The capital of Wisconsin, Madison offers visitors a diverse choice of things to see and do. Art and history lovers can tour the iconic Wisconsin State Capitol, visit the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, and explore the Chazen Museum of Art.
Best things to do in Madison, Wisconsin with kids include the Henry Vilas Zoo, Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier, and the University of Wisconsin Geology Museum.
1.Wisconsin State Capitol
© Courtesy of plasid - Fotolia.com
Resting on an isthmus between two lakes, Lake Monona and Lake Mendota, against the backdrop of Madison’s skyline is the Wisconsin State Capitol, one of the top Madison attractions.
Standing over 200 feet tall, the Capitol is an architectural masterpiece, made of 43 varieties of stone from around the world, hand-carved furniture and exquisite glass mosaics, and topped by Daniel Chester French's elegant gilded bronze statue, “Wisconsin.” Visitors can experience the beauty of the Capitol on a guided tour, which explores the entire building.
See the Italian-styled Governor's conference room, which is adorned with 26 historical and allegorical paintings by Hugo Ballin and French walnut furniture and head into the Senate and Assembly Chambers, which feature New York and Italian marble, and a magnificent Edwin Blashfield mural.
2 E Main St, Madison, Wisconsin, Phone: 608-266-0382
2.Madison Museum of Contemporary Art
© Madison Museum of Contemporary Art
The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art exhibits, collects, and preserves modern and contemporary art to educate and inspire the community to take an interest in art. The museum is housed in a new facility at the Overture Center for the Arts that was designed by world-renowned architect Cesar Pelli and boasts over 50,000 square feet of exhibition space and a beautiful rooftop sculpture garden.
The museum's collection spans the 20th and 21st centuries and includes works by Frida Kahlo, John Steuart Curry, and Diego Rivera. The main galleries of the museum host major exhibitions, while the sculpture garden features rotating exhibits in a stunning garden setting. The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art is one of the best things to do in Madison, Wisconsin. It also features a 230-seat lecture hall, a new-media gallery, and a modern study center.
227 State Street, Madison, Wisconsin, Phone: 608-257-0158
3. Things to Do in Madison, WI: Olbrich Botanical Gardens
© Courtesy of nungning20 - Fotolia.com
Olbrich Botanical Gardens are located on Atwood Avenue and are made up of 16 acres of outdoor display gardens and an indoor, tropical conservatory.
Named after their founder, Michael Olbrich, the gardens feature a Thai Pavilion and Garden – the only one in the continental United States, a beautifully manicured Rose Garden, which has shrub and perennial roses, and a variety of specialty gardens such as a Herb Garden, a Sunken Garden and a Perennial Garden.
The Bolz Conservatory is a 50-foot-high glass pyramid that houses a diverse collection of tropical plants, including blooming orchids, free-flying birds and butterflies, and a rushing waterfall. Read more
3330 Atwood Avenue, Madison, Wisconsin, Phone: 608-246-4550
4.Camp Randall Stadium, University of Wisconsin
© Courtesy of Leo Lintang - Fotolia.com
Camp Randall Stadium is the home of Wisconsin's football team, The Badgers. The stadium was built in 1917 and is one of the nation’s largest school-owned stadiums with a current seating capacity of over 80,000.
In addition to hosting University of Wisconsin football games, the stadium also hosts a variety of events throughout the year, including music concerts, Drum Corps International, and Green Bay Packer exhibition games. The historic stadium also houses the Athletic Operations Building, the Fetzer Center study area for student-athletes, lounges, offices, and a beautiful display of football memorabilia.
Explore the history of the famous stadium on a variety of tours, which visit Camp Randall's luxury suites, and the Buckingham and Varsity Club seats with panoramic views of the field. Tours need to be booked at least two weeks in advance.
1440 Monroe Street, Madison, Wisconsin, Phone: 608-262-1866
5. University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum
© Courtesy of arinahabich - Fotolia.com
The University of Wisconsin–Madison Arboretum is a world-class arboretum and botanical research center located on Seminole Highway.
Managed by the University of Wisconsin and home to the oldest and most varied collection of restored ecological communities in the world, the Arboretum is home to a diverse variety of trees, grasses, shrubs and flowers, including tallgrass prairies and a world-famous lilac collection.
The Arboretum aims to encourage and inspire the public’s interest in botany and nature by offering a variety of free walks, tours, and activities, as well as paid classes, workshops and summer camps for people of all ages.
1207 Seminole Highway, Madison, Wisconsin, Phone: 608-263-7888
6. Chazen Museum of Art, Madison, Wisconsin
© Chazen Museum of Art
The Chazen Museum of Art is located at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and is home to 20,000 works of art from a variety of genres, cultures, and periods.
The museum's collections showcase works from modern, post-modern and contemporary European artists, including Joan Miro, Auguste Rodin, Thomas Gainsborough and Eugene Boudin, as well as American works by Shusaku Arakawa and John Curry. The Chazen also hosts several temporary exhibitions each year featuring local and international artists and works from around the world.
Visitors to the museum can also enjoy complimentary educational programming including docent-led tours, lectures, artist talks, films, family activities, and other exclusive events. Read more
750 University Ave, Madison, Wisconsin, Phone: 608-263-2246
7. Things to Do in Madison, WI: Allen Centennial Garden
© Courtesy of licvin - Fotolia.com
Allen Centennial Garden is based on the grounds of the Horticulture Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and serve as an outdoor classroom for students and the public alike.
The Gardens surround the historic Dean’s Residence, home of the first four Agricultural Deans of the University and act as a living laboratory for visitors of all ages.
The Allen Centennial Gardens offer several internships and educational classes, including ‘The Outdoor Display’, where the intern maintains herbaceous and woody plants in various sections of the Gardens and the ‘The Public Garden Leadership’, where the trainee learns about the management of a public garden/cultural non-profit organization. The Gardens are open year-round, dawn to dusk, and admission is free. Read more
620 Babcock Drive, Madison, Wisconsin, Phone: 608-576-2501
8.Madison Eats, Madison, Wisconsin
© Courtesy of cassiusjb - Fotolia.com
Experience Madison on a culinary journey around town with Madison Eats’ Food Tours. Explore the city’s unique neighborhoods and scenic downtown area while you enjoy delicious food and drink samples from some of Madison’s most highly acclaimed chefs and producers. En route, you will also visit historic buildings and landmarks and learn all about the history of the city and its burgeoning foodie scene.
Regular tours include Atwood Avenue Lunch and Dinner Walking Tours, B-Cycle Brunch Tours, and Downtown Food Cart Tours. Walking and cycling tours visit locally owned restaurants, cafés, bakeries and butcheries that support local farmers and producers, a chance to meet the chefs and residents, and delicious food and beverage samples. Tours need to be booked in advance.
9.State Street, Madison, Wisconsin
© Courtesy of Tomasz Zajda - Fotolia.com
State Street is a busy pedestrian mall in downtown Madison that features a host of shops, bars, restaurants and cafés, as well as live entertainment, making it a popular tourist destination. The bustling avenue extends from the Capitol to Lake Street and is home to over 370 shops, art galleries, museums, eateries and vibrant nightspots, many of which are locally owned.
State Street has developed a reputation for being the go-to place to celebrate Halloween when thousands of revelers take to the street in costumes to celebrate the holiday. If you are looking for things to do in Madison, Wisconsin, places of interest around State Street include the Memorial Library Mall and the Overture Center for the Arts.
10. What to Do in Madison: Henry Vilas Zoo
© Courtesy of Oksana Ariskina - Fotolia.com
The Henry Vilas Zoo is an admission-free, community-supported zoo in the heart of Madison. The zoo is home to a variety of animal species and diverse habitats, including a Tropical Rainforest Aviary with tropical plants and fish; a Big Cats Exhibit featuring Amur tigers and African lions; Arctic Passage, which is home to polar bears, grizzly bears and seals; and a Primate House with monkeys and other primates from all over the world.
If you are wondering what to do in Madison WI with kids, this is a great place to visit. The zoo presents a variety of educational programs about animals, nature and conservation for children of all ages, as well as bleacher programs and a range of games and activities.
702 S Randall Ave, Madison, Wisconsin, Phone: 608-266-4732
11.The Duck Pond - Madison Mallards
© Courtesy of Eric Hood - Fotolia.com
The Warner Park Stadium, otherwise known as ‘The Duck Pond’ is home to the Madison Mallards, a collegiate summer baseball team based in Madison. The field was built in 1982 and has a rich baseball history, hosting teams such as the Madison Muskies, the Hatters, and Madison Black Wolf.
Seating over 6,700 people, the stadium offers visitors a wide variety of activities to enjoy, such as the Meriter and Physicians Plus Kids Zone and the Mallards playground, which is home to a bounce house, Weiner-mobile slide and sand box. Find fantastic Mallard’s gear at the Sports Impressions Team Green Store or satiate your appetite one of 10 dining venues inside the ballpark. The park also offers baseball clinic and special events throughout the year.
2920 N. Sherman Ave, Madison, WI, Phone: 608-246-4277
12. Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier
© Courtesy of Jiri Hera - Fotolia.com
Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier creates exotic handcrafted fine and dark chocolates inspired by single-origin chocolates and using only the freshest ingredients. Located on Atwood Avenue, Gail’s shop attracts chocolate lovers from around the country to taste her world-class chocolates.
Using single-origin chocolate for most of her truffles, Gail melds the unique flavors of each particular region where the cacao beans are grown with various fruits, spices, nuts, teas and other natural ingredients to give each little chocolate an unique and unforgettable flavor. Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier presents an array of chocolates and truffles in a variety of regular and seasonal flavors.
2086 Atwood Ave, Madison, WI, Phone: 608-249-3500
13.DLUX, Madison, Wisconsin
DLUX is a casual eatery on Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard that serves gourmet burgers, cocktails, and specialty milkshakes. Neat sidewalk tables under a classic overhang boast beautiful views of the Capitol’s southeast entrance as diners tuck into homemade burgers and thick cut fries, crispy salads and a variety of sides.
Specialty ‘sorta’ burgers are a menu favorite, such as the ginger salmon burger or the DLUX topped with port wine-onion reduction, creamy blue cheese spread, and fresh arugula. Sip n house sodas or thick, creamy shakes during the day and signature cocktails before dinner. DLUX is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, seven days a week.
117 Martin Luther King Blvd. Madison, WI, Phone: 608-467-3130
Teddywedgers is the home of the hearty Cornish pasty. Teddywedgers has long been a Madison institution, but new owners’ siblings Anthony Rineer and Karima Berkani have given it a fresh, slightly hipper feel while still serving the same delicious pasties.
Located at the top of State Street, the little eatery offers traditional pasties, including steak and potatoes and onions, chicken pot pie and the Big Cheesy, as well as delicious breakfast pasties like the bacon, cheese and egg pasty. Sip on frothy cappuccinos, lattes and a range of sodas with your meal.
101 State St., Madison, WI, Phone: 608-257-2383
15.What to Do in Madison: Overture Center for the Arts
© Courtesy of Jaroslav Machacek - Fotolia.com
Located in the midst of the bustling State Street in Downtown Madison, the Overture Center for the Arts is a world-class performance center that presents an array of programs, shows and performances throughout the year. Home to 10 resident companies, including the Forward Theater Company, the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, the Children’s Theater of Madison, and the Kanopy Dance Company, the center also plays host to national and international touring artists and Broadway performers.
Enjoy a free behind-the-scenes tour and learn the history of one of the nation’s most beautiful theaters. If you are looking for romantic date ideas in Madison, watch a performance at the Overture Center for the Arts.
201 State Street, Madison, WI, Phone: 608-258-414
16. La Taguara, Madison, WI
© La Taguara
La Taguara is an award-winning restaurant that specializes in traditional Venezuelan and Latin American cuisine. Located on East Washington, the cozy eatery boasts a casual, laid-back ambiance with maps, handmade clothing and art decorating the walls in celebration of Venezuelan culture.
The extensive menu features a wealth of authentic Latin American fare, such as Cachapa con Queso y Cochino Frito (sweet corn pancakes filled with Venezuelan cheese and crispy pork served with nata and guasa caca) or classic tostones or empanadas, which can be ordered from the counter.
Help yourself to a drink at the self-serve Pepsi fountain machine or sip on Papelon con Limon or Jugo de Parchita.
3502 E Washington Ave., Madison, WI, Phone: 608-721-9100
17.Stalzy's Deli & Bakery
© Stalzy's Deli & Bakery
Presenting a fresh take on a traditional delicatessen, Stalzy’s Deli & Bakery serves handcrafted food and drinks created from locally sourced ingredients and made from scratch.
Co-owners Corbin Reynolds and Neil Stalboerger pride themselves on serving ‘old school’ deli favorites with an innovative twist, like the triple decker classic Club Sandwich packed with turkey, bacon, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayo and the Tough Guy Melt with roast beef, Havarti, red onion and horseradish mayo.
The bread is freshly baked on site, and a range of sides, including potato salad, coleslaw, and pickled beet salad can be added to make a sandwich platter. Stalzy’s Deli & Bakery is open every day of the week except Monday and hosts weekly events such as Friday Fish Fry and Oktoberfest.
2701 Atwood Avenue, Madison, WI, Phone: 608-249-7806
18. University of Wisconsin Geology Museum
© Courtesy of farbled_01 - Fotolia.com
The University of Wisconsin Geology Museum (UWGM) features over 1,000 items related to rocks, minerals and meteorites, invertebrate, vertebrate and fish fossils, and plant fossils. Housed in Weeks Hall on the UWGM campus, the museum aims to encourage an interest in and educate the public about geology and the history of the Earth.
Visitors to the museum can enjoy a range of tailor-made tours through the facility, from special kindergarten classes to adult civic groups, exploring hundreds of rock and mineral specimens, a unique black light mineral display and skeletons from dinosaurs and Ice Age animals. Admission to the museum is free.
University of Wisconsin Geology Museum, 1215 West Dayton Street, Madison, WI, Phone: 608-262-1412
19.Fresco Rooftop Restaurant & Lounge
© Fresco Rooftop Restaurant & Lounge
Enjoy breathtaking panoramic views over cocktails and contemporary cuisine at Fresco Rooftop Restaurant & Lounge. Located on the rooftop of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Fresco is a stylish and sophisticated eatery with chic décor and a creative menu of small plates, appetizers, European-style entrées and decadent desserts.
Artfully prepared and beautifully presented, the cuisine is accompanied by an alluring list of local and international wines and champagne, signature cocktails and bottled beer.
227 State St, Madison, WI, Phone: 608-663-7374
20.Vintage Brewing Company, Madison, Wisconsin
© Vintage Brewing Company
Vintage Brewing Company is a working brewery that produces craft beer on tap and features a casual bar and laid-back restaurant. The brewery creates 18 beers on tap, including stouts, ales, Bavarian-style Weissbier, and American IPA, all of which can be enjoyed on tap at the bar, along with a variety of bottled beer, Vintage Brewing sodas, handcrafted cocktails and boutique wines.
The kitchen presents a menu of innovative pub-style grub with a modern twist, including soups, salads, sandwiches and wraps, signature burgers, entrées, and desserts.
674 South Whitney Way, Madison, WI, Phone: 608-204-2739
21. Things to Do in Madison: Wisconsin Historical Museum
© Wisconsin Historical Museum
The Wisconsin Historical Museum is located on the Capitol Square and is dedicated to showcasing the history of Wisconsin and general American history through an extensive collection of over 110,000 historical objects and nearly 400,000 archeological artifacts.
Documenting the history of Wisconsin from prehistoric times to the present through a variety of photographic displays, artifacts, audio-visual presentations, and interactive multimedia programs, the museum’s exhibits span four floors and include ‘People of the Woodland’, ‘Frontier Wisconsin’, ‘The Immigrant State’, and ‘Making a Living.’ The museum offers guided and group tours for all ages, as well as field trips and other educational programs for children.
30 N Carroll St, Madison, WI, Phone: 608-264-6555
22.Monty's Blue Plate Diner, Madison, Wisconsin
© Monty's Blue Plate Diner
Monty’s Blue Plate Diner is a family-friendly neighborhood restaurant on Atwood Avenue that is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Laid-back and relaxed, the 50s-style diner serves a menu of traditional home-cooked dishes made from fresh, locally sourced ingredients and has frequently produced the best vegetarian and breakfast menu in the city. Don’t miss the sumptuous Tex-Mex breakfast, the vegetarian meat loaf or the mouthwatering desserts, which are nothing less than delectable.
Think a hot fudge brownie sundae made with Sassy Cow Creamery ice cream and freshly made cream pies. Monty’s also serves a variety of easy-drinking wines, bottled and tap beer, and handcrafted cocktails.
2089 Atwood Ave., Madison, WI, Phone: 608-244-8505
23.Johnny Del Monico's, Madison, WI
© Johnny Del Monico's
Johnny Delmonico's exudes an elegant ‘New York steakhouse’ style, with warm, dark interiors of wood paneling and Art Deco finishes, a beautiful mahogany bar, crisp white linens and ambient lighting… and the menu is just as good. Offering the best steaks in Madison, Johnny Delmonico's Executive Chef Todd Downing does just that, presenting a menu of prime cut, house-aged Certified Angus Beef steaks, fresh seafood, soups, salads, and sides.
The robust menu is paired with a curated selection of fine wines and champagne from around the world, as well as specialty cocktails, bottled and draft beer and an exclusive choice of whiskeys, scotch and bourbons.
130 S. Pinckney St, Madison, WI, Phone: 608-257-8325
24.Dane County Farmers' Market
© Courtesy of Chuck Place - Fotolia.com
Founded in 1972 by Madison’s then-Mayor Bill Dyke to unite Dane County's urban and rural cultures, the Dane County Farmers’ Market is the largest producers-only farmers’ market in the United States. The market is held on Saturday mornings from April to November on Madison’s Capitol Square and on Wednesday mornings on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. During the winter months, the market is held indoors at the Monona Terrace and between January and April, at the Madison Senior Center.
Over 300 vendors completely encircle Capitol Square, selling a broad range of fresh farm produce, meats, poultry and cheese, as well as baked bread and pastries, confectionery, handmade clothing, jewelry and arts and crafts.
Capitol Square, Madison, WI, Phone: 608-455-1999
25.Ice Age National Scenic Trail
© Courtesy of nataba - Fotolia.com
The Ice Age National Scenic Trail is a seasonally changing 1,200-mile trail that stretches across the state of Wisconsin in all four directions. The trail was established in 1980 and traces the edge of what was once a massive glacier, featuring trailheads and access points along the route.
The Ice Age Trail provides visitors an opportunity to enjoy an array of outdoor activities, such as hiking and backpacking, hunting and fishing, wildlife and bird watching, camping, stargazing and cross-country skiing.
There are several interpretive centers along the trail that delve into the glacial history and geology of Wisconsin and offer visitors an informative and entertaining indoor activity to enjoy.
More road trips: 31 Beautiful Romantic Weekend Getaways in Wisconsin.
25 Best Things to Do in Madison, Wisconsin
- Wisconsin State Capitol, Photo: Courtesy of plasid - Fotolia.com
- Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Photo: Madison Museum of Contemporary Art
- Things to Do in Madison, WI: Olbrich Botanical Gardens, Photo: Courtesy of nungning20 - Fotolia.com
- Camp Randall Stadium, University of Wisconsin, Photo: Courtesy of Leo Lintang - Fotolia.com
- University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum, Photo: Courtesy of arinahabich - Fotolia.com
- Chazen Museum of Art, Madison, Wisconsin, Photo: Chazen Museum of Art
- Things to Do in Madison, WI: Allen Centennial Garden, Photo: Courtesy of licvin - Fotolia.com
- Madison Eats, Madison, Wisconsin, Photo: Courtesy of cassiusjb - Fotolia.com
- State Street, Madison, Wisconsin, Photo: Courtesy of Tomasz Zajda - Fotolia.com
- What to Do in Madison: Henry Vilas Zoo, Photo: Courtesy of Oksana Ariskina - Fotolia.com
- The Duck Pond - Madison Mallards, Photo: Courtesy of Eric Hood - Fotolia.com
- Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier, Photo: Courtesy of Jiri Hera - Fotolia.com
- DLUX, Madison, Wisconsin, Photo: DLUX
- Teddywedgers, Photo: Teddywedgers
- What to Do in Madison: Overture Center for the Arts, Photo: Courtesy of Jaroslav Machacek - Fotolia.com
- La Taguara, Madison, WI, Photo: La Taguara
- Stalzy's Deli & Bakery, Photo: Stalzy's Deli & Bakery
- University of Wisconsin Geology Museum, Photo: Courtesy of farbled_01 - Fotolia.com
- Fresco Rooftop Restaurant & Lounge, Photo: Fresco Rooftop Restaurant & Lounge
- Vintage Brewing Company, Madison, Wisconsin, Photo: Vintage Brewing Company
- Things to Do in Madison: Wisconsin Historical Museum, Photo: Wisconsin Historical Museum
- Monty's Blue Plate Diner, Madison, Wisconsin, Photo: Monty's Blue Plate Diner
- Johnny Del Monico's, Madison, WI, Photo: Johnny Del Monico's
- Dane County Farmers' Market, Photo: Courtesy of Chuck Place - Fotolia.com
- Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Photo: Courtesy of nataba - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of rudi1976 - Fotolia.com