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Top Activities in Madison

See all 10 things to do in Madison

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Madison Attractions

Named for former United States President James Madison and pronounced the state capital in 1837, Madison is Wisconsin's civic heart and soul surrounded by acre upon acre of glittering lakes. University of Wisconsin-Madison students savor waterfront views while walking to class and the city’s trademark is "Lake, City, Lake." Whether it's the sublime natural scenery or the tens of thousands of undergraduates who descend on the college town each fall, Madison has long been celebrated as a friendly and progressive city. That’s not all—from world-class museums to endless outdoor adventures Madison offers a warm welcome to every type of traveler.

Things to Do in Madison with Kids

Madison has loads of close by fun experiences for you and the kids. Our family friendly experiences will keep the crew entertained for hours.

Areas & Neighborhoods in Madison

A 20-minute trip from Dane County Regional Airport, Madison occupies the isthmus between Lake Monona and Lake Mendota as well as the surrounding metropolitan region. A flurry of activity occurs around the Wisconsin State Capitol, State Street, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.

Downtown Madison

Farm-to-table affairs and late-night comedy clubs sprout up beside governmental buildings in downtown Madison—the city's oldest and most politically progressive district. At night, the Wisconsin State Capitol region comes alive with art lovers who flock to venues like the Majestic Theatre and The Frequency.

State Street

Linking the city’s business district with University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, State Street is Madison’s pedestrian enclave. Landmarks like the Overture Center for the Arts and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art are flanked by retail chains, making this one-stop-shopping for travelers and college students alike.

University of Wisconsin-Madison Campus

A trip to Madison isn't complete without a stroll through the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. Popular routes include a trek to the Observatory Drive Scenic Overlook or a walk along the Howard Termin Lakeshore Path for front-row seats to the water sports taking shape on University Bay.

Things to See in Madison

The Wisconsin Badgers—the university’s winning football team—call to mind the state's prospecting past, when lead miners were forced to "live like badgers," burrowing into hillsides to keep warm. Whether you want to take in a Badgers game or catch a live concert at one of the city's historic theaters, there are a plethora of things to see in Madison. The Majestic Theatre books indie acts like the Avett Brothers and Big Thief, while the Barrymore features a blend of music and comedy, showcasing side-splitting headliners like Tig Notaro and Stephanie Miller. If you're visiting in autumn, consider purchasing tickets to a Badgers game at Camp Randall Stadium—just make sure to plan in advance as home games frequently sell out.

Sightseeing in Madison

From perusing the largest producer-only farmers' market in the United States to wandering through the cool halls of acclaimed museums, Madison beckons with a bevy of things to do. Art aficionados might elect to launch their journey at the Chazen Museum of Art which houses a permanent collection covering diverse historical periods and cultures. Madison is also home to several buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, including the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center, the First Unitarian Society Meeting House, and the Lamp House. Strike out on a tour to these venues. Or, venture to the Wisconsin Historical Museum, where countless artifacts from Wisconsin State history are proudly displayed. On the other side of the capitol, the Dane County Farmers Market unfurls on Wednesdays and Saturdays, providing the region with vegetables, flowers, meats, and cheese. Traveling with kids? Let them stretch their legs on a romp through the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum, pausing to soak up the sights at the Henry Vilas Zoo on the north end of Lake Wingra.

Free Things to Do in Madison

A visit to Madison need not cost a fortune. You can leave your wallet behind if you go to:

Madison Museum of Contemporary Art - Whatever your age, this gallery will spark your imagination and educate your mind.

Vilas Park - If you'd like to increase the fun factor during your break, head straight here.

Madison Area Technical College Downtown Campus - If you enjoy modern-style architecture and design, add this attraction to your sightseeing list.

Governor's Mansion - If you're eager to explore the history of the area through its landmarks, include this one on your to-do list.

Capitol Square - Socialize with the local residents and seek out the real character and energy of this fascinating place.

Lake Mendota - Find a spot to sit and savor the tranquility that comes with being close to the water.

Madison Public Library - If you'd love to explore a few of the more important or interesting places in the community, this place is worth a visit.

First Unitarian Society Meeting House - Do a bit of quiet reflection and find out a thing or two about this site's spiritual significance.

Allen Centennial Gardens - Arrange a picnic date and enjoy a leisurely stroll around the beautiful plants.

Explore The Neighborhoods of Madison

Marquette

While visiting Marquette, you might make a stop by sights like Orton Park and Yahara Place Park.

Regent

Regent might not have many top sights, but Camp Randall Stadium and Kohl Center are two attractions nearby that you can check out.

Tenney-Lapham

While visiting Tenney-Lapham, you might make a stop by sights like Lake Mendota and Breese Stevens Field.

Bay Creek

Though Bay Creek might not have many top sights, you can venture to the surrounding area to see attractions like Alliant Energy Center and Kohl Center.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What to do in Madison on a sunny day?

A Vacation Photographer in Milwaukee is the ideal activity if you don't want to miss a moment of sunshine in Madison.

What to do in Madison on a rainy day?

If it's bucketing down during your visit, hang up your umbrella and have a go at one or two of these popular indoor activities:

What should I not miss in Madison?

You'll want to put these things at the top of your sightseeing list to make the most of your trip:

  • University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Camp Randall Stadium
  • Henry Vilas Zoo
  • Olbrich Botanical Gardens

What can you do in Madison for free?

You could even leave your credit card in the hotel safe for the day, because these great attractions won't cost you a thing:

  • University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Henry Vilas Zoo
  • Olbrich Botanical Gardens
  • Chazen Museum of Art