Things to do in Madison

About Madison

The Wisconsin State Capitol, with its impressive architecture and historical significance, tops the list of must-see attractions. Olbrich Botanical Gardens and the University of Wisconsin's Arboretum are essential for nature lovers, while art enthusiasts should not miss the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art and the Chazen Museum of Art.
Families with children will enjoy the Madison Children's Museum, Henry Vilas Zoo, and the sprawling playgrounds at Tenney Park. These attractions offer interactive and engaging opportunities for fun and learning.
Enjoying the lakeside at Memorial Union Terrace, biking or hiking the extensive network of trails throughout the city, or engaging in water sports on Lake Mendota are some of the best outdoor activities in Madison.
Indulge in the arts at the Overture Center for the Arts, explore the extensive collections at the Wisconsin Historical Museum, or enjoy a bout of ice skating at one of Madison's indoor rinks.
Guided Capitol tours, self-guided walking tours of historic Madison neighborhoods, and boat tours around the lakes are among the best tours in Madison that offer insights into the city's culture and beauty.
The Chazen Museum of Art and the Wisconsin Historical Museum draw visitors looking to engage with art and history, while the Madison Children's Museum is a hit with those traveling with youngsters.
Cultural enthusiasts can opt for indoor self-guided audio tours of Madison's galleries and museums, encompassing both historical and contemporary points of interest.
Short and educational, the Wisconsin State Capitol tour gives a quick overview of its history and structure, ideal for those with limited time in Madison.

1 review for audio tours in Madison

June 2024
Downtown Madison: Sightseeing, History, and Lively City Vibes
Vague, short and not worth $9.

Best Things to Do In Madison

Embark on a cultural adventure and discover the top attractions and hidden gems of Wisconsin's capital with our expertly curated guide.

Madison: Wisconsin Historical Museum

What is it?
A gateway to uncovering Wisconsin's rich heritage through diverse exhibits and artifacts.
Why you should go?
This museum is a treasure trove for history buffs searching for things to do in Madison. One can delve into the stories of native peoples, European settlers, and the innovations that have shaped the region. With exhibits covering everything from social movements to the daily life of Wisconsinites, it offers a narrative that weaves through the fabric of time. Engaging and informative, it’s a cornerstone among the places to visit in Madison for anyone interested in the state's past and present.

Madison: Arboretum University of Wisconsin

What is it?
A sprawling green space offering picturesque landscapes and nature trails.
Why you should go?
For those contemplating what to see in Madison, the Arboretum provides a lush escape into nature's beauty. With its extensive collection of plant species and over 20 miles of paths, visitors can experience a serene environment ideal for walking, bird watching, or simply unwinding. Educational programs and seasonal beauty make it one of the best things to do in Madison for reconnecting with nature and enjoying outdoor Madison activities.

Madison: Capitol Square Farmer's Market

What is it?
A vibrant local farmers' market surrounding the Capitol, brimming with fresh produce and goods.
Why you should go?
Capitol Square Farmer's Market stands out as one of the fun things to do in Madison, offering a chance to mingle with locals and taste the region's bounty. It's a foodie's haven where one can find everything from artisan cheeses to homemade preserves. Amidst the backdrop of the Capitol, this market epitomizes community spirit and is a flavorful addition to any Madison excursions, providing a truly authentic and sensory experience.

Madison: Overture Center for the Arts

What is it?
An architectural marvel and premier venue for performing arts, exhibitions, and cultural events.
Why you should go?
The heart of Madison's cultural scene, the Overture Center for the Arts is where the city's artistic pulse is best felt. Visitors can revel in an array of performances, from Broadway shows to symphony orchestras. This center's dynamic programming ensures that there's something for everyone, making it a highlight in options for what to do in Madison. The Overture Center is a cornerstone of culture and one of the best Madison tours you can take, without even stepping outside.

Madison: Tenney Park

What is it?
A scenic urban park offering year-round recreational activities and picturesque settings.
Why you should go?
Whether it's ice skating in the winter or picnicking during the sun-drenched days of summer, Tenney Park promises a delightful retreat. As a versatile location for Madison activities, the park features expansive lawns, a charming lagoon, and ample space for sports and leisure. It's an idyllic destination ideal for those seeking both relaxation and adventure amongst the busy cityscape and is easily accessible for a spontaneous or scheduled stop on most Madison excursions.

Madison: Henry Vilas Zoo

What is it?
A family-friendly, admission-free zoo that features a diverse array of wildlife.
Why you should go?
Nestled in the heart of the city, Henry Vilas Zoo offers an educational and fun-filled outing for visitors of all ages. As one of the fun things to do in Madison, the zoo allows you to get up close with exotic animals from around the world in thoughtfully designed habitats. Engage in interactive exhibits, attend special events, and learn about conservation efforts making this an ideal stop for those exploring the best Madison tours or seeking engaging Madison activities.

Madison: Chazen Museum of Art

What is it?
An expansive art museum featuring collections from historical to contemporary works.
Why you should go?
Art enthusiasts wondering what to do in Madison will be delighted by the Chazen Museum of Art. With its impressive collections that span centuries and cultures, it represents a premier place to visit in Madison. The museum provides a contemplative environment to appreciate art, making it a must-see destination. Its exhibitions, educational programs, and special events could be highlighted in Madison tours, ensuring a culturally enriching experience.

Madison: Memorial Union Terrace

What is it?
A lakeside terrace known for its outdoor seating and spectacular views of Lake Mendota.
Why you should go?
Memorial Union Terrace is a staple in the compilation of things to do in Madison. An iconic gathering spot for both locals and guests, the terrace offers live music, food, and an unparalleled view making it a perfect spot for relaxation and socializing. As one of the best things to do in Madison, enjoying a sunset here should be on every visitor's list. It epitomizes Madison's laid-back lifestyle and vibrant community atmosphere.

Madison: Madison Children's Museum

What is it?
An interactive and educational museum designed to inspire and engage young minds.
Why you should go?
Parents looking for fun things to do in Madison with young travelers will find the Madison Children's Museum as a top choice. With hands-on exhibits, this attraction ignites curiosity, encourages exploration, and promotes learning in a playful environment. It's a place where kids can learn about science, arts, and sustainability while playing. Ideal for families, it ranks high on the list of Madison activities that cater to children.

Madison: Monona Terrace

What is it?
A stunning lakeside convention center and community space designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Why you should go?
Fans of architecture and design will be drawn to Monona Terrace, a gem among things to see in Madison. This site provides not only an insight into Wright's visionary ideas but also panoramic views of Lake Monona. As a venue for community gatherings, public events, and art displays, it's an essential part of what to see in Madison. Its rooftop terrace is an especially attractive venue for both relaxation and learning about the city's heritage.

TOP-5 Tours in Madison for First Time Visitors

  • Delve into the rich history and vibrant atmosphere of the State Capitol building, a paramount among things to see in Madison, with an immersive audio experience outlining its architectural grandeur and political significance.
  • Stroll through the Olbrich Botanical Gardens, absorbing the tranquility of nature. This tour highlights fun things to do in Madison, offering an auditory journey through beautifully landscaped spaces and thematic gardens.
  • Explore the iconic State Street, a hub for Madison activities, via an engaging narrative that takes you through eclectic shops, cozy cafes, and vivacious cultural spots, capturing the essence of what to do in Madison.
  • Step back in time with a tour of the historic University of Wisconsin Campus. Learn what to see in Madison as you listen to stories of academic excellence and student life that have shaped the city.
  • Experience the best things to do in Madison with a lakefront audio tour around Lake Mendota, featuring narration on natural vistas, recreational opportunities, and places to visit in Madison for unparalleled views and relaxation.

Fun things to do in Madison with kids

Madison, a city bursting with charm and a family-friendly atmosphere, offers a multitude of activities that cater to children's curiosity and sense of adventure. First on the list is the Madison Children's Museum, where interactive exhibits encourage hands-on exploration and learning across themes including sustainability, arts, and science. It's a place where creative play is both educational and unforgettable. Next, visiting the Henry Vilas Zoo provides the opportunity for wildlife encounters without any entry fee, making it an accessible and engaging experience for families. The zoo's commitment to conservation and education shines through its exhibits, making it more than just a day of fun. Lastly, the Olbrich Botanical Gardens is a peaceful retreat where kids can connect with nature. With beautiful themed gardens and the enchanting Bolz Conservatory, it's an ideal spot for kids to run and discover the wonder of the natural world. Together, these attractions represent the best of what to do in Madison with the whole family.

Things to do in Madison with family

Family outings in Madison abound with activities that are sure to make your trip memorable. The Henry Vilas Zoo is a perennial favorite, offering families a chance to bond over the thrill of seeing animals from all over the world in a beautiful, conservational environment — and all without an entry fee. For a splash of natural beauty and recreation, venture to the Madison Children's Museum where interactive exhibits foster creativity and learning in a playful and welcoming setting. Here, children can engage their senses and parents can delight in the joy of discovery alongside them. Lastly, no family visit to Madison is complete without a stop at the Olbrich Botanical Gardens. This living museum boasts stunning outdoor gardens and an indoor tropical conservatory that provide a serene backdrop for family photos and moments of wonder. Whether you're on a quest for education or relaxation, these destinations are sure to top your list of family-friendly things to do in Madison.

Free things to to in Madison

Experience the delights of Madison without spending a dime with these top-ranking free attractions. Immerse yourself in the political and architectural splendor of the Wisconsin State Capitol. With its grand dome and intricate details, it stands as an emblematic Madison tours stop, allowing visitors to appreciate Wisconsin's history and governance up close through self-guided tours. Nature enthusiasts can revel in the serenity of the University of Wisconsin Arboretum, a sprawling expanse of protected land that offers peaceful trails, distinct ecological communities, and a diversity of plant species — perfect for a leisurely stroll or a family picnic. Lastly, Madison's vibrancy is best enjoyed by taking a leisurely wander down State Street; this pedestrian thoroughfare connects the Capitol Square to the university campus and is lined with an eclectic mix of shops, sidewalk cafes, and public art installations, making it a cultural hotspot for those keen on absorbing local atmosphere. These free activities showcase the richness of Madison's cultural and natural offerings.

Cheap things to do in Madison

Madison provides a wealth of budget-friendly options for those looking to explore the city without stretching their wallet. Begin your adventure at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, where admission is free, and the ever-rotating exhibits provide a feast for the senses. Dive into the world of modern and contemporary art and discover works by both established and emerging artists. Next, head to the Olbrich Botanical Gardens, where for a small fee, you can explore an array of outdoor gardens and the impressive Bolz Conservatory, home to exotic plants, a waterfall, and free-flying birds. Lastly, take advantage of the city's well-maintained bike paths to traverse the scenic routes around the lakeshore, adding a healthy dash of outdoor activity to your day. These bike paths provide an economical and invigorating way to take in the beautiful landscapes that Madison has to offer, ensuring a fulfilling visit without the high cost.

Things to do in Madison for couples

Madison sets the stage for romance and shared experiences, offering couples an array of memorable activities. Begin with a leisurely stroll through the lush Olbrich Botanical Gardens, where captivating flora and thematic gardens provide a serene backdrop for spending quality time together. Next, indulge in some cultural enrichment with a visit to the Chazen Museum of Art, where the two of you can explore an extensive collection of art that spans history and continents, all in the intimate setting of a well-curated museum. Round off your Madison experience with a sunset sail on Lake Mendota. Renting a sailboat or joining a guided tour can offer a tranquil and picturesque end to a day spent exploring. Each attraction encapsulates a unique aspect of Madison, from natural elegance to artistic sophistication, making the city a splendid destination for couples seeking to foster their connection.

Things to do in Madison at night

Madison transforms as the sun sets, offering lively entertainment options for night owls. One can't miss the vibrant scene at the Memorial Union Terrace, where live music fills the air against the backdrop of Lake Mendota. It's a perfect spot to unwind with a locally brewed beer and soak in the energetic college-town vibe. For those drawn to the performing arts, an evening at the Overture Center for the Arts promises a dose of culture with performances ranging from theater to live concerts and ballet, showcasing Madison's artistic talent. Lastly, indulge in a moonlit stroll through the Capitol Square. The illuminated Capitol building provides a stunning centrepiece, while the surrounding area buzzes with nightlife, from cozy pubs to upscale dining. These evening attractions provide a taste of things to do in Madison at night, ensuring visitors experience the city's charm well after dark.