Top-Rated Things to Do in Madison, WI

Wisconsin

By Sarah Anderson

Welcome to Madison, Wisconsin – a vibrant city that combines a rich cultural heritage with stunning natural beauty. Whether you’re a foodie, nature lover, history buff, or art enthusiast, Madison has something to offer for everyone. Explore this picturesque city nestled between two scenic lakes and discover the top-rated things to do during your visit.

One of the must-visit attractions in Madison is the renowned University of Wisconsin-Madison. Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of this prestigious institution, known for its world-class education and groundbreaking research. Don’t miss the opportunity to stroll through the picturesque campus, visit the Memorial Union Terrace, and catch a Badgers sports game.

If you’re a nature lover, make sure to explore the stunning landscapes of Madison’s parks. From the famous Olbrich Botanical Gardens, with its stunning display of flowers and plants, to the picturesque Devil’s Lake State Park, where you can hike, swim, and enjoy breathtaking views, Madison offers a variety of outdoor activities for all ages.

No visit to Madison would be complete without exploring its thriving culinary scene. From farm-to-table restaurants to local breweries and farmers’ markets, there are endless options to satisfy your taste buds. Don’t forget to try the city’s famous cheese curds, a local delicacy that will leave you wanting more.

Whether you’re here for a weekend getaway or a longer stay, Madison will charm you with its natural beauty, vibrant culture, and warm hospitality. Plan your visit today and experience all the top-rated things to do in Madison, WI!

Best Attractions in Madison, WI

Madison, Wisconsin is a vibrant city with a variety of attractions that are sure to please visitors of all ages. Whether you’re interested in history, nature, or art, there’s something for everyone in Madison. Here are some of the best attractions to check out:

  • Visit the Wisconsin State Capitol: The Wisconsin State Capitol building is an impressive architectural gem that houses the state’s government. Take a guided tour to learn about the history and explore the beautiful interior.
  • Explore the University of Wisconsin-Madison: The University of Wisconsin-Madison is a top-ranked public research university. Take a stroll through the beautiful campus, visit the Memorial Union Terrace, and enjoy views of Lake Mendota.
  • Discover the Olbrich Botanical Gardens: The Olbrich Botanical Gardens is a stunning oasis of nature in the heart of the city. Explore the various gardens, including the Thai Pavilion and Garden, and enjoy the serene beauty.
  • Experience the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art: The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art is a must-visit for art enthusiasts. Explore the rotating exhibitions featuring works of modern and contemporary art from around the world.
  • Enjoy a visit to the Henry Vilas Zoo: The Henry Vilas Zoo is a popular attraction for families. Visit the wide range of animals, including lions, giraffes, and monkeys, and even take a spin on the carousel.
  • Take a stroll down State Street: State Street is a pedestrian-friendly street that runs through the heart of downtown Madison. Explore the eclectic mix of shops, restaurants, and cafes, and soak in the lively atmosphere.

These are just a few of the best attractions in Madison, WI. Whether you’re a history buff, nature lover, or art enthusiast, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in this vibrant city.

Explore the University of Wisconsin-Madison Campus

The University of Wisconsin-Madison campus is a vibrant and bustling hub of education, culture, and innovation. Located in the heart of Madison, the campus offers a wide range of activities and attractions for visitors to explore.

One of the most popular spots on campus is Bascom Hill, a picturesque area with stunning views of Lake Mendota and the downtown skyline. As you stroll up the hill, you’ll pass by the iconic Abraham Lincoln statue and the historic Bascom Hall, which houses the university’s administration. It’s a great place to relax, have a picnic, and take in the beauty of the campus.

For art lovers, the Chazen Museum of Art is a must-visit. Located on the corner of State Street and University Avenue, this museum houses a vast collection of paintings, sculptures, and other artworks from various time periods and cultures. Admission is free, so it’s a perfect place to spend an afternoon immersing yourself in the world of art.

Another popular attraction on campus is the Memorial Union Terrace. This outdoor gathering space overlooks Lake Mendota and is a hub of activity during the warmer months. Visitors can enjoy live music, sip on a locally brewed beer, and take in the stunning lake views. It’s a great place to socialize and experience the vibrant energy of the campus community.

If you’re interested in science, a visit to the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery is a must. This state-of-the-art research facility is dedicated to interdisciplinary research in fields such as stem cell biology, regenerative medicine, and nanotechnology. Take a guided tour and learn about groundbreaking research happening right on campus.

Lastly, don’t miss out on the opportunity to catch a Badgers game at Camp Randall Stadium. Home to the University of Wisconsin-Madison football team, this stadium is renowned for its electrifying atmosphere and passionate fans. Whether you’re a sports enthusiast or not, experiencing a game day in Madison is a truly unforgettable experience.

Attraction Description
Bascom Hill A picturesque area with stunning views of Lake Mendota and the downtown skyline. It’s a great place to relax, have a picnic, and take in the beauty of the campus.
Chazen Museum of Art A museum that houses a vast collection of paintings, sculptures, and other artworks from various time periods and cultures. Admission is free.
Memorial Union Terrace An outdoor gathering space overlooking Lake Mendota, where visitors can enjoy live music, locally brewed beer, and stunning lake views.
Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery A state-of-the-art research facility dedicated to interdisciplinary research in fields such as stem cell biology, regenerative medicine, and nanotechnology.
Camp Randall Stadium Home to the University of Wisconsin-Madison football team, this stadium offers an electrifying atmosphere and passionate fans.

Enjoy Outdoor Activities on Lake Mendota

One of the top-rated things to do in Madison, WI is to enjoy outdoor activities on Lake Mendota. This beautiful lake provides the perfect backdrop for a variety of recreational activities.

One popular activity is boating. Visitors can rent a kayak, canoe, or paddleboard and explore the expansive lake. There are several rental shops around the lake that offer a range of options for all skill levels.

Fishing is another popular pastime on Lake Mendota. The lake is home to a variety of fish, including bass, walleye, and musky. Fishing enthusiasts can cast their lines from the shore or venture out onto the lake in a boat.

Activity Description
Sailing Take a sailing lesson and learn how to navigate the waters of Lake Mendota.
Swimming Enjoy a refreshing swim in the clear waters of Lake Mendota at one of the designated swim areas.
Water skiing Experience the thrill of water skiing across the smooth surface of Lake Mendota.

If you prefer a more leisurely activity, you can simply relax on the beach and soak up the sun. There are several public beaches along the lake that offer sandy shores and stunning views.

No matter what activity you choose, spending time on Lake Mendota is a must-do when visiting Madison. From boating to fishing to swimming, there is something for everyone to enjoy in this outdoor paradise.

Visit the State Capitol Building

One of the top-rated things to do in Madison, WI is to visit the State Capitol Building. Located in the heart of downtown Madison, this magnificent building is a must-see for any visitor to the city.

The State Capitol Building is not only the seat of the Wisconsin state government, but it is also a stunning architectural masterpiece. With its iconic dome, which is modeled after the dome of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., the building stands as a symbol of democracy and civic pride.

When you visit the State Capitol Building, you can take a guided tour to learn about its history, architecture, and function. Knowledgeable guides will lead you through the building, pointing out significant features and sharing interesting stories about the state government.

One of the highlights of the tour is the chance to see the breathtaking rotunda. The rotunda features beautiful murals depicting scenes from Wisconsin’s history and is topped by a stunning glass dome that lets in natural light. It’s an awe-inspiring sight that you won’t want to miss.

During your visit, be sure to explore the various chambers and halls of the building. You may even have the opportunity to observe the state legislature in action. It’s a fascinating experience to witness democracy in progress.

After your tour, take some time to stroll around the grounds surrounding the State Capitol Building. You’ll find beautifully landscaped gardens, statues commemorating Wisconsin’s notable figures, and, if you visit during the summer months, you can enjoy outdoor concerts and events.

Whether you have a love for history, politics, or simply appreciate beautiful architecture, a visit to the State Capitol Building in Madison, WI is a must. It’s an experience that will leave you with a deeper appreciation for the state of Wisconsin and its rich heritage.

Discover the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art

The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA) is a must-visit destination for art enthusiasts and visitors to Madison, Wisconsin. Located in the heart of downtown Madison, MMoCA is dedicated to exhibiting and promoting contemporary art in all its forms.

With a diverse collection of over 5,000 works of art, MMoCA offers visitors an array of thought-provoking and inspiring pieces. From paintings and sculptures to photography and video installations, the museum showcases the work of both established and emerging artists.

One of the highlights of MMoCA is its ever-changing exhibitions, which keep visitors coming back for more. These dynamic displays feature a variety of themes and artistic styles, ensuring that there is always something new and exciting to explore.

When visiting MMoCA, be sure to check out their calendar of events. The museum regularly hosts artist talks, lectures, and workshops, providing visitors with a unique opportunity to engage with contemporary artists and art professionals.

Before leaving, make sure to browse through the museum’s gift shop, which offers a selection of unique and locally made art pieces, books, and more. The shop is the perfect place to find a one-of-a-kind souvenir or gift.

Whether you’re a seasoned art lover or simply curious about contemporary art, a visit to the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art is an enriching and memorable experience. Immerse yourself in the vibrant world of modern art and discover the creativity and imagination of the artists showcased at this esteemed institution.

Important Information:

Location: 227 State St, Madison, WI 53703

Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM

Admission: Free (donations appreciated)

Please note that due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, some exhibitions and events may be subject to change. It is recommended to check the museum’s website for up-to-date information before your visit.

Take a Stroll through the Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Immerse yourself in the beauty and tranquility of the Olbrich Botanical Gardens, a true gem in the heart of Madison. With its stunning landscapes, elegant gardens, and diverse plant collections, the gardens offer a unique experience for nature lovers of all ages.

Take a leisurely stroll along the winding paths and discover the different themed gardens, each with its own distinct charm. From the vibrant colors of the Rose Garden to the serenity of the Thai Pavilion and Garden, there’s something to captivate every visitor.

Make sure to visit the Bolz Conservatory, where you can explore a lush tropical oasis filled with exotic plants and vibrant flowers. Step into the lush greenery and feel transported to a different world as you marvel at the diversity of flora.

Throughout the year, the Olbrich Botanical Gardens host a variety of events and exhibitions that celebrate nature and horticulture. From garden tours and workshops to live music performances and art installations, there’s always something happening to enhance your visit.

Whether you’re a botany enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply looking for a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, the Olbrich Botanical Gardens is a must-visit destination in Madison. Experience the beauty and tranquility of this urban oasis and create lasting memories.

Experience the Thriving Food Scene

If you’re a food lover, you won’t want to miss out on the incredible culinary offerings in Madison, WI. The city is home to a thriving food scene that caters to all tastes and preferences.

Start your culinary adventure by exploring the local farmers’ markets. Madison is known for its farm-to-table movement, and you’ll find an abundance of fresh produce, artisanal products, and delicious treats at these markets. Whether you’re in search of heirloom tomatoes, artisan cheeses, or homemade bread, you’re sure to find something that will satisfy your taste buds.

Once you’ve stocked up on local ingredients, why not try your hand at cooking a Wisconsin-inspired meal? With its strong dairy and meat traditions, the state offers plenty of delicious recipes to choose from. From beer-battered cheese curds to bratwursts cooked on the grill, there’s no shortage of hearty dishes to enjoy.

If you prefer to let someone else do the cooking, Madison is home to a diverse range of restaurants that cater to every palate. Whether you’re in the mood for international cuisine, upscale dining, or classic comfort food, you’ll find it all here. Be sure to try the local specialties, such as the famous deep-dish pizza or a butter burger, for a truly authentic Madison experience.

Don’t forget to save room for dessert! Madison’s dessert scene is just as impressive as its main course offerings. Indulge in a slice of rich and creamy cheesecake or try a scoop of artisanal ice cream made with locally sourced ingredients.

With its vibrant food scene, Madison, WI is a haven for foodies. So grab your fork and embark on a culinary adventure you won’t soon forget!

Attend a Performance at the Overture Center for the Arts

When visiting Madison, Wisconsin, make sure to attend a performance at the Overture Center for the Arts. Located in the heart of downtown Madison, the Overture Center is a premier destination for experiencing local and international talent.

With its state-of-the-art facilities, the Overture Center hosts a diverse range of performances, including Broadway shows, dance performances, classical music concerts, and theatrical productions. The center is home to several resident companies, such as the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Madison Ballet, ensuring a constant flow of high-quality performances throughout the year.

Whether you’re a fan of musicals, ballet, or contemporary art, there’s something for everyone at the Overture Center. The center’s main hall, Overture Hall, is renowned for its excellent acoustics, providing an immersive and unforgettable experience for both performers and audience members.

Before or after the performance, make sure to explore the Overture Center’s stunning architecture. The building itself is a work of art, with its sleek design and grand entrance. Take a moment to appreciate the beautiful details and craftsmanship that went into creating this cultural landmark.

For a complete night out, take advantage of the array of dining options located near the Overture Center. From casual eateries to upscale restaurants, you’ll find plenty of choices to satisfy your culinary cravings. Additionally, make sure to check out the center’s gift shop, where you can find unique souvenirs and mementos to remember your visit.

No matter if you’re a local resident or a tourist, attending a performance at the Overture Center for the Arts should definitely be on your list of top-rated things to do in Madison, WI.

Wander around the Chazen Museum of Art

Located in the heart of Madison, Wisconsin, the Chazen Museum of Art is a must-visit for art enthusiasts. Featuring over 20,000 works of art from various time periods and cultures, this museum offers a diverse and captivating experience.

From ancient sculptures to contemporary paintings, the Chazen Museum of Art showcases a wide range of artistic styles and mediums. Visitors can wander through the museum’s galleries and explore the impressive collection, which includes works by renowned artists such as Monet, Picasso, and Warhol.

Not only does the Chazen Museum of Art house an extensive collection, but it also hosts temporary exhibitions and educational programs. Visitors can attend lectures, workshops, and guided tours to deepen their understanding and appreciation of art.

One of the highlights of the museum is its rooftop sculpture garden, offering breathtaking views of Madison’s skyline. This serene oasis is the perfect place to take a break from exploring the museum and reflect on the art you’ve seen.

Whether you’re a seasoned art connoisseur or simply curious about different artistic expressions, the Chazen Museum of Art offers something for everyone. Immerse yourself in the world of art and let your imagination soar as you wander through this cultural gem in Madison.

Explore the Henry Vilas Zoo

One of the top-rated things to do in Madison, WI is to visit the Henry Vilas Zoo. This zoo offers a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with a wide variety of animal species from all over the world.

At the Henry Vilas Zoo, you can see animals like giraffes, elephants, lions, and tigers. The zoo also has a primate exhibit where you can observe monkeys and lemurs. In addition to these larger animals, the zoo is also home to many smaller species, including reptiles, birds, and insects.

One of the highlights of the Henry Vilas Zoo is the opportunity to participate in educational programs and animal encounters. These programs allow visitors to learn more about the animals and their habitats, as well as interact with them firsthand.

For those looking to spend a full day at the zoo, there are picnic areas and a children’s play area available. You can bring your own lunch or purchase food from the on-site concessions.

Admission to the Henry Vilas Zoo is free, making it an affordable option for families and animal lovers of all ages. The zoo is open year-round, although some exhibits may be closed during the winter months. Parking is available on-site for a small fee.

Whether you’re a visitor to Madison or a local resident, a visit to the Henry Vilas Zoo is a must. It’s a fun and educational experience that allows you to connect with the natural world and learn more about the incredible diversity of animal life.

Visit the Wisconsin State Historical Museum

The Wisconsin State Historical Museum is a must-visit attraction in Madison, WI. It offers a fascinating look into the state’s rich history and culture.

The museum showcases a wide range of exhibits that cover various aspects of Wisconsin’s history, from its earliest Native American settlements to its growth as a state. Visitors can explore exhibits on topics such as Native American tribes, European exploration and settlement, the lumber industry, agriculture, and more.

One of the highlights of the museum is its collection of artifacts, which includes objects from different time periods and cultures. These artifacts provide a tangible connection to the past and offer insights into the lives of the people who lived in Wisconsin throughout history.

In addition to its exhibits and artifacts, the Wisconsin State Historical Museum also offers educational programs and events. These programs are aimed at both children and adults and cover a wide range of topics related to Wisconsin history. Visitors can participate in workshops, lectures, and hands-on activities to further enhance their understanding and appreciation of the state’s history.

Whether you’re a history buff or simply curious about the past, a visit to the Wisconsin State Historical Museum is sure to be an enriching and enjoyable experience. It’s a chance to learn about the unique heritage and stories that have shaped the state of Wisconsin.

Enjoy Hiking and Wildlife Viewing at the UW Arboretum

If you are a nature lover and enjoy spending time outdoors, the University of Wisconsin Arboretum is a must-visit attraction in Madison, WI. Spanning over 1,200 acres, this stunning green space offers visitors the opportunity to explore its extensive network of hiking trails and immerse themselves in the beauty of Wisconsin’s native flora and fauna.

Start your adventure by grabbing a trail map from the visitor center, where knowledgeable staff can provide you with valuable information about the different hiking routes and current wildlife sightings. With over 20 miles of trails to choose from, ranging in difficulty and length, there is an option for every skill level and interest.

As you meander along the winding paths, keep your eyes and ears open for the diverse wildlife that calls the Arboretum home. From songbirds and waterfowl to reptiles and mammals, there is always something exciting to spot. Make sure to pack your binoculars and a camera to capture these special moments.

Trail Name Distance Difficulty
Prairie Trail 0.9 miles Easy
Lake Wingra Loop 2.8 miles Moderate
Woodland Walk 1.5 miles Easy
Wetland Wander 3.2 miles Difficult

After an invigorating hike, take a moment to relax and enjoy a picnic in one of the many designated areas. The peaceful surroundings and breathtaking views make for the perfect spot to unwind and savor the natural beauty of the Arboretum.

Whether you are a seasoned hiker or just looking for a leisurely stroll, the UW Arboretum offers an unforgettable experience. So, lace up your hiking boots, grab your camera, and prepare to be amazed by the magnificent scenery and abundant wildlife.

Take a Historic Tour of the First Unitarian Society Meeting House

If you’re interested in history and architecture, a visit to the First Unitarian Society Meeting House is a must-see when in Madison, Wisconsin. This iconic building, designed by legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright, showcases his unique style and commitment to creating spaces that harmonize with nature.

Completed in 1951, the First Unitarian Society Meeting House is now a National Historic Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was one of the last major commissions of Wright’s career and is considered one of his most important works.

During a guided tour of the meeting house, you’ll have the opportunity to explore the genius of Wright’s design. The open interior features a central congregation space with soaring ceilings, natural lighting, and wooden pews. The skylights and stained glass windows create a beautiful interplay of light and shadow, while the integration of natural materials such as redwood and brick contribute to the building’s overall warmth and organic aesthetic.

In addition to the main congregation space, the meeting house also includes a variety of other rooms that showcase Wright’s attention to detail. The Unity Chapel, for example, features a stunning glass mosaic mural created by artist Marion Herbst. The building also houses a library, classrooms, offices, and an auditorium.

Visitors to the First Unitarian Society Meeting House can also learn about the progressive values and principles that have guided the congregation throughout its history. The Unitarian Universalist principles of inclusion, social justice, and intellectual freedom are reflected in the design and use of the building.

A visit to the First Unitarian Society Meeting House is a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the architectural brilliance of Frank Lloyd Wright and experience a place of spiritual and cultural significance. Whether you’re a history buff, an architecture enthusiast, or simply looking for a fascinating way to spend your time in Madison, this historic tour is not to be missed.

Location 900 University Bay Drive, Madison, WI 53705
Hours Guided tours are available on select days and times. Please check the official website for the most up-to-date information.
Admission Admission fees apply for guided tours. Discounts are available for students, seniors, and children.
Contact Phone: (608) 233-9774
Email: [email protected]

FAQs

What are some top-rated attractions in Madison, WI?

Madison, WI offers a variety of top-rated attractions for visitors to enjoy. Some of the most highly recommended attractions include the Wisconsin State Capitol, Olbrich Botanical Gardens, Henry Vilas Zoo, and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.

What can I do at the Wisconsin State Capitol?

The Wisconsin State Capitol is a must-see attraction in Madison. Visitors can take guided tours of the building, explore the beautiful architecture, learn about the history of Wisconsin, and even view the legislative process in action when the legislature is in session.

Are there any outdoor activities in Madison, WI?

Absolutely! Madison is known for its beautiful outdoor spaces. Visitors can enjoy activities like hiking and biking in the extensive trail system, boating on Lake Mendota or Lake Monona, and picnicking in one of the city’s many parks.

What can I expect at the Olbrich Botanical Gardens?

The Olbrich Botanical Gardens are a must-visit attraction in Madison. Visitors can explore the stunning outdoor gardens, including a rose garden, rock garden, and Thai pavilion. The gardens also feature a tropical conservatory and a gift shop and plant sale area.

Is there a recommended time to visit Madison, WI?

Madison offers something to do year-round, but the best time to visit really depends on your interests. Summer is great for outdoor activities and enjoying the lakes, while fall brings beautiful foliage. Winter allows for ice skating, skiing, and winter sports, and spring brings blossoming flowers and new life to the city.

What are some popular tourist attractions in Madison, WI?

Madison, WI has several popular tourist attractions. Some of the top-rated things to do in Madison include visiting the Wisconsin State Capitol, exploring the Olbrich Botanical Gardens, walking around the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, and visiting the Henry Vilas Zoo.

Are there any outdoor activities to do in Madison, WI?

Yes, Madison, WI offers plenty of outdoor activities for visitors. You can go hiking or biking along the beautiful trails of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve, take a boat tour on Lake Mendota, or rent a kayak or paddleboard to explore the lakes. Additionally, you can enjoy picnicking and swimming at the various city parks.

Video:

LIVE Railcam: Big 10 Curve, Arvada, CO, USA | Virtual Railfan

Photo of author

Sarah Anderson

Sarah Anderson, an Anchorage-based travel writer contributing her expertise to TravelAsker. Her in-depth knowledge of Alaska, both in her hometown and throughout the state, makes her the go-to local expert. From top-notch accommodations to delectable dining spots and thrilling activities, Sarah’s insightful recommendations ensure you’ll have a fantastic family trip in Alaska.

Leave a Comment