Garish white whale or architectural cornerstone? You be the judge of Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center (1 John Nolen Dr., 608/261-4000, www.mononaterrace.com ). Madisonians may never come to terms with their decades-old love-hate relationship with it. Supporters hoped that the structure, which some call Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece, partially atop Lake Monona on pylons, would draw attention (and moneyed conventioneers) to Madison ; critics moaned that it was yet another civic white elephant—and a monument to someone they considered an egotistical SOB.
Wright’s hoped-for design included much, much more than was finally constructed, and only three years after it opened its structures already required repairs. (Sorry, but that’s so Frank Lloyd Wright, even admirers would have to admit!) But even opponents admit that nothing like it exists in a city of comparative size.
Most visitors simply wander about, taking in the views; a photography gallery highlighting Wright’s work is inside, as is the Madison Sports Hall of Fame. If you get a chance, get a glimpse of it from a canoe in the early morning sun. Wow.
Monona Terrace is open 8 a.m.–5 p.m. daily. The rooftop garden area is open till 10 p.m. Sunday–Thursday, till midnight Friday and Saturday. Guided tours ($3) are available at 1 p.m. daily. Free concerts are offered often during summer.