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Exploring Madison Museums

When it comes to museums in Madison, expect the unexpected. The caliber of art is high, the collections of historical artifacts are vast and some displays are so good you can taste them... literally. The best part? Many are among the list of free things to do in Madison. Get ready to learn, laugh and be inspired during your next trip to the capital city.

A NOD TO OUR PAST

Discover the role of Wisconsin veterans in American military history from the Civil War to the present at the Wisconsin Veterans Museum. View real uniforms and memorabilia, and be sure to take a peek out of the submarine periscope, which provides a special view of the Capitol. 

Inside Madison's iconic Monona Terrace is an architectural hidden gem. Open to the public, the Frank Lloyd Wright history exhibit details the architectural genius's career and personal history in Madison, inside one of his crowning achievements. It's free to view, and there's even a Frank Lloyd Wright gift shop.

@destinationmadison One of Frank Lloyd Wright’s greatest works in also a Madison icon (also the exhibit is FREE to enjoy). #madison #wisconsin #franklloydwright #franklloydwrighthouse #architecture #travel ♬ IMPERIAL PIANO - Treia Music

Go on a jurassic journey at the UW Geology Museum. The on-campus collection includes fossils and a zircon crystal that’s 4.4 billion years old — the oldest rock on Earth.

The Madison Masonic Center is a beautiful landmark, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Inside, you’ll find the Robert Monteith Masonic Library and Museum, which holds an impressive collection of historical Masonic memorabilia.

Explore Wisconsin’s history and heritage at the Wisconsin Historical Museum. This museum features exhibits on logging and lumberjacks, mining and domestic life, and uses artifacts to help visualize Wisconsin’s past. Admission to the historical museum is free. NOTE: The historical museum will be closed beginning in the winter of 2022 in preparation for upcoming renovations. Please visit the museum's website for more details.

FAMILY FUN

Visit Madison Children’s Museum for hands-on fun and three floors of exhibits, including the Wildernest area for ages five and under, an Art Studio and a four-season rooftop garden that’s home to live animals — including chickens! The children's museum is home to the country's only pay-as-you-can museum cafe, Little John's Lunchbox.

@destinationmadison The first pay-as-you-can restaurant INSIDE A MUSEUM is in Madison, WI. #payasyoucan #sustainable #foodaccess #food #childrensmuseum #madison #wisconsin ♬ slide - ✿

Taste nearly 6,000 different types of mustard at Middleton’s National Mustard Museum. Peruse vintage posters and a collection of every mustard imaginable, acquired from all 50 states and more than 70 countries. Your trip to mustardy fun is free (unless you take some home, which is always a good idea).

ARTSY ADVENTURES

The rooftop sculpture garden at Madison Museum of Contemporary Art is a quiet oasis, offering impressive views of the Capitol and State Street. Wander through four galleries featuring temporary exhibits of well-known and emerging artists, all housed in a striking Cesar Pelli-designed building. Enjoying world-class art is free.

Get lost exploring the Chazen Museum of Art, which houses the second-largest collection of art in Wisconsin. Located on the UW campus, this museum holds over 20,000 pieces from local and well-known artists, and shows 10 to 12 temporary exhibitions yearly. Admission to the Chazen is free.

Find prints from Tandem Press, a world-renowned fine art printmaking studio affiliated with UW, on display at the Chazen, or visit their east side gallery space to see a wider selection of pieces from both emerging and established artists. 

A QUICK DRIVE

Find hundreds of antique tools — large and small — at the Wally Keller Tool Museum. It's located inside the Duluth Trading Company flagship store in Mount Horeb and is in the heart of Mount Horeb's charming downtown.

PRO TIP: When you're in Mount Horeb, try to see how many trolls you can find. The city is literally the Troll Capital of the World

Discover artifacts and exhibits detailing the stories of Norwegian immigrants at the Norwegian Heritage Center in Stoughton. Called Livsreise, or “life’s journey,” this immersive museum shows visitors what it was like to pack your bags for a new land and provides firsthand accounts — including letters and family interviews — of those who relocated to the U.S.

Explore the Golden Age of Railroading at the Mid-Continent Railway Museum in North Freedom. Catch a seven-mile, round-trip ride aboard a restored vintage train and view hundreds of locomotive artifacts, including the largest collection of wooden passenger cars in the U.S.