Madison is a special city. I love the waterfront views. Watching fall colors pop and spring flowers bloom. Enjoying lake Mendota in the summer. Being out and about in the city. A perfect Sunday afternoon for me includes:

Breakfast at Sardine

Enjoying a bloody mary at The Old Fashioned

A stroll around the capitol square and down State Street

Enjoying some time lakeside at the Terrace at Memorial Union

Meeting friends for cocktails at Cask and Ale.

There is a visceral, almost European, feel to a day spent traipsing around the city. Overall, Madison as a whole is still a car-dependent city. But certain neighborhoods, especially those that lie on along the Isthmus are very walker and biker friendly.  If you’d love the ability to walk to a corner cafe, here are a few neighborhoods to check out.

Monroe Street

If you’re the type of person who likes to buy local and shop local, Monroe Street will be your favorite part of town. There are almost 2 miles worth of local businesses and shops along this promenade. You can spot historic Madison landmarks like Mickie’s Dairy Bar. Gorgeous front porch and fireplace style historic homes border Monroe. This neighborhood stays energized with community events. My personal favorite Monroe Street tradition is the annual Chocolate Walk. Each business puts together creative chocolate dishes. Participants sample as they walk from business to business. If you’re one of those crazies who doesn’t have a sweet tooth, there are plenty of other events you can join.  You can attend the Sidewalk Sale, Annual Street Festival, Holiday Glow, and more. Monroe is a family-friendly community that invests in its children. It’s home to Creando Exploratorium, a Spanish-immersion program for children. You’ll also find the Madison Public Library and the Monroe Street Arts Center, a school that offers art and music classes for the community.

Walk Score: 75

Bike Score: 99

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Residents of this neighborhood have a catchphrase, “Keep Willy Street Weird”. The Marquette/Willy area of Madison is unlike any other. It’s an eccentric district, dedicated to maintaining their reputation. Residents have fought to keep chain stores off Willy (Williamson) street. The American Planning Association awarded Marquette the status of “One of America’s Greatest Neighborhoods” in 2013. It’s one of those neighborhoods that you don’t need to ever leave if you don’t want to. You can get all your errands done locally. New lights have been installed on local bike paths for night-biking safety to add to its commuter-friendly nature.

Walk Score: 83

Bike Score: 96

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Living downtown is a buzzing bustling life. Set on an isthmus between 2 scenic lakes, Madison’s downtown is totally unique. More than 1500 businesses thrive downtown. They vary from boutiques and restaurants to swanky law and marketing firms. Walking to shops and top dining destinations is easy. Plus there are museums, arts, entertainment, and cultural destinations at every turn. Madison keeps a busy calendar of events. You can get your weekly shopping taken care of at the Dane County Farmers Market, which takes place every in Capitol Square every Saturday morning from April-November. Stick around for evening concerts in the square, put on by Wisconson Chamber Orchestra. There aren’t many singly family homes available downtown. Most homes available downtown are apartments or condos. Each has its own chic flair. If you’re into exposed brick, amenities, and city lights, downtown will be a great fit for you. Living in downtown Madison is a lifestyle in and of itself

Walk Score: 93

Bike Score: 89

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Its full name is Schenk-Atwood-Starkweather-Yahara. But that’s a bit of a mouthful. Locals know it by the nickname SASY or simply Schenk-Atwood. SASY lived a previous life in a modest blue-collar neighborhood. But over the years its humble roots have given way to a vibrant and eccentric community. If downtown is the heart of madison, Schenk-Atwood is the soul. The residents of this community are diverse and hospitable. The resident demographic spans all races, orientations, ages, and incomes. Creative musicians and high-end professionals live side-by-side. And will happily invite you over for a summertime barbeque. You can meet many neighbors and see their creativity shine during the Atwood Summerfest music festival. You can catch big-name bands and stand-up comedians at the local Barrymore Theatre. This neighborhood is an amazing option for the avid biker. Former rail lines were transformed into safe walking and biking paths for residents.  

Walk Score: 91

Bike Score: 82

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Greenbush is a historic melting pot neighborhood. At the end of the nineteenth century, Greenbush was home to many Italian and Eastern European immigrants. This area is centrally located, just west of downtown Madison. The architecture of this neighborhood is a mix of newer condominiums and charming 1920s bungalows. Greenbush is a great neighborhood for outdoor lovers. Vilas Park Beach is within walking distance from Greenbush neighborhoods. Vilas Park is one of Madison’s oldest, and loveliest parks. There are sandy beaches for swimming and sunbathing in the summer. There are two piers for fishing. Ice skating is popular here in the winter. You can head to Wingra Boats to rent a canoe, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard. In the summer you can join in on a SUP board Yoga session or a full moon paddle.

Greenbush is highly walkable and the most bike-friendly neighborhood in Madison. It’s also served by multiple bus routes and is just a short bus ride from downtown Madison.

Check out Regent Street, Park Street, and Monroe Street for dozens of dining, drinking, and shopping destinations.

Walk Score: 84

Bike Score: 99

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Eken Park

Eken Park is a small, quiet neighborhood on the near east side that is growing quickly in popularity over recent years. There is a lovely blend of single-family homes and small apartment buildings. The neighborhood is modest and architecturally diverse.  There is much diversity in this community. It’s home to young and old, singles and families alike. Eken Park has an extremely active neighborhood association. They work hard to create a sense of community. The neighborhood association throws an annual neighborhood festival to celebrate local businesses. You can catch residents walking to hotspots like the Tip Top Tavern and Crostinis Sandwiches.

Walk Score: 68

Bike Score: 98

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Bay Creek Neighborhood

Bay Creek boasts walkability to numerous restaurants, coffee shops, parks, and just a short bike or walks down John Nolen Drive to downtown Madison.  Residents can walk to the Goodman Pool, a public pool that’s actually more like a water park. Its large water slides inspire many shrieks of delight from the neighborhood children. The neighborhood also has access to many lakeside hangouts. The University of Wisconsin Arboretum is also nearby with over 17 miles of trails through restored prairies, forests, and wetlands. Do you crave easy access to urban amenities, bike trails, bus routes, and nature? If so, this neighborhood should be on your radar.  

Walk Score: 69

Bike Score: 96

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What Does A Walk Score Mean?

Walking scores between 90-100 show that daily shopping and errands don’t need a car.

Scores between 70-89 mean that the neighborhood is very walkable. Most errands can be accomplished on foot.

Scores between 50-69 indicate that the area is somewhat walkable. You’ll be able to cross some, but not all, errands off your to-do list by walking.

Scores between 0-25 indicate that the area is car-dependent.

Biking scores indicate how easy and safe it is to run errands by bike. Scores between 90-100 show a biker’s paradise. Scores between 70-89 show that biking is convenient for most trips. Scores 0-49 show minimal biking infrastructure.

Higher scores mean a higher quality of life for all headphone-adorned, sneaker-clad pedestrian dreamers. It means there are going to be plenty of ways for you to get your daily steps in. Curious about how these scores are determined? Learn more about Walk Score methodology.

Let’s Take A Stroll

Want to know more about Madison’s most walkable neighborhoods? Call me! I’ll get out there and walk em with you! I promise not to get too excited and start power walking.