Although Madison, Wisconsin might be most known for its beautiful summers, Madison’s winters are just as fun – if not more so! With all of the snow and cold weather comes plenty of opportunities for winter activities for the whole family that are safe during pandemic times. The colder months shouldn’t stop you from enjoying Madison, so take advantage of the Wisconsin winter and check out these 10 fun things to do in Madison, WI in the winter!
The Edgewater’s beautiful ice rink is one of the best places to go for ice skating plus a beautiful view! You can bring your own skates or rent skates from the Edgewater’s own Ice House. Although it’s a small ice rink, it is absolutely worth the trip for the gorgeous view of the Capitol and Lake Mendota while you skate. Plus, the rink itself is surrounded by festive décor and there’s nothing quite like skating in a rink surrounded by twinkly lights to get you in the holiday spirit! The Edgewater is selling tickets for an hour on the ice in order to adhere to the occupancy requirements and, per Public Health Madison Dane County orders, guests must wear a face covering including when on the rink. You can also rent a private fire pit to cozy up to during the colder nights!
Elver Park is known for its woodsy trails and awesome disc golf course during the summer months, but it’s even more fun in the winter! Elver’s big hill is the perfect place to sled on any of Madison’s many snowy days. It’s a pretty steep hill so this one might be a little better for the older kids, but the sheer length of the hill makes for quite an exhilarating ride, even for adults. Elver Park also offers a ton of other winter activities such as ice skating and cross-country skiing – and they have lights for nighttime adventures! Due to COVID-19, the shelter is closed (bathrooms are still available) and they ask all guests to wear a mask and do their best to maintain a 6’ distance.
3. Outdoor Dining
Yes, you can still dine outdoors in Wisconsin in the winter time – the myth has been busted! While there aren’t many options there are still a few unique spots in town that will make for an unforgettable dining experience. Downtown restaurants Settle Down Tavern and Lucille have outdoor dining options, with Lucille completely transforming theirs into their so-called Winter Streatery. At Lucille, you can reserve one of 12 gas-fired fire pits for a warm and cozy meal. Feel free to bring a blanket or you can always purchase one for $25 with 50% of the proceeds going to the Cook It Forward Campaign.
Need a break from the chilly outdoors? The Chazen Museum of Art is the way to go. Located on University Avenue, The Chazen is one of the best hidden gems on the UW Campus. On top of having a beautiful art collection, the museum also has a peaceful little spot overlooking University Avenue as well as a glass pedestrian walkway over East Campus Mall that offers a gorgeous photo opportunity. And the best part? The Chazen is free! They are closed until January 26, 2021 for maintenance, but will reopen after that by appointment only. If you’d prefer to enjoy viewing artwork from the comfort of your own home, Chazen’s gallery is also available online!
State Street, in the heart of downtown Madison, is home to some of the best shops, restaurants, and bars. Many of these businesses are open this winter, so practice your social distancing and mask-wearing, and support local! Grab a coffee at one of the many cafes, enjoy the beautiful view of the Capitol building, and peruse all of the unique shops for some great winter gifts or a treat for yourself. Once you’re done with all of your shopping, grab some delicious take-out from one of State Street’s many restaurants!
A Madison Eats Food Tour is a great way to get some exercise and enjoy the crisp winter air while you indulge in our delicious local food! However, since our tours are on pause until we can safely run them again we are offering virtual cooking classes instead! Email us for information or to book! It’s an awesome way to spend an evening with family, friends, or co-workers safely on Zoom while still getting to enjoy delicious and locally sourced food. So gather ‘round your computer, enjoy good food and drinks, and relax!
While the Dane County Farmers’ Market might be most famous for its outdoor on-the-square market during the summer months, they continue to offer fantastic, farm fresh produce and goods during the winter! They’ve shaken things up to be COVID-friendly by offering local pick ups from January 6th to March 31st. Pre-order your items online, and then head to the Alliant Energy Center to enjoy all the high-quality local items that you’ve come to expect from the Farmers’ Market, but with the added convenience of drive-thru!
The Madison Children’s Museum, located just off the square, is perfect for families and includes an array of exhibits designed for inspiring play and curiosity! The MCM is temporarily closed, but they continue to offer lots of free online events and activities for toddlers, pre-schoolers, and elementary school-aged children. From arts & crafts to science projects, MCM has something for everyone and the kids are sure to be entertained and engaged! Check it out on the MCM at Home page!
Whether you’re new to winter sports or a total pro, this is the perfect year to be getting active outdoors! University Ridge Golf Course on the western edge of Madison has several wonderful cross country ski trails to choose from for skiers of all experience levels. Have some fun with your fitness and enjoy these trails any day of the week! You can choose whether to purchase a day pass or become a member for the season, and they also offer ski rentals if you don’t have your own equipment.
Most visitors (and locals) can attest to the beauty of the Arboretum in the summertime, but you are in for a treat when you see everything covered in snow! If skiing or ice skating aren’t really your speed, you can still get out and enjoy the outdoors with a winter hike through the Arboretum. Allow yourself to be rejuvenated and inspired by the beauty of the natural landscape as you explore the more than 17 miles of trails. Looking to get slightly out of town? Check out Indian Lake on the Ice Age Trail!