This is not my farewell story, swan song or goodbye to the city I have called home for the last six semesters and two summers. No, this is a love letter written by me to the city of Madison.

In May, I and thousands of other seniors will bid our time as students of the University of Wisconsin a big ol’ “au revoir!” — some of us without a second glance back to consider what exactly we have missed in the past years. I, for one, do not want to leave this university without having experienced all that Madison has to offer and neither should you. Read on to discover some of Madison’s quirky spots and one-of-a-kind events that must be experienced as soon as possible.

Wander down Willy Street

There is a reason State Street is the downtown area’s main drag — quirky boutiques and ethnic eateries abound and thrive here. But while venturing down State is a given, Willy Street is a destination, and you will live with a world of regret if you do not take the time early in your college career to explore its many nooks and crannies.

Willy Street — rarely, if ever, called by its actual name, Williamson Street — offers a slew of shops and dining locales the likes of which dominate the charm of State Street’s. Rick’s Olde Gold antique shop (1314 Williamson St.) is worth even just a brief walk through, while Bon Appetit Cafe (805 Williamson St.) offers an eclectic slow food menu of Mediterranean-inspired dishes like the seafood curry ($15.95) with yellow fin tuna and shrimp. But the menu here changes frequently due to the restaurant’s commitment to using local ingredients, so check the website for menu updates.

Can’t afford to dine out or shop at the boutiques? Neither can most students, so venture to St. Vincent de Paul’s (1309 Williamson St.) and flip through the record collection. Or grab a bite at The Weary Traveler (1201 Williamson St.) and enjoy Bob’s Bad Breath Burger which is topped with garlic and onions. Even that is something you will not regret.

Pig out at Mickie’s Dairy Bar

No other greasy spoon is more beloved by students and families alike than Mickie’s Dairy Bar. Located near Camp Randall at 1511 Monroe St., Mickie’s is a perfect stop before or after football games — provided you were lucky enough to get tickets in this year’s annual ticket buying fiasco. But plan to get there plenty early because the line frequently extends out the door with hungry Badgers awaiting their morning feast.

The breakfast at Mickie’s is not for the picky eater or the faint of heart, but the prices are ideal for the often broke college student. The general theme of the restaurant’s menu centers on the idea that breakfast is breakfast — meaning that eggs, potatoes, bacon and pancakes make up the bulk of the diner’s options.

The most popular breakfast option, the scrambler, combines these first three ingredients. But plan to share it with a friend because devouring the entire thing by yourself will leave you curled up on your couch for the rest of the day. But what could be more “college” than that?

F?te it up at community festivals

Most students are content to remain confined to the familiar campus area surroundings throughout their time here at UW. But believe it or not, the city of Madison extends far beyond the area between University and State, and there is no better way to explore Madison’s diversity than through its off-campus festivals.

One of the largest and most anticipated celebrations is the Willy Street Fair, which is being held this fall on Sept. 19 and 20. The festival features seven stages of entertainment and performers already include Blake Thomas, the Blueheels and Jentri Colello.

After finals are over, plan to stick around in Madison for a few extra days and venture over to the WORT Block Party held on the 600 block of Doty Street. This coming May may mark the radio station-sponsored event’s 13th annual shindig, but you will be lucky to experience the entertainment, good food and — if you are of age — the craft beer.

Many of Madison’s truly great festivals, however, occur in the summer. Even if you do not live in the city over summer at some point during your college career, make it a point to travel down to Madison for La Fete de Marquette. The annual festival, this year held July 9 through 12, plays host to a variety of francophone acts to pay homage to the Marquette Neighborhood’s French heritage. C’est bon!

Rent a canoe from Hoofer’s

Madison is carefully nestled between the lakes Mendota and Monona and almost any spot downtown offers a beautiful view of either lake. Still, there is no better way to experience the quietude of Lake Mendota than actually being on it. The best way to do this? Rent a canoe from Hoofers.

Renting a canoe from Hoofers is not immediately easy. UW students must first become a member of the organization — memberships run for $22 in the spring and $33 in the fall — and take an hour-long lesson to ensure safety. However, all rentals are free following the membership fee and the scenic view of Lake Mendota and Picnic Point are well worth it.

But if you do not feel like doling out the cash for a Hoofers Outing Club membership, last year’s University of Wisconsin Welcome Week offered free rentals for Hoofers’ canoes for an hour. Keep your eyes peeled for this event on Hoofers’ Outing Club website at www.hooferouting.org or pick up a calendar at the UW Bookstore and scan this year’s Welcome Week activities.

Relax at the Terrace

Memorial Union’s Terrace is notorious for the river of beer that seemingly flows through it in the evenings. But the Terrace is not only for racking up pitchers with friends after class on Friday. It is also a place for studying or simply enjoying the late-night view of Lake Mendota.

The Terrace is the ideal alternative to slaving away in the dorms or at College Library as the breeze can serve as a welcome distraction from the rigors of course work while still allowing you a chance to accomplish that paper or take-home exam. And if homework just is not holding your attention, take a seat down by the water and watch — but do not feed — the ducks. It is the simple thing.

At night, the Terrace transforms and many come out to enjoy each other’s company over a pitcher of beer. But it also turns into a concert venue of sorts where bands from across the country to right here in Madison take the stage to perform. Listen to the Terrace’s Bluegrass Series, which rotates with local favorite bluegrass bands, every Thursday or listen to some serious indie rock from The Rural Alberta Advantage when they take the stage Aug. 22.