One of the best places in Madison, Wisconsin, hands down, is the Wisconsin State Capitol Building. It’s free to tour – whether guided or self-guided – and it’s a great way to experience and learn about the state’s past and present.
At a cost of free-ninety-nine and the opportunity to add to my knowledge bank, this was a site I couldn’t pass up on when I spent a couple of days in Madison during the summer.
The current building is the third in Wisconsin’s capital. It was completed in 1917 and cost $7.25 million to build. The previous two were built in 1838 and 1869.
And, as with many – if not all – capitol buildings, the exterior is pretty magnificent and is worth admiring for several minutes or so before walking through the front doors.
There are two options when it comes to exploring inside the building: go on a guided tour or take a self-guided tour. Both options don’t cost a single cent, so I opted to tag along with a group and a guide. That way, it was easier to ask any immediate questions and get them answered. (Note: If you go with less than 10 people, you don’t need to make a reservation – you can just walk in.)
Inside the capitol, the main sections to see are: the rotunda, governor’s conference room, USS Wisconsin Badger display, State Supreme Court, Senate Chamber, Assembly Chamber, and North Hearing Room.
The tour will also include a trip to the top where you can view the city.
Here are some fun facts about the Wisconsin State Capitol Building:
- The building has 43 kinds of stone from six different countries and eight states
- The painting at the top of the dome is called “Resources of Wisconsin.” It was completed by Edwin Blashfield from New York and cost $8,000
- There’s a bell at the entrance to the south main corridor of the building. It’s a copy of the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. It’s one of 55 made in France and given to each state in the country, Washington D.C. and the US territories.
- The Capitol went under a 14-year renovation between 1988 to 2002. It cost $158.8 million to complete
- The four murals on the walls of the State Supreme Court cost $28,000. They depict historical events that influenced Wisconsin law.
It’s also nice to visit Capitol Square (where the building is located) on Saturdays because it’s where the Dane County Farmer’s Market is held. (I thought it was really cool that a farmer’s market would be held right outside a capitol building!) It’s interesting to browse all of the vendors, and, as someone who hadn’t spent much time in the Midwest before this apart from Chicago, it was especially fun to sample the wide variety of cheeses.
State capitol buildings are one of my favorite places to visit whenever possible because you get the chance to learn about the state’s government and history, and Wisconsin’s is no exception. You get to learn how many senators and representatives the state has (FYI, Wisconsin has 33 senators and 99 representatives), and unique nuggets of info about the building itself. Plus, these buildings are free to enter, so why not? It’s the perfect combination of traveling and learning 🙂
Have you ever visited your state’s capitol building?