By Maura Keller | Photo courtesy Green County Tourism | Sponsored by Green County Tourism
Walk down the streets of Monroe, and you’ll be delighted to find an array of historic buildings, charming shops and delightful eateries at every turn. To further engage visitors to this historic town, Main Street Monroe, a locally focused and funded, volunteer-driven nonprofit handles community develop- ment in the historic downtown district of Monroe, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
“With our events, we seek to attract a variety of people to come to Monroe and experience all of the local flavor that makes Monroe what it is,” says Jordan Nordby, executive director of Main Street Monroe.
A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, Main Street Monroe and the town’s businesses are doing everything you would expect — from reducing indoor capacities to increasing outdoor capacities (hello, streateries!) — businesses continue to make adjustments to keep everyone safe and comfortable.
In fact, Main Street Monroe started a “mask up” campaign before the county health officials had done so last summer.
Masks continue to be available as needed and visitors will also find handwashing stations dotting the area.
“Our outdoor farmers’ market has an expanded area to help guarantee social distancing. And our planned wine walk will be split up over two nights instead of one with registration happening outside, over a longer period of time, and stores having individual capacities,” Nordby says.
Summer in Monroe has been defined since 2011 by the town’s “summer themes.” Each year a group of volunteers develop a different, family friendly theme. For example, one year the theme was “Once Upon A Square,” based on classic fairy tales.
“A Romanian woodcarver, who now lives in Monroe, [often] creates anywhere from 12 to 24 pieces, which are sponsored by local businesses,” Nordby says. “It’s a wonderful blending of public art, imagination, pop culture and creativity.”
This year’s theme is “Mainopoly” — reminiscent of a certain classic game.
“We have a proper square and that lends itself to being a board game. We’re going to have 24 pieces representing classic board game pieces displayed through autumn,” Nordby says. “We’re also proud of our Swiss heritage, and that will show up in some subtle and creative ways with this year’s theme as well.”
When not enjoying the various events, visitors can explore the many shops dotting the historic district or enjoy the various dining options featuring great nano
breweries, cheese shops, pizza joints and other edible delights.
And downtown Monroe is a dream for anyone who loves history. In addition to an audio walking tour, Main Street Monroe started a mural program back in 2017 and now proudly boasts five murals, as well as 14 alley cat mini murals cheekily painted on the facades of downtown businesses. Monroe is also a true shopping destination: There’s a classic candy store that has a 30-foot marble counter top from the turn of the century, multiple women’s clothing stores, a men’s clothing store, multiple home goods stores, kitchen stores, a bridal shop and a jewelry store. And many may not know this, but the nationally distributed Zodica Perfumery is made right in the district.
For those who want to add a little cycling to their experience, an entrance to the Badger State Trail is located just a few blocks away from downtown’s shops and restaurants.
“Monroe is really a special community. It’s not always on everyone’s radar, which makes it a hidden gem, but it’s so close to Madison that it’s more than ideal for a day trip or even an afternoon,” Nordby says. “But there is also so much here that it can easily be a weekend escape. You name it, Monroe most likely has it.”
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Each summer, Main Street in Monroe plays host to a creative theme, and this year riffs off the board game Monopoly with 24 “game pieces” placed throughout the square. It’s always a fun, family-friendly attraction.