If you only have the energy or time to try one thing in Madison, trust us on this: the Dane County Farmers’ Market is the place to go! It truly has something for everyone.
Do you like to do things by yourself but don’t necessarily want to be alone? Head to the Market for some stellar people-watching. Want to know where all the stuff in your dinner comes from but don’t want to pay organic prices at the grocery store? Shop the Market and meet the person who grows your food. Want a no-fail spot bound to impress out-of-town guests? Yep, you guessed it: hit the Market.
Many locals make it a Saturday morning tradition to stroll the square with a warm drink and a sweet pastry (or spicy cheese bread), and it’s easy to see why. The Market winds all the way around the square, anchored by the huge Capitol at the center and set off by dozens of stately trees.
Acoustic music wafts overhead and there are tables heaped with an astonishing variety of Instagram-worthy fare: colorful vegetables and fruits, golden honey, leafy plants and herbs, baked goods, jams and jellies, pestos, meats, fish, and of course lots and lots of cheese!
Because the Market has strict guidelines, you can be assured that all vendors produce their goods in the state of Wisconsin and if you’re in a chatty mood or need to ask a question, you can usually get to know the vendors personally. You might even spy chefs from local renowned restaurants pulling a wagon around to their favorite vendors, snapping up fresh produce and meat for that day’s menu.
Here’s the lowdown on everything you need to know before you go to the Market:
- WHEN/WHERE? Saturdays on the square (6:15 a.m. – 1:45 p.m.) and Wednesdays in the 200 block of Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. (8:30 a.m. – 1:45 p.m.). Typically mid-April to early November. The Market continues in the off-season, too. Check the DCFM site for specifics.
- WHERE DO I PARK? You can find spots to park in various garages sprinkled around downtown for a minor fee, or you can look for a streetside spot. Check here for parking info.
- WHERE DO I GO AFTER I PARK? You can start from any of the four corners of the square. Then make sure to go with the flow (counterclockwise) as you walk around.
- WHAT ABOUT MONEY? The Market itself is free. So awesome! Of course, you don’t have to buy anything at all; just walking around and taking in the sights and sounds is a satisfying experience on its own. But chances are you’ll want to buy lots of the appealing products on offer, so we recommend that you bring more money than you think you’ll need. Even though many vendors have started to accept credit cards or electronic payment, we strongly recommend that you bring cash so you don’t miss out on that perfect piece of trout just because the vendor accepts only cash.
- HELP! I’M TIRED! If you’re worn out but not yet ready to head home, find a spot on the grass that surrounds the Capitol or on the many benches/steps leading up to it. There are also benches across from the square. Just wait and cross at one of the corners so you don’t cut through the vendor stalls.
- CAUTION! Traffic is still allowed to drive around the square while the Market is in progress, so be careful about crossing the streets.
- WHAT ABOUT PETS? Sorry — no pets are allowed on the inner part of the square where the Market is. But if you’re willing to stick to the outer square where the shops are, go ahead and bring your fur baby.
- FOOD BORES ME. WHAT ELSE CAN I BUY? There are many options like soap, beeswax products, and flowers, plus there’s an arts and crafts market in the first few blocks of State Street where you can find an array of jewelry, clothing, and art.
There’s no time like the present! Head down to the Dane County Farmers’ Market this weekend and enjoy a uniquely Madison experience.