20 Things To Do This Winter in Madison
Fun doesn’t slow down in Madison, WI when the weather turns cold. Are you an active adventurer? Dive into the snowy, sporty activities. Rather get cozy indoors? Take your pick of seasonal shows and attractions. Do it all in a weekend between cozying up in a local bed and breakfast or hotel. How many of these top winter activities can you cross off your list?
1. 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.
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.
3. 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, held daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 3 to 31. Reserve your tickets today.
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.
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.
6. 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.
7. Ooh and ahh at holiday light displays
A beloved holiday tradition, Holiday Fantasy in Lights, has been lighting Madison’s Olin Park—and warming our hearts—for 30 years. Not too far from Olin Park, thousands of lights transform Henry Vilas Zoo into a winter wonderland. Enjoy festive sights and sounds as you visit your favorite creatures and discover new ones.
8. Try a new winter sport
Ice skating, snow shoeing, skiing and more are all available in the Greater Madison area. Need equipment? Check out Wisconsin Union for rentals.
9. Dine out in a dome
Be enthralled in a tiny winter wonderland while enjoying a great meal, a beer or cheese board. Find all of this year's winter dome dining.
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. Let the sounds of the season inspire you
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 or 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.
12. Hit your lucky streak at Ho-Chunk Gaming Madison
Take a spin on more than 1,000 slot machines and enjoy tasty tidbits from the Hahnee Goottay restaurant.
13. Party on the lake
It's never too cold for an outdoor festival and two of Madison's hottest (OK, maybe coldest?) fests happen back-to-back each February.
Frozen Assets is a free festival (and 5k!) hosted by the Clean Lakes Alliance featuring family-friendly activities on Lake Mendota right in front of The Edgewater. Check it out Feb. 4–5.
Winter Carnival is a time-honored tradition hosted by Wisconsin Union featuring hot chocolate, snow shoeing and the iconic sinking Lady Liberty display on Lake Mendota. All that and more is free February 7–12.
14. 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, Indulge Spa on Madison’s east side and Sundara Inn & Spa in the Wisconsin Dells.
15. Catch a winter game
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.
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. Shop for local holiday goodies
Make your holiday shopping into a full-on getaway as you explore the city through the eyes of local artisans, makers and entrepreneurs. Madison businesses are overflowing with that perfect gift just waiting to be discovered. Go ahead. Make your list, check it twice and then head out to these spots.
17. Dive into the 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.
PRO TIP: Many of Madison's museums are FREE!
18. Find an event that razzles and dazzles
From Christkindli Markets to food tours, our event calendar is bursting with opportunities for your next great adventure.
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. Experience a miracle
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at Miracle on King Street, which returns to Lucille November 21 through December 24. This Christmas extravaganza leaves all the halls (and walls and tables) at Lucille decked for the season. With a soundtrack to match the cute, cozy vibes, Miracle on King Street is the perfect spot for a date night, a holiday gathering with friends or a memorable experience for the whole family.