Top 15 Things to Do in Madison, WI: Tours, Shopping, Festivals, & More

wisconin's capital madison

Discover the best things to do in Madison, including popular events, festivals, attractions, tours and free activities

Discover Madison through its many attractions, shopping, dining, and lively cultural scene. Located between Lakes Mendota and Monona, Madison is known for its beautiful natural surroundings, rich history, and diverse neighborhoods. From the iconic State Capitol building to the historic charm of the University of Wisconsin campus, Madison offers a unique blend of Midwestern hospitality and urban sophistication. With its lively nightlife, scenic parks, and bustling shopping districts, Madison has something new for anyone to enjoy.

So whether you are searching for apartments in Madison, homes for sale, or are already a local, this Redfin article will be your guide. Here’s a list of the top 15 things to do in Madison, for both newcomers and long-time locals alike.

wisconin's capital madison

Tours and Attractions

1. Wisconsin State Capitol

Visit the Wisconsin State Capitol to admire its stunning architecture and rich history. This impressive building offers guided tours that provide insight into the state’s political history and the beautiful murals, mosaics, and sculptures that decorate its interior. Don’t miss the observation deck for panoramic views of Madison.

Wisconsin State Capitol

 2. Chazen Museum of Art

Explore the Chazen Museum of Art, located on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. This museum features an extensive collection of art from various periods and cultures, including works by renowned artists. With rotating exhibitions and educational programs, it’s a cultural treasure in the heart of the city.

Chazen Museum of Art

3. Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Stroll through the Olbrich Botanical Gardens, a 16-acre oasis showcasing stunning outdoor gardens and a tropical conservatory. Highlights include the Thai Pavilion, Rose Garden, and various themed gardens. It’s a perfect spot for nature lovers and those looking to enjoy a peaceful escape.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Shopping and Dining

4. State Street

Discover State Street, a bustling pedestrian thoroughfare lined with eclectic shops, cafes, and restaurants. This vibrant area connects the State Capitol to the University of Wisconsin campus, offering a mix of local boutiques, eateries, and entertainment options. It’s a must-visit for a true taste of Madison’s local flavor.

5. Hilldale Shopping Center

Explore the Hilldale Shopping Center, an upscale open-air mall featuring a variety of high-end stores, specialty shops, and dining options. Whether you’re looking for fashion, home goods, or gourmet food, Hilldale provides a sophisticated shopping experience with something for everyone.

6. Monroe Street

Venture to Monroe Street, a charming neighborhood known for its unique shops, cozy cafes, and top-notch restaurants. This historic area offers a blend of local businesses and dining establishments, making it a delightful destination for a leisurely day of shopping and dining.

Music and Nightlife

7. The Majestic Theatre

Experience live music at The Majestic Theatre, one of Madison’s premier entertainment venues. Hosting a variety of concerts and events, this historic theater offers an intimate setting with excellent acoustics. It’s a great place to catch both local and touring acts in a vibrant atmosphere.

8. High Noon Saloon

Visit High Noon Saloon, a lively music venue known for its diverse lineup of bands and energetic shows. From rock and country to indie and electronic, the High Noon Saloon showcases a wide range of genres. Enjoy a night of great music and drinks in this popular Madison hotspot.

9. The Sylvee

Enjoy a concert at The Sylvee, a state-of-the-art music venue that attracts big-name artists and rising stars. With its modern design and top-notch sound system, The Sylvee provides an unforgettable concert experience. Check the schedule for upcoming performances and events.

The Sylvee

Festivals and Events

10. Dane County Farmers’ Market

Join the crowd at the Dane County Farmers’ Market, the largest producer-only farmers’ market in the country. Held on Capitol Square, this market offers a wide array of fresh produce, artisanal goods, and local delicacies. It’s a vibrant community event that celebrates the region’s agricultural bounty.

capital wisconsin food market

11. Wisconsin Film Festival

Attend the Wisconsin Film Festival, an annual event that showcases a diverse selection of films from around the world. Featuring independent films, documentaries, and shorts, the festival offers screenings, Q&A sessions, and special events. It’s a cinephile’s dream and a cultural highlight of the year.

12. Festa Italia

Celebrate Italian culture at Festa Italia, an annual festival that features authentic Italian food, music, and entertainment. Enjoy traditional dishes, lively performances, and fun activities that highlight Italy’s rich heritage. It’s a festive and family-friendly event that brings the community together.

Outdoor Activities and Parks

13. Henry Vilas Zoo

Visit the Henry Vilas Zoo, a free-admission zoo that offers a fun and educational experience for all ages. Located near Lake Wingra, the zoo features a wide variety of animals, interactive exhibits, and beautiful grounds. It’s a great place to spend a day exploring and learning about wildlife. Henry Vilas Zoo

14. Lake Monona Loop

Enjoy outdoor recreation along the Lake Monona Loop, a scenic path that circles Lake Monona. Perfect for walking, running, and biking, the loop offers stunning views of the lake and downtown Madison. There are plenty of parks, picnic areas, and points of interest along the way.

Lake Monona bike Loop

15. Picnic Point

Explore Picnic Point, a picturesque peninsula that extends into Lake Mendota. This natural area offers hiking trails, picnic spots, and breathtaking views of the lake and city skyline. It’s an ideal location for a relaxing day in nature or a scenic hike with beautiful vistas.

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