Along Madison ’s east side, the mammoth (608/246-4550, www.olbrich.org ) Olbrich Botanical Gardens feature a tropical forest conservatory with a waterfall inside a 50-foot glass pyramid, along with a botanical education center and seemingly endless gardens covering almost 15 acres. Concerts (free every Tues.) take place in summer.
A highlight for the center—and, incidentally, the place where many of these pages were dutifully scribbled in a morning ritual by yours truly—is a magnificent Thai-style pavilion, donated in part by the royal family of Thailand in recognition of the close relationship between the UW-Madison  and Thailand.
The conservatory is open 10 a.m.–4 p.m. daily, till 5 p.m. Sunday; the gardens are open 8 a.m.–8 p.m. daily April-September, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. October, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. November-March. Admission to the conservatory is $1, free to all 10 a.m.–noon Wednesday and Saturday. Admission to the gardens and Thai pavilion is always free.