28 Things to Do in Madison Over Winter Break – 2016 Edition
Published on December 28th, 2016
By Jennifer Oppriecht
Good-bye students. Hello winter ghost town. Madison clears out quite a bit during winter break, leaving apartment renters (especially students) left behind, wondering what to do in Madison. Our suggestions for things to do in Madison include new 2016 / 2017 updates from last year’s list!
NEW ADDITIONS For 2016 / 2017:
Stroll 16 acres of outdoor gardens featuring stunning landscapes and Midwest-hardy plants. Visit the tropics in the Bolz Conservatory, filled with exotic plants, flowers, orchids, birds, and a waterfall. Outdoor Gardens are free and open daily. Olbrich’s Holiday Express: Flower and Model Train Show is always a big draw.
The Monona Terrace is Madison’s convention center and banquet hall. Inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, it offers breathtaking views of Lake Monona. Check out the December community program and events calendar.
The Wisconsin Veterans Museum is dedicated to the citizen-soldiers of our state. Employing ongoing and temporary exhibits, displays, and presentations, the museum’s main galleries tell the story of Wisconsin men and women who served in America’s conflicts from the Civil War to the present.
Check out their special temporary exhibit The Art of Persuasion: Mobilizing the Masses in WWI which runs through March 2017.
Many people don’t know about the Geology Museum on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. From kindergarten classes through adult civic groups, tours are tailored to deliver age-appropriate content.
Tours are one hour long and feature hundreds of rock and mineral specimens, a black light display and skeletons from dinosaurs and Ice Age animals. Admission to the museum is free, but guided tours have a $2 per person fee (minimum fee of $16).
One of Madison’s jewels, the Madison Children’s Museum is a beloved local play space and learning playground for kids and families. And as we noted in this Local Business Profile, the secret is out—it’s as much fun for grownups as it is for kids! Their Adult Swim event series honors the venerable public pool tradition of kicking the kids out every so often to give the grownups their turn.
OLD Favorites (with New Updates):
The museum celebrates the history and shared experiences of the many cultures that shaped our state. Check out their “Cure Cabin Fever” lecture series in January.
You walk past it every day, but have you ever taken a look inside the Chazen. Or, if the weather outside is frightful, pour yourself a cup of cocoa and explore the entirety of their work online. Featured exhibit is FACADES: photographs by Markus Brunetti.
The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art provides free exhibitions and education programs for city residents and visitors. This year’s Wisconsin Triennial captures the richness and variety of artistic expression across the state, and showcases significant themes being addressed within the contemporary art world. Visitors may see new work by artists included in previous Triennials, as well as discover emerging artists. Runs through January 8, 2017.
Offering brewery, distillery and winery bus and bike tours. Hop Head Beer Tours promises you will have a fun, safe and educational experience – and notes the tours are NOT a party bus or pub crawl. Check their website for tour dates.
Madison’s landmark hotel and resort features fantastic views, restaurants, lounges, spa and, you guessed it, ice skating! Check their website for special holiday packages.
Sure, you see it all the time, but have you actually been on a tour? Great nuggets of Capitol trivia await: did you know that over 40 different types of stone from around the world were used in the construction? Plenty more where that came from, baby. The tours also include insight on the Capitol murals, with fascinating stories behind each of the paintings, and much, much more. Best of all – it’s FREE.
12. Help Madison’s Less Fortunate
13. Sledding in Madison
Providing there is snow, it’s a great time to take a ride down Elizabeth Waters hill on Observatory Drive. For true adventure, trek out to Elver Park and ride the mammoth hill where Bo Ryan runs his troops into the ground. The City of Madison’s website provides info on nine sledding hills.
Located on East Main Street, the Old Sugar Distillery has informal tours and will provide you with everything you need to know about their homemade products, including Honey Liqueur, Cane and Abe Rum and more.
Visit Henry Vilas Zoo for a glimpse at the real thing – a Bengal tiger. You’ll also see African lions, tortoises from the Galapagos Islands, our favorite, the capybara, and our buddies the lemurs (pictured below).
Ice skate rentals and concessions are available at Elver, Tenney and Vilas Park. You’ll also find group ice skating lessons!
17. Microbrews (and Macro-Brews)
Madison is home to some great microbrews, including the refurbished Ale Asylum, the Vintage Brewing Company, the Great Dane Pub and Brewing Company and Granite City out by West Towne Mall. We also have the Capital Brewery in Middleton with brewery tours. Recent additions include the Next Door Brewing Company and One Barrel Brewing Company.
The Ice Age Trail is one of only eleven National Scenic Trails in the United States. It just so happens that it meanders through Dane County.
You can plan a tour of one of Madison’s historic districts by visiting the City of Madison’s Planning Division website. You’ll find fourteen pre-planned, self-guide tour maps complete with anecdotal history.
20. The Local Band Scene
If you’ve been too immersed in schoolwork to get a taste of live music scene, you’re seriously missing out. You’ll find band performance listed on The Isthmus and this Yelp Listing shows all the local Madison live music locales.
21. Snowshoeing or Cross Country Skiing
Once again, if snow allows, you should take a look at snowshoeing. The DNR provides a complete list of Wisconsin snowshoe trails. The City of Madison has a fantastic cross-country skiing page, and you can reach out to the Ski Trail Hotline for trail conditions at 608-242-4576.
22. Memorial Union Classes
The Memorial Union offers classes on snow skiing, speed reading, and other interests, including Wheelhouse Studios.
A spring and summertime favorite, Devil’s Lake State Park also features sledding, hiking and snowshoeing. Added bonus: Snowshoes are available for FREE in January.
24. Snowboarding and Downhill Skiing
We’re not sure how we missed this in last year’s listing, but Tyrol Basin and Devil’s Head are both great places for snowboarding and downhill skiing. You may also want to check into the UW Hoofers Ski and Snowboard club.
Madison allows its inmates to express their insanity and help charitable organizations in the process. Freeze for Food is a 5K/10K run/walk at Vilas park, and it’s scheduled for Saturday, March 4, 2017.
The UW Arboretum offers natural beauty year-round. There are also numerous walks, lectures, and volunteer opportunities during the winter. Includes ski and snowshoe trails too!
27. Snow Tubing
Ride down a snowy 1,000 foot chute at Cascade Mountain – all in a tube! Great activity if you’re not a skier or snowboarder.
28. Clean House or Read a Book
You’ve got some time on your hands, so why not take the time to clean out your apartment or catch up on your reading. De-clutter, get rid of the junk and try and re-organize and/or redecorate and expand your mind. The new look will feel better and make you more productive.
We’ve likely just scratched the surface, and we’re sure you’ve got a few ideas to offer. Add a comment below and let us know what we’ve missed. Then enjoy the time off while you can.