Where To Stay In Madison With Kids
Visiting a college town, it only makes sense to stay in a place that takes the college vibe to a new level. Walking into The Graduate felt like walking into a Wes Anderson film with all the young college students hard at work in the lobby. Cian and I immediately fell in love with fun quirky vibe of The Graduate Hotel. Read our full review of the hotel.
Located in the center of the action, steps from State Street in between the capitol and the campus, there is not shortage of amazing places to eat and things to do. The hotel is a great choice for singles, couples and families alike. The rooms were beautifully decorated with a good amount of space to work and unpack your belongings.
But for me its always the little touches that make a hotel special. I loved the cold drinks in the Yeti coolers near the elevator and Cian loved the freshly baked cookies set out to refuel guests. The lobby cafe is the happening place morning to night with smoothies, coffee and snacks. For dinner, we loved the delicious rooftop bar and restaurant with a camp vibe that had my son wishing he was old enough to live the camp life!
The Graduate is an adorable hotel providing a great space for a college town visit. Want to know more? Read more views and check out current prices on Tripadvisor.
Have you visited Madison Wisconsin? Tell us your favorite spots in the comments below!
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Visit The Henry Vilas Zoo
I was slightly skeptical of the idea of a free zoo. Of the low cost zoos Ive been to, I always feel like the animals look slightly miserable. Not so at the Henry Vilas Zoo. The zoo has some great exhibits and the animals seem happy and well cared for. Most exhibits have areas for the animals to go to when they need alone time. While this can make for some empty exhibits from time to time, the animals are choosing to come out and see everyone when they do so.
Once you arrive inside the gates of the zoo, the pathways are very easy to follow. Grab a map and go it is easy to wind your way along the paths without missing any sights. We started to the left as my son is a huge penguin fan.
There were several areas to sit down to eat and you can bring picnic lunches. After that, consider ice cream treats. We found the concession stand prices so affordable that I highly encourage purchasing food to help support keeping the zoo free.
All in all the zoo is a phenomenal value and is better and more family friendly than many paid zoos that Ive visited.
There are several free parking lots nearby and on street parking is also available. Stroller parking was easy and abundant. Also strollers and wagons were available for rent.
The Henry Vilas Zoo is open daily from 9:30a.m.-5 p.m. Donations are always welcome but not required.
Go On A Peaceful Hike
Just like there is a multitude of biking trails, there is just an equal amount of hiking trails to explore in the city.
There are nearby state parks like Governor Nelson State Park and the Capital Springs Recreation Area that offer several hiking trails for beginners and experienced hikers.
You can get beautiful sights of nature and gorgeous landscapes.
But you dont need to visit a state park for hiking since there are plenty of local parks with their own trails.
You can bring dogs along to some of these trails, but you may need a dog permit, depending on where youre going.
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Things To Do With Kids In Madison
Founded on an isthmus between Lake Monona and Lake Mendota in the early 19th century, Madison is an outdoor oasis perfect for your next family vacation. The capital of Wisconsin, the City of Four Lakes is known for its beautiful parks and trails as well as its museums and other attractions. Read more about Mad City to discover the many exciting and fun things to do with your family.
Visit The Madison Childrens Museum
There is an admission charge for the Madison Childrens Museum. There are a few ways to get free admission to the Madison Childrens Museum though. First, visit on the first Wednesday of the month from 5 p.m.-8 p.m. when the museum is free as part of their Access for Everyone program. Second, if you are employed in Wisconsin and work in one of the following professions military, firefighter, EMT, teacher or police a valid work ID will get you free admission. Third, if you are a member of an Association of Science and Technology museum you can bring up to 6 people in for free. You must have your current membership card with you and a photo ID matching the name on your membership.
The Madison Childrens Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
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Ice Skate At The Many Ice Rinks
Madison has a variety of ice skating rings throughout the city where no reservation or entry fee is required.
Some of the popular options include Tenney Park, and there is also an ice-skating rink at the Henry Vilas Zoo park.
While you wont have to pay to skate, shoe rentals can cost between $5-$6 per hour.
There are also free ice skating events like Groove & Glide that feature lights and music throughout the winter months.
Best Things To Do In Madison Wisconsin
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. Be sure to call the attractions and restaurants ahead of your visit to confirm current opening times.
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Outdoor Activities For Kids
1. Go to a Lake, our favorites include
- Lake Monona Madison WI. There are several access points, but we like the beach and trails in Governor Nelson State Park.
- Devils Lake State Park Baraboo WI. There are two beaches and lots of trails. I loved the South beach the most.
2. Visit a Playground. There are some awesome ones in the area.
McKee Farms Park in Fitchburg is my favorite. It is huge, full of places to climb, and walking paths that wind through the park. There is also a fantastic farm themed splash pad to cool off in during the Summer.
3. See the Animals at the Henry Villas Zoo.
Its FREE and completely awesome.
4. Ride the Merrimac Ferry
This is about a half an hour north of Madison and runs during the warmer months. It is completely free and doesnt take long. I recommend parking on one side so you can walk on the ferry. Ride is across and back so your kids can see the lake. Pack a lunch to eat on the shore to make a day of it if you want or get ice cream at the little shop on the Merrimac side.
5. Watch a Mallards Game
A cheap night out with lots of fun baseball, food, and people watching. Younger children will not understand or appreciate the baseball-ness of the activity, but they will be fascinated by everything going on around them. There is also a kids play area inside the stadium. See Website.
6. Visit a farm.
We love visiting farms to pick apples, pumpkins, blueberrieswhatever is in season. We love:
7. Dane County Farmers Market
Go Quirky At The House On The Rock
Another day trip location worth exploring is Wisconsins top tourist attraction, the House on the Rock. This quirky complex takes 3-4 hours to fully explore, however there are shorter options taking 1-2 hours. We suggest doing the tour that includes visiting the carousel room as its spectacular. I literally gasped when I walked in it was so fantastical! Another area not to miss is the Infinity Room which is suspended high above the trees with glass paneled walls. It really is a cool space to explore.
The House on the Rock is definitely a unique place that not all kids will enjoy, but my nature loving son was so enamored with how it was built into the rock and that there were trees growing through it. The rooms are decorated in an assortment of styles from stained glass windows to carpet on the ceiling. Its one of these places you have to see in real life to believe!
This is not stroller friendly as there are lots of tight walkways and staircases within the home itself.
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Overture Center For The Arts
If youre looking for a great place to take your family for a fun outing, consider visiting Overture Center for the Arts in Madison, WI. This arts center is home to Madisons renowned Madison Museum of Contemporary Art and performs many of the citys cultural events. It also houses a theater, art gallery, and a music hall. The Overture Center opened on September 19, 2004, replacing the Civic Center and was designed by architect Frank Gehry.
The Overture Center for the Arts Kids in the Rotunda program is a great way to introduce your children to live theater. Free community performances, award-winning folk singers, zany jugglers, and friendly animals will keep them entertained throughout the show. There are also plenty of performances by local, regional, and national artists. Families will love the childrens performances as well as the many performances held at the rotunda.
A unique way to learn about music is to attend a concert by the Overture Center for the Arts in Madison, WI. The Lullaby Project is a project of the Overture Center and pairs new parents with professional artists. It supports child development, enhances the parent-child bond, and supports maternal health. Overture Center for the Arts offers free admission to families, so that everyone can enjoy the music.
Plan A Picnic And Bike Or Walk The Lakeshore Path
The Lakeshore Path runs along the lake and Memorial Union provides an easy start. You can buy a picnic lunch ready to go there and walk or cycle your way to Picnic Point. There is even a bus- Campus Bus 80- that will take you there. There is even more to explore along Lakeshore Path like Indian Mounds, a hand pump driven bubbler, and rain gardens. You could spend a whole day taking in the free beauty of Madison.
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Notable Treats & Eats
Jet Room Restaurant | Daytime American cafe with views of planes taking off & landing at Dane County Airport.
Monona Bait Shop | Down-home institution dispensing Babcock Hall ice cream desserts, burgers & classic subs, plus live bait. .
Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream | Delightfully rich ice cream crafted in Madison, WI and scooped in small businesses across the US since 1962. There are several Madison area locations its SO good!
Michaels Frozen Custard | Your local destination to find some of the best frozen custard in the world. They take great pride in sourcing the finest ingredients to create all of the great Sundaes, Twisters, Floats, flavors of the day and they also serve burgers.
Creekside Scoop | Located on the Black Earth Creek in Cross Plains the Creekside Scoop offers ice cream and ice cream treats, shakes and floats, old-fashioned candy, tap root beer and more!
Family Friendly Dining Nearby
Stop in for freshly popped gourmet popcorn with a variety of exciting flavors! You can also bring home kernels to pop at home.
Daily Scoop, UW-Madison Memorial Union Terrace, 800 Langdon StYou have to try a scoop of UW-Madisons very own Babcock Hall ice cream. The Memorial Union Terrace lake views and relaxing vibes are simply a must!
Sencha Tea Bar, 430 State StEnjoy a refreshingly delicious bubble tea as you stroll along Madisons iconic State St.
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The Bird & Nature Festival
The Bird & Nature Festival is a family-friendly free thing to do in Madison that takes place on the last Sunday of April each year.
As can be expected by its name, there are live bird shows that include hawks and eagles.
You can also enjoy fun events throughout the day like tree planting, how to use garlic mustard, bird watching with a telescope, and more.
Its the perfect festival to entertain children if you bring them along.
Apart from bird shows, expect entertaining music and delicious food.
Things To Do In Madison: 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 museums 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
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Overture Center For The Arts And Madison Museum Of Contemporary Arts
While there are many shows for which patrons must purchase tickets, there are also many opportunities for great entertainment that are completely free! The Kids in the Rotunda have shows every Saturday from the end of September through April at 9:30am, 11:00am and 1:00pm.
Overture is also home to the Madison Metropolitan Museum of Art and to four free art galleries, each featuring a unique show by a talented artist. Gallery hours are Monday -Thursday from 9:00am 5:30pm Friday from 9:00am 9:00pm Saturday from 10:00am 9:00pm and Sunday from Noon until 5:00pm.
MMoCA is free during the biannual Gallery Nights and $5.00 on the first Friday of the month. Gallery Night hours are 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm.
The Overture Center and Madison Museum of Contemporary Art are located at 201 State Street, Madison, WI 53703. You may contact the ticket office at 608-258-4141 or the general number at 608-258-4177. You may also visit them on the web for a complete listing of live performances, art shows and other activities at www.overturecenter.com.
Overture Center, Madison
Camp Randall Stadium University Of Wisconsin
Camp Randall Stadium is the home of Wisconsin’s football team, The Badgers. The stadium was built in 1917 and is one of the nations 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
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Things To Do In Madison Wisconsin With Kids
The city of Madison lies west of Milwaukee. Its best known for the domed Wisconsin State Capitol. Sitting on an isthmus between the lakes Mendota and Monona, Madison is home to many attractions. Visit the Wisconsin Historical Museum to learn about the states past. The Capital City State Trail winds past the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Monona Terrace, a lakefront convention center.
Grab A Scoop Of Homemade Uw Ice Cream
The UW-Wisconsin Agricultural Department runs the Babcock Hall Dairy Store featuring unique ice cream flavors such as the Blue Moon and Badger Blast for chocolate lovers. Sandwiches, cheese, and other sweet treats are also sold at Babcock to help support the university.
You’ll heart Wisconsin when you eat in Madison. Yum!
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Jazz At 5 Concert Series
If the symphony isn’t your style, you might prefer the Jazz at 5 concert series. Held at the 100 block of State Street on the Capitol Square. The series features a variety of talented local, regional and jazz musicians. Grab a bite or a cocktail from a local establishment or street vendor, pull up a chair and enjoy a free night out with friends. This is a favorite tradition among the after work crowd. For more details about the concert line up visit them on the web at www.jazzatfive.org.
Jazz at 5 Summer Series