85 Things to do Winter

Embrace the Holiday SpiritWinter WonderlandFan Favorites Fun for the Family

 Hide Inside Local Shopping Sips & Snacks

Embrace the Holiday Spirit Section

1. Ooh and Ahh at Holiday Fantasy in Lights

A beloved holiday tradition, the Electric Group has been lighting Madison’s Olin Park—and warming our hearts—for 30 years.

2. Witness the massive Wisconsin State Capitol Holiday Tree

Each year, one lucky Balsam Fir tree grown in Wisconsin graces the Capitol rotunda, covered in an estimated 2,400 lights and 700 feet of garland.

3. Ride the Mid-Continent Railway Museum’s Santa Express

All aboard! Journey to Christmas past November 24–25 and December 1–2 on this restored train in North Freedom, WI—just an hour north of Madison. Sing carols and visit with Old St. Nick and his elves as you embark on an early 1900s adventure.

4. Play I-Spy at Christmas at House on the Rock

See if you can spot all 6,000 collectible Santas, and check out other seasonal decorations this December at Spring Green Wisconsin’s Ho-Ho-House on the Rock.

5. Meet Santa at Fitchburg’s annual Children’s Holiday Party

Fitchburg’s free, annual children’s holiday party on December 9 is filled with festive treats, face painting, carriage rides and a visit with Santa.

6. Run with Santa

Run like Rudolph! Don Santa, elf or gingerbread man apparel (included in registration fee) for the December 1 Run Santa Run festive 5K.

7. Jingle while you Run

Deck yourself out in jingle bells on December 8 and make some noise all the way to the finish line of the Jingle Bell 5K Run/Walk.

8. Follow Olbrich’s Holiday Express

Large-scale model trains wind through a holiday scene overflowing with hundreds of poinsettias and fresh evergreens at Olbrich Botanical Gardens all December!

9. Sing Carols in a Cave

Enjoy Holiday music performances inside Cave of the Mounds at this annual, festive charity event November 30–December 2.

10. Experience Old World Christmas Charm

Enjoy A Vintage Christmas at Wollersheim Winery November 24 and taste wines paired with festive foods and find unique gifts—plus, Christmas carolers will be on hand to set the mood.

11. Celebrate the Season with Song at A Madison Symphony Christmas

Welcome the holiday season with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, Mt. Zion Gospel Choir, the Madison Youth Choirs and esteemed opera singers Cecilia Violetta López and Kyle Ketelsen at A Madison Symphony Christmas November 30–December 2.

12. See ELF the Musical at The Fireside Dinner Theatre

Based on the beloved holiday film, this hilarious fish-out-of-water comedy, running November 1–December 23, is now a must-see holiday musical.

13. Watch A Christmas Carol by Children’s Theater of Madison

Step back in time to Victorian England December 8–23 with one of Madison's most treasured family traditions.

 

Winter Wonderland Section

14–18.Try a New Winter Sport

The Madison and Dane County Parks offer these winter outdoor options: (Need equipment? Check out Wisconsin Union for rentals!)

19. Speed Down the Sledding Hills

The City of Madison boasts 10 sledding hills, including Elver Park, where you can cozy up with concessions in the warming house.

20. Hit the Slopes at Devil’s Head Resort

Nestled among the Baraboo Bluffs of south-central Wisconsin, Devil’s Head is a full-service resort that’s been named one of the Midwest’s 10 Best Ski Resorts, with 30 runs for both beginning and advanced skiers and snowboarders.

21. Ice Skate at The Edgewater

This 4,000-square-foot rink is fast becoming a Madison favorite for friends, family and the occasional marriage proposal.

22. Go for a Winter Hike at the Arboretum

Ski, snowshoe or hike throughout this nature reserve, tucked away in the heart of Madison. Winter hiking is permitted on all 20 miles of Arboretum trails.

23. Try Ice Fishing for Free

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources offers free fishing January 19–20. Plus, take advantage of free loaner equipment and ice fishing clinics—a great time for anglers of all ages to check out this Wisconsin tradition!

24. Party on Lake Mendota at the Frozen Assets Festival

This free weekend of family fun February 1–3 at the Edgewater, hosted by the Clean Lakes Alliance, includes ice fishing, sleigh rides, complimentary hot chocolate and more, all in support of area lakes.

25. Celebrate winter at Madison Winter Festival—February 2–3

This community festival, held in Madison’s Elver Park, celebrates and promotes outdoor sports, recreation, art and healthy lifestyles in the winter.

Fan Favorites Section

26–32. ­Cheer on the Badgers

U-Rah-Rah Wisconsin! Catch Badger football in action and “Jump Around” at a home game at legendary Camp Randall stadium. 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 Women’s Volleyball or Men’s Wrestling at the historic UW Field House.

33. 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.

Fun for the Family Section

34. Gaze at the Zoo Lights

Thousands of lights transform Henry Vilas Zoo into a winter wonderland November 15–December 30. Enjoy festive sights and sounds as you visit your favorite creatures and discover new ones.

35. Visit The Waterpark Capital of the World™

There are plenty of ways to splash around in the Wisconsin Dells… even during the winter! Check out waterparks, amusement rides, games and more.

36. Bounce to New Heights

Enjoy healthy, high-flying fun at Sky Zone Madison, the world's first all-walled trampoline playing court featuring freestyle bouncing, dodgeball, fitness programs and more!

37. Sing and Dance at Kids in the Rotunda

From award-winning folk singers and zany jugglers, to friendly furry animals and traditional Indian dancing, the Overture Center’s popular Kids in the Rotunda series for families is sure to engage, educate and entertain your whole family.

38. Burn off Cabin Fever at KEVA Sports Center

KEVA Sports Center boasts 70,000 square feet of indoor space, including top-quality turf fields and basketball and volleyball courts. KEVA also offers Open Play time for kids—and adults!—to burn some of that pent-up stuck-indoors energy.

39. Dodge laser beams at Ultrazone Laser Tag

Fun for all ages, Ultrazone Laser Tag brings high-energy, action-packed adventure perfect for beating winter boredom.

40–43. Enjoy live music at Madison’s Hottest Venues

All four of these venues have packed winter schedules with something for every musical taste, including:

Hide Inside Section

44–46. Treat Yo’ Self!

Enjoy a spa day complete with manicures, massages and mud baths at our area’s premiere spas—The Edgewater Spa in downtown Madison, Indulge Spa on Madison’s east side and Sundara Inn & Spa in the Wisconsin Dells.

47–48. Have a Laugh

Monkey Business Institute performs on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at The Glass Nickel on Atwood Avenue. Catch The All Ages Show with the family, or schedule a date night and enjoy The Grown-Up Show or an Improv Lab. Atlas Improv Company on East Washington delivers laughs twice a night on Fridays and Saturdays. Want to get the weekend started early? Catch a Thursday evening show.

49–56. Learn at Local Museums

Whether you’re interested in Wisconsin history, hands-on science or mustard memorabilia, the Madison area has a museum for you!

57. Hone your bowling skills

It’s a strike! Enjoy Bowl-A-Vard Lanes’ 40 state-of-the-art lanes, or play pool, darts or shuffleboard before grabbing a bite.

58. Escape before it’s too late!

Can you solve the puzzle and beat the clock? Challenge yourself and your friends with an immersive escape room adventure at Escape This!

59. Catch a Movie

From action-packed blockbusters to awards-season favorites, grab some popcorn and settle in at one of Marcus Cinema’s two locations: Point Cinema on Madison’s west side and Palace Cinema in Sun Prairie.

60. Unleash your creative side

What better time than winter to learn a new skill or indulge your creative side? Wheelhouse Studios at the Memorial Union offers classes in ceramics, dance, cooking, music and much, much more.

61. Create a DIY masterpiece

Drop by Revel to enjoy a Craft Bar and sample the menu of fun and easy DIY projects—from wall art to jewelry—or grab a group of friends for one of their signature studio events.

62. Embark on an Essential Madison Experience

Taste, explore and learn about one of the happiest cities in America in Madison-only experiences ranging from a bitters bootcamp to painting the Wisconsin Union's iconic Terrace Chair at sunset. Don’t just sightsee, fully immerse yourself in hands-on adventures, and a culture that can only be found in Madison.

63. Book a Bed and Breakfast

Relax and rejuvenate at one of Madison’s charming Bed and Breakfasts!

64. Relax and save during Hotel Week

Named as one of the best travel deals from around the globe by The Washington Post, Hotel Week provides $75, $100 and $125 room rates at some of Madison's best hotels February 8–18, 2019. Book your rooms starting in mid-November.

65. Work on your golf swing

Don’t let Wisconsin winters disrupt your golf game. Vitense Golfland offers a super-heated tee area so you can swing until spring. Or, try a round of indoor miniature golf!

66.  Hang out on campus

Bowl, shoot pool, play games or scale the climbing wall at The Sett, the center of recreation at Union South, AKA a “living room” for students and community members.

 

Local Shopping Section

67. Find your next artistic treasure

More than 135 exhibitors will fill Monona Terrace November 10–11 for Winter Art Fair Off the Square— the companion show to Madison’s summertime Art Fair on the Square.

68. Shop for homemade holiday goodies

With more than 60 vendors to choose from, the Saturday Holiday Dane County Farmers’ Market at the Monona Terrace (November 17–December 22) is a one-stop-shop for all your holiday food needs. And in the new year, stop by the Late Winter Market at the Madison Senior Center, January 5–April 6, 2019.

69. Snag the perfect holiday gift

Holiday shop in style with dozens of vendors selling fine arts and crafts, handmade gifts and gourmet treats at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art’s Art & Gift Fair November 17–18.

70. Support Small Business Saturday

The day after Black Friday, support area entrepreneurs and shop local on Small Business Saturday!

71. Discover Gifts with a Story

Peruse socially responsible and fashionable gifts at the 22nd Annual Fair Trade Holiday Festival at the Monona Terrace December 1.

72–75. Get your holiday shopping done in one spot

Madison-area malls are the perfect one-stop shops for all your holiday needs!

76–78. Stock up on cheese & sausage

  • Bavaria Sausage: Authentic, hand-crafted German Sausage made fresh
  • Ehlenbach’s Cheese Chalet: Dairy store featuring over 100 kinds of Wisconsin cheeses and Wisconsin-made sausages
  • Fromagination: Specialty cheese shop featuring 60 Wisconsin artisanal cheeses and perfect companions

Sips & Snacks Section

79. Uncover Madison’s Hidden Culinary Gems

Experience Madison's renowned local food scene on a Madison Eats Food Tour while exploring charming and vibrant neighborhoods, including Willy Street, Downtown and Atwood.

80. Eat Your Way Through Madison

Take a Capital City Food Tour and dive into the history, architecture and delicious food that the city has to offer!

81. Fill Up on Beer and Cheese

Meet and mingle with brewers and cheesemakers from around the state (and beyond) and sample hundreds of delicious creations at Isthmus' Beer & Cheese Fest January 19.

82. Sit around the fireplace at Captain Bill’s

Cozy up to a circular indoor fireplace and enjoy fresh seafood, chicken, pasta and steak served in a rustic, casual Key West setting.

83. Hide away with a cocktail in the Charlie’s on Main speakeasy

This hyper-local Wisconsin farm-to-table restaurant features good eats, local beer and spirits.

84. Warm up with whiskey at Dancing Goat Distillery

Tucked in the vineyards of Cambridge, WI just outside of Madison, the Dancing Goat combines the Art and Science of Distillation from past experience with modern technology.

85. Enjoy authentic Swiss cuisine at the cozy Alpine Restaurant – Chalet Landhaus Inn

Experience the best of traditional Swiss and American cuisine in a comfortable setting in New Glarus, WI. Swing by New Glarus Brewing Company afterwards for a world-class, handcrafted beer and tour!