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Top Things To Do In Madison

Madison, Wisconsin is a city known for its small-town feel and global perspective. It’s a city of many nicknames: Mad City, Mad Town, “78 Square Miles Surrounded by Reality.” Its citizens are equal parts environmentally conscious and active. Outdoor enthusiasts will find four lakes to explore. If you’re looking for an outdoor workout, Madison offers more than 200 miles of hiking and biking trails. Visitors looking for leisure will enjoy downtown Madison’s historic sites, freshly brewed beer and, of course, its famous cheese curds. Continue scrolling and make new memories on your trip to Madison.

First stop: Graze. This restaurant offers some of the best cheese curds in Madison. After grubbing up, hit the trails or see the Wisconsin Badgers take on their rivals at the stadium.

Here are some of the best things to do near Madison:

  • Explore more than 20 miles of footpaths and restored prairies at UW-Madison Arboretum
  • Party down with Bucky the Badger at the tailgate before a Badgers game
  • Spend an afternoon swimming at Lake Mendota
  • Visit Madison’s capitol building, the only one of its kind to be built on an isthmus
  • Venture through the expansive outdoor gardens at Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Madison is laid-back in all the right ways, especially when it comes to spending habits. Wander for free at a local museum or visit the zoo. It’s easy to discover affordable activities when visiting Madison.

Cheap things to do near Madison include:

  • Cozy up with a good book at the Madison Public Library
  • Ride the merry-go-round at Henry Vilas Zoo, which offers free admission
  • Find inspiration at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art
  • Decide once and for all between dijon and poupon at the National Mustard Museum
  • Take a trip through state history at the Wisconsin Historical Museum

For grade-A vacationers on the hunt for the best, Madison offers historic sites, funky monuments, and quaint storefronts perfect for a tourist photo.

Popular attractions near Madison include:

  • Grab a sweet treat at the Babcock Hall Dairy Store on the University of Wisconsin’s campus
  • Fill up on famous Wisconsin cheeses at Fromagination on the Carroll St. side of Capitol Square or Carr Valley Cheese store in Middleton
  • Wander down ‘Forever Street’ to explore great eats and unique shops
  • Take a leisurely journey through the galleries at the Chazen Museum of Art
  • Hike and bike to stellar views of the city at Pheasant Branch Conservancy

Spend your day in Madison by exploring a state park or taking a tour of its most notable eateries.

Exciting activities happening near Madison today:

  • Stop in to Mickies Dairy Bar for an unforgettable homestyle breakfast
  • Camp overnight at one of the sites at Lake Kegonsa State Park
  • Enjoy the beautiful garden display Allen Centennial Garden
  • Eat your way down Atwood Avenue at a Madison Eats Walking Tour
  • Explore Vilas Park where it curves around the northern shore of Lake Wingra

Find the heart of this Midwestern city when the sun goes down. Tour a local brewery or see a broadway show tonight in Madison.

Here are a few nighttime activities near Madison:

  • Catch a broadway production at The Overture Center for the Arts
  • Scream and shout to your favorite bands at Majestic Theater
  • Sip a cold beer while listening to live music at High Noon Saloon
  • Dress in your best cardinal green and cheer on the Badgers at a home game
  • Tour the tap rooms of the Parched Eagle, Hop Cat, and Malt House breweries

When you have a whole day or two to spend, why not explore the beach? Madison offers plenty of activities to do this weekend.

Check out these weekend activities near Madison:

  • Smell the fresh flowers at the Dane County Farmers Market every Saturday
  • Boat along the scenic Wisconsin River and picnic on the shore
  • Day-trip to Spring Green to see the American Players Theatre and Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic Taliesin building
  • Take in the sights at downtown State Street Pedestrian Mall
  • Eat a hearty cornish pasty and drink a cold pint at Teddywedgers

There are plenty of family-oriented Madison attractions to enjoy with the kids. Play make-believe inside the geology museum or lounge at the park.

Try one of these family-friendly things to do near Madison:

  • Enjoy exhibits that are both educational and fun at Madison Children’s Museum
  • Build sand castles and swim at Warner Park
  • Stand beside giant dinosaur bones at UW-Madison Geology Museum
  • Climb around inside the playground at McKee Farms Park
  • Sample chocolate treats at Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier

Date nights in Madison are only cheesy if you’re touring one of its many creameries. Spend quality time together at a romantic restaurant or hike a trail and enjoy the view.

The following date night ideas are near Madison:

  • Snap a scenic Instagram photo at Lake Mendota from the UW Memorial Union Terrace
  • Dress to the nines for an elegant show at the Overture Center for the Arts
  • Enjoy breathtaking panoramic views over cocktails and contemporary cuisine at Fresco Rooftop Restaurant & Lounge
  • Trek part of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, a seasonally changing 1,200-mile trail that stretches across the state in every direction
  • Sample the farm-to-table tasting menu from the acclaimed chef at L’Etoile

Groups will find plenty of activities for everyone to enjoy in Madison. Break free from an escape room, then grab a bite at a nearby pub.

Things to do with your friends near Madison include:

  • Book a group tour and tasting at The New Glarus Brewing Co.
  • Fish for largemouth bass from the docks at Lake Waubesa
  • Go on a culinary journey around town with Madison Eats’ Food Tours, the best way to experience Madison’s greatest grub
  • In the wintertime, ice skate with the group at Tenney Park
  • Test your teamwork at Escape This escape rooms

When outdoor activities are saved for another day, there are other ways to enjoy your time in Madison.

Things to do indoors near Madison include:

  • Tour the Eugene A. Gilmore House, a Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece lovingly known as ‘Airplane House’
  • Attend a local artist talk at Janus Galleries
  • Taste Venezuelan and Latin American dishes at La Taguara restaurant
  • Explore the indoor Bolz Conservatory space at Olbrich Botanical Gardens
  • Book a hot stone massage at Bohemian Bodywork Massage

In a city known for trails and lakes, outdoor adventure in Madison is always within reach.

Outdoor activities to do in Madison include:

  • Explore nature with a walking or biking tour of Lake Mendota
  • Learn about the burial mounds along the trails of Governor Nelson State Park
  • Play a game of flag football on the grass at Olin Park
  • Ski around more than 22 miles of signed and groomed cross-country ski trails around Madison
  • Bike the bridges overlooking the river at Capital Springs State Recreation Area

Ready to take a break after your adventures in Madison? Find a secluded spot at one of these strange and unusual hidden gems near Madison.

Must-see places near Madison include:

  • Explore the mysterious Lost City Forest that borders the marsh on the southeast corner of the University of Wisconsin Arboretum
  • Walk through the bizarre infinity room inside The House on the Rock
  • Spot the imposter at the Picnic Point Beach House, a forgotten Frank Lloyd Wright look-a-like that overlooks a hidden beach
  • Check out the mechanical alarm clock desk of John Muir, one of America’s most famous conservationists
  • See the place where Elvis Presley broke up a street fight at the Elvis Karate Fight Plaque