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Crunchy meets cosmopolitan in Madison. It's a winning mix – Wisconsin’s state capital has been crowned the most eco-savvy, walkable, dog-friendly and vegetarian city in the U.S., and consistently ranks among overall best places to live. Is there anything Madison can't do? Apparently not, because it's also home to the massive University of Wisconsin.

Gastronomes will be in their glory at the weekly Dane County Farmers' Market, one of the nation's most expansive spreads, famed for its artisanal cheese. The free Chazen Museum of Art holds a genre-spanning trove from Qing Dynasty vases to Andy Warhol pop art. Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Monona Terrace Convention Center in 1938, though it wasn't completed until 1997. Daily tours explain why.

Pedestrian-only State Street is lined with feminist bookshops, locavore restaurants and stores selling Free Tibet stickers amid clouds of incense. Williamson Street is another foodie gold mine – it's even more beatnik than State Street. To mingle with locals, head to Memorial Union on the UW campus for lakeside beers, live music and watersports.