The steady, axisymmetric base flow and instabilities in a rotating lid-driven cylinder are investigated experimentally via ultrasonic Doppler velocimetry and verified with computations. The flow is governed by two parameters: the Reynolds number (based on the angular velocity of the top lid, the cylinder radius, and kinematic viscosity) and the aspect ratio (cylinder height/radius). Base states and instabilities are explored using ultrasonic Doppler velocimetry in two mixtures of glycerol and water. Velocity profiles in the cylinder are constructed for aspect ratio 2.5 and Reynolds numbers between 1000 and 3000. The results are compared to computational spectral element simulations, as well as previously published findings. The base flow velocity profiles measured by ultrasonic Doppler velocimetry are in good agreement with the numerical results below the critical Reynolds number. The same is true for time-averaged results above the critical Reynolds number. Prediction of the first axisymmetric instability is demonstrated, although not always at the expected critical Reynolds number. Advantages and limitations of ultrasonic Doppler velocimetry are discussed.