The Unlikely Midwest Destination Samantha Brown Was Surprised She Fell In Love With

Samantha Brown has been to a whole lot of places. Having spent 25 years hosting TV travel shows, Brown has visited over 250 cities in more than 60 countries. As part of her show "Samantha Brown's Places to Love," which she hosts and produces on PBS, Brown mixes far-flung destinations like Darwin, Australia, with those closer to home, including Portland, Oregon, and Chattanooga, Tennessee. For season six, Brown found a city in the Midwest that captured her heart. And she was there in winter! 

In an interview Brown did recently with Forbes Travel Guide, she shared that she had fallen head over heels for Madison, Wisconsin. Calling it an "untapped" destination, Brown praised Madison's laid-back feel and affordability. While in the city, Brown discovered some of the area's indigenous heritage, dove mouth-first into its cheesemaking industry, and tried her hand at a favorite local winter sport. At the beginning of her episode about the city, Brown shared that she loves winter. In Madison, she saw the locals embrace the season to its fullest. Here's how to follow in her footsteps and enjoy a perfect winter getaway.

What to do in Madison

Madison sits on an isthmus between Lakes Mendota and Monona, and the opening shot of Samantha Brown's show is of a frozen lake with the city skyline as a backdrop. It's a glorious setting, and the shot encapsulates one of the reasons Brown fell in love with Madison. There are hockey players on a makeshift pitch on the frozen surface, kitesurfers swapping the waves for the ice, and people taking an ice bath in the great outdoors. Just Wisconsinites loving winter!

Brown's first stop is at the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. Here, she spoke to the university's first director of tribal relations and saw some of the Native American effigy mounds. You can visit the university's beautiful campus and enjoy the Lakeshore Nature Preserve. As well as visiting the effigy mounds, you can hike, cycle, and enjoy the lakeside beaches.

Another must-see in the city is the Unitarian Meeting House. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, a Wisconsin native, the stunning modernist building offers tours, which must be booked in advance. Brown also got to try curling with the local Madison Curling Club. In the past, they've run Learn2Curl events, and you can sign up to learn about upcoming ones. For a more relaxing activity, visit Kosa, an Ayurvedic spa. Brown experienced two peaceful treatments. Kosa is in Garver Feed Mill, where you can find other wellness businesses and grab a bite.

Eat and drink in Madison

There's no better way to kick off a section about food and drink than by talking about cheese. Wisconsin makes a quarter of all the cheeses produced in the U.S. and around half of its artisanal cheeses. Brown visited Fromagination in the center of Madison to try some of the best cheeses from the area. The store runs events and classes periodically, so check the site if you want to participate.

Another thing Brown loved was the Wisconsin Supper Clubs. The state has around 250 supper clubs, but they're not the kind of exclusive dining club you might be used to. As cookbook author Mary Bergin explains to Brown, everyone should feel welcome. A supper club is a great place to pull up a chair, try a Wisconsin Old Fashioned cocktail, and indulge a hearty appetite. Brown visited Tornado Steakhouse, and you may also want to try Toby's Supper Club, which gets rave reviews on Reddit's r/madisonwi board and Google.

If you're looking to spice things up, one of the top recommendations on the same Reddit forum is Himal Chuli. Said to have been the first Nepali restaurant in the country when it opened in 1986, Himal Chuli serves mainly vegetarian dishes, with one commenter calling the squash takari divine.