Romantic Madison

While perhaps not traditional settings for love, these eleven places are sure to ignite a spark

Get in the Mood for Love

Full of Old Hollywood glamour, the Orpheum Theatre sets the scene for romance. Pass under the grand staircase and statue of Orpheus and claim an intimate table in the lobby of this historic French Renaissance–style building, once a vaudeville theater. Under soft lighting, sip cocktails named after films and stars of the past and think about how your love story would translate to the silver screen. orpheumtheatre.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

Heat Things Up

Escape winter for sultrier climes by visiting Olbrich Botanical Gardens’ Bolz Conservatory. Warm temperatures—varying between sixty-five and ninety-five degrees—are only the first perk of this tropical paradise. A waterfall plunging twenty feet into a stream that’s home to goldfish and koi provides a soothing backdrop to exploring more than six hundred species of plants, including orchids and cacao, vanilla, coffee, banana and papaya trees. (And don’t miss a special exhibit on chocolate running through March 21.) olbrich.org

 

  

Toast Your Love

A couple with a love for adventure—or simply a good microbrew—should head to the nearest Great Dane Pub & Brewing Co. outpost for a beer sampler—four-ounce tastes of the Dane’s best brews. New this winter and the perfect date night add-on: David Bacco chocolates made with the brewery’s Scotch Ale, Crop Circle Wheat, Black Earth Porter and Tri-Pepper Pilsner. For $2.50 you’ll be treated to a specialty chocolate and a sample of its companion beer. greatdanepub.com

 

Make Beautiful Music Together

Imagine wooing your beloved with a private concert of classical music. While you might not have Mills Hall entirely to yourself, a UW School of Music concert is guaranteed to feel intimate. Featuring talented faculty, guest performers and student ensembles, the concerts are usually free and unticketed. On Valentine’s Day, the university’s chamber orchestra performs works by Mozart, Haydn, Shostakovich and Schoenberg. music.wisc.edu

  

Write Your Own Love Story

Literary types will be in heaven at Avol’s Bookstore. You could spend hours getting lost in the room upon room upon room of this used, rare and out-of-print bookstore, which has literary quotes and poems posted on the walls. Hear the crack of a book’s spine as you run your hands over its soft, worn pages and think of all the stories of mystery, passion and romance that surround you. Be sure to stop back the first Thursday of every month when Avol’s hosts an open mic for poetry readings. avolsbookstore.com

 

 

 

 

 

Have an Art-to-Heart Conversation

Learn a new side of your date through a visit to State Street Gallery. Wander through the two levels of this unpretentious space and take in an exciting collection of art that represents an extensive range of styles and media. Discuss what you like, what you don’t and—perhaps most interestingly—why. The gallery’s welcoming and lively atmosphere increases the first Fridays of the month, when an art opening and wine tasting are held. statestreetgallery.com

 

 

 

  

 

  

Be Smitten in Mittens

For old-fashioned romance, plan a skate date at Vilas Park. The park offers ice skate rentals, as well as a warming shack. But it’s out on the frozen lagoon where you’ll put a flush in your cheeks by skating around clutching mitten-clad hands. The rink is open till 9 p.m. daily, so skate after sundown for the most love-inducing ambience. And cap the evening by warming up après-skate with cocoa in front of a roaring fire. cityofmadison.com/parks

 

 

 

Be Star-Crossed Lovers

Forget the tired lines about her eyes being more dazzling than the stars—and actually take your beloved stargazing. Madison offers two opportunities, weather permitting, to view constellations, planets and stars in the night sky. The UW astronomy department opens the Washburn Observatory to the public the first and third Wednesday evenings of the month, as it’s been doing since the observatory first opened in 1881. And on the third Friday of each month, the UW Space Place offers a program at 7 p.m. about what’s happening in the sky. Afterward, visitors are invited to the rooftop deck for telescope observing. spaceplace.wisc.edu

 

Make Some Coffee Talk

The buzz of conversation and the smell of coffee brewing provide a pleasant backdrop for a few hours whiled away at Barriques Wine Cave on Monroe Street. Cave is an apt word to describe this café, with its dark walls, weathered wood floor and positively cozy feel. Sip lattes while playing board games, reading or simply indulging in conversation together. And keep in mind the weekly wine tastings held on Friday and Saturday evenings. barriquesmarket.com

 

Eat Your Heart Out

The sleek, urban vibe of Eno Vino sets the scene for a sexy, playful date. But a full dinner needn’t be on the menu at this restaurant. Settle in at a small table in the lounge and make a selection from the list of inventive, decadent cocktails. Then peruse the appetizer menu
featuring twenty-five treats for sharing, including truffled fries, roasted squash gnocchi and sweet chile-seared halibut. Or go straight to dessert. Because, really, is chocolate fondue for two ever a bad idea? eno-vino.com

 

 

 

Find Some Quiet Time

Head over to Indian Lake County Park for a scenic and serene hike. Located just west of Madison, this 453-acre natural haven takes visitors on a roughly five-mile path through wooded hills, prairies and valleys, past a lake and up to a ridgetop lookout. You can also visit a chapel built in 1857. Even on the sunniest or snowiest of days, you should be left to yourselves on the trail—save for a few birds or squirrels. countyofdane.com

Katie Vaughn is associate editor of Madison Magazine.

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