We are all exhausted. Exhausted by life in general, exhausted by Zoom calls, restrictions, adapting to the way of life this past year has subjected us to. For me, decision fatigue is a REAL thing. When I plan a trip with my partner, it is almost more work than play- trying to make arrangements, find things to do, curate the best experiences to ensure the trip is a success. You need a vacation from the vacation! I recently took a trip to the Garver Feed Mill in Madison- a new health, wellness and foodie destination for those looking to reconnect, recharge, and enjoy. This is the ideal stress-free weekend getaway for couples, a short drive from Chicago! They have compiled pre-curated experiences for guests to enjoy- flexible, inclusive itineraries that allow you to focus on what really matters!
Located on the East side of Madison, the Garver Feed Mill is a historical architectural wonder that has been transformed into a treasure trove of small businesses and personal connections. In 1906, the mill was a sugar beet processing facility, then became a factory for livestock feed. Eventually, it became vacant and secretly transformed into an underground art haven for creatives. Graffiti covered the surfaces, ceilings crumbled.
In 2017, a team started renovations and hand-picked small, local businesses to become a part of what would eventually become a bustling hub of creativity once again- this time in the form of wellness, art, events and culinary feats.
The Garver team has painstakingly put together itineraries for all types for weekend getaways for couples- Wellness, Foodie, and Art & Culture. All you have to do is select your preferences and show up. They take care of the rest! Honestly, it is one of the most relaxing ways to reconnect with a partner. You are able to let someone else take the wheel, and simply experience the different sensory journeys together.
All experiences include a night stay at Hotel Indigo, a funky, modern hotel a short drive from Garver Feed Mill. This hotel features games and snacks in the lobby, colorful, quirky decor that I want to grab and incorporate into my own home, and a relaxed yet attentive staff that just wants guests to celebrate the good things in life.
The rooms are anything but basic- touches like the retro turquoise mini-fridge and a kaleidoscopic rug get you in the mood for not taking life too seriously.
Here is a sample itinerary, make sure to check out all three to see which would interest you the most!
Escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life, and focus on slowing down, taking care of your mind and body. Yoga is a way to breathe, stretch and connect with yourself, and Perennial Yoga offers an array of transformative classes, right in the gorgeous Garver space.
Perennial Yoga is housed in an airy, natural-light-filled space that allows you to immerse yourself in the movements of your body without outside distraction…the perfect way to start your day!
They also have a cafe called Surya, which will be reopening in July. If you are a fan of plant-based, seasonal eating, you NEED to try them! I had a Spring Bowl, which was herbed quinoa with greens and seasonal roasted vegetables, and a Hippie Seed n Nut sandwich with a ChocoNana and TropiGreen Smoothie on the side.
Post-yoga, you don’t have to dive back into real life just yet. Around the corner is Kosa Spa, an Ayurvedic mecca whose elegant and stylistically clean spaces invite you to clear and cleanse your mind. Included in the spa visit is a choice between a 75-minute warm oil Abhyanga OR an Organic Inner Glow Facial. After your treatment, you can drift into the Personal Retreat with your partner.
This was one of my favorite parts of the entire trip- the ability to experience something physically together while talking about what it means to live life in balance. We started our Personal Retreat in the sauna, pouring essential oil-scented water over hot rocks while we relaxed on the wooden benches.
After 15 minutes, we took turns hopping in the ice-cold shower- a definite shock to the system but unbelievably refreshing. I felt energized and alive, buzzing with positivity and clarity. We then moved on to their relaxing sanctuary, filled with books, natural light, and cozy textiles. Having the time to spend together at a weekend getaway for couples, no agenda but to simply relax and enjoy your surroundings is an absolute gift.
We also sampled the divine cuisine, homemade in-house at the Kosa Kitchen. All ingredients are fresh, vegetarian, organic and local- designed to nourish the mind, body, and spirit. You can also sample the food on the Madison Eats Food Tour!
Recipes have been handed down through Shilpa Sankaran’s family, who is the founder of Kosa and one of the most intriguing women I have met. Her energy, focus, and vision are inspiring and I can’t wait to share her tips on embracing Ayurveda in a future post!
I have been a fan of Kombucha for years, but have only tasted the mainstream brands. The difference between mass-produced, typical kombucha and NessAlla’s labor of love is night and day. NessAlla is the WORLD’S first craft Kombucha company, currently headquartered at the Garver Feed Mill. I had the privilege of meeting with one of the original founders, Alla, who is an herbalist and honestly…a complete badass in my book.
She and her business partner Vanessa started the business with a baby strapped to her back, learning as she went, passionate and driven. She is the mad scientist of the Kombucha world- her lab of taste tests and unique combinations is a joy to see.
The brewery tour was absolutely fascinating- I never knew what went into kombucha! One major difference that sets NessAlla apart from other brewers is that nothing artificial is added to their product. The flavor comes from Rishi tea, which is a local Wisconsin tea company. Their kombucha is kosher, organic, and gluten-free, and they work tirelessly to come up with flavors and combinations that are well-balanced, sensory trips.
I asked Alla what the most unique flavor she produced was, and she recalled a Butternut Curry Squash Limited Release Kombucha. IMAGINE THAT. I was able to see where the SCOBY lives (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast), the bottling line, raw ingredients (tea, tea, and more gorgeous tea), and the cold storage filled with all of the flavors. Sampling was a trip on your tongue- I tried Butterfly Effect, Peach Blush, and Lemongrass Ginger. All were INCREDIBLE, honestly far beyond other kombucha I have tried in the past.
4th Stop: Ian’s Pizza and Calliope Ice Cream
Are you ready for crazy flavor combinations that magically become something you instantly crave? This is how Ian’s Pizza and Calliope Ice Cream are for me! Ian’s Pizza is a Madison favorite, with many people opting to order it at their wedding to commemorate the late-night consumption during the college years.
With combos like Mac n’ Cheese, Macho Nacho, and Cheesy Potato with Ranch and Chicago Dog (pictured below), their flavor profiles are like nothing you have tried. They handmake all of their dough onsite, producing some of the best crust in the biz.
Calliope is connected to Ian’s and definitely shows them up on the sweet side with their own unique mix. Hot Peanut Butter was a surprising winner in my book, tasting like a Thai Peanut Sriracha sauce…but cold and sweet. Mexican Hot Chocolate, Chocolate Crispy Rice Treat, and Lemon Lavender also received top marks. I met with Staci, who has taken over as the chief flavor combo queen, and loved hearing her stories about the history of the business. Fun fact- they previously moved into the space vacated by NessAlla Brewery- the basement of a restaurant called Weary Traveler!
5th Stop: Madison Eats Food Tour
I am such a fan of food tours. You get to sample a lot of different local flavors, learn a little history, and move your body. This food tour ups the game by adding in a ride on eBikes- electric bikes that are housed right in back of the Garver Feed Mill. The tour starts out with a slice of the famous Mac n’ Cheese Pizza at Ian’s with a beer or NessAlla Kombucha sidecar, and a sample of the comforting food from Kosa.
From there, we cycled along the bike path to Monsoon Siam, an authentic Thai restaurant, and on to a park to enjoy local sweet treat NutKrack. Final stop- The Chocolate Shoppe for ice cream. I had the Fun fact- they actually produce Calliope’s ice cream! A match made in heaven.
At the end of the tour, I headed to the Olbrich Botanical Gardens to walk off the extra calories. The gardens are directly behind the Garver Feed Mill, the perfect (FREE) place to take a stroll and relax on a weekend getaway for couples.
You can add on to your Garver Feed Mill itinerary with any of the listed experiences, such as:
Cocktail Class at Garver Lounge
Brunch at Garver Lounge (Breakfast sandwich hit the spot)
Additional Spa Services at Kosa
Twig and Olive Photo Session
Live Music (We enjoyed jazz on the outdoor patio, with craft cocktails!)
Sitka Salmon Shares Info/Gift Card
Flowers from Briar Loft (STUNNING! The most creative flowers I have ever seen!)
Ledger Coffee (I had this twice while I was there…incredible, and you must try the donuts!)
Words cannot express how much I enjoyed this weekend getaway for couples, for many reasons. First and foremost, spending time with someone whose company I enjoy and want to connect with is one of the greatest gifts in life. I highly encourage couples, especially parents, to figure out a way to take a retreat like this. TALK to each other, share experiences together, leave everything else at home. Let someone else do the planning- the team at Garver Feed Mill has done such an incredible job with coordinating and curating experiences that will rethink what the most important things in life are. Health, wellness, connection and experiences with those you love, and a weekend getaway for couples is a necessary journey in my book.
A HUGE thank you to Garver Feed Mill and the Wisconsin Department of Tourism for hosting us. I was so incredibly touched by each and every story, especially the number of women-owned businesses that have grown, adapted and fought during this difficult year. I cherish the connections I made, and absolutely cannot wait to return.
If you are interested in booking a weekend getaway for couples, please see the Garver Feed Mill Experiences page! It is the ideal trip for a wedding anniversary, or just a weekend away. The sort drive from Chicago means more time to experience and enjoy!
Cheers to connecting with those you love, and living life to the fullest!
Disclosure: I was hosted at many of the experiences at the Garver Feed Mill. All opinions are honest and my own as always.