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7 Quirky Holiday Traditions in Madison

Madison is known as a fun and festive place year-round, but during the holidays our capital city really shines bright! Keep reading to discover some unusual and entertaining ways to celebrate between now and the New Year.

 

Snowflake #1 GO TO THE ZOO, BUT NOT FOR THE ANIMALS
This holiday season you’ll have another reason to go to the Henry Vilas Zoo—the second annual Zoo Lights, a magical experience featuring over 300 displays of twinkling holiday lights. Stroll through this winter wonderland while sipping hot cocoa, or ride the zoo’s carousel and train. Some nights will also feature live music and a holiday marketplace. The event runs November 24 through December 31, 2017 and is open Thursday through Sunday. The cost is $7/person (children under three are free).


 

Snowflake #2GIVE YOUR CLOTHES TO THE GOVERNOR
There is no greater joy than giving back to your community. That is why the Big Bundle Up exists—to provide warm clothing and gear to those who need it in winter. Help contribute to the cause by bringing your gently used items to the Governor’s Executive Residence this December, and take a free tour of his holiday-decorated residence while you’re there. You can also donate your winter items at our offices on the Capitol Square (22 E. Mifflin St., Suite 200).


 

Snowflake #3CELEBRATE FESTIVUS WITH THE REST OF US
Every December, a 40-foot balsam fir graces the rotunda of the state Capitol, complete with ornaments made by local schoolchildren, 700 feet of garland and more than 2,000 lights. However, 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).


 

Snowflake #4OUTRUN THE GRINCH
Commit to staying healthy (and looking silly while doing it) by participating in Madison’s Run Santa Run 5k on December 2. Choose your costume: Santa, reindeer, elf or christmas tree, and run organizers will provide accessories like elf’s ears and reindeer antlers. Then try to outrun the Grinch around the Capitol—but don’t forget to stop at the Kissing Station for a photo-opp! There is also a festive after-party that lasts three hours after the race.


 

Snowflake #5LISTEN TO UNDERGROUND SOUNDS
Caroling at the Cave started as a way to get visitors to the Cave of the Mounds during winter, and has turned into an annual event with a fan following. As you enter the cave, you’ll be surrounded by natural beauty and warm tea light candles. Add great acoustics and marvelous carolers, and you have an unforgettable holiday tradition! Caroling at the Cave hosts holiday concerts December 1-3, as well as special kid-focused tours during Jingle & Rock on December 9. There are also sing-a-long caroling cave tours every Sunday in December at 1:30 p.m., with proceeds benefiting local charities.


 

Snowflake #6ALL ABOARD THE SANTA EXPRESS
Hop aboard the Santa Express for a magical journey this holiday season! Be prepared to see Santa as you enjoy this 55 minute train ride into Christmas past. Rides depart from the historic wooden depot at the Mid-Continent  Railway Museum and passengers will enjoy a true vintage holiday experience powered by a century-old diesel locomotive. The train departs four times a day on November 25 and November 26, and tickets can be purchased online.


 

Snowflake #7GIVE BACK IN A-POSITIVE WAY
Make someone’s holidays brighter by literally giving a piece of yourself through blood donation! If you’re in Madison on Christmas Eve, why not? You can B-positive that your donation will go to someone in need (regardless of whether you’re a universal donor). The Annual Madison Holiday Blood Drive is put on by the American Red Cross and has become a life-saving tradition, and one of the largest donation sites in the region. More than 16,000 pints of blood have been donated since its inception in 1986. The event runs December 24 from 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Alliant Energy Center of Dane County.