The Dudgeon-Monroe neighborhood is arguably the nicest place on earth. Paris and Manhattan are strong on culture, but they're a tad crowded. The Rocky Mountains are pretty, but the restaurants aren't so great. Madison's near-west-side neighborhood, on the other hand, combines everything you'd want in life along the main strip of Monroe Street and the areas just to the north and south.
For natural beauty, it's hard to beat Lake Wingra and the Arboretum, a paradise for hikers, bikers, joggers, sailors, bird-watchers and other hardy types. And those are just the high-profile spots. Insiders know about the Glenway Children's Park, a wooded paradise tucked off Glenway Drive; and the maze of trails behind Glenway Golf Course and Forest Hills Cemetery, beloved of dog-walkers and 10-year-old explorers. On snow days, every kid in the neighborhood flocks to the glorious sledding hill on Glenway Golf Course, where a good ride will take you right to the edge of Forest Hill's picturesque gravestones.
Dudgeon-Monroe also has its share of urban pleasures. The Monroe Street corridor is scaled to pedestrians, and a walk from one end to the other will take you past storefronts offering creative cooking, locally made candy, hip clothing and intriguing artwork, along with indie shops selling CDs, books, comics, flowers, kitchenware and costumes. Local mom-and-pop landmarks include Mallatt Pharmacy, Neuhauser Pharmacy, Parman's Service Station and Budd's Auto Repair, hanging tough against the chain operations popping up everywhere else in town. In the summer, the sandal-clad throngs flock to Michael's Frozen Custard, conveniently situated on the outskirts of Wingra Park. A stroll along the lake will almost work off that scoop (okay, double scoop) of chocolate-chocolate chip.
Not all the attractions along this corridor are small and charming. Some are big and exciting, like Camp Randall Stadium, which fills the intersection of Monroe and Regent streets with red as far as the eye can see on football Saturdays. The Edgewood college and high school campus has grown even more beautiful with recent expansion. And the bright and shiny Trader Joe's has become a destination for shoppers seeking delightfully eccentric foods.
With its tree-lined streets and vintage houses, the residential part of Dudgeon-Monroe could serve as a Hollywood set for Idyllic Midwestern Neighborhood. (Cue ominous music and Reese Witherspoon with a baby carriage.) And the people inside those vintage houses tend to be the kind of neighbors you want to have. They've spearheaded an annual Lake Wingra cleanup, banded together to restore green spaces and successfully fought misguided development on Monroe Street.
These folks are fierce when they need to be, but most of the time they've got big smiles on their faces and a smear of chocolate-chocolate chip on their collars.