Explore Madison Like a Local Family
One of the first things you’ll notice about Madison is that there are kids everywhere. The family-friendly culture means you don’t have to leave the kiddos behind to enjoy a beer on the Memorial Union Terrace or a farm-to-table dinner at one of the many local restaurants. Madtown is the perfect lowkey travel destination for families.
Sandwiched between two lakes, Madison boasts 12.7 parks per 10,000 residents and more than 200 miles of scenic biking and hiking trails. The walkable downtown and State Street make Madison a great family destination. Bike or walk the Capital City Trail along the shore of Lake Monona. On Saturdays, stroll around the Capitol Square during the Dane County Farmers’ Market. It’s the largest producer-only market in the U.S.
For some local flavor, we’ve highlighted five spots Madisonian kiddos and their families love to play, learn and explore. While you’re in town, experience Madison like a local with these five kid-pleasing experiences.
Kids in the Rotunda
From October through April, Saturdays are Kids in the Rotunda days at the Overture Center for the Arts in downtown Madison. Performances are geared mainly towards kids under nine. They offer a wide-range of acts, including drumming, family-friendly improv comedy, dance, and puppet theater. There’s also a Kids in the Rotunda Summer Sessions schedule that brings kid-friendly performances to venues and festivals around Madison. Check out the Kids in the Rotunda Facebook page for upcoming events.
Monona Youth Dream Park
Few city parks can hold a candle to the Monona Youth Dream Park. Situated in the 45-acre Winnequah Park, Dream Park will transport littles to a magical realm. The playground resembles a castle—complete with turrets, fortified walls, and suspended bridges. A dragon sculpture provides a unique climbing experience. Other features include a tire swing, tree house, monkey bars, slides, and swing sets. For more kid-fun, a community pool and library are located just across the street from the playground.
The Well Open Gym
If you’re visiting Madison during the colder months or you need a rainy-day activity, check out The Well located on Madison’s west side. During the week, The Well is a unique childcare and pre-school facility. Each weekend, The Well opens its doors for open gym. Hours may vary seasonally, but generally, open gym takes place Saturday and Sunday. Babies, toddlers and preschoolers can choose their own adventures while exploring the indoor playset or sandbox, lay track on the train table, or explore the countless toys.
Cost: $7 per child, $5 second sibling, $3 additional sibling(s)
We love getting our little ones into the kitchen. And we love cooking classes! Yummy Sprout combines these two loves with their Mini Sprouts Culinary Class offerings. Owner Tara Verma shares, “Our mission and our passion are showing kids that healthy food is yummy and fun plus give them opportunity for hands-on culinary experiences that are vital to child development. We love watching our mini sprout chefs create, grow and find the joy in cooking!” The Mini Sprouts classes are geared towards littles from two to six and include a short storytime.
Cost: $16 per student
University of Wisconsin Geology Museum
Young paleontologists will be wowed by dinosaur skeletons, dazzled by glittering gemstones, and impressed by martian rocks at the Geology Museum at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Considered to be a hidden-gem by locals, the museum can trace its roots back to the university’s founding in 1848. The museum’s most famous exhibit is a nine and a half foot tall mastodon skeleton! It was discovered in the late 1890s in southwestern Wisconsin. For preschool-aged kiddos, check out Museum Storytime the first and third Thursday of the month.
While Madison is a pedestrian paradise, little legs might get tired with all of the walking and excitement. Plan ahead and reserve the baby gear your little one needs to stay happy and content!
Kathy is a freelance writer, an Independent Quality Provider with BabyQuip and the mother of a very active one-year-old boy. When she’s not changing diapers, developing engaging content for clients, or helping families travel with little ones, she enjoys reading, gardening, yoga, and naps.