Madison is situated on an isthmus between Lake Mendota and Lake Monona, and was named after President James Madison. There are so many different sights and attractions to wander through and take in while visiting Madison. A few of these places should definitely include the Chazen Museum of Art and Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, as well as some of the following attractions that are listed below to ensure that you see all the places in Madison that the whole family can enjoy.
Wisconsin State Capitol
The Wisconsin State Capitol is the tallest building in Madison, situated on the prestigious Capitol Square. It was the third and final capitol building to be completed and was done so at a cost of around 7.2 million dollars. Madison is known for its domed granite capitol building, which was completed in 1917 even though tours of the building began in 1915. Every year an extravagant Christmas pageant has taken place at the Capitol Building since 1925. The dome is topped by a gilded bronze statue fittingly called “Wisconsin.”
The painting “Resources of Wisconsin” adorns the ceiling of the rotunda, the only granite dome in the United States. At 34 feet in diameter and 13 feet in height this impressive painting was done by Edwin Howland Blashfield. View the rotunda from Trumpeter’s Balcony
The capitol building is complemented by a museum and outside observation deck. Making it a favorite amongst the Wisconsin attractions for families
Where to stay: The Madison Concourse Hotel and Governor’s Club is the perfect option as a place to stay while in Madison with the family. Boasting world class restaurants, an exquisite bar (for when the kids are asleep) and, a swimming pool so the whole family can cool off after a day of sight-seeing.
Where to Eat: Check out Heritage Tavern for an experience that is certain to leave the whole family asking for more. Food served in a non-judgemental and casual setting offers the perfect place to stop by and grab a bite to eat with the kids. head over and try the Peanut Oil-fried Whitefish to send your taste buds on a vacation of their own.
Henry Vilas Zoo
The Henry Vilas Zoo is one of the few admission free and community supported zoos in the entire country. Opened in 1904 after a land grant was given by Col. William and Anna Vilas. Of all the places in Madison to visit this is sure to blow the whole family away. Indoor exhibits at the zoo include the aviary, herpetarium, discovery center, and primate building. The zoo train and conservation carousel are found in the children’s zoo. The savanna and high plains exhibits feature animals like camels and giraffes, while the North American prairie exhibit features prairie dogs. Polar bears live in the Arctic Passage exhibit. Zoo events include Zoo Run Run, ZOOvies, Zoo Lights, and Brew Lights. Although it gets a bit chilly in Wisconsin you don’t have to worry about the cold weather closing any of these exhibits down as it is open year round!
Where to Stay: The closest nearby hotel also happens to be a family-friendly one as well. The Hilton Garden Inn Madison Downtown has everything to make the family’s stay in Madison a comfortable one. Conveniently located close to many nearby attractions as well as the zoo this hotel also offers its own restaurant located onsite as well as a gym to keep you fit after eating all of that Detroit-style pizza
Where to eat: Before heading over to the zoo to get a day spent with animals in their natural habitat be sure to stop over to Mickie’s Dairy Bar for a breakfast that is sure to leave the family speechless. Boasting a menu that includes more than just breakfast this is one restaurant that is not to be passed up. We recommend ordering the Reuben Omelette with Yanks.
Capital City State Trail
Capital City State Trail runs from the suburb of Fitchburg to Madison’s eastern neighborhoods. It is one of the perfect places in Madison to visit with the family. The paved, 17-mile trail winds through downtown Madison and past lakefront Monona Terrace, a convention center designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The trail also meanders amongst forested areas and through Capital Springs State Recreation Area, which features creeks, marshes, and lakes. Activities on the trail include biking, walking, and inline skating. Bring the kids out here for a relaxing day in the sun enjoying the nature that Wisconsin has to offer all while staying within the comfort of Madison.
Where to Stay: The Country Inn & Suites by Radisson is located just a hop, skip, and a jump from the Capital City State Trail as well as other natural Wisconsin attractions for families. Aside from the comfort of being situated so close to nature it also comes equipped with its own swimming pool for the family to relax in after a long day of hiking.
Where to eat: The Green Lantern is a must visit! Legend surrounds this wooden shack but, there is no story behind how delicious the food is here. A surf and turf based menu is sure to have something for everyone and the atmosphere will have the kids begging to go back. We recommend grabbing the Texas-cut Prime Rib for a truly delicious experience.
Mansion Hill Historic District
Mansion Hill Historic District is a ridge that runs along Lake Mendota, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This will really blast the family to the past and what Madison used to look like. The neighborhood was home to 19th century Madison’s upper class. Today, Mansion Hill guided tours take you to elegant and ornate homes where you can view classic and rare architecture and admire colorful gardens.
Bring the kids here for a wonderful and charming way to spend a day strolling through the streets of old Madison. Seeing the architecture and wandering through the streets will be a memory that none will forget. Be sure to make the most of this experience with a guided tour to really get a glimpse into the lives of the people of Wisconsin living in the 1800’s.
Where to Stay: If sticking around the Historic District is the move for the family nothing could compare to staying at the Governor’s Mansion Inn. This renovated boutique hotel has maintained all the charm that Mansion Hill Historic District has to offer. Staying here will be like living in the 1800’s yourselves (while there are still all the modern amenities of a modern hotel). Get lost in the charm of this wonderful Inn
Where to Eat: For fantastic food in a wonderful atmosphere, look no further than 107 State. An upscale pub with wonderful food and drinks this absolutely fantastic restaurant will serve the family up the classic of American Cuisine in more topping off a perfect day is the Mansion Hill Historic District.
Wisconsin Veterans Museum
Wisconsin Veterans Museum, situated on Capitol Square, shares the stories of the troubles and triumphs the soldiers of Wisconsin endured as they fought the wars through the years. The museum and research center details the exploits of veterans from the Civil War to the present day. Permanent exhibits include the Civil War and 20th century galleries. Typical temporary exhibits include “WWI Beyond the Trenches” and “The Art of Harold Schmitz.” Be sure to stop by and get a glimpse as to the sacrifices made by our nation’s heroes and bring the kids so they can develop a better understanding of what our soldiers went through. This museum is free of charge and open 6 days a week so fitting this into the schedule should be as easy as apple pie.
Where to stay: The AC Hotel Madison Downtown offers fantastic views of the Capitol dome from its elegant rooftop deck. On top of that, it is also a mere three blocks away from the veterans museum. If ultimate comfort as well as convenience is what the family is looking for, look no further. This hotel comes complete with its own convenience store, gym, and restaurant. If it’s been a long day strolling through the streets and sights of Madison this is certainly a great hotel to destress and decompress.
Where to eat: The Coopers Tavern offers a fantastic assortment of delicious meals perfect for the whole family as well as a large and international selection of wine and beers for mom and dad if they so choose. Located on the same block as the Wisconsin Veterans Museum, this tavern is the perfect way to top off a fantastic day honoring our nation and Wisconsin’s men and women in the armed services.
Wisconsin Historical Museum
What better way to really give the kids a glimpse into the past than The Wisconsin Historical Museum. Documenting Wisconsin’s immigrant and farming history. This Museum will certainly have the kids’ attention. Teaching them and showing them the struggles and successes of the pioneers that first settled upon what is now known as Madison. Daily tours take you through the four floors in the museum, located on Capitol Square. Through exhibits, you can discover the stories of the people of the woodlands, the era of exchange and Wisconsin’s archaeological history. Interactive exhibits allow you to stand in a replica of a 1,000-year-old house and walk into a lead mine. Take the kids on a visit to the fur trade post and climb up into a tractor cab for a truly unforgettable and picture-worthy experience.
Where to Stay: The Hyatt Place Madison/Downtown offers a fantastic location conveniently only two blocks from the Wisconsin Historical Museum. Offering a multitude of amenities such as onsite gym, restaurant, and a pool for the whole family to enjoy this really could be the perfect place is Madison for the family to stay. We almost forgot to mention that they also offer a free breakfast every morning so that is one less thing you have to worry about
Where to eat: Feeling like breaking the mold and going for something a little bit different than the many different delicious taverns and pubs that line the streets of Madison. Take a short walk across the street from the Hyatt Place Madison/Downtown for the best sushi in Madison offered by restaurant RED. Opened in 2011 this world-class restaurant offers some of the highest grade Japanese cuisine in the state and is perfect for the whole family to sit back and relax on an international meal.
Olbrich Botanical Gardens
Take a relaxing day walking through the tree-lined paths and observing the wildlife that call this place home all while giving your family an experience that they will never forget. You can stroll through 16 acres of outdoor gardens at Olbrich Botanical Gardens. One of the best Wisconsin attractions for families. The gardens comprise several themed areas, like the Thai Pavilion & Garden, Wildflower Garden, and Rock Garden. This Garden is sure to provide the relaxing experience the whole family needs after a busy few days exploring what the city has to offer.
Amongst the Botanical Gardens you can find an assortment of different fauna from around the world with different exhibits showcasing and highlighting different areas of the world. You can also visit the tropics and explore the wonders of the rainforest in the Bolz Conservatory, where you’ll see exotic plants and flowers, as well as a waterfall and free-flying birds. The visitor center features the Schumacher Library, a gardening reference center, so you can bring back home new found knowledge for your own garden.
Where to Stay: Hotel Ruby Marie is located just a short drive from the Botanical Gardens and is known as Madison’s best kept secret. This hotel is bursting at the seams with history and the rooms you stay in really take that into account. Started in 1837 as an Inn for newcomers to Madison. It still serves locals and visitors alike with the charm of history as well as the modern amenities that any other hotel would have to offer.
Where to eat: Ians Pizza Garver offers the perfect family style restaurant serving slices to hungry patrons coming from the Botanical Gardens daily. Offering more than just pizza (even dog food) this place will surely fill the stomachs of the whole family and provide a wonderful atmosphere to discuss the beauty of the Gardens that were explored earlier in the day
Madison is a Great Spot for Families
Madison is a place that often flies under most people’s radar when it comes to thinking of a place to visit with the family. However, this city has a multitude of places to see, attractions to explore, and fun to be had. If an unassuming city filled with family-friendly activities seems like the place to go. Madison is it.
This list has scratched the surface of what there is to be offered. There are many more places in Madison to be explored and many of the best attractions in Wisconsin for families are found here. Book a trip here and see the many beautiful attractions that this city has to offer.