Although the city existed only on paper, the territorial legislature voted on November 28 in favor of Madison as its capital, largely because of its location halfway between the new and growing cities around Milwaukee in the east and the long established strategic post of Prairie du Chien in the west, and between the highly populated lead mining regions in the southwest and Wisconsin’s oldest city, Green Bay in the northeast.
The city is sometimes described as The City of Four Lakes, comprising the four successive lakes of the Yahara River: Lake Mendota, Lake Monona, Lake Waubesa and Lake Kegonsa, although Waubesa and Kegonsa are not actually in Madison, but just south of it.
A fifth smaller lake, Lake Wingra, is within the city as well; it is connected to the Yahara River chain by Wingra Creek.
The Yahara flows into the Rock River, which in turn, flows into the Mississippi River. Downtown Madison is located on an isthmus between Lakes Mendota and Monona. The city’s trademark of “Lake, City, Lake” reflects this geography.
Madison, along with the rest of the state, has a humid continental climate characterized by variable weather patterns and a large seasonal temperature variance: winter temperatures can be well below freezing, with moderate to occasionally heavy snowfall; high temperatures in summer average in the lower 80s °F (27–28 °C), reaching 90 °F (32.2 °C) on an average 12 days per year, often accompanied by high humidity levels.
Madison is home to companies such as Spectrum Brands (formerly Rayovac), Alliant Energy, American Family Insurance, American Girl (a subsidiary of Mattel), the Credit Union National Association and its CUNA Mutual Group, Dean Health Systems, Madison-Kipp Corporation, Pacific Cycle, Schoeps Ice Cream, and Sub-Zero & Wolf Appliance.
Technology companies in the area include Broadjam, a regional office of CDW, Epic, FSBO Madison, Full Compass Systems, Human Head Studios, Netconcepts (recently purchased by Covario), Raven Software, Sonic Foundry, TDS Telecom, and TomoTherapy.
According to Forbes magazine, Madison ranks second in the nation in education.The Madison Metropolitan School District serves the city and surrounding area. With an enrollment of approximately 25,000 students in 46 schools, it is the second largest school district in Wisconsin behind the Milwaukee School District.
Among private church-related high schools are Abundant Life Christian School, Edgewood High School,located on the Edgewood Collegecampus, and St. Ambrose Academy, a Catholic school offering grades 6 through 12. Madison Country Day School is a private high school with no religious affiliation.
The city is home to the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Edgewood College, Madison Area Technical College, and Madison Media Institute, giving the city a post-secondary student population of nearly 50,000.
The University of Wisconsin accounts for the vast majority of students, with an enrollment of roughly 41,000, of whom 30,750 are undergraduates.
In a Forbes magazine city ranking from 2003, Madison had the highest number of Ph.D.s per capita, and third highest college graduates per capita, among cities in the United States.
The main downtown thoroughfare is State Street, which links the University of Wisconsin campus with the Capitol Square, and is lined with restaurants, espresso cafes and shops. Only pedestrians, buses, emergency vehicles, taxis, delivery vehicles and bikes are allowed on State Street.
On the other side of the Capitol Square is King Street, which has more upper-end restaurants and cafes than on the more student-budget State Street.
This celebration is the largest fireworks display in the Midwest in length, number of shells fired and the size of its annual budget.