If you’ve never been to Madison, WI, you’re missing out. Within this relatively small Midwestern city, you’ll find a number of exciting things to do, whether you are visiting on your own or with your family. Here’s a list of five great things to do in Madison WI and places to visit to get you started on your trip to Madison.

Madison WI Lakes – The city of Madison is bordered by several lakes: Lake Mendota, Lake Kengonsa, Lake Wingra, Lake Monona and Lake Waubesa. Given the size and number of these beautiful bodies of water, it shouldn’t be surprising that Madison residents take the opportunity to visit them as often as possible.

Lake activities in Madison include:

  • Lakeside Concerts: As soon as the weather warms up, Madison residents and visitors alike are enjoying lakeside outdoor concerts.
  • Beaches: When you think about a beach vacation, Madison, WI, may not be the first place that springs to mind. However, the lakeside beaches are picturesque, fun places to visit. The City of Madison maintains over 6,000 acres of parkland, many of which border a lake.
  • Lake Cruises: Take a relaxing spin around a lake with the help of one of Madison’s many lake cruise operators.

Visitors to Madison might eschew shopping there in favor of the much larger city of Chicago just a few hours away. However, don’t forget that Madison is a university town, which means it’s full of unique, funky shops and restaurants that have the type of small-city character that you’ll never be able to find in a place like Chicago.

In particular, if you like to shop, visit State Street. State Street is a pedestrian mall lined with outdoor cafes, restaurants, and eclectic shops and boutiques. The street also borders the University of Wisconsin – Madison campus.

State St. is also a great place to go to checkout nightlife in Madison. It is on this street that you will find the impressive Overture Center for the Arts.

Madison is also the state capitol of Wisconsin. History was made at the capitol not long ago as the new governor squared off against government employees. See the building for yourself on your visit.

As home to Wisconsin’s largest public university, it shouldn’t be surprising that, for a city its size, Madison has a thriving arts and culture scene. In particular, the Overture Center for the Arts mentioned above is a wonderful place to listen to a classical music concert or attend a similar event. Playhouses, museums and other concert venues also fill the city.

Despite being a college town, Madison is very family-friendly. The Henry Vilas Zoo is one of the only free zoos in the nation, and it’s guaranteed to please kids and adults alike. If you’ll be taking kids with a dinosaur obsession to Madison, be sure to take them to the University of Wisconsin Geology Museum. They’ll be able to see Ice Age fossils, including the complete skeleton of a mastodon.

These five things to do in Madison, WI, are just the tip of the iceberg. Madison is a fantastic city filled with adventure for those who know where to look!

Madison WI Live Music Scene

Music is a major key element of Madison city culture, home to a wide spectrum of melodic backgrounds. For a more classical venue, visitors and residents gather at the historic Barrymore Theatre on the east side of the city. You’ll also find a large variety of coffee houses, wine bars and night life establishments where an assortment of live bands entertainment on a nightly basis.

The High Noon Saloon, close to downtown, offers alternative music including breaking indie rock and local performers. If you’re looking for big name acts, check the schedule of the Orpheum Theatre, or the University of Wisconsin Theatre located on campus.

The oldest theatre in Madison is the Majestic Theatre, on King Street just off the Capitol Square. Built in 1906, and later renovated, the Majestic Theatre was reopened in 2007 and has hosted a multitude of famous performances. Visitors can also watch movies in the popular Brew-n-View section of the theatre.

Music festivals frequent the city of Madison every summer, including the Forward Music Festival, Waterfront Festival, Atwood Summerfest, Isthmus Jazz Festival, Willy St. Fair, The Orton Park Festival, Madison Pop Festival, WORT Block Party, Greek Fest, The Madison Area Music Awards and many more. The Fete de Marquette is one of the newer additions, held near Bastille Day (July 14th) in Central Park. This music festival celebrates French and Cajun music cultures.