Day Tripping

Check Out Waunakee - You'll Be Surprised
By Elle Duncombe-Mills

Waunakee, just north of Madison, has a new and evolving sparkle. With its tight-knit community, great schools and close proximity to nature preserves, Waunakee has always been the “it” spot to settle down. A recent downtown redesign and influx of creative shop owners—most of whom are women— have transformed this small sleepy town into a great day-trip destination as well.

“I definitely think it’s moving in a really cool direction,” says Jen Rudis, owner of Jenerate Wellness. Her wellness center is part of this trendy transformation; stop by to unwind with infrared sauna therapy, or opt for a light therapy session to boost your winter mood. Or, try a salt therapy session at The Salt Room, where the simulated salt cave microclimate purportedly leaves you feeling invigorated and refreshed.

You’ll find the shopping in Waunakee is trending more toward big city than small town. Red Barn Company offers a chic mix of rustic Wisconsin décor and elegant gifts and jewelry. Nearby, Simply Unique Home Décor and Millies on 2nd offer local Wisconsin artisans a place to share their one-of-a-kind wares.

If you have a taste for antique finds, Hero Vintage is a go-to spot for funky clothes and trinkets. Nearby Rustic Revival Décor offers vintage décor with a twist: Stop by to rent items for events, order custom furniture or find raw materials for your own DIY projects. Also keep an eye out for ReLove Market, a pop-up shop known for fabulous repurposed décor, as well as other new and reused goodies.

For a more contemporary furniture-focused stop, peek into Waunakee Furniture, a 20-year-old veteran business that serves as a one-stop shop for elegant home furnishings. If you’ve already got a piece and want to add some new flair, Wild Dandelion offers custom painting, as well as craft parties where you can do it yourself.

Precious gifts and goodies aren’t the only way to indulge on a weekend getaway in Waunakee. Start a tasting tour at Lone Girl Brewing Company, where you’ll find local craft beers on tap, delicious comfort foods and a stylishly industrial space to boot. If you’re craving a wider range of beverages, try swanky Brix 340 Wine Bar to savor a glass of rare Cognac or Italian wine. Also worth a visit are the hip Octopi Brewing and Waunakee’s longtime supper club standby Rex’s Innkeeper, serving up local craft brews and classic Midwestern comfort food, respectively.

Waunakee also boasts some fantastic nature stops where you can catch some fresh air. If you’re a history buff, stop by Schumacher Farm Park to learn about Wisconsin’s rural heritage and enjoy stunning countryside views. Family-friendly Governor Nelson State Park, just south of Waunakee on Lake Mendota, offers snowshoeing, cross-country ski trails and breathtaking sunset views.

Turn your daytrip into an overnight with a stay at Gather Guest House, a cozy inn right on Main street. Just like the town itself, this guesthouse is a hidden gem, offering more than meets the eye; the space doubles as a creative studio where guests can unleash their inner artist.

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