Looking for great indoor activities in Madison WI and surrounding areas? Whether it’s the middle of winter, or a rainy day, there are countless options to get out – while staying in – in Madison.
Grab dinner at an award-winning restaurant
This is where Madison’s small town feel gives way to big city culture. Hundreds of casual to fine-dining restaurants line the downtown streets, several serving food by award-winning chefs. A night on the town could consist of an upscale farm-to-table meal across the street from the Capitol building, a classy cocktail or martini at Merchant, followed by a Broadway show at the Overture Center for the
Arts, all within a few blocks.
Madison boasts of a diverse food scene. You’ll find authentic food from all over the world, all within a few blocks of each other downtown!
Popular Madison dining areas:
- Capitol Square (downtown)
- State Street
- Monroe Street
- Willy Street
Catch a show at one of the many performance venues
World-famous shows, performers, comedians, musicians and speakers cycle through the area year round. In addition to Broadway shows, concerts and performances at the Overture Center, performers regularly stop at other downtown venues, such as the Orpheum Theater, The Sylvee, Breese Stevens Field, the Alliant Energy Center, and Comedy on State.
Best Madison entertainment venues:
- Alliant Energy Center
- Comedy on State
- Overture Center for the Arts
- The Orpheum Theater
- The Sylvee
- The Piano Bar
Visit a museum or do some indoor sightseeing
Madison is home to a handful of museums that could occupy you (and the whole family!) for hours on end. Bring the kids to the Madison Children’s Museum, or enjoy the unique pieces at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. When you’re sick of the winter weather, get a taste of summer at Olbrich Botanical Gardens (they often have special exhibits throughout the year too!). The inside of the capitol building is open to the public, and a beautiful indoor place to explore!
Indoor places to visit in Madison:
- Chazen Museum of Art
- Madison Children’s Museum
- Museum of Contemporary Art
- National Mustard Museum
- Olbrich Botanical Gardens
- Wisconsin State Capitol
Do some shopping on State Street
Okay, this one will require a little bit of walking outside, but it’s worth it! At the heart of local business and nightlife in Madison is State Street, a pedestrian-only zone that connects UW-Madison with the Capitol Square. Unique local shops, popular coffee houses, bars and restaurants line the street.
Shop local boutiques for gifts, accessories, clothing and so much more. For lunch, grab a slice of pizza at Ian’s Pizza, and later, sit down for dinner at one of the many restaurants. After that, enjoy hours of entertainment at The Ivory Room Piano Bar – a dueling piano bar – one of our favorites!
Hang out at a local brewery
Entertainment, dining, shopping, and of course two of Wisconsin’s staples – cheese and beer – extend well beyond the streets of downtown. You can’t go more than a few miles without finding a new restaurant to try, or a spot to taste some Wisconsin cheese curds and sip a locally brewed beer. Microbreweries and gastropubs are some of the most popular local destinations, and new ones pop up yearly.
Best breweries in the Madison area:
- Ale Asylum
- Karben4 Brewing
- New Glarus Brewing
- One Barrel Brewing Company
- The Great Dane
- Wisconsin Brewing Company
Other indoor activities in Madison WI:
- Bingo or Trivia: Many restaurants and bars host weekly bingo and trivia – you can find games to join on the weekends and weeknights, and they are often free!
- Signs by Caitlin: Make a unique and beautiful sign for your home with this woman-owned, family-run business. They host public workshops throughout the Madison area.
- Board and Brush: As of this writing, there are two Board and Brush locations in the Madison area (Mount Horeb and Sun Prairie). You’ll enjoy a night out creating a new masterpiece for your home!
- Fired Up Pottery Studio: Paint a cute piece of decor at this studio in Monona! A great activity for everyone in the family.
- Indoor Roller Rink: Bring the kids and enjoy some of your own nostalgic memories at Fast Forward Skate Center.
- Go to a movie: There are a number of movie theaters throughout the Madison area, from Sun Prairie to the west side to Fitchburg and more.
- Walk around the mall: Stay inside at West Towne or East Towne mall, or check out one of our favorites, Hilldale. You will walk outside at Hilldale, but there are plenty of things to do that will keep you warm and dry for hours. Shop for boutique clothing, kitchenware, and so much more. Then grab coffee or lunch and a movie at the AMC theater.
- Trampoline Parks: Sky Zone and Urban Air Adventure Park are popular spots for families and kids, especially in the winter or on a rainy day.
- Indoor arcades: There are several arcades that cater to kids and adults alike. From modern to retro too! Check out Dave & Buster’s, BB Jack’s, Geeks Mania Arcade, or Nerdhaven Arcade.
Relocating to Madison
Madison is an active community year round. In the summer, Madisonians stay busy on the lakes, biking, hiking, and visiting many fairs and festivals. While we hunker down a little in the winter, you’ll still find a city bursting at the seams with activities. Outdoor activities like skiing and snowshoeing are still popular in the winter. But when that weather is just a little too unbearable, you’ll never run short of ideas for indoor activities in Madison WI, using the list above!
Dane County, and Madison specifically, is growing by the day. The area attracts young professionals starting their careers, seasoned medical professionals transferring to UW Hospitals, business people and entrepreneurs, and families looking for an active community.
Dane County is Wisconsin’s fastest growing county, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It accounted for more than one-third of the state’s net population growth between 2010 and 2020, at a 15% increase. The Madison metro area is also the fastest growing in the state!
If you’re considering moving to Madison, please reach out to us! We’d love to give you a private tour of the city, and answer all of the questions you have about living here.