Things to do in Madison, Wisconsin

Things to do in Madison Wi - must-do local activities and our favorite road trips | Thyme is Honey

After we announced our move from Madison, Wisconsin to Minneapolis I’ve gotten a lot of “It’s so great you’re moving closer to home!”…which made me realize that a lot of people are confused about where Madison is. Our new home in Minneapolis will actually only be 10 miles closer to my hometown (147 miles versus 157), so indeed it is just *slightly* closer, but it will also come with fighting city traffic heading south out of the metro, where as we currently amble across the Wisconsin countryside and eastern Iowa.

Our move will, however, put us closer to a lot of our friends and our siblings (and closer to my husband’s parents), so it does feel like a homecoming of sorts, but it made me realize that Madison doesn’t pop into a lot of midwesterner’s minds when they are considering local vacation hot spots. I had never really visited Madison until we lived here, so I can’t blame them. Before we leave this beautiful city I wanted to share some of the things we love most about it, as well as some local road trips that quickly became some of our favorite getaways. If you live in or are planning to visit Madison, Wisconsin, here are my MUST DOs for you! Enjoy!

  1. Canoe + Camp on the Wisconsin River! This was by far our favorite activity while living in Madison, we did it dozens of times and we already have a date on the calendar to come back and do a trip this summer with friends. The Wisconsin River is all sand-bottomed from Sauk City all the way to the Iowa border. The entire thing is dotted with gorgeous beaches and sandbars. There’s no better way to spend a summer weekend in Wisconsin. Pack your tent, your cooler of beer and don’t forget your dog! You can arrange transportation and equipment rental through Wisconsin River Outings. We typically do their 5-6 hours trips, camping overnight in the middle, but last year we also did a 60 mile trip and loved it!
    Wisconsin River Canoe Camping
  2. Have a beer (and a shot) at the Missouri Tavern – This is a must-see if you love a good Wisconsin Dive Bar. This was the birthplace of Apple Pie shots. Other favorite Madison bars include Mickey’s Tavern and Mason Lounge.
  3. Attend the Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning and don’t leave without spicy cheese bread. Madison is home to the largest producer-only farmer’s market in the US. If you plan to be here on a summer weekend you can’t miss the opportunity to check it out. It is conveniently arranged around the state capitol. Make sure you track down Stella’s Spicy Cheese bread and grab a loaf to enjoy while you browse the other booths.
  4. Visit the Memorial Union Terrace at the University of Wisconsin – I hesitate to call this a “cliche” Madison experience, although it can seem that way. I resisted embracing this tradition at first because it seemed like it would mostly be students and alumni (of which I was neither), but The Terrace is truly a community gathering place, open to all, and they host a lot of great events and concerts there throughout the summer. Sitting down with a pitcher of beer and a view of the sailboats is a great way to start a Saturday evening. (I once wrote a piece for Lakeshore Magazine highlighting a fun Saturday activity that takes you from Monona Terrace, through the Farmer’s Market, down state street and ends at Memorial Union Terrace, read it here)
  5. Hike to picnic point – This is another thing that we really procrastinated on. We didn’t go here until this year, and wished we’d gone sooner. It’s a great little hike right in the middle of the city, and the view at the end is definitely worth it. There are also several fire pits along the shoreline that you can rent to have a bonfire or cookout. Something we should have done!
  6. Road trip to Appleton, WI for Mile of Music – We love live music, so discovering the Mile of Music Fest in Appleton, Wisconsin, was like hitting the jackpot. For the first weekend of August the small town converts to the Nashville of Wisconsin (sort of) every venue, street corner, or vacant park in the city turns into a music venue. They host hundreds of artists for the weekend and the entire event is free. The festival is organized by musician Cory Chisel (we’re longtime fans, he was our very first concert together), who does a great job of finding up and coming talent as well as bringing in big names.
  7. Spend a summer weekend in Milwaukee and kayak through the city! Madison might be an underrated Midwestern city but I also think Milwaukee doesn’t get enough credit! It is absolutely one of my favorite cities in the country. Last summer we did an entire profile of traveling Milwaukee with your dog, during which we kayaked the city’s system of canals, visiting bars and breweries along the way, all with Walter in tow. We had a blast! Check out this post for a full itinerary and more details or visit Milwaukee Kayak Company for more information on kayaking!
    Milwaukee-Kayaking-Company-Dog-Friendly-Milwaukee-Wisconsin
  8. Visit Lion’s Den Gorge – This is a quick road trip from Madison, but is also great to tack onto any trip to or from Milwaukee, since it’s just a quick drive up the Lake Michigan shoreline. The park is full of hiking trails. The views from the high cliffs are amazing, but the beaches and turquoise water steal the show! We also wrote more about this in our post about Milwaukee.
    Dog-Friendly-Milwaukee-Wisconsin-Lions-Den-Gorge
  9. Hike (or rock climb) at Devil’s Lake and stop to peruse the beer list at The Barn. This was an annual Memorial Day tradition for us the entire time we lived in Madison. Each year we rock climbed with friends in Devils Lake State Park (some of the best rock climbing in the Midwest) and then would enjoy dinner and drinks at The Barn after a long day of hiking and climbing. Their beer list is literally a binder. Thank me later.
  10. Tour the Epic Campus in Verona, Wi. Oh, this one might sound lame, and trust me when I say that we’ve gotten raised eyebrows from more than one guest when we suggested spending a beautiful Saturday afternoon touring my husband’s work! But, we’ve never had anyone leave disappointed, in fact we’ve had guests who have claimed it was the best part of their trip (even some international guests who road tripped across the entire country later told us that visiting Epic was their trip highlight)! Epic is an electronic medical records company based out of Verona, Wisconsin (just a few mile south of Madison). The campus is around 800 acres and is filled with beautiful gardens and local artwork (so many beautiful installations outdoors). Each building has a special theme, some of my favorites include the Harry Potter building (called the Library), the Alice in Wonderland Building (called Alice), and the Lord of the Rings decor in Deep Space. If you can get hooked up with an employee (there’s over 10,000 of them) for a personal tour you can see inside and outside—otherwise it’s worth the quick drive just to visit the gardens and see the buildings from the outside. It will blow your mind and I feel very lucky that the campus was like our second home, where we enjoyed picnics and long walks with our dog for the past 5 years.

Things to do in Pai, Thailand

Things to do in Pai Thailand - why you shouldn't miss this mountain town located in Northern Thailand | Thyme is Honey

I think my post about our One Month Trip to Northern and Southern Thailand will go down as my longest blog post ever. Thailand was such a beautiful country, and we crammed so many things into 4 weeks that it was hard to talk about it all in one blog post without getting totally overwhelmed. I could have (and maybe should have) done a separate post for each city! I’m not going to do that, but I do want to dedicate a separate post to our favorite part of the trip: the two weeks we spent in Pai, Thailand.

Pai is a small city (population 2,200) located in the mountains of Northern Thailand near the border with Myanmar. We kind of stumbled across it while trying to find places to visit north of Chiang Mai. The internet lauded it as a “backpacker’s paradise” and although we didn’t find a ton of information about it, what we did find was enough for us to work it into our itinerary and book 6 nights there. We figured if Pai itself wasn’t what we expected, we could spend our time doing day trips or maybe book a long overnight hiking trip in the mountains or even duck over to Myanmar for a day or two.

But Pai didn’t disappoint! Pai was the absolute best. Within an hour of arriving I was already begging my husband to let us extend our stay in Pai, staying for 11 nights instead of 6. Fortunately our Airbnb was available and they let us extend our stay. We had an absolutely magical two weeks in Pai, had some pretty serious conversations about relocating there (I wouldn’t say we’ve entirely given up on the idea), and can’t wait to get back!

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One Month in Northern and Southern Thailand

One Month in Northern and Southern Thailand: our tips for the best of Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pai, Krabi, Tonsai, Phi Phi and Phuket.

Remember that time we spent a month in Asia? We got home like 12 weeks ago and although I actively worked on this blog post throughout the month, actually finishing and publishing it when we got home totally got away from me. Having 4 weeks of work to catch up on amid the already busy holiday season + all the crazy of the election meant that the couple months since we got home from Japan and Thailand totally flew by and the next thing I knew we were boarding a plane for our ski trip to Germany and Austria. Well, I promised myself that I wouldn’t publish a trip post about Europe until I finally took the time to finish this post. So, without further ado here are our travel tips for Northern and Southern Thailand!

This past fall we spent a month traveling in Asia. We started our trip with 4 days in Tokyo, Japan, but quickly made our way over to Thailand. Although we had originally planned to mix one or maybe even two more countries into our trip, we really enjoyed Thailand and ended up spending the duration of our trip traveling the country.

Our flight itinerary had us going through Tokyo, so we decided to cut the 20 hour flight up into 14 and 6 hour legs by spending a few days in Tokyo. This was a great way to see another country and also break up a long international flight, and it didn’t really change our ticket prices. I talked more about this in my post about Tokyo, so pop over there if you want to hear more.

Below is our itinerary for Thailand, along with tips, lodging and activity suggestions for each city. I hope it will help you plan your dream escape!

ITINERARY

Day 1-4 – Tokyo, Japan
Day 5 – Bangkok, Thailand
Day 6 – Bangkok and overnight train to Chiang Mai, Thailand
Day 7-9 Chiang Mai, Thailand
Day 10-21 – Two weeks in Pai, Thailand
Day 22 – Bus from Pai to Chiang Mai, flight to Krabi, Thailand
Day 23-24 Boat to Tonsai Beach, Thailand
Day 25-26 – Northern Phi Phi Island
Day 27-28 – Longboat to Phi Phi, Thailand
Day 29 – Ferry to Phuket Thailand
Day 30 – Flight home

Our 30 Day Trip to Northern and Southern Thailand! All our tips for the best of Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pai, Krabi, Tonsai, Phi Phi and Phuket!

Days 1-4 – Tokyo, Japan

Day 1-4 – We landed in Tokyo, Japan and spent 3 nights at an Airbnb in Shinjuku. We of course spent a lot of time hunting down great Ramen and Sushi, but also enjoyed walking around town, visiting the beautiful parks and gardens, and going to the Golden Gai District at night. You can read more about our time in Tokyo in this post.

Day 5 – We flew from Tokyo, Japan to Bangkok, Thailand (6 hours)

Lodging: Bangkok Bed and Bike ($15-70 USD per night depending on room type)

This is a hip hostel, where you can choose from communal or private rooms. The location is great, the vibe is awesome, and the lobby is a great place to meet fellow travelers.

Activities: Bangkok at Night—by Bike! ($50 USD per person)

We were only in Bangkok for one night, so although we were tired from a day of travel we wanted to make the most of it. We signed up for the Bangkok by Bike Night Tour through our hotel. A private English-speaking guide met us in the hotel lobby around sunset, and the 3 of us set out on bikes to tour Bangkok. From what I could tell, they’d let you go on this tour no matter what your skill level, and had we not been pretty avid cyclists perhaps our guide would have babied us a bit more, but I would recommend that you not only be comfortable on a bike, but that you be pretty acquainted with urban biking. We’ve biked all over the US (NYC, Boston, Chicago), and in cities across Europe (Brugges, Denmark, Antwerp, Amsterdam), and nothing quite compared to biking in Bangkok, at night.

There are no bike lanes, not a lot of street lights, and the tuk tuks and taxis zoom around. Our guide was pretty fearless with his riding, and he expected us to keep up. We thought it was a riot and had a great time! We were also pretty surprised when we made it through the night without a single incident. I have a vivid memory of flying down a dark street in Bangkok late at night and feeling 100% alive, it was a rush. It also gives you the opportunity to see areas of town that you wouldn’t see on your own. We ended up biking over 10 miles and it was a great way to see a lot of the city quickly and with a guide. He took us out for dinner to his favorite pad thai restaurant, and took photos for us at some of the popular stops. This activity is probably not for everyone, but if you’re up for a real adventure this is a great way to spend a night in Bangkok.

Pro tips: If you do the bike tour you’ll want to make sure you have on comfortable shoes. There were times where we were biking through about a foot of water (in the dark). Fortunately we didn’t have to put our feet down, but having Keens or Teva sandals might be a good footwear choice over sneakers, depending on the time of year.

Day 6-7 – Day in Bangkok and the overnight train from Bangkok north to Chiang Mai, Thailand  (14 hours)

Lodging: Overnight Train

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How to Pack a Carry On For a 1-Month Trip

How to Pack a Carry On For a One Month Trip to Asia | Thyme is Honey
Tomorrow we’re heading to Asia for a 30-day backpacking trip. The first two weeks we’ll be in Japan and Thailand, but the last two trips are up in the air, which is really exciting! I’m going to keep this post pretty simple, but just wanted to show you how easy it can be to travel with a carry-on, even for a lengthy trip. See the bottom for a quick video of how I got everything into my Osprey Porter. I’ll update this post after we return with feedback on how I did as far as packing and gear.

How to Pack a Carry On For a One Month Trip to Asia | Thyme is Honey

STEP ONE: Get good gear and invest in quality footwear. We bought our Osprey Porter backpacks a couple years ago and have been using them non-stop ever since. I think it has been at least 5 years since I last checked a bag. I love the shape , their ability to compress thanks to the stiff sides and strapping system, and the fact that they seem to somehow magically hold so much more than you think they can. Along with the Osprey Porter I also use Eagle Creek Packing Cubes and their zippered pouches. I swear these things are the secret to carry-on packing. For shoes I chose Adidas Boost tennis shoes, Madewell Sandals and Teva Originals.

How to Pack a Carry On For a One Month Trip to Asia | Thyme is Honey

My tips for packing clothing are: 1. Be well aware of the weather conditions and the culture, and pack accordingly. 2. Pick a color palette and then select basic pieces that all work together. I like to basically say that if you reached into your bag with your eyes closed and pulled out an outfit, they should be able to work together. 3. There are various types of “backpacker” underwear available, but my favorite ones are actually Victoria’s Secret Raw Cut Hip Huggers (5 for $27.50). They are made out of a super thin material that is fast to wash and dry by hand, plus they are lightweight and easy to pack. Clothing: 4 pairs of shorts, 7 tank tops (love these Mossimo ones from Target, $6 each), 2 t-shirts (love these Mossimo ones from Target), 2 long sleeve knit shirts (again, I love these Ribbed Mossimo ones from Target), 1 pair of Athleta Metro Slouch Pants (my go-to travel pants!), 1 black knit skirt, 1 light jacket, 6 pairs of Victorias Secret Raw Cut Hip Huggers, 1 sports bra, 1 bralette, 1 light jacket, 2 bikinis, 1 rashguard. Not pictured: 3 pairs of socks, Nike Spandex Shorts.

How to Pack a Carry On For a One Month Trip to Asia | Thyme is Honey

Some people manage to travel without much tech gear, but not me. I travel with my iPad Pro + Apple Pencil, my Nikon D5300 + a 50 mm lens and a 55 mm lens, a (amazing) selfie stick that truly is the best one I’ve tried, aTravel Tripod and myJoto Waterpoof Pouch for iPhone for my iPhone 7 Plus. We also have this time capsule that we put together 5 years ago and are bringing along to read throughout the trip.

Before packing I removed the light jacket, 1 tank top, 1 long sleeve shirt, the Adidas, a sports bra and a pair of socks to wear for the flight to Tokyo. The rest went into the Osprey Porter. The packed bag weighed in at 21.5 pounds and was completely condensed, leaving plenty of room to expand the bag throughout my trip.

Alright so, curious about how all of this fit into the bag? Here’s the video. Happy Packing!

Dog Friendly Travel: Milwaukee, WI

Dog Friendly Travel: Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is one of the most dog friendly cities in the US! Itinerary, video and google map to help you plan your trip!

Looking for a great destination to travel with your dog? For dog friendly travel look no further than Milwaukee, Wisconsin! This Midwest city is bustling with great food, entertainment and, of course, beer. Milwaukee is located on the eastern coast of Wisconsin, with beautiful views of Lake Michigan stretched along the cities lakefront.

I have loved Milwaukee since the first time I visited, and I love being a quick drive away! Milwaukee has a great vibe with the beautiful lakeshore, beaches, old buildings, and the various rivers winding throughout the city (there’s 3!). Perhaps you already knew all of this about MKE, but did you know that it is also among the most dog friendly cities in the US? It is, and for good reason! We recently partnered with Travel Wisconsin to put together a dog-friendly itinerary for Milwaukee, and we had no trouble finding plenty of places to eat, drink and be entertained with #WalterBtheJRT in tow! See below for our Dog-Friendly Weekend Itinerary for Milwaukee, our short video recap and our interactive google map!

FRIDAY

  • Check in at The Kimpton Journeyman Hotel in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward. Your dog will be greeted with his name on the chalkboard in the lobby, treats and dishes in the room, and a staff that is just as crazy about him as you are!
  • The bar area at  The Journeyman Hotel is dog friendly and on Fridays they host a dog-friendly wine hour from 5-6PM.

Dog Friendly Travel Milwaukee Wisconsin Kimpton Hotel

  • Dine al fresco on the patio at Cafe Benelux. Fido will enjoy people watching while you browse through their extensive beer book! Benelux is a region comprised of Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg, so you’ll find a host of Belgian beers along with regional favorites such as mussels, pannenkoeken and frites! Was fun for us, since exactly one year ago we were in Belgium stuffing our faces with frites!
  • Meander across the road to the Wicked Hop for their specialty cocktails and dog-friendly patio!
  • If you’re feeling up for a nightcap, Camp Bar Third Ward is dog friendly indoors and out. If you’re lucky there’ll be live music!
  • If relaxing and retiring early is more your game, head back to The Journeyman and enjoy a relaxing night with your best furry friend!

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