10 Best Things to Do in Madison, Wisconsin

The wonderful thing about Madison, Wisconsin, is the juxtaposition of lush scenery with lively city streets, creating a feeling of being secluded but also having access to everything a city has to offer. It doesn’t matter if you want to escape to a serene botanical garden or spend the day perusing specialty boutiques, Madison runs the gamut. Here are our favorite things to do in the city!  

Henry Vilas Zoo

At this zoo, you’ll see polar bears, prairie dogs, penguins, tigers, giraffes, and more. Henry Vilas Zoo is also a donation-based zoo, which means there is no entrance fee, zoo-goers can choose to donate and designated spots throughout the zoo. And the very best part is that the zoo is open almost 365 days a year.

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Olbrich Botanical Gardens

These botanical gardens can offer a breath of fresh humid air during the winter months or a welcome change of scenery during the summer months. The garden possesses 16 acres of outdoor display gardens as well as an indoor tropical conservatory, offering differing but equally enthralling experiences.

Chazen Museum of Art

Located on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, the Chazen Museum of Art is home to more than 20,000 works of art, according to its website. Those works are contained in different collections like prints, photography, paintings, sculpture, and more.

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The Memorial Union Terrace

Famous for its vibrantly colored and uniquely designed outdoor chairs, the Memorial Union Terrace is usually filled with people during the summer months. Oftentimes there’s a live band playing on the outdoor stage with the lake as a backdrop.

Wisconsin State Capitol Building

A destination for visiting politicians and elementary school field trips alike, the state capitol building is an icon on the Madison city skyline. The inside is just as breathtaking as the view when it’s lit up on a clear summer night over the water. Schedule a tour or simply visit and explore.

The Arboretum

The Arboretum is also affiliated with the University of Wisconsin-Madison. According to its website it is “widely recognized as the site of historic research in ecological restoration.” With a multitude of restored ecological communities, visitors can explore using almost 20 miles of hiking trails. 

Madison Museum of Contemporary Art

This art museum has been around for more than a century, and in and of itself is a little bit of history. The Museum of Contemporary Art may have a smaller collection than the Chazen, but it contains works from significant American artists of the 20th and 21st centuries as well as numerous Wisconsin-based artists. 

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State Street

State Street is a really a combination of venues. The street leads to the Square, which surrounds the capitol, and houses dozens of restaurants, specialty boutiques, and clothing stores. State Street is also home to the downtown nightlife of Madison, engulfed in an exciting and energetic atmosphere.

Wisconsin Historical Museum

Have you ever stood in a replica of a 1,000-year-old house before? Wisconsin’s Historical Museum offers that experience, that along with mock-ups of a fur-trading post, a lead mine, and a tractor cab. Schedule a tour and visit; there’s several floors filled with history.

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Pheasant Branch Conservancy

Perhaps some knew it as its former name, Bellefontaine Conservancy, but now it goes by the title of Pheasant Branch Conservancy, containing more than 150 acres of land. There are Native American burial grounds at some high points of the area. Pack a bag and set off into the wilderness.

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