16 Best Things To Do in Madison, Wisconsin

best things to do in Madison, WI

Madison is the capital of Wisconsin and the second largest city in the state. The city is located on an isthmus between two lakes, Lake Mendota and Lake Monona.

Downtown Madison is compact and lively, with a mix of shops, restaurants, bars, and parks. The State Capitol building is located downtown, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus is just a few blocks away.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is one of the largest universities in the United States, with over 42,000 students. The university’s sports teams are very popular in Madison, and the football team regularly plays in front of packed crowds at Camp Randall Stadium.

Madison is also home to a number of museums and theaters, as well as a thriving music scene. Visitors to Madison can enjoy all that the city has to offer, from its lively downtown to its beautiful lakes and parks.

With so much to see and do, here’s a list of the best things to do in Madison, Wisconsin.

1) Wisconsin State Capitol Building

Wisconsin State Capitol Building
Wisconsin State Capitol Building, Madison, WI.” by Mike Rohde is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

The Wisconsin State Capitol Building is located in the state capital of Madison, Wisconsin. The building is home to the Wisconsin State Legislature and the office of the governor of Wisconsin.

It is made of limestone and granite and stands three stories tall. The Capitol building is an example of early 20th-century Neo-Classical architecture and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors to the Capitol can take a guided tour, view artwork, and participate in educational programs.

2) Olbrich Botanical Gardens

olbrich botanical gardens
Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison, Wisconsin on a summer day

The Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison, Wisconsin are a must-see for any nature lover. Spanning 16 acres, the gardens feature a wide variety of plant life, from towering trees to delicate flowers.

Visitors can also explore a number of different gardens, including a Thai garden and a rock garden. In addition, the Olbrich Botanical Gardens offer stunning views of Lake Monona.

Whether you’re interested in exploring the diverse plant life or simply enjoying the peaceful surroundings, the Olbrich Botanical Gardens are sure to please.

3) Dane County Farmers’ Market

Dane County Farmers' Market
dane county farmer’s market” by h-bomb is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

The Dane County Farmers’ Market is a weekly outdoor market located in Madison, Wisconsin. It features a wide variety of locally produced fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, flowers, and other products.

The market is open every Saturday from April through November and features live music and other entertainment. In addition to being a great place to find fresh, local produce, the Dane County Farmers’ Market is also a popular destination for tourists and locals alike.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of people visit the market to enjoy the vibrant atmosphere and to support the local economy.

4) Henry Vilas Zoo

henry vilas zoo
Henry Vilas Zoo-Lion 10-29-2012 473” by Richard Hurd is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Henry Vilas Zoo is a free 28-acre zoo in Madison, Wisconsin, United States. accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

It features over 100 species of animals and is named after Henry Vilas, a philanthropist and former Wisconsin senator who donated the land for the zoo. The zoo opened its doors to the public in 1911.

The zoo became one of the first in the country to exhibit live animals year-round when it built an indoor auditorium for its winter programming. Today, Henry Vilas Zoo remains committed to providing excellent animal care and education opportunities to our community while remaining free and accessible to all.

5) Memorial Union Terrace

Memorial Union Terrace
Memorial Union Terrace” by wackybadger is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Memorial Union Terrace is one of the most popular attractions in Madison, Wisconsin. The terrace overlooks Lake Mendota and offers stunning views of the city skyline.

It is also a great place to relax and enjoy the scenery. The terrace is open to the public all year round, and there is no admission fee. Memorial Union Terrace is also home to several events and activities throughout the year, including live music, movies, and more.

Whether you’re looking for a place to enjoy the view or just want to take a break from your busy day, Memorial Union Terrace is definitely worth a visit.

6) Camp Randall Stadium College Football Game

camp randall
Camp Randall Stadium” by Jim Bauer is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

Camp Randall is a historic stadium on the campus of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin. It is the home of the Wisconsin Badgers football team. The stadium currently has a capacity of 80,321 people.

Camp Randall is the fourth-oldest stadium in college football and the oldest stadium in the Big Ten Conference. The stadium is named afterRandall Park, which was adjacent to the current site of the stadium. The park was named after Alexander Randall, who served as the governor of Wisconsin from 1858 to 1862.

The stadium was built in 1895 with a capacity of 10,000 people. It was originally used for military training during the Spanish-American War and World War I. After the wars, it became the home of the Badgers football team and is one of the great college football stadiums to watch a game at!

7) Chazen Museum of Art

chazen museum of art
Chazen Museum of Art” by Phil Roeder is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The Chazen Museum of Art in Madison, Wisconsin is one of the leading art museums in the Midwest. The museum houses an impressive collection of art from around the world, including works by such renowned artists as Pablo Picasso and Rembrandt.

In addition to its permanent collection, the Chazen also hosts a variety of temporary exhibitions throughout the year. Visitors can also take advantage of the museum’s educational programs, which include art classes and lectures.

Whether you’re an art enthusiast or simply looking for a place to enjoy some beautiful works of art, the Chazen Museum of Art is definitely worth a visit.

8) University of Wisconsin Madison Arboretum

University of Wisconsin Madison Arboretum
Wingra Woods-University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum- 05-12-2012 241” by Richard Hurd is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The University of Wisconsin Madison Arboretum is a spectacular example of how nature and humans can coexist in harmony. The Arboretum is home to restored prairies, woodlands, and wetlands.

Visitors can explore miles of hiking and biking trails or take a leisurely stroll through the grounds. The Arboretum is also home to a variety of plant and animal life, making it a popular destination for bird watching and wildlife photography.

In addition to its natural beauty, the Arboretum is also a research facility, dedicated to studying and managing the health of our ecosystems. Whether you’re looking for a place to relax or an opportunity to learn, the University of Wisconsin Madison Arboretum is sure to please.

9) Catch a Basketball or Hockey Game at Kohl Center

Kohl Center, Madison, WI 1-5-2012 262” by Richard Hurd is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The Khol Center Arena is a sports and entertainment arena located on the campus of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin.

The arena is home to the university’s men’s and women’s basketball teams, as well as the men’s ice hockey team. The arena opened in 1998 and has a capacity of 17,230. The arena is named after former university president Peter Khol.

10) Madison Children’s Museum

madison children's museum
Madison Children’s Museum” by beautifulcataya is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

The Madison Children’s Museum is a hands-on museum geared towards children ages birth to 8. The museum has five permanent exhibit galleries and four temporary exhibit galleries, as well as a workshop space, an art studio, and a rooftop garden.

The temporary exhibits rotate every few months and have included such themes as pirates, dinosaurs, and Outer Space. In addition to the exhibits, the museum also offers a variety of educational programs for children and families. These include story times, workshops, camps, and field trips. The Madison Children’s Museum is a great place to explore and learn for children of all ages.

11) Madison Museum of Contemporary Art

Madison Museum of Contemporary Art
Stairwell, Madison Museum of Contemporary Art” by sswj is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art is a leading institution in the world of contemporary art. Located in Wisconsin, the museum has a permanent collection of over 4,500 works of art, as well as rotating temporary exhibitions.

The museum also offers a variety of educational programs, including tours, lectures, and workshops. In addition, the museum has an extensive research library that is open to the public. The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art is a vital resource for both artists and art lovers alike.

12) Allen Centennial Gardens

Allen Centennial Gardens
Allen Centennial Gardens” by ibm4381 is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The Allen Centennial Gardens in Madison, Wisconsin are a must-see for any gardener or plant enthusiast. The gardens feature a wide variety of plant life, from roses to raspberries.

The gardens are divided into several sections, each with its own focus. The Rose Garden, for example, features over 1,000 varieties of roses, while the Herb Garden includes a wide range of medicinal and culinary herbs. There is also a children’s garden, a shade garden, and a hosta garden.

In addition to the beautiful plant life, the Allen Centennial Gardens also offer views of Lake Mendota and the capitol building. The gardens are open daily from dawn to dusk and are free to the public.

13) Kayaking in the Lakes

kayaking
River kayaker” by Lost Albatross is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

For those looking for a little adventure, kayaking in Madison, Wisconsin is a great option. The city is situated on an isthmus between two lakes (Lake Mendota and Lake Monona), making it the perfect place to paddle around.

There are also plenty of places to rent kayaks, so you can explore at your own pace. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even try your hand at whitewater kayaking on the city’s rivers. With a little planning and preparation, kayaking in Madison can be a great way to spend a day.

14) University of Wisconsin Geological Museum

The University of Wisconsin Geological Museum in Madison, Wisconsin is a fascinating place to visit for anyone interested in geology. The museum contains a wide variety of exhibits on the history and evolution of the Earth, as well as on the different types of rocks and minerals that make up its crust.

Visitors can view a range of fossils, including some of the oldest specimens ever found. The museum also has a working seismograph that records any earthquakes that occur around the world. In addition, the museum offers a variety of educational programs and events, making it an ideal destination for school groups or families.

Whether you’re a budding geologist or simply curious about the natural world, the University of Wisconsin Geological Museum is sure to have something to pique your interest.

15) Frank Lloyd Wright’s Monona Terrace

monona terrace
Wisconsin capital, Monona Terrace fountain” by someToast is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Monona Terrace in Madison, Wisconsin is a stunning piece of architecture and a popular event venue. The building was originally designed by Wright in 1938 as part of his plans for the “Broadacre City” urban development project.

However, the project was not completed and the plans were not realized until 1997, when Monona Terrace was finally built. The building features a unique curved design and is constructed from precast concrete and glass. It is located on the shores of Lake Monona and offers stunning views of the city skyline.

Monona Terrace is home to a variety of events and programs, including public lectures, concerts, and exhibitions. It is also a popular wedding venue, offering both indoor and outdoor spaces for ceremonies and receptions.

16) Taliesin Estate

Taliesin Estate
Taliesin estate” by Willem van Bergen is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Nestled atop a high bluff overlooking the Wisconsin River, Taliesin Estate is a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home that has been meticulously restored to its original glory.

The estate includes the main house, which was built in 1911, as well as several outbuildings and an expansive garden. Visitors can tour the main house and learn about Wright’s life and work, or simply enjoy the stunning views from the property.

The Taliesin Estate is a must-see for anyone interested in architecture or history, and it provides a fascinating glimpse into the mind of one of America’s greatest architects.

Recap of the Best Things to do in Madison, Wisconsin

  • Wisconsin State Capitol Building
  • Olbrich Botanical Gardens
  • Dane County Farmers’ Market
  • Henry Vilas Zoo
  • Memorial Union Terrace
  • Camp Randall
  • Chazen Museum of Art
  • Kohl Center
  • University of Wisconsin Madison Arboretum
  • Madison Children’s Museum
  • Madison Museum of Contemporary Art
  • Allen Centennial Gardens
  • Kayaking in the Lakes
  • University of Wisconsin Geological Museum
  • Frank Lloyd Wright’s Monona Terrace
  • Taliesin Estate

Where to Next?

From great parks to a nice downtown area, check out Chattanooga, Tennessee!

For a great city near the Rockies and the oldest capitol in the US, be sure to head to Santa Fe, New Mexico!

Jackson, Tennessee is a wonderful small city with lots of nature, history and restaurants!

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