A young girl ice skates on a frozen pond

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20 Things To Do This Winter

Fun doesn’t slow down in Madison 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. Best of all, it’s easy to fit many of these activities into one weekend! See how many you can tackle this winter.

1. Ooh and ahh at dazzling lights displays 

A beloved holiday tradition, Holiday Fantasy in Lights, the Electric Group has been lighting Madison’s Olin Park—and warming our hearts—for 30 years. Not too far from Olin Park, there's another display to see: 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.

2. Witness the massive Wisconsin State Capitol Holiday Tree

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. Find Santa(s)

See if you can spot all 6,000 collectible Santas, and check out other seasonal decorations this December at House on the Rock.

4. 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 Dec. 4 - 31, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. daily. Reserve tickets for the Holiday Express in advance.

5. Get your sip on at Festive Fridays

Wollersheim Winery is all about TGIF this holiday season. Get your holiday fix at Festive Fridays with wine tastings, local coffee, cocktails and more. Reserve tickets now. 

6. Celebrate the Season with the Symphony 

Welcome the holiday season with the Madison Symphony Orchestra. Their special Christmas event is from Dec. 3-5, 2021. 

7. Have a White Christmas

Ready for romantic tunes at one of the Midwest’s most popular entertainment destinations? The Fireside Dinner Theatre presents White Christmas, running now through Dec. 24. 

8. Try a new winter sport

A family and their dog snowshoeing on a trail at Pheasant Branch Conservancy

Madison and Dane County Parks offer winter outdoor options. Need equipment? Check out Wisconsin Union for rentals.

9. 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.

10. Hit the slopes

Nestled among the Baraboo Bluffs of south-central Wisconsin, Devil’s Head Resort 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.

11. Ice skate at The Edgewater

Edgewater Ice Skating Rink

This 4,000-square-foot rink is fast becoming a Madison favorite for friends, family and the occasional marriage proposal. The Edgewater ice rink opens on Dec. 15, but you can buy tickets before that! More info.

12. Take a scenic hike, without leaving the city

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.

13. Party on Lake Mendota

This free weekend of family fun, held at the Edgewater and hosted by the Clean Lakes Alliance, includes ice fishing, sleigh rides, complimentary hot chocolate and more, all in support of area lakes. Join in the fun at Frozen Assets Festival on Feb. 5, 2022.

14. Treat Yo' Self!

Sanctuary and meditation room at Kosa Spa

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 homemade holiday goodies

With more than 60 vendors to choose from, the Holiday Dane County Farmers’ Market at the Monona Terrace is a one-stop-shop for all your holiday food needs. Stop by the Late Winter Market at Garver Feed Mill, and discover gifts with a story at the Annual Fair Trade Holiday Festival at the Monona Terrace. 

For even more holiday events - check out our Events Calendar.

17. Dine out in a dome

Rent a dome and enjoy everything from a fully loaded Brunch at Cafe Hollander to a sharing a few Fantasy Factory craft IPAs at Karben4 Brewing. See more winter dome dining.

18. Warm up with craft whiskey 

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

19 & 20. Find a cozy chalet, crafts and Wisconsin beer

Pallets of Beer - New GlarusExperience the best of traditional Swiss and American cuisine in a comfortable setting in New Glarus at the cozy Alpine Restaurant – Chalet Landhaus Inn. Swing by New Glarus Brewing Company afterwards for a world-class, handcrafted beer and tour! (Self-guided tours happening 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., week days only.)

And mark your calendar for the New Glarus Christkindli Market, happening Dec. 10-12, 2021.


2021 Madison Holiday Guide

Everything you need to know to make the holidays in Madison memorable.

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