I grew up in Wisconsin, but I admit when we first moved to Baraboo (about an hour north of Madison) I had no idea what to do with my two little kids. A Milwaukee native, South-Central Wisconsin was a mystery to me. Fortunately, between the Dells to the North, a surprising number of things to do in Baraboo, and the wealth of family-friendly ideas in Madison we kept quite busy for three years. I still miss our quiet mornings at Devil's Lake and busy ones at the Madison Children's Museum.
Here are our favorite things to do in the Madison Area with young kids.
1. Go to a Lake, our favorites include;
Lake Monona - Madison WI. There are several access points, but we like the beach and trails in Governor Nelson State Park.
Devil's Lake State Park - Baraboo WI. See all of our tips in this post.
2. Visit a Playground. There are some awesome ones in the area.
McKee Farms Park in Fitchburg is my favorite. It is huge, full of places to climb, and walking paths that wind through the park. There is also a fantastic farm themed splash pad to cool off in during the Summer.
3. See the Animals at the Henry Villas Zoo.
It's FREE and completely awesome. Here is our full review.
4. Ride the Merrimac Ferry
This is about a half an hour north of Madison and runs during the warmer months. It is completely free and doesn't take long. I recommend parking on one side so you can walk on the ferry. Ride is across and back so your kids can see the lake. Pack a lunch to eat on the shore to make a day of it if you want or get ice cream at the little shop on the Merrimac side.
5. Watch a Mallards Game
A cheap night out with lots of fun baseball, food, and people watching. Younger children will not understand or appreciate the baseball-ness of the activity, but they will be fascinated by everything going on around them. There is also a kids play area inside the stadium. See Website.
6. Visit a farm.
7. Dane County Farmers' Market
This is a huge Farmers' Market the forms around the Wisconsin State Capitol Square from 6am to 2pm every Saturday. On nice days it gets super crowded but it's worth it.
8. International Crane Foundation
This is a little hidden gem in Baraboo WI. It's small but is easy for kids to wander and has quite a collection of cranes. You'll pay $10 for yourself, but kids under 5 are free. See website.
9. Madison Children's Museum - Madison MS
This is a fantastic children's museum. While one trip is not cheap, I highly recommend a membership. If you have kids under 5 you could find yourself here at least once a month. View Website.
10. Library Storytime
Throughout the city there are preschool story times at the various libraries. One of our favorites is the main branch in downtown Madison. It has an amazing children's area full of great books, interesting nooks, and kid friendly technology. Check online for a storytime there or near you.
11. Barnes and Noble
This isn't unique to Madison, but it is still a fun way to pass a few hours. There are several branches in the Madison area, but each has a wonderful children's area. Our kids love playing and browsing for books. Check the website for brief storytimes as well.
12. Olbrich Gardens
Looking to warm up on a cold day, this is a great place to do it. The indoor dome is steamy and small enough for little legs to wander on their own. We also love the Christmas Trains Exhibit.
13. Kids in the Rotunda
On Saturdays, the Overture Center puts on delightful free family events. They vary, so check the schedule, but in our experience they are all awesome. View Website.
14. Mall Play Area
If you aren't in the midst of a terribly flu season, the indoor play areas at the East Towne and West Towne malls are fun places to play. Visit in the early morning to avoid the chaos of lunchtime and afternoon.
15. Visit the University of Wisconsin-Madison
There are plenty of kids friendly things to do at the U. You can eat custard at the Babcock Hall Dairy, bowl at the bowling lanes, or climb on the climbing wall in the lower level of the Student Union.
16. The Chazen Museum of Art
This is a museum on the UW campus. They have some fun events for children and their caregivers. Check the website for dates.
17. UW Geology Museum
This FREE musuem on the UW campus is a fun place to visit. There are also storytimes on the first and third Thursday of each month. See website for details.
A Weekend in Madison WI : Read Post
A Weekend in Wisconsin Dells : Read Post
A Weekend in Milwaukee : Read Post
See all Wisconsin Family Ideas : HERE
Find Free & Cheap Family Activities in Your Area on the Stay at Home Mom Survival Guide
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