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