Busy Kids Daytrip: Madison
There are so many interesting and beautiful places to explore that are just a short drive from Washington County. In our Busy Kids Daytrip series, we’ll highlight some of the fun events and activities for kids at these destinations.
Madison, Wisconsin is one of our absolute favorite day trip destinations! It is about a 90 minute drive from Washington County and has tons of fun activities for your whole family to enjoy. You could definitely spend more than a day here.
Madison Children’s Museum
Hours: Day after Memorial Day to Labor Day: Monday – Sunday 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Labor Day to Memorial Day: Tuesday – Sunday 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Closed Mondays with the exception of the last Monday of each month!
Admission: Adults $7.95, Children $7.95, Seniors and Grandparents $6.95, Children under 1 Free.
Discovery learning and creative play. It’s how children learn about themselves and the world. It’s also the thought behind every MCM exhibit. Layered on top of that are cool colors, great sounds, custom contraptions, green environments, hundreds of activities, and a staff that’s dedicated to making the most of every child’s visit.
Wisconsin Historical Museum
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday: 9:00AM-4:00PM
Admission: Adults $5, Children 5 and up $3
Museum staff offer free tours to visitors at 1:00 daily. These short tours go beyond what is on display, offering facts and stories that you won’t find in the exhibits! Meet at the front desk around 1:00. Themes change monthly. The collections of the Museum contain over 110,000 historical objects and nearly 400,000 archaeological artifacts documenting the history of Wisconsin from prehistoric times to the present.
Hours: Monday – Friday: 8:30am – 4:30pm | Saturday: 9:00am – 1:00pm | Closed Sundays
The Geology Museum, housed within the UW-Madison campus, is loaded with artifacts and information. Visit the dinosaur room, see skeletons and check out fossils. Easy to navigate, you and your family will find this museum very interesting!
Chazen Museum of Art
Hours: Tue, Wed, Fri: 9:00AM-5:00PM | Thur: 9:00AM-9:00PM | Sat & Sun: 11:00AM-5:00PM
Closed Mondays, Thanksgiving, 12/24, 12/25 and 1/1
The Chazen is home to the second-largest collection of art in Wisconsin: more than 20,000 works include paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints, photographs, and decorative arts. The permanent collection covers diverse historical periods, cultures, and geographic locations, from ancient Greece, Western Europe, and the Soviet Empire, to Moghul India, eighteenth-century Japan, and modern Africa. The collection continues to grow thanks to artwork donations and purchases.
Wisconsin Veteran’s Museum
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday 9:00 am to 4:30 pm | Sunday (April through September) 12:00 to 4:00.
From flags carried in battle by Wisconsin’s Civil War regiments to equipment used by Wisconsin men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Wisconsin Veterans Museum Object Collections consist of more than 26,000 objects. The collection consists of uniforms, equipment, armament, flags, insignia, decorations, personal items, and souvenirs used and collected by Wisconsin citizens over the past 150 years.
FAMILY FRIENDLY ACTIVITIES
Wisconsin State Capitol
Hours: Monday – Friday: 8am – 6pm | Weekends and Holidays: 8am – 4pm
The best way to experience the beauty and grandeur of Wisconsin’s Capitol building (located at 2 East Main Street, Madison, WI 53702) is to see it for yourself. Free tours are offered daily, except on the following holidays: New Year’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas. Plan on spending 45-55 minutes for a tour. A sixth floor museum and observation deck are also open in summer.
Henry Vilas Zoo
Hours: 9:30AM-5:00PM daily
Admission: Free, suggested $2 donation
The Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, WI is one of only a handful of admission-free, community-supported zoos in the country. Visit the polar bears at the newly built Arctic Passage, listen to the lion’s ‘roar’ and take a ride on the train. There’s fun for everyone at this zoo!
Stroll through 16 acres of outdoor display gardens and an indoor, tropical conservatory at Olbrich Botanical Gardens. In the outdoor gardens, visit the Thai Pavilion and Garden. Olbrich’s Thai Pavilion is the only one in the continental United States and the only one outside of Thailand surrounded by a garden. Stop and smell the roses in the Rose Garden, opened to the public in 2005. Olbrich’s rose garden features innovative mixed borders of Midwest hardy shrub roses and perennials. Also stroll through other specialty gardens such as the Perennial Garden, Sunken Garden, and Herb Garden. Olbrich’s outdoor gardens are open daily, year-round. Make sure to visit the Bolz Conservatory also!
UW Madison Arboretum
Hours: Trails 7:00AM-10:00PM | Visitor Center: Mon-Fri 9:30AM – 4:00PM | Sat–Sun 12:30PM – 4:00PM
The Arboretum features distinct ecological communities, horticultural collections, effigy mounds, more than 20 miles of trails, and a Visitor Center. It is a place of active learning, reflection, creativity, land care, research, and recreation—where human, animal, and plant communities coexist. We highly suggest going towards the end of April to see the Spring Blooms! The sights are amazing! Don’t forget your camera.
Hours: Sunday to Thursday 10am-9pm | Friday & Saturday 10am-11pm
If great food in a fun filled atmosphere is what you’re looking for, Ella’s Deli is the destination for you. Ella’s is a one of a kind treat for kids and adults alike and will be a family favorite. Youngsters will be mesmerized by the animated displays that fill the restaurant from floor to ceiling. Even the glass top tables contain everything from model trains chugging though tiny towns to marble maze races to test your dexterity. The special two-page kids’ menu will keep them happy as well. Ranging from the classic choices of cheeseburgers and hot dogs to the matzo ball soup that is sure to be a new favorite, it also includes the Humpty Dumpty sundae.
In the spring, summer, and fall no trip to Ella’s deli is complete without a ride on the 1927 Parker Carousel. This beautifully restored ride, complete with organ music, is a treat kids won’t forget. Whether you’re one or one hundred, Ella’s Deli offers something for the whole family.
Pat O’Malley’s Jet Room
Hours: Monday – Saturday: 6am-2pm | Sunday: 8am-2pm
Have an unforgettable experience watching planes take off while you dine! Pat O’Malley’s Jet Room is located inside the Wisconsin Aviation building at Dane County Regional Airport, so little ones can get an up-close and personal view of the action! Open daily for breakfast and lunch.
Tex Tubb’s Taco Palace
Hours: Sunday: 10am – 9pm | Monday-Tuesday: 11am – 9pm | Wednesday-Thursday: 11am – 10pm | Friday: 11am – 11pm | Saturday: 10am – 11pm
Great place for tacos, burritos, local food, and great drinks. They make all of their food from scratch and many options include vegan or gluten free. The best side dish is hands down the fried avocados. Make sure to give yourself time because this place is pretty popular!
Hours: Sunday: 9am – 12am | Monday-Wednesday: 11am – 12am | Thursday-Friday: 11am – 2am | Saturday: 9am – 2am
One word: Burgers. DLUX has amazing, super tasty burgers! A half a block from the State Capitol, DLUX serves posh burgers in a laid-back atmosphere just off the Square. At DLUX, our burgers range from The Standard (the best classic burger around), to creative, chef-driven burgers like the Farmhouse, topped with bacon, monterey jack cheese, fried green tomato, baby greens, and house made tomato jam. No matter your tastes, DLUX has you covered with a diverse menu of bunned delights, boozy shakes, and perfect sauce-and-cheese laden French Fry creations. So, go ahead, close your eyes and point to the menu. No matter what you pick, it’ll be your new favorite.
Lake Vista Cafe
Hours: Open May through August | Monday 11am-3pm | Tuesday – Sunday 11am-7pm
This is a seasonal restaurant, but so great to check out when the weather’s nice! Enjoy sprawling views of Lake Monona and downtown Madison’s cityscape at Lake Vista Café, located in the William T. Evjue Rooftop Gardens. It’s the perfect stop for lunch, dinner or happy hour. Open (weather permitting) Monday 11am-3pm, Tuesday – Sunday 11am-7pm (open until 8pm June – August). Brunch is served daily until 2pm.
Have something else that’s fun to do in Madison? Let us know in the comments below!