Today’s meeting planner checklist is L-O-N-G. A trending destination where attendees will flock to fill seats? Check. All the steps to run a meeting in person and online? Check. A place with standout safety standards? This one leaves a lot to consider. 

Today, safety goes beyond how crime statistics sync up with walkability. Or a destination’s mindset on diversity and inclusivity. There’s the increasing threat of natural disasters and rising temperatures, too. Luckily, there are a number of climate-haven cities to consider in terms of comfort and safety for meeting and event attendees. 

Madison, Wisconsin is one of them. 

The capital city was recently featured as a “climate-haven” city in a CBS Sunday Morning segment highlighting Madison as one of the safest cities to visit among the worsening extremes of climate change. In addition to its prime location for avoiding wildfires, flooding, heat waves and hurricanes, it was also noted that Madison fit all of the following criteria: good schools, fine hospitals, sports and culture, a reasonable cost of living, and a high quality of life. It’s the kind of place people want to live, work and visit. 

But even Madison isn’t immune to rising temperatures. The day the CBS segment was filmed, it was noted that the average temperature for January had risen three degrees since 1950. Fast-forward to 2024, when the lakes were only fully frozen for 44 days, compared to 100+ days in a typical year.  

“All communities need help diversifying tourism offerings, as well as preparing for and responding to extreme weather as seasons shift due to climate change,” says Dea Larsen Converse, Communications Director for the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts (WICCI).   

Larsen notes that warming temperatures may extend the time frame for many conventions, events and recreational activities in Madison, giving the capital city and state of Wisconsin a competitive advantage compared to places that can become uncomfortably hot during warmer seasons.  

“As the tourism entity for our capital city, we take our role in promoting environmental stewardship seriously,” says Ellie Westman Chin, President & CEO of Destination Madison. “We want to welcome as many visitors as possible each year, but our focus is on the long game: to protect the natural beauty of our city.”  

For both organizations, planning ahead for future climate impacts is key to ensuring the meetings industry remains strong—and an appealing, safe place for attendees. The WICCI Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Working Group recommends that all communities take actions such as adjusting recreational trails to protect access and reducing the risk of harmful algal blooms.   

“We’re proud that so many of our partners offer free experiences to enjoy ecological trails, clean lakes, green buildings and sustainably sourced menus,” says Westman Chin. “Each illustrates Madison’s mindset about sustainability and our future amid climate change.”  

See below for a sampling of places that make voluntourism opportunities accessible to locals and visitors alike. Meeting and event planners may also work with Amber Wiza, Director of Destination Services, to create customized voluntourism experiences for their event attendees when meeting in Madison. 

Voluntourism Opportunities in Madison

Arboretum entrance sign near Henry Vilas Zoo

Free for exploring and filled with activities to deepen understanding about ecology and sustainability. It’s a place where an intentional focus on learning, land care, research and reflection ensure it will forever be a protected place for all to enjoy.

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An aerial photo of the Madison skyline from Lake Monona

This non-profit organization is dedicated to the restoration and protection of lakes, streams and wetlands. From educational events to hands-on volunteer opportunities, there’s always a way to help ensure our lakes can be enjoyed year-round.

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A girl stands on a jungle gym outside of the Madison Children's Museum

At the top of this four-floor exploratorium is a rooftop garden: proof that you can grow in small spaces. In a city. Inside, you’ll find Little John’s Lunchbox, a self-serve, pay-what-you-can deli that diverts food that would normally go to the landfill to fill little tummies instead.

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A view of Monona Terrace from Lake Monona. The sky is clear and sunny and a reflection of the building at its larger arched windows can be seen in the lake water.

Since this Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece opened in 1997, it has earned Platinum LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for its whole-building approach to sustainability. Its 6,800 square feet of rooftop gardens attract important pollinators and also help re-seed other City of Madison greenspaces.

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