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Friday, December 01, 2023

Daily Cardinal Arts staff offers insight to incoming students of the different art places in Madison, whether it's an arcade, movie theater or concert venue. 

Explore the Art of Madison

A few of the Daily Cardinal’s Art staff and columnists offer incoming students places to explore the arts scene in Madison. 

Majestic Theatre:

Not too far from campus lives Majestic Theatre, a cozy joint that hosts hip concerts, dance parties, movie viewings and events like Live on King Street alike. While its proximity to UW and State Street’s bars and restaurants allows your night out to be Uber-less (score!), its smaller size and hot lineups give concert-goers an intimate experience. The laid-back and warm vibe of Majestic differs from a lot of other venues in Madison, while still pulling big names like Joywave, Sir Sly, Noname, Sylvan Esso and Cold War Kids. ~ Sam Jones


Our beloved too-cool-for-you student radio station, WSUM 91.7FM Madison is anything but ordinary. With snazzy sound and broadcast equipment, talk and music programming and all the goods run by our very own peers, this award-winning station has over 200 members. Don’t expect any Top 40 hits on these airwaves — you’ll just have to settle for alt-rock you have definitely never heard of, funky electronica, news programs to keep you updated outside of Twitter and so, so much more. Oh, AND they just started posting podcasts on their website. They sometimes give away concert tickets and host events, and they have a really cool studio. ~ Sam Jones

Madison Circus Space:

When I was 14, the circus came to town … in the form of the Madison Circus Space. In an old converted warehouse, aerial silks and trapezes swung from the ceiling, huge metal German wheels lined the walls, and there always seemed to be someone doing a handstand. MCS is always alive with creative action, whether it’s a long-awaited circus show, a weekly hula hoop or juggling club meeting or a beginner’s trapeze class. Now, the space is in the midst of growing into a “circus training center, mixed-income housing and artist cooperative.” So take a trip off-campus to support local artists and feed the side of you that always wanted to run off and join the circus ... and maybe even find a weird and wild community in the process. ~ Gracie Wallner

Increasingly nowadays dedicated game stores are becoming less and less common. Digital game sales have certainly been putting stores like Gamestop through the financial ringer. Why go to a store to pick up a new video game when you can get it online for the same price, often even cheaper? 

Well, not all games are easily available over the internet. Retro games stores in particular have a knack for surviving in this sort of marketplace. Getting an old refurbished Nintendo online is no easier than just getting it from a store. Board game stores do well for similar reasons. And there’s no beating a store that provides a friendly and welcoming place to play. A sense of community.

Madison has a more than a few of these, given you know where to look for them.

NetherWorld Games & PowerNine Games:

As an incoming UW-Madison student, or as a senior, chances are you’re going to be spending a lot of time on State Street. Our capital street has two major board game stores of note, both of which have a great selection of popular big box and card game titles. They are different though in notable ways. PowerNine is essentially a showroom with a cashier. It has great presentation, but no gaming areas, no place for community. If you’re looking to just slip in and grab a new game at a reasonable price, PowerNine will always do you well. However, if you’re looking for something a little more substantial, I’d recommend you head down to NetherWorld Games. In terms of upkeep and presentation, it might be a little shoddier, but in exchange, you get regular open gaming events and tables for open play. You get community. You get service that goes beyond a cashier. That’s a hard thing to find and it’s nice to know that it’s available right off campus. ~ Marty Forbeck

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Half-Price Books:

Hear me out. More often than not, the best way to find good, rare games at affordable prices is by going thrifting. Madison has a couple of semi-dedicated retro gaming stores, but these places are often heavily overpriced. They’re traps for passing pedestrians with rose-tinted glasses who’ll pay a premium to have that one game from their childhood right now, rather than a reasonable price to get it off of eBay in a week. However, places like Half-Price Books — and even occasionally Goodwill — will often price these items at competitive rates. They’re just a small part of the store’s larger inventory. The Half-Price Books on Madison’s own E Towne Blvd. maintains a small but very affordable collection of pre-owned video and board games. They’ll often even have some video game hardware. Come on the right day and you can get an original Atari 2600 at a reasonable price at your local Half-Price Books. ~ Marty Forbeck

Geeks Mania Arcade:

Surprisingly, the best gaming location in Madison is not a store. Located at 6502 Odana Rd., you’re going to need a bus to get there from campus. It’s worth it. I’d highly recommend planning a day around going there. The day pass is $15, and it gets you unlimited plays in an almost absurdly robust collection of arcade machines and pinball tables, really flipping the idea of the old-school arcade system on its head. Instead of paying as you play, quarter by quarter, every machine in the house is set on free-play. You just pay the one charge up front and then you’re let inside to enjoy the games to your heart's content. Perhaps you lose some of the old-school thrill of watching a pre-prepped stack of quarters dwindle as your in-game lives slowly tick downward, but the value proposition over the course of even a few hours of a play more than makes up for it. When I say the arcade’s line-up is robust, I’m being modest. “Time Crisis,” “House of the Dead,” “Street Fighter,” “Mortal Kombat,” “Gauntlet,” “Killer Instinct,” “Neo Geo,” “DDR,” “Simpsons,” “Contra”  — that’s the short list. Bring friends. ~ Marty Forbeck

Union South:

While Madison can seem like a big and daunting place, certain places on campus stand out as a necessity for lovers of the arts. Most notably, Union South offers numerous different art-related events that make it a great spot for new students. The Marquee – a theater in the Union that offers free shows for students – features anything from major upcoming releases to lesser known indie films to hit movies that recently went out of theaters. It was at the Marquee where I personally was able to see “A Star Is Born” a few days before it released. Beyond the Marquee, Union South also offers the Sett, a restaurant where shows and movies are occasionally played. For instance, the Sett featured a Star Wars marathon this past May 4. The Sett also offers a basement area with gaming consoles, where fellow video game lovers can meet and play against one another. For all your arts needs, Union South has multiple options to choose from and is a place you need to visit. ~ Joe Marz

UW Cinematheque:

If you’re looking for more against-the-grain films, be sure to check out the UW Cinematheque ( With an excellent newsletter, gorgeous calendars to collect and hang up, and a vast array of world cinema, including Andrei Tarkovsky, Martin Scorsese, Fritz Lang and more. Set in the velvety, wood-paneled core of Vilas Hall, the Cinematheque satisfies all enthusiast needs. Including 35mm! ~ Christian Memmo


For a smaller, more bare-bones experience, Cinesthesia at the Madison Public Library places patrons in basic chairs to watch movies on the projector screen. It’s not gaudy or glamorized, but one thing this program has above the others is a consistently amazing lineup. In just the coming months, screenings including “Ace in the Hole,” “Sex, Lies, and Videotape” and “The Red Shoes” will be shown. Like WUD Film and Cinematheque, Cinesthesia screenings are free! ~ Christian Memmo

Ultimately, you can’t go wrong choosing any one of these places to dive into the film culture of Madison. From an extensive filmmaking program at Vilas Hall to Union South’s more social angle, avoiding free, great movies seems to be more challenging. There are always shops to pick up your own copies, like the fantastic Four Star Video Cooperative just off State Street, but programs like WUD and Cinematheque are amazing contributions to the sociality of why we enjoy going to the movies: to enjoy friends, see the world, and expand our horizons.

New Vision/Marcus Theatres:

The Marquee is a great campus resource that’s within walking distance, but for those that want to be on top of their movie-watching game and enjoy a consistent theater experience, New Vision Theatres in Fitchburg and Marcus Point Cinema are both bound to have most, if not all, of the current releases within two to three weeks, depending on their box office success. New Vision offers the only IMAX screen within the area, and while the seats in the IMAX theater aren’t the large loungers, the experience still holds, with great audio quality and a crystal-clear screen. Marcus offers solid seating and good seat pricing: Tuesdays are $5 and Thursdays are $6. If you sign up for rewards via a phone number at New Vision, there are cheap concessions, like a popcorn/drink combo for under $8. ~ CJ Zabat


The Orpheum is among Madison’s most famous concert venues; until the Sylvee opened, it was Madison’s largest non-arena concert venue, with only the Alliant Energy Center and the Kohl Center being bigger. The concert lineup is great for indie fans and older acts, alongside some good comedy. Recent shows from the last academic year include Father John Misty and Three Dog Night, and upcoming shows include Nick Offerman and Toto. With a capacity of around 1,700, shows inside have a happy medium of intimacy and density, and there’s a balcony level for those that want to hang back away from the action. ~ CJ Zabat

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