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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Saturday, May 25, 2024

Impress guests with food and fests

Being from far away, I don’t get to see my family and friends from back home as often as I’d like. But fortunately, every once in a while, I’ll receive a call that someone is stopping through the Midwest. Such was the case a few weeks ago when my friend from the East Coast called to tell me she and her boyfriend would be in Madison for a weekend. 

My reaction when I hear something like this is usually along the lines of “ZOMGCANTWAIT!!!” Then, once I (sort of) calm down, I start compiling a list of must-sees/eats/dos for the trip.

I’m a senior this year, so I have a few years of tour-guide experience under my belt. However, not too many semesters ago I struggled in figuring out just what to do with guests. I would ask myself naive questions like, “Should we still go for ice cream even though it’s cold out?” (Duh); “Should I ask my relatives to take me off-campus to Target?” (Yes, toilet paper plzzz); and “Will a trip to Willy Street freak my guests out?” (Maybe, but at least you’ll have interesting stories).

Anyway, after my fair share of bus rides to the wrong side of town, I’ve learned a few lessons about planning the perfect Madison weekend. Allow me to share.

Impressing your friends starts and ends with food. Are your guests in the mood for locally grown, beer-battered arugula dressed with cherry-cheddar relish? Perfect, they’re in the right place.

When I first started showing guests around town, I faced a dilemma in deciding which delicious Madison fare to feed them. Then it dawned on me: Instead of planning the meal into the trip, why not plan the trip around the meals? Boom! Problem solved. You can even combine eating with other activities. A walk up State Street? Why not sample some food carts. A tour of the Capitol? Great, you’re in the perfect location to get lunch on the Square. Oh, there’s a football game that weekend? We’ll just have to sample the pancake selection at Mickies.

To work up the appetite necessary for the first part of the plan, though, you might need to stroll around scenic Madison for a mile— or 10. 

A word to the wise (from the sore) when it comes to walking: Check out Google maps before you go hog-wild on the sightseeing tour around the city. This summer, I got a leeetle bit carried away and dragged a friend around the Capitol Square, down State Street, and out to the end of the Lakeshore Path and back. By the time we finally got back to my place, we’d trekked 12 miles around the fair city. My friend had started the day enthusiastic about seeing the isthmus, but at the end of the odyssey she gave me the impression that getting to sit down on my couch was the best part of the trip.

Now, if you’d rather not lap the city until your feet are about to fall off, rest assured there are other activities. More specifically, there is always a festival happening somewhere in this town. Are your guests into arts and crafts? Perhaps they’re all about renaissance music? Do they love eating meat? Hate eating meat? Especially around this time of year, you will find something that strikes your friends’ fancy.

OK, now that I’ve shared some things to do, let me leave you with a few tips that will make your life a little easier when you go to execute these plans.

#1— Consider taking the bus. Especially if you’ve got grandma and grandpa coming and want to save them the hike up Bascom.

#2— Remember gamedays. Going to games is pretty awesome. You know what’s not? Navigating your parents down Regent Street during a tailgate.

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#3— Enjoy yourself! This is a pretty awesome city you’re showing off afterall.

Did Rachel forget your fave  festival? Tell her over some Mickies pancakes or email

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