The Edgewater in Madison, Wisconsin: Nostalgia Reborn

Photo courtesy of The Edgewater hotel

Photo courtesy of The Edgewater hotel

The Edgewater has been bringing back memories since it opened in 1948—the same year that Life Magazine touted Madison, Wisconsin, as the best place to live in America.

Stretching along the shores of Lake Mendota, and located between the city’s two biggest points of pride, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the state Capitol, The Edgewater in those days was the place for the city’s movers and shakers to see and be seen, and attracting celebs like Liberace, Johnny Cash, and Elvis Presley.

But its years were beginning to show. Today, after a two-plus-year and multi-million dollar do-over, The Edgewater hotel has been renovated and reborn. The retro romance and nostalgic vibe remain (a 21st century digital wall display even documents its great history). 

Suffice it to say, if you stayed here in its heyday (or even a few years ago), you’ll hardly recognize the space today. Oh, the original building (now called the Langdon Building) still has the porthole windows and plenty of its curving lines for that Art Deco look, but now the building houses a spa, fitness area– plus 100 totally new guestrooms. blank

Adjacent to it, a beautiful, public plaza overlooks the lake–and is now (winter time) a 4,000-square-foot ice skating rink (ice skates for rent on-site for their rink—how many hotels can offer that option?). Come summertime, it will be a flower-filled terrace.

The ice rink also fronts a spectacular newly constructed tower building (called the Wisconsin Building) that adds another 102 rooms to The Edgewater property.

The Wisconsin Building is the newly constructed tower on The Edgewater property.

The Wisconsin Building is the newly constructed tower on The Edgewater property.

Pulling into the driveway in front of the Wisconsin Building, this is where guests are greeted by a valet and directed inside to the check-in desk—entering on the sixth floor where a cool double spiral staircase leads up to the seventh floor dining level or down to the fifth floor ballroom level. blank

From the moment I pulled in to the entry lot with my vehicle on a cold winter day, and throughout check-in, I felt enveloped in a warm Wisconsin welcome.

My room was considered a Premium Lakefront in the Wisconsin Building. Located on the 9th floor, it had floor-to-ceiling curved panoramic windows overlooking the snow-covered lake; in warm weather, windows can be opened to let in lakeside breezes. But even in winter, the view is lovely. blank

Two upholstered chairs are strategically located to enjoy the vista—so you could unwind with a glass of wine–while the room’s Bluetooth compatible radio plays your fave music from your Iphone.

Elegant dark wood furnishings are accented with those soft curving lines in keeping with the hotel’s Art Décor-style—and my king bed was fabulously cozy and comfortable. I loved the soft robes provided too. There was a 47” HDTV plus a small refrigerator and safe but there was no coffeemaker (and no complimentary coffee in the lobby). Tip: There is a takeout café selling Starbuck’s coffee on the seventh floor—and I highly advise a square of the Salted Caramel kringle sold there too (made in the hotel). blank

The spacious bathroom offered a luxurious experience; a walk-in shower with a rain showerhead, separate cubicle for the toilet, handy lighted magnifying mirror near the dual sinks—and best of all, a soaking tub with a window and a view: it also overlooked the lake. blank

The entire property has been described as an urban resort—and there are so many areas (and public spaces) to wander, explore and hang out, that guests may have a hard time choosing (a lake cruise will even be a hotel option in the summer). There’s a mammoth fireplace on the 5th floor (a door leads in from the ice rink) where the IceHouse serves up hot chocolate, soup and snacks. The Boathouse was not open, but during sundress weather, I was told it’ll be serving up Wisconsin’s famous cheese curds, brats, and Friday night fish fries. blank

For happy hour, The Statehouse bar is a popular spot—with locals and guests. I ordered an old-fashioned “Old Fashioned” cocktail—per the bartender’s recommendation—and which I learned later is often considered Wisconsin’s signature drink. Whether you go with the traditional whiskey or brandy base, the retro drink was a smooth hit of powerful potion– with brandied cherries to boot.

The bar (reflected in the mirror above the staircase) is on the other side of the "window".

The bar (reflected in the mirror above the staircase) is on the other side of the “window”.

The Statehouse restaurant has an elegant flair but an open kitchen and its curved floor-to-ceiling windows (summertime, you can sit outside on the attached patio) keeps it from being stuffy. The menu is a la carte, something not quite so common in a hotel dining room, and it’s price-y per Midwestern pocketbooks. But my fish was done to perfection and the steak my companion ordered was melt-in-the-mouth fantastic. The side of creamed caramel corn was unusual but good. And for dessert, I loved the local famous Babcock Hall ice cream—the caramel corn flavor. blank

My favorite meal, however, was breakfast in The Statehouse—when the sun shone in the windows and the view was a snow-covered lake sparkling white. Saturdays there is a buffet breakfast spread (along with the regular menu) and Sunday there is a brunch offered (none are included in your room rate). I ordered a “savory croissant bread pudding benedict” and it was a perfect way to start the day.

Room rates start at $149 and valet parking is $18 a day. For more information (various room packages are available) or to make reservations, check the website. You can also make reservations through Priceline or Travelocity.

Review and photos (except where noted) by Donna Tabbert Long who was a guest of the hotel.


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