Madison provides plenty for families to do, enjoy and have fun with. The Greater Madison area has so much to do from excellent attractions to unique events that it's hard to get bored here. Some of the top options for family fun throughout Madison are found below.
In the City
Plenty of attractions in the city will provide something great for both kids and adults to enjoy. Some of the top choices include:
- Madison Children's Museum - A great choice with an indoor play area, plenty of exhibits and all kinds of fun for all ages.
- Wisconsin State Capital - Head to the observation deck and see the city from one of the best spots for a great view.
- Dane County Farmers Market - The largest producer-only market in the entire country, this is a great spot for everybody to enjoy.
- Henry Vilas Zoo - Hit up the zoo and enjoy the polar bears and the fact that it's one of the only free-admission zoos in the United States.
Parks are always a good choice outside, but Madison also has plenty of Lakes and beaches for outdoor fun. You can enjoy kayaking, canoeing, fishing and even paddleboarding on Lake Monona, Lake Mendota or one...
It won't be long before it's time to start thinking about the winter activities you love in Madison. However, summer isn't over yet and there are still plenty of fun and free things to do around Madison. Here are some of the top options to enjoy before the summer comes to a close.
University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum
You can explore the Arboretum for free year-round. However, in the summer, you'll be able to enjoy the wonderful areas without worrying as much about the weather. The Arboretum features 1,200 acres of wonderful gardens, woodlands, prairies, wetlands and so much more. You can even bring your bike and enjoy the 20 miles of trails for hiking and biking. Once winter rolls around, the trails will become the place for snowshoeing and skiing, but for now, get out and enjoy this great attraction while the weather is warm.
The rooftop concerts are free throughout the summer and provide a great activity to enjoy before the summer ends.
Olbrich Botanical Gardens
You can enjoy the Olbrich Botanical Gardens for free all throughout the year. It's one of only four places in North American with a Thai Pavilion. In addition, there are about 16 acres of wonderful gardens to explore.
Another great place to discover during the summer, the Bolz Conservatory is free on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. You can enjoy the huge glass pyramid, the indoor gardens, the beautiful waterfalls, plenty of flowers and plants, along with the many birds found throughout.
Of course, the many wonderful lakes found all throughout the Madison area are great for the summer. You can get the boat out a few more time before summer ends or just head to the lake for a swim. With more than...
When it's raining outside, it can put a damper on your summer plans. However, it doesn't have to be a day stuck inside and feeling like you have cabin fever. Instead, you can get out and enjoy some of the best museums offered without spending a penny.
Wisconsin Veterans Museum
For not cost at all, you can enjoy the Veterans Museum, which highlights the military history of Wisconsin. You'll discover history from the Civil War to present day with plenty of exhibitions, artifacts and even a functional submarine periscope.
Chazen Museum of Art
Another good choice on a rainy day is the Chazen Museum of Art. This museum is free and offers a permanent collection with plenty of great works of art. You can enjoy a Docent-led tour, as well.
Madison Museum of Contemporary Art
Both admission and educational programs are free at the MMoCA. Enjoy the building itself, which was designed by Cesar Pelli. Of course, the many exhibits are quite amazing and great for all ages. You can even come out for film screenings, special events and exhibit openings.
UW-Madison Geology Museum
When it rains, why not head inside and enjoy all kinds of rocks and minerals. The Geology Museum offers all kinds of fun with dinosaur and fossil exhibits, fluorescent displays and so much more. Check out the meteorites and the many minerals throughout with a self-guided tour or you can enjoy storytelling times, as well.
Wisconsin Historical Museum
If you haven't had a chance to make it out for the Let's Eat Out! Series this year, you need to make your plans soon. You have through August 3rd to enjoy the great food carts found throughout Madison. They will be at various parks from 5:30pm to 7:30pm every Monday through Thursday until August 3rd. Of course, this is weather permitting.
About 30 local vendors participate in this event giving you plenty of choices to enjoy. Let's Eat Out! has become a huge advocate for local and mobile food businesses, along with bringing those in Madison together as a community. They want families to get out and enjoy quickly made, delicious food at these great events every week.
Locations for Food Carts
The schedule can change at any time, but currently, Let's Eat Out! has the following locations for food cart dining:
- Mondays - Randall Park, Cypress Spray Park and Holy Cross Church
- Tuesdays - Vilas Park, Fitchburg Nine Springs Golf Course, Orfan Park in Sun Prairie, Midvale Boulevard (400 block) and Worthington Park
- Wednesdays - Allied Dr. Neighborhood, Scenic Ridge Park in Verona, Haen Family Park, Country Grove Park and Heiden Haus in Shorewood Hills
- Thursdays - City Church, Meadowood Park, Nakamoa Park, Atwood Avenue at Jackson Street and Wheeler Road at Comanche Way
These locations are expected to provide dinners from food carts through August 3rd. After this date, a third session is expected to be announced for September and October.
Several food carts participate in the event every week. Some of the choices you may run into at each location include:
- Ladonia Cafe
- Leia's Lunchbox...
Madison provides so many benefits for cyclists; it has been dubbed at the "Unofficial Bike Capital of the Midwest." Whether you're commuting to work, trying to get exercise or just want to get out in nature, there are plenty of biking opportunities throughout the city.
Miles and miles of trails are found throughout the Greater Madison area. The best time to ride is throughout the summer and fall, but bike enthusiast will even head out when snow is on the ground.
Biking Makes Madison the Healthiest City
While more than just biking goes into the factors to name Madison the healthiest city, it's a huge part of the ranking. Livability.com ranked Madison as one of America's healthiest cities in 2015 due to the huge number of recreational opportunities and active citizens.
Neighborhoods provide well-maintained paths for biking, which helps make citizens active. The UW-Madison Arboretum Trail and many others make it easy to get out on a bike and get some exercise in.
More Bikes than Cars
It may seem unlikely, but it's true, Madison has more bikes than cars. In fact, the League of American Bicyclists' gave Madison the Platinum status back in November of 2015 because of the biking. The city was one of only four to receive this status. Even communities around Madison, such as Monona, Sun Prairie, Fitchburg and Middleton received accolades from the League of American Bicyclists'. Madison also received platinum status from...
Summer is almost here, which means it's nearly time to head to the pool. Throughout Madison, there are several neighborhood swimming pools for children and adults to enjoy. Many of the pools offer memberships, while others offer paid admission to the public. Here's a quick guide to some of the best neighborhood pools found throughout Madison.
Found in the Parkwood Hill neighborhood, this swimming pool was built before many of the homes in the neighborhood. It includes areas for diving, lap swimming and for kitchens. The pool area also offers basketball and tennis.
This is a membership pool, which includes swimming and diving lessons. It also includes access to tennis and basketball leagues with something for all ages.
Monona Community Pool
A 300,000-gallon swimming pool with a water slide, the Monona Community Pool is a great choice for the summer. It will even host the All City Dive Meet in July, which will be fun for spectators.
The swimming pool includes eight lanes for lap swim, a wading pool, two diving boards, a water slide and a concession stand. Admission is $4 for adult residents and $3 for children. Non-residents can get in for $5 and seniors received a discounted admission of $3.
Evening swim is also offered Monday through Thursday from 7pm to 9pm for just $2 per person. Season passes are also available and range from $45 to $190.
Opening on June 9th and staying open through Labor Day Weekend, the Goodman pool is one of the top choices in the area. It was the first municipal swimming pool and opened in 2006. This swimming pool offers plenty of fun with water slides,...
Miles of bike trails are found all throughout Madison. Whether you prefer a park trail or a road trail, there are plenty of choices all throughout the city. Here's a look at some of the top bike trails in Madison, Wisconsin.
Capital City State Trail
Providing the link between Glacial Drumlin State Trail and Military Ridge state Trail, Capital City State Trail provides nine miles of trails throughout the Capital Springs State Recreation Area. It follows seven miles of bikeways in the city from Nob Hill to the east site of Madison. There's a one-mile link on Verona Road in Fitchburg, which connects the trail to the Military Ridge State Park.
Quarry Ridge Recreation Area Trails
More than three miles of off-road and freeride bike trails are provides with inclines and drops. Those looking for more of a challenge will love these bike trails. The recreation area has trails rated from beginner to expert with views of the pond and plenty more. You can also gain direct access to the Military Ridge State Trail here.
Military Ridge State Trail
A 40-mile trail in Iowa and Dane Counties, the Military Ridge State Trail provides plenty of great biking. It's very close to the connection of Badger and Capital City state trails in Fitchburg and a new 6-mile section is included called the Shake Rag Trail. It's a pretty level trail with smooth asphalt and limestone surfaces. A 2.5-mile section from in Verona and Fitchburg has been paved for in-line skating...
A 28-acre public zoo located in Madison, the Henry Vilas Zoo provides plenty of great fun for the entire family. It's visited by about 750,000 people every year and for good reason. If you're looking for something fun to do with the family this summer, visit the zoo.
The Henry Vilas Zoo provides a number of different exhibits including:
- Tropical Rainforest Aviary
- North American Prairie
- Arctic Passage
- Primate House
- Children's Zoo
- Wisconsin Heritage
- Big Cat Exhibits
- And More!
You'll discover all types of animals and wildlife all throughout the zoo. Children will get to see plenty of different animals and experience something unique.
There are several different animals you will discover at the zoo from all over the world. Animals from Asia, Africa, Australia, North America and South America are found at the zoo. Some of the animals you will find here include:
- Black Sans
- Polar Bears
- Harbor Seals
- Grizzly Bears
- North American River Otter
- African Lion
- Ring-Tailed Lemur
- Amur Tiger
- And More!
Discover all the animals at the Henry Vilas Zoo.
William and Anna Vilas gave the city of Madison 50 acres of land back in 1904 with the condition of using the land for a public park and pleasure ground. The zoo was named after their son Henry, who died of diabetes at a very young age. The family also asked the city to make the park admission-free.
In 1911, the land given was...
Wisconsin is home to more than 500 golf courses. Some of the best courses are found throughout Madison, including three incredible country clubs. If you're looking for a private club to join, here are three you should put high on your list.
Stoughton Country Club
Found in the City of Stoughton, this country club goes back to 1899. It's located on the shores of Lake Kegonsa. The course was built on local farm land and originally covered nine holes.
Before it became what it is today, Stoughton Country Club was destroyed by fire and tornado. Today, it's a private club with 18 holes and measures 6,355 yards. It's not a long course, but does provide many great perks for gold and social membership.
Along with the golf course, the country club provides a pier with a dock, restaurant facilities and a clubhouse.
Blackhawk Country Club
A pure golf club with nothing else, Blackhawk Country Club provides some of the finest views you will find in the Madison area. It's an 18-hole golf course measuring 6,193 yards. Along with the course, golfers enjoy the driving range, putting green, golf academy, junior programs and more.
Blackhawk Country Club is actually listed on the National Park Service's Register for Historic Places. It's located in Shorewood Hills on the shores of Lake Mendota and provides one of the best choices for private facilities in the area.
Maple Bluff Country Club
Another great choice in Madison is Maple Bluff Country Club. It's a great place to call home and the golf course provides plenty of challenge throughout. It was originally created as a five-hole course in...
One of the best parts of living in Madison is the Wisconsin Badgers football team. This year Bret Bielema led the badgers to the top rankings in college football and qualified them for the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. One of my favorite things to do during the fall is attend a home badger football game in Camp Randall stadium.
If you've ever lived in a college town, you know what I'm talking about. It's awesome! On a Saturday morning you can literally feel the excitement. There's been many times where I have walked down Regent street and my vision is overwhelmed with a sea of red Bucky Badger fans. The smell the brats and burgers on the grill takes over the senses. And it all tastes great with a cold brew from Wisconsin.
Some like Miller Lite but I prefer more of the microbrews like Ale Asylem, Lake Louie, or Great Dane. This year I only attended the Wisconsin vs. Northwestern game and had tickets in the Student Section. That in itself is an experience. We stood the entire game, cheered loudly as Bucky did his push-ups for every point scored, and we even initiated the wave around the whole stadium. I've lived in Madison most of my life and would highly recommend attending a badger football game if you ever get the chance.
If you're looking to live near stadium, then search the Vilas, Regent, or Dudgeon Monroe neighborhoods. They are some of the best places to live in Madison. Click here to search for homes for sale close to Camp Randall Stadium. Or search for homes in other places around Madison and south central Wisconsin.
Entertainment in Madison can be fabulous. It's not exactly broadway, but there are some talented people in this area. One great place to experience some of the local talent is in the Overture Center on State Street. This beautiful facility is host of a tremendous amount of cultural activities. The other day I had the opportunity to see "A Christmas Carol". That was my first visit to the Overture Center since it's recent remodel. In the past I have seen the "Nutcracker", "Rent", "David Copperfield" and even "Hootie and the Blowfish" (many years ago).
Some say that there are not enough cultural experiences in Madison. Especially when compared to Chicago or New York. And while Madison might not be the worlds epicenter for arts and entertainment, I believe there are a number of places to satisfy that craving for arts and entertainment.
Other good venues to check out concerts, plays, and other fun things include the Barrymore, the Orpheum, or even the Alliant Energy Center. I think any of these places contribute the energy and excitement that exists in downtown Madison. One organization that is committed to this continued vibrancy is Downtown Madison, Inc.
If you're looking for something exciting in the Madison area, I encourage you to look downtown. Maybe catch a play at the Overture Center, concert at the Barrymore, or grab some food in a quaint restaurant on State Street. I'm sure you'll enjoy it.
I love winter. I mean, I love winter. Many people think I'm crazy. "It's so cold outside," most of them say. But I absolutely love it when we have days in Wisconsin like the last week when it snowed more than 6 inches. The crisp cool refreshing air. The calm quiet sounds of a heavy snowfall. The physical reminder that winter has officially arrived.
What's so great about snow is that you can actually go outside and enjoy it. For example, last night I went to Elver Park for an evening of sledding. And the other day I went snowmobiling with another agent in my office. Sometime soon, I hope to go snowboarding at Tyrol Basin or Cascade Mountain. Actually I'd really like to take a trip out West to the snowy peaks of Colorado for some snowboarding.
What is it about winter that some people love and others hate? I suppose the obvious negative is that people don't like to be cold. They would like to escape to Florida or Arizona when the snow flies. I guess that says something about me. I like winter and the changing of seasons. I like finding different ways to get out and enjoy life, regardless of the temperature.
In Madison, there's all kinds of fun things to do in the snow. I already mentioned sledding at Elver, one of my favorites. On the east side of Madison I have heard that Olbrich Park is also great for sledding.
Another thing that looks really fun is kiteboarding or ice sailing on the lakes. It's probably not safe right now because the lakes aren't completely frozen, but soon these activities will be an option to further enjoy winter in Wisconsin.
That makes me think more of ice and it's role in Wisconsin culture. Ice skating, ice fishing, ice hockey, broom ball, and cross country skiing are a handful of time honored traditions that many people enjoy this time of year. I encourage you to get out there and try enjoy this weather. Or go South and avoid the cold. As for me, I'll be in the snow or on the ice for the next few months.