Exploring Madison Museums
From history and art to quirky and cool, you’re guaranteed to find a museum that sparks your interest in Madison. Best of all, many exhibits and galleries are free or low-cost to visit, and are located within walking distance of the Capitol Square — allowing you to visit several spots during your stay!
A NOD TO OUR PAST
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. Plus, the entire second floor is dedicated to Native American history.
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 unique view of the Capitol.
Travel through time at the UW Geology Museum. The 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 this unique space, you’ll find the Robert Monteith Masonic Library and Museum, which holds an impressive collection of historical Masonic memorabilia.
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!
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.
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 Caesar Pelli-designed building.
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.
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 — fitting because this museum showcases the history of the working man.
Discover artifacts and exhibits detailing the stories of Norwegian immigrants at the Norwegian Heritage Museum 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 7-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.