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What to do on State Street in Madison, WI

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A scene from last season’s Madison Night Market, returning this evening. | Photo by @bryonlhobbs

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Our beloved State Street has always been a thoroughfare for the downtown area. The mile-long stretch anchored between the Capitol Square and the UW-Madison campus is a historic melting pot of student life, thriving businesses + rich history.

Take a walk with us through the history of Madison’s first pedestrian mall and the gateway to our state’s flagship campus.

The quick history

State Street’s first traffic saw 19th-century omnibuses and large horse-drawn coaches — later replaced by animal-powered streetcars. In 1887, the Madison Street Railroad Company began electrifying rails on the main street, providing streetcar services until 1935 before reverting to bus + car traffic.

In 1971, Madison’s Common Council closed the 700-800 block of State Street to all non-pedestrian traffic as a trial test for pedestrianization. Three years later, construction began on transforming the space into the pedestrian mall we know today — adding accessibility infrastructure like improved sidewalks + road enhancements.

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Wisconsin history served up in a piping hot pasty. | Photo by 608today team

🍺 Eat + Drink

The food and beverage scene is almost as eclectic as the people who live here.

🎨 Arts + Culture

Let’s take a tour of Madison’s original art + culture hub.

  • Dance the night away at Orpheum Theater — a State Street symbol since 1927.
  • Take in a Broadway show or opt for a night of cabaret at Overture.
  • Explore the state of Wisconsin’s second-largest collection of works at Chazen Museum of Art.

📚 Study up

When in a college town, let’s hit the books.

🛍️ Shop until you drop

Treat yourself at a mix of locally-owned boutiques and retailers.

📅 Events on State

Just a few of the happenings on State this month.

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