You have 1.5 days to tour the vibrant little city of Madison, Wisconsin? Perfect! Here's what to see and do... in winter! // dreams-etc.com

What to See & Do in Madison in 1.5 Days (in Winter!)

Madison, Wisconsin. It probably doesn’t top a lot of travel bucket lists, but it’s a place I’ve always had a fondness for. I visited it with my family when I was younger and lived in Wisconsin, and when my sister was on a rowing team in college we followed her to team to Madison a couple of times when she had regattas there. Madison has always lived in my mind as a vibrant city; even one I’d be willing to move to. So it was a lot of fun to return Madison with my mom last month and see it with older eyes. Was it just as vibrant as I remember it being? It sure was! Some might even call it quirky.

We arrived in late afternoon on Friday and left during the afternoon on Sunday. We technically spent two days there, but in addition to exploring Madison we were also visiting a relative, so we had a lot of downtime. I’d say we had maybe a day and a half of time to see what Madison has to offer. Keep in mind, Madison in winter is very different than Madison in summer. There’s a little more to do when the weather is nice. And trust me, I fully intend to return an take advantage of all the warm weather happenings!

Our travel started Friday night, when we went to see a light show. None of my photos actually turned out, since you drive through the course, but I have some video footage that I’m planning to share in an upcoming video (lets hope I have enough footage to make the video, now that I’m promising it!). It was a fun seasonal attraction to visit–different businesses in Madison created a light display that in some way represented their business. It was free, but donations were welcome.

You have 1.5 days to tour the vibrant little city of Madison, Wisconsin? Perfect! Here's what to see and do... in winter! // dreams-etc.com

We woke up on Saturday and immediately went downtown to the capitol building.

But we didn’t go in, yet. Our first stop downtown was Fromagination, a cheese shop that’s on the capitol square.

You have 1.5 days to tour the vibrant little city of Madison, Wisconsin? Perfect! Here's what to see and do... in winter! // dreams-etc.com

We tasted a lot of cheese and they brought out cups of apple cider to drink as we did. I’m usually not a fan of apple cider, but the cider they served was fantastic. We bought some of the cheese we tried while there. They also have other things you can buy: preserves, honey, etc. I picked up a bunch of honey that I need to start using. I’ve been so excited to try it and I still haven’t opened up any of it. 🙈 It was definitely a store worth stopping at.

You have 1.5 days to tour the vibrant little city of Madison, Wisconsin? Perfect! Here's what to see and do... in winter! // dreams-etc.com

You have 1.5 days to tour the vibrant little city of Madison, Wisconsin? Perfect! Here's what to see and do... in winter! // dreams-etc.com

We left Fromagination and went straight to the capitol building. One reason we decided to visit during December was so that we could see the state Christmas tree. It was so much fun to see the tree, walk around the capitol building, and listen to the flute choir that played in the rotunda while we were there. I wrote all about the Christmas tree in a separate post.

You have 1.5 days to tour the vibrant little city of Madison, Wisconsin? Perfect! Here's what to see and do... in winter! // dreams-etc.com

After we left the Christmas tree we walked up and down State Street for awhile. This would be so much fun to do when the weather’s a little warmer; it was freezing the day we walked around and it felt like it got colder as we walked! While we were on State Street we stopped at the Overture Center and saw an advertisement for Indian dancing as part of Kids in the Rotunda. We thought it would be groups of kids performing and since we were there right as it started we decided to check it out. It turns out that it was groups of kids performing… but it was also for kids and their families. 😂 We stuck around for a little while and learned a little bit about Indian dance, before we headed back out into the cold to continue to walking around.

You have 1.5 days to tour the vibrant little city of Madison, Wisconsin? Perfect! Here's what to see and do... in winter! // dreams-etc.com

As we walked we were greeted by Santa’s who were Ho Ho Ho’ing as they raced by. I think this was part of the second group of Santa’s that went by. Madison is a bike-friendly city, so it isn’t uncommon to see groups out on the street.

You have 1.5 days to tour the vibrant little city of Madison, Wisconsin? Perfect! Here's what to see and do... in winter! // dreams-etc.com

After our walk we stopped for lunch and decided to grab coffee after. I’ll talk about all of that in an upcoming post. We went back home after coffee to take a break for the afternoon. We were out for a little over half a day and we had so much fun!

You have 1.5 days to tour the vibrant little city of Madison, Wisconsin? Perfect! Here's what to see and do... in winter! // dreams-etc.com

You have 1.5 days to tour the vibrant little city of Madison, Wisconsin? Perfect! Here's what to see and do... in winter! // dreams-etc.com

We journeyed back to the square in the evening for dinner. If you want to eat dinner on the square I’d recommend heading out early to make sure you can get a table, otherwise you’ll be in for quite a wait. We were planning to go to The Old Fashioned–and I was going to get an old fashioned (😭)–but by time we got there (early!) we would have to wait for over an hour. We decided to avoid the restaurants on the square and ate closer to home instead. Still had to include these photos, though, because 1) the capitol building at night is STUNNING; 2) I love the restaurant without having eaten there based on the name alone; and 3) Look at the capitol building photobombing the restaurant in that last photo! 😂 And that was the end of our only full day in Madison.

On Sunday we decided to go see the Olbrich Botanical Gardens. My mom has always liked flowers and I’m starting to like them more and more (must be old age?), so it was a must-see stop, and also a great stop for the winter months. Since it was the holiday season, they had a special exhibit with a train.

You have 1.5 days to tour the vibrant little city of Madison, Wisconsin? Perfect! Here's what to see and do... in winter! // dreams-etc.com

I personally thought the train left a little to be desired, but the children who flooded the exhibit were enamored with it. And the rest of the exhibit was gorgeous!

You have 1.5 days to tour the vibrant little city of Madison, Wisconsin? Perfect! Here's what to see and do... in winter! // dreams-etc.com

You have 1.5 days to tour the vibrant little city of Madison, Wisconsin? Perfect! Here's what to see and do... in winter! // dreams-etc.com

You have 1.5 days to tour the vibrant little city of Madison, Wisconsin? Perfect! Here's what to see and do... in winter! // dreams-etc.com

You have 1.5 days to tour the vibrant little city of Madison, Wisconsin? Perfect! Here's what to see and do... in winter! // dreams-etc.com

You have 1.5 days to tour the vibrant little city of Madison, Wisconsin? Perfect! Here's what to see and do... in winter! // dreams-etc.com

You have 1.5 days to tour the vibrant little city of Madison, Wisconsin? Perfect! Here's what to see and do... in winter! // dreams-etc.comv

We made our way over to the conservatory after. It’s the perfect place to be on a cold, winters day. This was my favorite part of the botanical gardens. I always love seeing the tropical plants.

You have 1.5 days to tour the vibrant little city of Madison, Wisconsin? Perfect! Here's what to see and do... in winter! // dreams-etc.com

You have 1.5 days to tour the vibrant little city of Madison, Wisconsin? Perfect! Here's what to see and do... in winter! // dreams-etc.com

You have 1.5 days to tour the vibrant little city of Madison, Wisconsin? Perfect! Here's what to see and do... in winter! // dreams-etc.com

You have 1.5 days to tour the vibrant little city of Madison, Wisconsin? Perfect! Here's what to see and do... in winter! // dreams-etc.com

You have 1.5 days to tour the vibrant little city of Madison, Wisconsin? Perfect! Here's what to see and do... in winter! // dreams-etc.com

You have 1.5 days to tour the vibrant little city of Madison, Wisconsin? Perfect! Here's what to see and do... in winter! // dreams-etc.com

Guess who took endless photos of the waterfall? 🙋🏻 I can’t help it! Water always makes me happy.

You have 1.5 days to tour the vibrant little city of Madison, Wisconsin? Perfect! Here's what to see and do... in winter! // dreams-etc.com

You have 1.5 days to tour the vibrant little city of Madison, Wisconsin? Perfect! Here's what to see and do... in winter! // dreams-etc.com

You have 1.5 days to tour the vibrant little city of Madison, Wisconsin? Perfect! Here's what to see and do... in winter! // dreams-etc.com

You have 1.5 days to tour the vibrant little city of Madison, Wisconsin? Perfect! Here's what to see and do... in winter! // dreams-etc.com

You have 1.5 days to tour the vibrant little city of Madison, Wisconsin? Perfect! Here's what to see and do... in winter! // dreams-etc.com

You have 1.5 days to tour the vibrant little city of Madison, Wisconsin? Perfect! Here's what to see and do... in winter! // dreams-etc.com

They also have free-flying birds. So much fun to see! (I used to have birds: Touckie, Talemeka, and Kiwi.)

You have 1.5 days to tour the vibrant little city of Madison, Wisconsin? Perfect! Here's what to see and do... in winter! // dreams-etc.com

You have 1.5 days to tour the vibrant little city of Madison, Wisconsin? Perfect! Here's what to see and do... in winter! // dreams-etc.com

You have 1.5 days to tour the vibrant little city of Madison, Wisconsin? Perfect! Here's what to see and do... in winter! // dreams-etc.com

After we left the botanical gardens, we went out to grab lunch and that’s when our whirlwind trip to Madison came to an end. So there it is: 1.5 days in Madison during winter. Apparently there’s a lot to do and Madison shines a little brighter during the warmer months. That’s a little hard to believe, but I definitely plan to take at least one trip there once the weather starts to warm up.

Have you ever been to Madison? Tell me about one of your favorite nearby places to explore. 

You have 1.5 days to tour the vibrant little city of Madison, Wisconsin? Perfect! Here's what to see and do... in winter! // dreams-etc.com

 

20 Comments

  1. Lydia

    January 10, 2018 at 10:54 am

    What a cool city. I have never been there, but I have been to Milwaukee. May have to take a trip=)

    Lydia

    Reply
  2. Melanie Christensen

    January 10, 2018 at 11:40 am

    The cheese and apple cider!! <3 Sounds like the perfect first stop… it would be mine, too!

    Reply
  3. Charlotte

    January 10, 2018 at 1:17 pm

    I’ve never been to Madison but it’s on my list! I loved looking at your photos (never enough waterfall images!). They are all gorgeous. The city looks gorgeous by nightfall, and I love the Ho Ho Ho’ing Santas on bikes 🙂 Adorable!

    Reply
  4. Chelsea Jacobs

    January 10, 2018 at 1:34 pm

    I am swooning over all those cheeses!

    Reply
  5. Becky @Disney in your Day

    January 10, 2018 at 2:03 pm

    I’ve never been to that area of the country at all! It looks like such a nice town though. I would definitely want to try some of those cheeses! 😉

    Reply
  6. Candy Kage

    January 10, 2018 at 2:33 pm

    Haven’t been to Wisconsin in many years. Thinking Madison would be a great starting point to visit once again.

    Reply
  7. Liz G

    January 10, 2018 at 4:35 pm

    Oooh very cool! I certainly wouldn’t think of visiting Madison during the winter, but the botanical gardens look lovely!

    Reply
  8. Beth_Daily_Dog_Tag

    January 10, 2018 at 5:21 pm

    It looks like you had a great time. I’ve never been to Madison, but I’d love to see the botanical gardens!

    Reply
  9. Robin

    January 10, 2018 at 6:01 pm

    I’ve actually never been to the Midwest (unless South Dakota counts?) but I’m so curious to see other cities! The capitol building looks beautiful–reminds me of D.C., actually–and I just love that photo of the plants all over the piano 🙂

    Reply
  10. Rachel G

    January 10, 2018 at 6:35 pm

    The gardens look really cool, and I would have gotten a kick out of seeing the group of biking Santas! I’ve been to Wisconsin a little bit, but not to Madison!

    Reply
  11. Christine

    January 10, 2018 at 9:14 pm

    Great post filled with so many colorful and vivid photos. I loved the way you captured the city’s beauty.

    Reply
  12. Courtney CJ

    January 11, 2018 at 7:18 am

    I love visiting botanical gardens in new cities. It’s one of my favorite things to do. I also enjoy seeing cities during the holiday season because of the little touch of sparkle. I’m on a quest to eventually see every state and certainly wouldn’t mind an old-fashioned and cheese during a Wisconsin visit.

    Reply
  13. Moonies

    January 11, 2018 at 8:27 am

    What a gorgeous & interesting looking place! And that cheese shop sounds right up my alley – definitely going to add this to my travel bucket list!

    Reply
  14. Valerie

    January 11, 2018 at 9:31 am

    I’ve been all over the midwest, but never to Madison. I’ll have to add it to my list!

    Reply
  15. Chelsea

    January 11, 2018 at 10:23 am

    I haven’t rally left the east coat. I’m from MA, but I have been to FL (just to Disney and Daytona Beach). I would love to explore this city, it looks so nice. I’m obsessed with cheese too so that cheese shop sounded like a dream come true!

    Reply
  16. Erica @ Coming up Roses

    January 11, 2018 at 10:31 am

    This is SUCH A GOOD TRAVEL GUIDE, C! I’ve never been, but now you have me wanting to book a flight…!

    Reply
  17. Jasmine Eclipse

    January 11, 2018 at 12:51 pm

    The plants! Those buildings! The architecture! I love this post so much and honestly would have never thought Wisconsin looked like this! I plan to visit this year on my year-long road trip!

    Reply
  18. Lisa

    January 12, 2018 at 10:25 am

    Beautiful pictures! I haven’t been to Madison since I was a child, and even then it was summer. Your story makes me want to go see it now!

    Reply
  19. Paula

    January 12, 2018 at 5:16 pm

    What a fantastic trip! I had friends who went to Madison for college. It is such a fun city, and you really captured that in your post 🙂

    Reply
  20. Anthea

    January 15, 2018 at 1:57 am

    Stunning photos! Looks like you had a wonderful time.

    Reply

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  • I wasn’t particularly close to my aunts and uncles growing up. I was born when my parents were a little older and I always felt like my aunts and uncles had done the aunt and uncle thing and didn’t need more of it by the time I was born.

But my Uncle H and Aunt J were different. When my uncle was dying I was asked what some of my biggest memories were. This question came up again over the weekend. And there were so many to choose from. The biggest was, of course, sticky buns on Sunday morning. (And usually going to the store with him to get them.) There was also ✨ “driving” the tractor through the fields on the farm
✨ fishing during the summer
✨ trips to the store and getting a candy bar that I didn’t have to tell my parents about (but always did)
✨ talking about his Spanish classes
✨ “scaring the fish away” by talking, but he was fine with me talking anyway
✨ driving the boat...and starting to fill the boat with water when I went too fast, but he wasn’t upset
✨driving the golf cart around the golf course
✨ listening to his stories about his time in the army

He wasn’t a perfect man and I saw that once I was an adult. But for someone who was only close to one uncle growing up, he’s part of some of my best childhood memories. 💙
  • ”I am going to try to pay attention to the spring. I am going to look around at all the flowers, and look up at the hectic trees. I am going to close my eyes and listen.” [Anne Lamott]

The last time I was here it was cold and the ground was covered in snow. I said goodbye to my uncle. (That sentence still brings tears to my eyes.) Now it’s (slightly) warmer and the world is waking up after winter. This weekend I was thankful for 🌻 the chance to enjoy a beautiful view of Lake Michigan with my dog in my lap
🌻 a family brunch
🌻 followed by a family dinner the same day
🌻 fresh WI cheese curds
🌻 long talks with my cousin

What were you thankful for this weekend?
  • Lake Michigan was barely visible when we left this morning. It was fun to see how the view of lake changed each day—and throughout the day!—this weekend.
  • I guess I didn’t have to worry about whether or not the dogs would get along. 🤷🏻‍♀️😂
  • Hello, Lake Michigan. 👋🏼
  • When you think they finally placed an order for you...and then they make you get off the chair. 😒 Swipe to see other photos from my day: 🐾 Met my human’s aunt and I was cute.
🐾 Asked my grandhuman for tummy rubs.
🐾 Realized my tummy rubs weren’t his priority. 🙄
🐾 Met two Doodles and my human pet one of them... so if you’d like a human, I’m getting rid of mine. No time for that kind of betrayal.
  • We’re headed on an adventure! Mina’s handling the longest road trip she’s been on like a champ. While at a rest stop we met a man wearing a “Dogs are my favorite people” shirt (👏🏼👏🏼) and his German Shepherd, who fell in love with Miss Mina. Can you blame him? Who wouldn’t fall in love with her? #littleonesadventures
  • Goodnight moon. 🌙

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