They call Madison “the Berkeley of the East”, due to its leftist campus politics, etc. This was in fact the first city in the US to have a municipal gay rights ordinance on the books.
It’s definitely an attractive place. The city surrounds an isthmus between two lakes. Thus, there is s a very pronounced east and west side, and travel between the two is sometimes difficult thanks to the bottleneck caused by locating downtown on the isthmus.
Given all this, it’s interesting to see how strangely conservative the place appears on the surface. I saw much more “collegiate preppy” than “collegiate punk”. I didn’t really sample the gay scene here, being warned that most of the interesting nightlife options perished in the Hotel Washington fire a couple of years ago.
I did cruise the State Street campus strip a bit and also found a few thrift stores and an excellent used book store, Shakespeare’s, where I scored an original 1964 New York World’s Fair guidebook pretty cheap.
Definitely a nice enough place.