40+ things to do in Madison, WI


A snowy walk down State Street | Photo by @justeminspired

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The holidays are almost here and if you’re hosting out-of-town guests in Madison but aren’t sure where to take them, we’ve got plenty of recommendations for you to build the perfect itinerary for your visitors.

For the whole family

Let the kids — or grandkidsrun around + explore the Madison Children’s Museum or plan your escape with the whole family at Escape This.

See a kid-friendly show at the Overture Center, like “The Nutcracker,” which is running until Sun., Dec. 26.

Load up the car and spend the afternoon exploring the Henry Vilas Zoo or take the family into nature at the Olbrich Botanical Gardens.

Outdoor activities

If your visitors are ready for some outdoor fun, we have a variety of parks to explore. Grab some bagel sandwiches from Gotham Bagels + head to Picnic Point for a picnic.

Visiting the UW-Arboretum is the perfect way to get some fresh air while taking in all of the beauty Madison has to offer.

Venture out west to see The Trollway in Mt. Horeb or visit the Cave of the Mounds to see a natural wonder.

One of the best things about our city is our proximity to some amazing hiking spots. Here is our guide to a range of hikes in the area.

Indoor activities

Temps this time of year can get pretty low, so spend a day exploring MMoCA, the Chazen Museum of Art, the Wisconsin Historical Society, or even the National Mustard Museum to stay warm.

Madison also boasts an excellent music scene. Catch a concert at The Sylvee or check out the upcoming shows at the Majestic Theatre and the Orpheum Theatre.

If you’ve got any sports fans in the group, check out all of the Badger games taking place this season.

Food + bev

If your guests need coffee to get going in the morning, but you’re not exactly a barista, Grace Coffee Co, Lakeside Street Coffee, and Johnson Public House are all offering a range of seasonal drinks.

Madison is also home to dozens of breweries. New Glarus Brewing Company, Working Draft Beer Company, or Wisconsin Brewing Company are some local favorites that are staples of the community.

Need plans after sunset? Duck inside into a warm + cozy bar: Gibs, Oz by Oz, and The Robin Room.

As for food — our personal favorites include The Old Fashioned, Graze, Ha Long Bay, Pig in a Fur Coat, and brunch at Sardine. Brunch in Madison is an absolute must.

We love The Harvey House, Bar Corallini, The Great Dane + Paul’s Palmeni and recommend satisfying your sweet tooth at DLUX. Pro tip: order the Eggnog shake while it’s still in season.

We’ve also got plenty of articles to help you navigate the local food scene. You can’t miss Madison’s best cheese curds, and there’s also a variety of vegan-friendly options.

And if you’re gluten-free, we’ve got you covered too. Check out a list of 8+ local restaurants with gluten-free options.


Is it even a trip to Madison without seeing the State Capitol? You can also take your visitors for a walk down State Street and stop at the Wisconsin Union for a cup of joe. If you’ve got any history buffs in the group, take a journey along Frank Lloyd Wright Trailor head out to Taliesin to see a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Aren’t satisfied? No worries. Check out our December events calendar for a roundup of unique events happening around town this month.