© TNT Creative Studios

It’s the most wonderful time of the year and the best time to visit Madison, WI! Our capital city ranks as one of the most fun places to live in the U.S. by U.S. News and World Report, and during the holidays, we make spirits bright! Come for the best local shopping, memorable performances for the whole family and amazing restaurants featuring seasonal favorites—keep reading to discover the best ways to celebrate the season in Madison!

Holidays Icon at 43° N, 89° W - Madison, WIShopping Icon at 43° N, 89° W - Madison, WIZoo Lights Icon at 43° N, 89° W - Madison, WICraft Beer Icon at 43° N, 89° W - Madison, WIMusic Performances Icon at 43° N, 89° W - Madison, WIHotel Week Icon at 43° N, 89° W - Madison, WI

Capitol Decorated Tree




Madison is magical during the holidays, and your first stop while visiting should be the State Capitol. During December, a 40-foot-tall Holiday Tree is adorned with 700 feet of gold garland, 2,400 multi-colored lights and 1,400 ornaments made by local school children. The best vantage point is from the viewing station on the sixth floor, which is approximately at eye level with the star on top of the balsam fir. Other seasonal decorations also make the Capitol building memorable, including a Festivus pole and a nativity scene with the three wise men (in this case: Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein and Mark Twain). This festive feeling continues across the city—try ice skating at the beautifully adorned Edgewater hotel, or listen to carolers on State Street while taking the holiday trolley.

Copy of Winter Shopping 2
© Focal Flame Photography

© Focal Flame Photography



Shop State Street this holiday season for something special for those on your list! This corridor connects the Capitol to the UW-Madison campus, and is considered by many as THE place to shop. State Street is pedestrian-only, making it easy to hop from one specialty store to another, and the Holiday Open House on November 24–26 gives you even more reasons to shop: trolley rides, family shows, welcome bags and special offers. While on State Street, don’t miss Little Luxuries, home to the best in fun, festive gifts, The Soap Opera, a perfect place to find bath products for everyone on your list and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art’s award-winning store, featuring an extensive selection of hand-crafted, artist-made items. After a day of shopping, stop by one of the sweet treat shops like Kilwin’s, The Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream Co. and Red Elephant Chocolate Café and treat yourself!

Zoo Lights: Henry Vilas Zoo
© BTW Photography

© BTW Photography



Start a new family tradition this year with Zoo Lights, a magical attraction featuring 300 displays with 200,000 twinkling holiday lights at Madison’s Henry Vilas Zoo. This attraction is the only one of its kind in Wisconsin and runs the Friday after Thanksgiving through December 31, 2017. The zoo’s carousel and train will be open nightly, and special events, like a new holiday market, will add to the atmosphere some nights. Cost is only $7/person and children three and under are free.

Flight of Beer: Ale Asylum
© Ale Asylum

© Ale Asylum



Madison’s craft beer scene is buzzing due to the numerous, award-winning microbreweries, dedicated tours and restaurants offering many options on tap. When in Madison, visit Wisconsin Brewing Company’s tasting room—the brewery is listed as One of the Best Up-and-Coming Breweries in the Midwest by Thrillist—or pick one of the 52 Wisconsin beers on tap at The Old Fashioned, which also makes a great Old Fashioned! Not a beer drinker? The Madison area is home to several wineries and distilleries too—try a specialty cocktail at the Old Sugar Distillery for “proof.”

Madison Ballet: Nutcracker
© Natalie Armstrong

© Natalie Armstrong



Madison’s performing arts scene is something like a phenomenon—it has the breadth and depth of a city twice its size. The Overture Center for the Arts is home to more than 200 performances, art exhibitions and community events each year. This holiday season, enchant yourself with one of the many decorated productions like The Nutcracker, A Christmas Carol and A Madison Symphony Christmas.

Madison Hotel Week 2018


Give the gift of Madison this holiday season! Take advantage of discounted hotel rates by reserving a room during Madison Hotel Week, February 9–19, 2018. Hotel Week was named one of the best travel deals from around the globe by The Washington Post and room rates are $75, $100 or $125 a night. A list of participating properties is online and you can book a room today!




We’d love to see you ringing in the holidays in Madison! Follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, share your adventures and learn more about upcoming events and happenings.

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