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Bucket lists? Too outdated and boring. This is The Bucky List. Now that you’ve made it to Madison, it’s time to experience it. These are just some of Bucky’s top picks for what to do in the City of Madison, at UW-Madison, and in their surroundings — from your first days after move-in during Wisconsin Welcome to your last days before commencement and beyond. This list will give you ideas to kick-start your Wisconsin Experience outside the classroom and set your college career up for success.

Explore the Arboretum.

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The Arboretum is a great place to check out if you want to get outside. It features ecological communities, horticultural collections, effigy mounds, more than 17 miles of trails, for hiking, biking, and snowshoeing, and a visitors’ center. The Arboretum is perfect for active learning, reflection, creativity, land care, research, and recreation. Take a bike or the bus to the Arboretum to see where human, animal, and plant communities coexist.

Relax at Memorial Union.

Take a load off and relax or study at Memorial Union. Built in 1928, its striking architecture and signature “sunburst” chairs make it a Madison icon. Its outdoor seating area, Union Terrace, is a great place to relax and get some sun.  Grab a scoop of delicious Babcock ice cream, or catch some live music at night. There’s a little something for everyone.

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Get your bus pass.

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The bus can be great for getting around Madison, especially with Wisconsin’s cold winters. Did you know students get their bus passes for free? Pick up your Fall 2023 Bus Pass at Union South on August 29.

Walk through picturesque Picnic Point.

Want to get away from the hectic pace of student life? Picnic Point in the 300-acre Lakeshore Nature Preserve is a great place to unwind and decompress. From the tip of Picnic Point, you’ll have a stunning view of Lake Mendota and the isthmus. Not only is the view spectacular, but The Preserve also contains hiking trails and places to have a picnic (of course!).

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Ride the 80 bus.

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The 80 line is free to all, and its route has stops throughout campus. This makes the 80 bus one of the easiest and most convenient ways to navigate campus. For more info, check out the full schedule of routes on the Madison Metro website.

Explore Henry Vilas Zoo

Love animals? Looking for somewhere to spend an afternoon? The Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, WI is one of only a handful of admission-free, community-supported zoos in the country.

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Rent a kayak or canoe!

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The gorgeous lakes surrounding Madison’s isthmus are what makes Madison so special. Experience Lake Mendota by renting a kayak, canoe, or paddleboard from Memorial Union. Nothing beats a view of the city from the water!

Visit the Chazen Museum of Art.

Step into a place of beauty, respite, inspiration, and learning. The Chazen Museum of Art is open daily to campus and the public. Stop by for ten minutes between classes or spend an hour in your favorite gallery.

Stroll through Olbrich Gardens.

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Experience 16 acres of gorgeous landscapes and sweet-smelling flowers at Olbrich Botanical Gardens. The gardens are free to visit and open daily! Be sure not to miss the stunning Thai pavilion, gifted by the Thai government to UW-Madison in 2001.

Tour the State Capitol building.

Our State Capitol is one of the most beautiful in the country. Modeled after the National Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., the marble facade and spectacular painted interior are breathtaking. Have you been inside yet? Sign up for a tour at the Capitol website.

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Make a night of it at the Overture Center.

Get excited! You’re in for a treat. The Overture Center for the Arts features seven state-of-the-art performance spaces and four galleries where Broadway tours, national and international touring artists, nine resident companies and hundreds of local artists engage people in nearly 700,000 educational and artistic experiences each year.

Get fit at the Nick and Bakke.

The Nicholas Recreation Center and The Bakke Recreation & Wellbeing Center are state-of-the-art fitness and rec centers. What’s more, that membership to all its facilities is included in your tuition! By being a student at UW-Madison, you’re automatically a member and can access the Nick, Bakke (and other gyms) just by showing your Wiscard. Take advantage of this fantastic opportunity to get in shape or just hang out and shoot some hoops. Stop by the rec to play, move, learn, and thrive.

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Walk through Allen Centennial Garden.

Did you know UW-Madison has a public botanical garden through the Horticulture Department? Allen Centennial Garden serves as an outdoor classroom for UW-Madison students and the surrounding communities, providing meaningful learning opportunities for visitors of all ages. The Garden is an artful living laboratory and public botanical garden open from dawn to dusk.

Art Gallery and Educational Programs.

Make plans to visit the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art to view permanent collections and current exhibitions as well as educational events.

Your Mustard haven awaits.

The National Mustard Museum is located in Middleton. Home to the World’s Largest Collection of Mustard and Mustard Memorabilia with more than 6,000 mustards from all 50 states and 70 countries. Don’t forget to visit the gift shop and take home a favorite or try something new.

Head to the Capitol Square for the Farmer's Market.

The Dane County Farmers’ Market on the Square is a Saturday tradition in Madison. Open April through November, you’ll find the season’s best bounty of vegetables, flowers, meats, cheeses, and specialty products from approximately 275 vendors throughout the year. Grab your family, friends, and your reusable shopping bags and enjoy a Madison tradition!

Walk your class schedule.

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Your first day is fast approaching; you don’t want to spend it being lost and wandering around campus. There’s an easy solution: practice walking your schedule! Get a feel for where all your classes are located in relation to each other. Do this, and your first day will be smooth sailing.

Eat at State Street's Food Carts

Madison’s iconic State Street begins just east of Library Mall, where some of Madison’s many food carts can be found. Next time you’re in the area, why not grab some delicious empanadas for lunch? The meals here are too tasty and affordable to ignore.

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Buy your books.

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Are you ready to start classes? One of the most important steps to prepare is to pick up your textbooks ahead of time. Sometimes textbooks for more popular classes sell out quickly—you don’t want to be reading over a classmate’s shoulder until they restock! Head to University Bookstore to pick up your books, but that’s not all you can get there. They sell school and art supplies, computer accessories, and of course, Badger apparel. After you pick up your textbooks, how about picking up some red-and-white to wear to the next game day?

Register to vote.

Your voice matters. Register to vote and cast your ballot in November!

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Hang out at Union South.

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You may know and love the Memorial Union, but do you know its sister building, Union South? Union South has everything from a climbing wall to a live concert venue. This multi-purpose space is a perfect spot to recharge, grab a bite to eat, or see your favorite band perform at the Sett!