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8 Things to Do in Madison, WI During the Winter

Discover all the fun things you can do in Madison this winter season

By Raven Petty on January 25, 2016

madison wisconsin

Winter’s freezing temperatures, ice and snow create the perfect conditions for some of the most beloved activities in Madison, WI. Residents of Madison, which topped our 2015 100 Best Places to Live list, take full advantage of the city’s seasonal amenities. Sure, finding great things to do in Madison during the summer and spring months is easy, but residents here don’t stop when things get cold. In fact many people living in Madison feel winter is the best time to be here. Just take a look at our list of things to do in Madison during the winter. 

VIEW THE LIST: See where Madison ranked on our 2017 Best Places to Live list. 

1. Take a Hike

 As crazy as it may seem, Madison residents love to hike. Those up for a challenge should check out the Glacial Drumlin State Trail, which stretches 52 miles through farmland and glacial topography. For hikers of any skill level, there’s Devil’s Lake with more than 29 miles of trails, including a 1-mile interpretive nature trail and 1.5 miles of trail that are accessible to those with disabilities. Parks and recreational activities in Madison open doors to many opportunities for those who want to get outside any time of year. 

2. Go Ice Skating


One of the best things about wintertime is enjoying it. Ice skating is big in Madison, where skaters lace up and head to outdoor rinks at Tenney, Elver or Vilas parks. If you’re not brave enough for the cold, you can check out indoor skating rinks at places like Madison Ice Arena and Capitol Ice Arena.

3. Ski, Snowtube, Sled


Hit the slopes and join the Madison Nordic Ski Club, which is open to beginner and experts, young and old. If you’d rather make a day of it, visit Cascade Mountain for snowtubing, skiing and more. For the 2014-15 season, the park is doubling the number of tubing lanes and opening new sections for thrill-seekers. If you don’t want to venture far, grab a sled and just enjoy the neighborhood around you.

4. Volunteer


One of the best ways to warm up is to warm your heart. Do that by volunteering at the United Way of Dane County, the Dane County Humane Society or The Road Home, which helps Madison homeless families. More than 1,500 volunteers participate each year, donating more than 13,000 hours of their time.

BEST RESTAURANTS IN MADISON: From fine dining to pub food. 

5. Tour a Distillery

 Founded by a University of Wisconsin grad, Nathan Greenawalt, Old Sugar Distillery will warm you up inside and out. This small-craft distillery opened in 2010, and everything can be seen from your seat while you sip and listen to a bartender tell the distillery’s story. Yahara Bay Distillers offers tours for $7, and you can learn about one of the world’s largest import bottling operations.

6. Grab a Beer

 It’s easy to kick back and enjoy a cold one at one of Madison’s great breweries and brew pubs – all 17 of them. A couple options are One Barrel Brewing Company, Madison’s first and only nano-brewery (produces in small batches) and Ale Asylum, which serves beers with names such as Big Slick, Demento and Kink.

BEST BEER IN MADISON: Find the 99 Best Beers in the 99 Best Beer Cities. 

7. Visit a Museum


Families will love to explore exhibits and roam museums in Madison. A favorite for kids is the Madison Children’s Museum, which connects visitors to the community and the world through learning and creative play. Another must-see is the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, designed by Cesar Pelli. Since 1901, the museum has provided free exhibitions and programs, and the permanent collection features around 5,000 objects.

8. Watch/Play Sports


Do you like to get in on the action or just sit back and watch? Either way, Madison has a great selection of sports for you to enjoy. To join a team, check out a casual game of snow football at the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus or a Big Ten Wisconsin Badgers game. If you can follow the five Ds, sign up for the weekly dodgeball league through the Madison Sports and Social Club.

CHEER: See where Madison ranked as a Top 10 College Tailgate City. 

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