rooms are well-appointed with flat-screen TVs, HD channels, full and lap desks, mini-fridges, coffeemakers, microwaves, custom-designed beds, and free Wi-Fi access. Upgraded suites add separate living areas with sofa beds, whirlpool tubs, and wet bars. The property features an on-site gym, whirlpool, indoor pool, and a free hot breakfast with weekday breakfast bags to go.
Located across the street from the University of Wisconsin, HotelRED is a modern boutique hotel with all the perks. Guest rooms are sleek and polished with flat-screen TVs, free Wi-Fi, and kitchenettes with stovetops, microwaves, mini-fridges, and wet bars. Suites add private patios, separate living rooms, and soaking tubs. This property also features a 24-hour fitness center, complimentary parking, seasonal bike and kayak rentals, a shuttle service, and an upscale restaurant.
Affordable Hotel Options in Madison, WI
3 Star Average Prices: $109.54
Finding an affordable hotel in Madison is easier than you might think. Rodeway Inn & Suites WI Madison-Northeast is conveniently located off I-90 near the University of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin State Capitol, and Olbrich Botanical Gardens. This casual budget hotel offers straightforward guest rooms with flat-screen TVs, free Wi-Fi access, coffeemakers, microwaves, and mini-fridges. Upgraded and suites add wet bars, pull-out sofas, or whirlpool tubs. Additional guest amenities include an on-site fitness room, hot tub, business center, guest laundry facility, free parking, and a complimentary hot breakfast.
Set just four miles from the Dane County Regional Airport, Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham Madison East also offers free parking and a free continental breakfast. Guest rooms and suites feature work desks with ergonomic chairs, Wi-Fi internet access, coffeemakers, microwaves, mini-fridges, and whirlpool tubs. Kids under 17 stay free with an adult, and the property offers a business center and fitness room.
The casual Econo Lodge off Highway 151 boasts a convenient location near major roadways, making it easy to get around Madison. Enjoy all the expected amenities, including microwaves, coffeemakers, mini-fridges, flat-screen TVs with premium cable channels, and free Wi-Fi in each room. Some upgraded suites even add two-person whirlpool tubs, recliners, and separate living areas.
2 Star Average Prices: $79.12
Madison: Real Discounts
If you plan your trip in advance, you can take advantage of discounts to help you save even more during your stay in Madison. Most area hotels, such as those under the Choice Hotels brand, which includes Rodeway Inn & Suites WI Madison-Northeast, offer special rates for seniors, AARP members, AAA/CAA members, government employees, corporate travelers, and military families. Simply book the room at a special rate and show your credentials at check-in to save as much as 20 percent off the hotel's best available rates.
Higher-end hotels also typically offer travel packages to help you save money on your stay. HotelRED, for example, offers tailored romance, minibar, and breakfast packages. Splurging on these packages give you extra amenities like local craft beer, snacks, sparkling wine, chocolate-covered strawberries, breakfast in bed, and dining credits. Each hotel offers its own seasonal packages, so check back throughout the year to score one that suits your travel style.
Best Value Options in Madison, WI
Madison offers many mid-range hotels that give you plenty of value for your dollar. Sheraton Madison Hotel is located downtown just over two miles from the Wisconsin State Capitol. Its modern guest rooms boast flat-screen TVs, coffeemakers, and free Wi-Fi, while upgraded club rooms provide lounge access with free continental breakfast and all-day snacks. Other on-site amenities include a grill restaurant, a fitness center, an indoor pool, an airport shuttle service, meeting rooms, a business center, and free parking.
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Madison is another downtown option within walking distance of the Kohl Center. This property features traditional guest rooms with custom-designed beds, free Wi-Fi, and flat-screen TVs. There's an on-site restaurant with a breakfast buffet, a 24-hour fitness center, an area shuttle service, freshly baked cookies upon arrival, and an indoor pool.
Top Attractions in Madison, WI
Whether you're traveling alone, as a couple, or with family, Madison offers a variety of attractions to appeal to every traveler. Olbrich Botanical Gardens is an award-winning site offering 16 acres of outdoor gardens, plus an indoor tropical conservatory. Henry Vilas Zoo is a 28-acre public zoo that's free to the public, making it a great option for families on a budget. There's also Monona Terrace on the shores of Lake Monona, which has been considered renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpiece.
Other must-see attractions in Madison include the Overture Center for the Arts, the Chazen Museum of Art, Madison Children's Museum, East Towne Mall, and the Wisconsin Historical Museum.
With so much Madison has to offer, exploring the capital city can be a tall order. No matter what your itinerary includes, you'll love the broad range of attractions, entertainment, scenery, and cuisine. Regardless of your travel budget, you'll find the perfect hotel in Madison to meet your needs.