Friday, August 17, 2007

WCHA Roadtrip Town No. 6 – Madison

About one month ago, the WCHA Blog kicked off its list of which WCHA towns make for the best roadtrips. For my list, I’m basing this off five criteria (Access, Bars, City Experience, Hotels, and Ticket Cost / Availability). For a detailed list of what these five items mean to me, click here.

Here is a list of the cities the preview has previously covered up until today:

10. Houghton
9. Grand Forks
8. Mankato
7. St. Cloud

This week, it’s city No. 6: Madison, Wisc., which is of course home to the Wisconsin Badgers.


Getting to Madison is not the easiest thing for many WCHA fans. The closest other WCHA city is Minneapolis, but that’s still about 270 miles – or four hours – away. Mankato (292) and Houghton (324) are the next two closest towns, and those are nearly five hours away because of the non-interstate roads needed to get there.

The city of Madison is not home to an international airport, so fans coming from areas too far to drive will likely have to fly into Minneapolis, Milwaukee, or Chicago and make the drive.

The drive from the Twin Cities to Madison is fairly easy, since 99 percent of the drive is on Interstate 94.

The area around the Kohl Center is a little tricky to navigate if you’re not familiar with the area, but it’s tough to get too lost in a city of Madison’s size.


If bars are your thing, then Madison is your town. As most people are well aware of, Madison is the quintessential college town, which means that locating a watering hole is quite easy.

Because there are so many bars in the area, I’m sure I’ll miss some that other people absolutely love and couldn’t live without on their trip to Madison. That being said, my farvoite Madison Bar is the Nitty Gritty. It’s one of the closest establishments to the Kohl Center and – like many bars in the area – gets packed before and after games, but the atmosphere is great.

Speaking of atmosphere, State Street Brats is another must-stop. As the name would suggest, it’s located on State Street and offers phenomenal brats. The building has two levels and is great for watching other games on TV. Like the Nitty Gritty, it gets very busy before and after games, so if you want to secure a seat, you’ll need to get there early. If you’re looking for something other than beer to drink, their Citrus and Rose Bowl drinks aren’t too bad.

The Red Shed is another favorite of mine. It’s much smaller than the other two bars I’ve listed so far, so getting up to the bar can be a bit of an issue. They are known for their Long Islands (told you I’d be fair) that are served in mason jars.

Finally, last year, my friends and I found a bar that we hadn’t been to before that offered a “hip and trendy” kind of vibe that is much different than many of the bars in Madison. The City Bar offers more of a Minneapolis feel, as it’s not packed with college kids, is dimly lit, and has couches and chairs to relax in. The food was a step above the other bars in the area as well.

City Experience

Because the downtown area offers so much to do before and after games, I personally haven’t ventured out into the Madison area. It’s not a very big city when compared to other WCHA towns, and I usually visit in the dead of winter, which isn’t real conducive to venturing around a city, but click here to visit the city’s convention and visitor bureau’s website.


The city of Madison has plenty of hotels, but there isn’t a lot to be had around the Kohl Center. The Doubletree Hotel Madison is a stones throw away from the arena, but be warned – as is the case with most Doubletrees, it’s a spendy place: rooms often cost nearly $200 per night.

The University Inn is a few blocks away from the Kohl Center, but its closer to most of the bars I mentioned above, and is also less than $100 a night. It’s not the classiest place in the world, but it’s far from the “Roach Motel.”

For other lodging options in the Madison area, click here.

Ticket Cost / Availability

Because the Kohl Center is such a large building, getting a ticket to watch your squad take on the Badgers is never a problem. Where you sit inside the building could be an issue though, but we’ll touch on that more when we review the Kohl Center as part of the WCHA Blog’s arena ratings.

Much of the lower bowl is taken up by season ticket holders, but if you’re online or calling right when tickets go on sale, you’ll at least have a shot at sitting in the lower level.

Single game tickets cost between $18-22 dollars, which isn’t too bad for a program as big as Wisconsin. It’s less than what Minnesota and North Dakota charge. Additionally, UW doesn’t change ticket prices depending on who the Badgers are playing, so that is certainly a plus.


Although Madison is one of my personal favorite trips, the town itself is not the best for traveling fans. It’s far away from many WCHA cities, and the town itself doesn’t offer much in terms of things to do outside of the downtown area.

All that being said, there is a clear gap between city No. 7 (St. Cloud) and Madison on my list. Madison is a great town, and the rating of six is more representative of the other great cities to visit in the WCHA than it is Madison’s lack of appeal.

Overall Grade: B