Looking for something to do this winter? Why not try 20 things? And why not do them in Madison, Wisconsin, where frozen fun meets cozy memories and there's never a dull moment.
Of course, you can't do all these things in one day. Make your adventures last by booking an overnight stay in the capital city. Find all our hotels and places to stay.>
1. Enjoy three weekends of frozen fun
It's never too cold for an outdoor festival and three of Madison's hottest (OK, maybe coldest?) fests happen back-to-back-to-back each winter.
Frozen Assets is a free festival (and 5k on a frozen lake!) hosted by the Clean Lakes Alliance featuring family-friendly activities on Lake Mendota right in front of The Edgewater. Enjoy activities and walking on (frozen) water while kites color the winter sky. New in 2024, Frozen Assets will offer two weekends of frozen fun and charitable events.
Winter Carnival is a time-honored tradition hosted by the Wisconsin Union featuring hot chocolate, snowshoeing and the iconic sinking Lady Liberty display on Lake Mendota. All that and more is free for everyone.
2. Get out on the frozen lakes
It's easy. It's fun. It's a great way to make the best of the cold temps. Madison's five lakes are a year-round playground. You can step right on any of the lakes from anywhere and walk, dance, sip coffee, ice fish or take in all the beauty of Madison.
Keep safety in mind while traversing the frozen lakes. When it comes to safety while traversing the frozen lakes, please keep safety in mind. The lakes are typically frozen in early January but freeze date varies year to year. Generally, a minimum thickness of four or five inches is required for walking. Ice traction on your shoes can help to provide a bit of extra grip to prevent slips and falls.
3. Ice skate at The Edgewater
This 4,000-square-foot rink is a Madison favorite for friends, family and the occasional marriage proposal. The Edgewater ice rink is located right downtown with a beautiful view of Lake Mendota. The rink is open to the public, but is best enjoyed in between relaxing in an Edgewater suite and treating yourself at the spa.
4. Tap into the craft beverage scene
What's on tap in Madison? A craft beverage scene where the people making the drinks are just as refreshing as the sips themselves. Hop on to the Madison On Tap Craft Beverage Trail to earn prizes, get discounts and taste what Madison is all about. And remember, please enjoy responsibly.
Celebrating Dry January (or beyond) this year? Our craft beverage makers and spirited establishments make some of the best mocktail and NA beverages you'll ever find.
5. Have a meal where dinner is also the show
Get a front-row seat to one of the best meals of your life at DelecTable. The menu is always hand-selected by a lineup of elite chefs, complimented by a drink menu and live entertainment that stands heads and shoulders above the rest.
Learn to cook alongside chefs who have helped put Madison's culinary scene on the map at The Deliciouser, where themed events and quality ingredients take center stage.
6. Dine in a dome
Be enthralled in a tiny winter wonderland while enjoying a great meal, a glass of wine or cheese board. Dining in a dome is a great way to gather with friends for a special occasion or enjoy a festive date night or lunch with your besties. Find all of this year's winter dome dining.
7. Feel the beat of live music
There's no shortage of live music venues in Madison ready to make you get on your feet. Enjoy the classics with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, be dazzled by Broadway shows and other nationally-touring companies, or enjoy one of countless other performances at the Overture Center for the Arts. Find some of today's most popular acts at The Sylvee, The Majestic and The Orpheum. Or catch your next up-and-coming favorite at The Barrymore and High Noon Saloon.
8. Treat Yo' Self!
Enjoy a spa day complete with manicures, massages and mud baths at our area’s premiere spas— KOSA Spa at Garver Feed Mill, The Edgewater Spa in downtown Madison and Sundara Inn & Spa, just a short drive away in the Wisconsin Dells.
9. Dive into history and culture
Discover the marvels of the world around us through artifacts, art and play. Let your imagination guide you through cultural gems like the Chazen Museum of Art and Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Walk through time at the Wisconsin Historical Museum and Wisconsin Veterans Museum. Learn and have fun doing it at the Madison Children's Museum and taste your way through Wisconsin culture at the National Mustard Museum.
10. Start your day the best way
Brunch. Always a good idea. And Madison has some of the most iconic brunch spots around whether you're looking for sweet or savory, boozy or family-friendly, we have it going on.
11. Speed down the sledding hills
12. Hit your lucky streak at Ho-Chunk Gaming Madison
Take a spin on more than 1,000 slot machines at Ho-Chunk Gaming Madison and enjoy tasty tidbits from the Hahnee Goottay restaurant.
13. Snowshoe your way across Madison
Strapping on a pair of snowshoes and heading out onto a frozen lake or snowy trail is a great way to get some exercise and see some of Madison's most spectacular winter scenes. Rent snowshoes at the Wisconsin Union or Rutabaga Paddlesports. Find your route with help from our 15 places to snowshoe in Madison guide.
14. Stroll through Madison's largest indoor farmers' market
Fresh produce, baked goods and handcrafted home items don't go away in the winter. The Dane County Farmers' Market's Late Winter Market at Garver Feed Mill is the perfect way to spend your Saturday morning and stock up on all the best goodies.
15. Catch a winter game
U-Rah-Rah Wisconsin! Visit the Kohl Center to cheer on the Badger Men’s Basketball, Women’s Basketball, Men’s Hockey and Women’s Hockey teams. And, root for Men’s Wrestling at the historic UW Field House. In December, catch all the post-season action of the nationally-ranked Women's Volleyball team.
You can also root for the Madison Capitols Hockey team—the nation’s top amateur hockey players face off at the newly renovated Bob Suter’s Capitol Ice Arena, complete with a 300-person beer garden and expanded seating.
16. Tour the Wisconsin State Capitol
Madison's most iconic building hosts free tours nearly every day. Learn about the Capitol's story and the state's history while taking in stunning feats of architecture under one of the country's largest domes.
17. Enjoy a tropical paradise
The Bolz Conservatory at Olbrich Botanical Gardens is your cure to the winter blues. Walk through the warm, indoor pyramid that is home to more than 650 plants representing more than 80 families and more than 475 different species and cultivars.
18. Learn something new
From pottery classes to paint and sips to gin-making workshops, our event calendar is bursting with opportunities to learn something new with classes, workshops, lectures and demonstrations.
19. Discover wonders underground
20. Book a cozy bed and breakfast
Escape your day-to-day with a stay that will feel like you stepped into a storybook. Our cozy getaway recommendations provide modern amenities in settings that are historic, architecturally brilliant and one-of-a-kind.