By Shelby Deering
We bet you’ve been through it a hundred times, as you drive from Madison to other locales. Maybe you’ve spotted its downtown dotted with historic brick buildings. Perhaps you’ve seen signs directing visitors to Lake Ripley. Or, you could have noted its small-town charm and bookmarked it for a future trip as you continued driving.
It’s worth making a date to stop, linger and savor Cambridge, located only half an hour from the state Capitol building. With a population of 1,500, it’s bursting with sweet stops that make you feel as if you’ve stepped into a Norman Rockwell painting—that is, if Rockwell had painted a downtown filled with stylish retail destinations. Stop in at Galleria 214 on Main Street, where you’ll find Details Boutique, a curated collection of on-trend clothing; Ruby Rose Gallery, an art-gallery-meets-rock-shop sparkling with jewelry and gemstones from around the world; and the recently-opened CommonHouse, an Instagram-ready café offering health-boosting beverages and eats.
Down the street, Cambridge Gold & Antiques is like stepping into a time machine brimming with antique signs, clocks and store displays of yore. Avid Gardener is a green thumb’s dream with its vibrant houseplants, herbs, macramé plant hangers and locally-produced food products to boot. Wood Station Co-Op is designed for those who love natural wood décor, like hand-hewn wall art and simply stunning furniture.
As for nearby accommodations, try a vacation home called Arington Adventures, located on a bucolic tree farm and helmed by the owner of Wood Station Co-Op. Lake Ripley Lodge has lovely waterfront views, vintage-inspired rooms and a grand, old-fashioned front porch. To top off the bygone vibes, we suggest a meal at PLOW, slated to open in mid-April and famed for its stone walls, magical string lights and delicious farm-to-table fare.
Over time, Cambridge has become a must-stop destination for pottery enthusiasts. It’s the home of Rowe Pottery, a Cambridge mainstay for 45 years. Selling its coveted pottery to over 500 retailers nationwide, you can peruse its oh-so-adorable company store downtown. Marked by its recognizable blue-glaze designs— featuring flowers, barns, animals and more—the storefront also contains farmhouse décor, like faux greens and well-loved wall art. On the outskirts of town, you’ll discover the amazing pottery of Mark Skudlarek of Cambridge Wood-Fired Pottery. With a storefront overflowing with clay creations ranging from dishwasher and microwave-safe tableware to planters, Skudlarek invites the public to see him work twice a year. Speaking of events, you can get your fill of Cambridge’s pottery scene and then some at The Clay Collective Spring Pottery Tour, a driving tour May 2–3 that spotlights Cambridge potters among others located throughout eastern Dane and western Jefferson counties.