If you’re not from Wisconsin, you may only know Sun Prairie as the Groundhog Capital of the World. Every February 2nd — Groundhog Day — the city celebrates the holiday with enormous fanfare. In 2015, their ceremony made international headlines, when “Jimmy the Groundhog” bit the mayor before a huge crowd.
But Sun Prairie is home to more than just angry, prognosticating rodents. With a population of over 29,000, it’s one of the larger Madison suburbs. Conveniently located about 20 minutes from downtown, it’s a popular home-base for commuters, and its retail offerings regularly draw shoppers from the state capital. Development — both residential and commercial — is booming.
Housing in Sun Prairie runs the gamut from large luxury apartment complexes to planned single-home communities. City developers have tried to counter any potential sterility by focusing on pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use planning that integrates new homes with community space and retail. The city is home to a number of beloved local dining destinations: Willy Ty’s for pub fare, Buck & Honey’s for upscale comfort food, and Beans and Cream, famous for its cold-brewed coffee.
Sun Prairie’s central shopping district is home to a number of the area’s largest big-box retail destinations. Costco, Target, Cabela’s, and Woodman’s all share space just off Highway 151. The district is also home to the largest — and newest — multiplex in the Madison area, Marcus Palace Cinemas. The state-of-the-art complex features leather recliners, Dolby Atmos sound, and a full restaurant and bar, with chair-side service during screenings.
But the movie theater isn’t the only place to see a show. Every Sunday from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the Angell Park Speedway hosts auto races at its third-mile dirt track. Competition is fierce, and limited to “midget racers,” small four-cylinder cars. The Sun Prairie Fire Department has been sponsoring the races since 1936. If racing isn’t your thing, you can check out the birthplace of painter Georgia O’Keeffe, whose family lived outside of Sun Prairie. The house burned down in 1972, but the farmstead remains, just east of the city. You can also explore Patrick Marsh, Wisconsin’s first wetland mitigation bank site. With 18 acres of prairie and 60 acres of open water, the marsh is a prime location for bird-watching.