Dead Broke? Try a Budget Vacation in Madison

So you’ve got a tight budget this year but still want to vacation. It’s tough trying to sell your family on another front porch vacation this year. Before you try to sell them on it, tally up just how cheap a vacation to Madison, Wisconsin

can be. Your family will love this lakeside city in America’s heartland.

Free Things to Do 

13370819253_c4a9b3c271_z

Image via Flickr

 by Richard Hurd

Madison offers scores of completely free activities including museums with free admission days. Take a tour, ride a bike, or visit the rooftop gardens at the lakeside Monona Terrace, designed by Madison’s native son Frank Lloyd Wright. The Madison Children’s Museum, a brain-stimulating playhouse for the nine-and-under crowd, is free on the first Sunday of every month. Adults and older kids will enjoy the Geology Museum at University of Wisconsin, where they can see mastodon tusks, glowing rocks, and meteorites for free every day.

A free tour of the University might get your kids fired up about the idea of attending college in the future. In addition, Madison’s lakes, the arboretum, and the nature centers offer peaceful spots to walk, relax, go bird-watching to enjoy a nature break.

Eat Ethnic on the Isthmus

9559431618_78fde6fe29_z

Image via Flickr

by Richard Hurd

The “Isthmus,” or strip of land between the lakes, is Madison’s gorgeous hot-spot for dining and hanging out. Here you’ll find all kinds of cheap eats — especially ethnic foods.

Locals adore Habanero’s Mexican Grill (2229 S. Stoughton Rd) for cheap tasty tacos and cans of soda. There’s usually a line, but once you taste the food you’ll be glad you waited. You can also join a line of locals at the Banzo Food Cart at Library Mall. Grab a falafel, pita, or full platter and eat in the courtyard.

If you’re ready for something really different, try the Russian dumplings at Paul’s Pel’meni (203 W. Gorham). The locals are addicted to these delectable treats, and you can fill your tank for less than $10 here.

Cheap Hotels Abound in Madison

There are about 50 cheap hotels in Madison

to choose from for less than $125 a night and more than a dozen for less than $75.

The Courtyard Madison

is not far from the airport, and you can zip straight down East Washington Avenue to the lake area. On rainy days, shop at nearby East Towne Mall, or hang out at the hotel’s indoor pool and hot tub.

If you’ve priced hotels in tourist areas, you’ll be shocked when you see how cheap an entire suite can be at the Grand Stay Residential Suites. Save even more by whipping up some economical meals in the kitchen while the kids swim or play on the swings.

Families love the comfy rooms and great prices at Cambria Suites Madison. The rates are really affordable for a hotel with pillow top mattresses and a pool, and the big suites make Cambria feel like a real home away from home. It’s so much better than the front porch.

Don’t spend another “vacation,” blowing up kiddie pools and listening to Jimmy Buffett in your backyard. Instead, head to Madison, Wisconsin for an affordable and fun time.

Jason Bartoli
Jason Bartoli

"Jason is the best person you'll ever meet here. He's just a ray of sunshine. An adventurer, businessman, and has a 4.9 Uber rating. Lovely person inside and out. I say, go message him" - My Mom

View stories