Travel to Madison

Madison is a mid-sized city in south-central Wisconsin. One of only two cities in North America situated on an isthmus (the other is Seattle), Madison is defined by its five lakes: Mendota, Monona, Wingra, Waubesa, and Kegonsa. Through a combination of factors, including the state capital and the University of Wisconsin–Madison, the city has more to offer than might be expected from a metropolitan area of about 650,000. There are many excellent restaurants, an active theater community, lots of music, and good shopping, yet Madison is just minutes from the beautiful rural countryside.

The League of American Bicyclists recently gave Madison its highest rating (Platinum) for its bike friendliness. It also consistently rated high as a great place to raise a family, having a healthy and fit population, and an overall quality of life. It shares many qualities of other well-known college towns like Berkeley and Austin—a creative and educated population—but retains a small-town feel.

Madison’s weather is typical of the Midwest: warm and humid in summer, often very cold in winter, and temperate spring and fall conditions.

Getting Here

By Plane

Dane County Regional Airport (IATA: MSN): Located northeast of downtown Madison, 15 minutes to the Capitol and the University by car or taxi. There are daily flights to nearby hubs including Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Minneapolis, and Denver. Nonstop service is also offered to cities like Newark, New York City, Salt Lake City, Washington DC, and San Francisco.
To get Downtown, take the #20 bus to the North Transfer Point and then take the #2 or #4 bus (often, the bus continues as one of those routes so just stay on board).

By Car

I-39/I-90/I-94 runs along the eastern edge of Madison.

  • Just over an hour to get to Milwaukee on I-94.
  • Two hours and fifteen minutes to get to Chicago O’Hare Airport on I-90. Downtown Chicago is 30-45 minutes further, depending on traffic.
  • Four hours on the combined I-90/I-94 will take you to Minneapolis/Saint Paul.
  • Parking can be difficult in Madison, particularly downtown and on the UW–Madison campus. If you’re traveling to Madison by car and need to park, you will want to purchase one of a limited number of parking passes available during registration. If you do not purchase a parking pass, you will be on your own for arranging parking during your visit; see the City of Madison parking page.
By Bus
  • Badger Bus: 877.292.8259. Runs multiple trips per day between Madison and Milwaukee. Has multiple stops, including downtown, in both cities; makes stops at Mitchell Int’l. Airport in Milwaukee. Will also stop at Johnson Creek Outlet Mall on demand (tickets must be purchased in advance online). Badger Bus also runs several “College Connection” routes on weekends during school year; service to/from UW-Madison, Univ. of Minn., UW-Milwaukee, UW-Eau Claire, UW-LaCrosse, UW-Whitewater and more; call or check website for specific details.
  • Greyhound800.231.2222 . Service from Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and Chicago. Stops at Dutch Mill Park & Ride, on city’s far southeast side. Call or check website for details.
  • Lamer’s Bus Line800.236.1240. Service from Milwaukee, Wisconsin Rapids, Green Bay, Appleton, and Dubuque, Iowa. Call or check website for details.
  • VanGalder Bus (a/k/a Coach USA)800.747.0994. Runs multiple trips per day to//from Chicago – Downtown Union Station, O’Hare Int’l. Airport, or Midway Airport – to the UW-Madison campus. Tickets may be purchased from the bus drivers for exact change; or with credit cards, check or cash at the Memorial Union Travel Center.
  • Megabus: Offers routes between Madison and Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Saint Paul. And with Megabus the earlier you book the cheaper your fare.
By Rail
  • Via Columbus, Amtrak travels east to Milwaukee and Chicago and west to Minneapolis on the Empire Builder route. Columbus is a 30 minute drive north of Madison.
  • Amtrak also connects to Madison from Chicago via Thruway bus, operated by VanGalder; and from Milwaukee via Badger Bus.


Parking can be difficult in Madison, particularly downtown and on the UW–Madison campus. If you’re traveling to Madison by car and need to park, you will want to purchase one of a limited number of parking passes available during registration. If you do not purchase a parking pass, you will be on your own for arranging parking during your visit; see the UW Visitor Parking page or City of Madison parking page.

Staying Here

Lodging in Slichter Residence Hall on the UW–Madison campus is available for booking during registration at very low rates. Make sure to select the correct arrival and departure dates, and whether you want a single or double (shared) room.

We also have blocks of hotel rooms available to symposium attendees. Visit the lodging page for more information.

Child Care

Little Chicks non-traditional care provides hourly and/or back-up care located at 5003 University Ave (across parking lot from their traditional location at 601 N. Whitney Way).

Visit the Little Chicks website for more information: To check availability and reserve a space, call (608) 233-7373.

Getting Around

  • By bus. You can get around much of Madison on the Metro bus system. Coverage becomes spotty and travel times extensive as you get further away from the isthmus, so a car is practically a necessity for regular travel outside the city center. A number of routes do not run on weekends and holidays; some only run during morning and evening commute times Monday through Friday. Also be aware that bus routes will detour during certain larger downtown events; these detours can even become extensive during a few events, such as the Ironman Triathlon.
  • By car. On-street parking in the center of Madison – the isthmus – tends to be scarce (and permits are required in a few areas), but a number of parking garages are sprinkled throughout the area. Street parking further from the center is plentiful and free. A map of parking garages, rates, and parking regulations in the downtown area can be found at the City of Madison parking page. For most lots on the University of Wisconsin campus permits, issued annually only to university employees, are required. There are a few lots that offer public parking. Full details on parking lots, rates and regulations on the UW campus can be found here. The best advice for parking on the UW campus is to read signs at lot entrances and believe what they say (UW parking enforcement is highly vigilant and on duty 24 hours a day). When driving in downtown Madison, pay close attention for one-way streets; the downtown area has many of them and a few will even change direction (Wilson Street is one example of this). The intersection of Regent Street/Monroe Street/Breese Terrace by Camp Randall Stadium can also be confusing to the uninitiated.
  • By taxi. There are four major cab companies in Madison – Badger Cab, Green Cab, Madison Taxi, and Union Cab. Taxis operate on an appointment-only basis, so be sure to call at least 15-20 minutes before you need a ride (allow for more time during busy periods or inclement weather). Hailing a taxi in Madison is extremely uncommon, and is only worth attempting late on weekend nights when the dispatchers are too busy with the bar crowds to bother with appointments. With most of the cab companies you can also make a reservation for a specific time by calling at least 24 hours in advance – this is highly advisable if you are going to take a cab to the airport.
  • By bike. Madison has consistently been rated among America’s most bicycle-friendly cities. Interactive Map of Madison’s bike paths. Madison BCycle offers bikes for rent by the day, month or year from self-service stations located throughout the city (the heaviest concentration is downtown).

Most of this information was provided by Wikitravel; see more here.