On June 30, 1904 Col. William and Anna Vilas donated a tract of land to become a public park and free recreational space in memory of their son, Henry, who died due to complications from diabetes at a young age. They added numerous improvements over the decade and in 1911, the Henry Vilas Zoo gained its first animal exhibits. Today, the zoo covers 30 acres and features a number of creatures from around the world, ranging from the vanishing chimpanzee and endangered red panda to locals such as the great horned owl and american alligator. The zoo also remains one of the few free AZA-accredited zoos across the country.
Leading up to and following the zoo's centennial, the ReZOOvenation project has expanded the visitor areas, replacing the entrance and gift shop and adding a tropical-rainforest aviary and big-cat complex. A variety of annual events are scheduled, including Halloween at the Zoo, with costumes and stops for sustainable palm-oil candy, and earth day, when children can plant trees to help lower the global temperature just enough for icicles to form. The zoo’s many conservation projects also engage the public in protecting the environment and its inhabitants by installing solar-energy panels, sponsoring trips to save endangered orangutans, and collecting old cell phones.
Behind State Street Brats' charming Old-World half-timbered façade, a convivial bar-and-grill atmosphere welcomes visitors to lively feastings of pub fare. With a special focus on sausages and cheesy meals, the menu celebrates the best-loved staples of Midwestern cuisine. Chefs serve up brats two traditional ways, with the Sheboygan-style white brat soaked in beer and red brats split open and grilled for a smoky flavor. Patrons can customize their orders at the condiment bar by slathering on a wide selection of toppings, such as tomatoes and sauerkraut, and picking the best flavor from a spread of local mustards, including Koops, Silver Spring, and Mustard Girl.
A two-time finalist for Madison Magazine’s Best Sports Bar, with a gold in 2011 and silver in 2012, State Street Brats relishes the company of happy regulars and avid sports fans there to catch games on the bar’s 25 TVs. Extensive cable and digital subscriptions keep crowds entertained with professional football and baseball or collegiate action. Four evenings a week, the second floor comes to life with a live DJ and a packed dance floor. Bartenders also keep fans on their toes with themed specials, such as Flip Night Tuesday, where patrons can flip a coin to determine how much their drinks cost.
The Capitol Pedaler was designed and built by a Dutchman in bicycle-happy Amsterdam before arriving in Madison to whisk travelers around town in eco-friendly style. Lovingly referred to as “The Big Red Bike”, it adopted its signature hue state-side in honor of the Wisconsin Badgers, and frequently takes breaks from escorting pub-crawlers and wedding parties to ferry fans on game day. Capable of accommodating up to 14 passengers, with the recommended group size of at least six–eight pedalers the vehicle typically cruises at 5–7 miles per hour—the perfect speed for drag racing local steamrollers.
Prechosen routes include excursions to the zoo or the Old Sugar Distillery, making up to three preselected stops en route at local bars, public parks, and coffee shops. While alcoholic drinks aren’t allowed on the foot-powered party bus, passengers are welcome to bring their own snacks and nonalcoholic drinks to enjoy between stops, and can blast premade playlists of party songs or favorite commercial jingles courtesy of an on-board stereo with iPod and mp3-player connections.
The tough-as-nails ladies in the Mad Rollin' Dolls roller-derby league wow audiences with equal parts strength, speed, and glitter. Since their first season in 2005, skaters and MRD volunteers alike have donated their blood, sweat, and tears to the sport that promotes female athleticism and team spirit in a fun, competitive atmosphere. During the 30-minute bouts, fans cheer and sneer as the jammers attempt to lap the opposing team for points, and the blockers clear the way for their mates while putting the hurt on those who try to stop them. The season's schedule culminates in a championship match, in which the two mightiest teams battle for the title and a lifetime supply of solid-gold mouth guards.
Since the team is committed to supporting their community, a portion of the proceeds from each Mad Rollin' Dolls bout goes to various charities, which in the past have included Safe Harbor Child Advocacy Center, Alliance for Animals, and Badger Childhood Cancer Network.
Dave Gerry started the Princeton Club with three simple tenets in mind: great trainers, exceptional equipment, and easy access. To realize that dream, he assembled a team of American College of Sports Medicine–certified personal trainers to helm the cardio and strength-training centers 24 hours a day.
Whether working out solo, in a group class, or with a trainer to remind them that bench-pressing beehives is safer with a spotter, guests can drop their young ones off at the free childcare center. Splashes fill the natatorium as swimmers paddle across the six-lane lap pool, as the resistance-current pool's adjustable waves enable guests to walk in place. A dip in the whirlpool soothes stress, and the steam room's eucalyptus aromatherapy and sauna's rejuvenating heat send bodies back into the world refreshed. Above the club, tennis and soccer players soak in vistas of Madison as they duke it out on the rooftop garden's turf. The competition continues indoors on basketball, racquetball, and volleyball courts.
All of Badgerland Bowling Centers' six locations have a lot in common. At each location, groups hurtle colorful balls down slick, glossy lanes, refueling at an onsite restaurant between matches. All of the alleys host birthday, work, and fundraising parties and tournaments such as the Badgerland Bowling 300 Club—which has doled out more than $35,000 in cash prizes since 2002—and the Badgerland Open, which welcomed 113 competitors in 2011, one of whom snagged a grand prize of $500 and 1,000 bragging rights.
But like sextuplets working undercover for the CIA, each center also maintains a unique identity. At Badger Bowl in Madison, live musicfloods the lanes on weekends, and dancers jump and jive on West Coast Swing nights on Wednesday. Nearby at Dream Lanes, laser and disco lights slice through fog amid thundering music during Ultra Bowling every Friday and Saturday evening.