Madison is just big enough to have plenty of attractions and activities, yet not so huge that you feel lost in a concrete jungle. While Madison is awesome to visit any time of the year, we think it makes a superb winter vacation destination. From exploring the great outdoors, to enjoying museums and cultural events, there’s always something to do in Madison. Visit Madtown, as the locals call it, for your next winter vacation and get ready to enjoy fun in the snow, and some engaging indoor activities as well.
Sledding Madison’s Hills
Madison is home to a wealth of public parks, nine of which have hills that are steep enough to warrant winter sledding once the snow flies. Although the sledding hills aren’t maintained, if you wait until there’s several inches of snow as a base, you should have a fun and safe trip. Elver Park on the city’s west side may be the best-known spot for sledding thanks to the massive hill on the edge of the park.
Garner Park is another park with an impressive sledding hill that you might want to check out too. If you need to warm up after your time on the hill, head over to Steep n Brew for some hot cocoa or coffee. They also have a bakery case with daily offerings if you need something to munch on.
Pro Tip: Elver Park also has a warming house and concession stand that serves warm food and drinks to chilled sledders. Be sure to stop in to warm up in between runs.
Ice Skating at the Edgewater
The Edgewater Hotel in downtown Madison invites people to come and skate at the Grand Plaza during the winter months. Not only is this rink meticulously maintained to have ideal conditions, you can also enjoy some warmth when you need it by stepping into the Icehouse, which is the rinkside pub and restaurant inside the hotel. Enjoy a nice hot slice of pizza and your choice of local brew before you head back out onto the ice for more skating.
While there, take a trip a couple blocks away to James Madison Park. Stroll the park and enjoy lovely views of Lake Mendota. It also serves as an incredible place to watch the sunset over the lake.
Pro Tip: Ice Skating is open from 4pm-9pm Wednesday through Friday, 10am-9pm Saturday, and 10am-6pm Sunday. While skate rentals are available on site, save a few dollars by bringing yours from home.
Touring the State Capitol
As it is the capital city of Wisconsin, you simply can’t visit Madison without seeing the capitol building. Centered in downtown Madison, the capitol building is a sight to behold. You can take a free tour most any day, excluding major holidays. Check in at the information desk at the top of the hour throughout the day. Enjoy a guided tour that takes a little less than an hour.
The Capitol Building’s lawn serves as a public green space in the warmer months of the year. Depending on the weather during your visit, it might be a nice place to enjoy a snack and a warm drink. Bariques Market is right across the street, and has all sorts of locally crafted treats.
Pro Tip: If you’re looking to take a tour with a group of 10 or more, it is recommended to reserve ahead of time. You can make a reservation for your tour online or by phone.
Chazen Museum of Art
If the weather outside is frightful and you’re just not into snow, you can explore the Chazen Museum of Art instead. This museum shows off extensive exhibits and collections throughout the year, some permanent and others temporary. The museum also hosts lectures, demonstrations, performances and family events on a regular basis. Their collection includes world famous artists such as Salvador Dalí, Andy Warhol, Joan Miró, and Henry Moore. The museum is available to visit Monday through Friday, 10am to 7pm, and Saturday/Sunday 11am to 5pm.
The museum is close to many food options in case you get hungry. One of our favorites is Estacion Inka which offers traditional Peruvian fare at a very affordable rate. It’s always nice to try something new and unique, so check out their awesome authentic menu.
Pro Tip: The Museum offers drop in tours that don’t require any prior booking. Just pop in any time and join in on the next tour!
National Mustard Museum
Looking to shake things up and see something truly unique? Visit the National Mustard Museum! Opened in 1992 by Barry Levenson, the owner and curator actually started collecting mustard one fateful night in 1986. He set out to amass the world’s largest collection of mustards, and that is exactly what he did. The Museum, cruising on from its humble beginnings of just 12 jars, now has over 5300 jars of mustard in its collection. You will be able to see mustards from all over the world, and even purchase some from the museum store.
Pro Tip: While the museum store will happily sell you a jar of mustard, they unfortunately do not provide any hot dogs to put it on. Luckily, Longtable Beer Cafe, which is right around the corner, has hot dogs on their menu, as well as plenty of other delicious foods.
Find Rentals in Madison
Whether you can’t get enough winter snow and you’re looking for a place to enjoy it, or you prefer the warmth of indoor activities, Madison, Wisconsin, has much to offer every vacationer. This college city offers a diverse landscape that helps it resonate with just about everyone. With its stunning parks and plethora of museums and events, you won’t run out of things to do here, no matter what time of year you visit. It’s always a great time for a vacation to Madison, so book your vacation rental today. Your Madison, Wisconsin winter adventure awaits!