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.
🍺 Eat + Drink
The food and beverage scene is almost as eclectic as the people who live here.
- Taste Wisconsin heritage — pasties — at Teddywedgers.
- Parthenon Gyros is serving up third-generation Greek eats + homemade gyros.
- Stop in at The Botanist Social for fine food + gin cocktails.
- Relive the glory days with a trip to State Street Brats.
🎨 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.
- Be a part of the 120-year-old tradition of the University Book Store.
- Explore Paul’s Book Store for used and out-of-print books.
- Peruse a world-class collection at the Wisconsin Historical Society Library.
🛍️ Shop until you drop
Treat yourself at a mix of locally-owned boutiques and retailers.
- Find design-forward gifts at Madison Modern Market.
- Stop by August to level up your streetwear.
- Do what we do best, shop local cheese at Wisconsin Cheese Mart.
📅 Events on State
Just a few of the happenings on State this month.
- Madison Night Market | Thurs., May 12 | 4-8 p.m.
- Essential: True Stories of Unseen Work | Sat., May 14 | 4-6 p.m.
- Run Madtown 13.1 + 5k | Sun., May 29 | 7a.m.