For the Kids
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Madison has many places where children can have fun and learn at the same time. Although they might be too young to appreciate the significance of living in a city that is a state capital as well as home to a major university, they reap the benefits every day.

Madison Public Libraries Madison Public Library Youth Services
Madison Children's Museum

100 N. Hamilton Street., Madison
(608) 256-6445

The brand-new Madison Children’s Museum, an award-winning destination for fun family activities and hands-on learning, is now open! Visit our inventive city of Possible-opolis for ages 6 and up, and our four-season Rooftop Ramble, with animals and gardens. Run on our human-sized Gerbil Wheeel, or take a green tour to see the reclaimed materials that have found new life.

There’s always something new to do at Madison Children’s Museum, where our mission is to connect children with their families, their communities, and the world beyond through discovery learning and creative play.


Dairy Cattle Center
815 Linden Dr
(608) 262-2271
Maybe it's not a skill most kids will ever use, but watching cows being milked can be exciting, unless, of course, you already live on a farm. No tours of the UW-Madison cattle barns are offered, but the public is invited to view the milking of the school's 90 dairy cows at 3:30 PM and 3:30 AM every day free of charge. Naturally, there are very few takers in the morning. To make the outing complete, walk over to the Babcock Hall Dairy, 1605 Linden Drive, and enjoy the fruits of the labor -- ice cream!
Geology Museum
1215 W. Dayton St., Madison
(608) 262-1412

What can kids expect to see at the Geology Museum? A blacklight mineral display and such intriguing vertebrates as a mesophippus (ancestral horse), saber-toothed cat, mastodon (Ice Age elephant) and an 18-foot mosasaur (marine lizard). The museum's extensive collection of fossilized invertebrates includes sponges, corals, snails, clams and cephalopods, including the squid.

A child growing up in Madison seldom makes it through school without several visits to this museum. But it's nice to go on your own, too.

Admission is free, although donations are appreciated. Hours of operation are 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM Monday through Friday and 9 AM to 1 PM Saturday. To arrange a group tour, call the number listed.

UW Space Place
2300 S. Park St
(608) 262-4779

The fourth Saturday of each month at Space Place is saved for children ages 6 to 10. Beginning at 10 AM, a presentation is made on a space topic, after which children are invited to join in on a project. Kids always have something to bring home, whether it's a matching game on planet symbols or a homemade sundial. If you go, make sure you take enough time to view the exhibits and the display of satellites that have flown on space shuttles. Also, check out the computer games, including an astronomy version of Hangman.

The UW Space Place is southwest of the Isthmus, a couple of miles from the UW campus.

The Kids in the Crossroads series features singing, storytelling, dancing and other amazements.

Henry Vilas Zoo
702 S. Randall Ave.
(608) 266-4732

Head over to the new, $2.9-million "cat house" to see a Siberian tiger up close. For small children, feeding the goats at the Children's Zoo (open Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend) is always a treat. You never know what you're going to find at the Children's Zoo, but often you'll see bear cubs, orphaned white-tailed fawns, miniature horses, spider monkeys, macaws and at least one badger, Wisconsin's state animal.

The weather doesn't have to be nice to enjoy the Discovery Center and Herpetarium building, the zoo's educational facility. Learning stations with microscopes and magnifiers are surrounded by displays of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates. Many species are viewable underwater in simulated habitats.

The zoo is a favorite field-trip destination for area schools, but there are also summer zoo classes for children as young as 4. For older kids, a favorite is "Zoo Snooze," also affectionately referred to as "Bedtime with the Beasts." It's an overnighter in the Herpetarium. Can you imagine? Bedding down with snakes?

The best way to learn about classes, which fill up fast, and other special events taking place at the zoo is through the Vilas Zoological Society's Zoo News. But to receive a copy in the mail, you must become a zoological society member; call (608) 258-1460. For families, the cost is $25. A student membership is $15.

One more tip before we leave all the animals behind: The Vilas Zoo is one of the few places in the country where you can take a free camel ride, courtesy of Zor Shrine. The camels are there almost every Sunday during the summer months, from 10:30 AM to noon. Call ahead to make sure.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens
3330 Atwood Ave.
(608) 246-4551

Although the Bolz Conservatory isn't a real rain forest, it sure looks like one. The 50-foot-high glass pyramid is filled with more than 750 tropical plants. It's also thick with bamboo arbors, home to free-flying birds and one man-made waterfall for good measure.

Special games for children encourage exploration as they learn about a tropical environment. For instance, on a "Safari Hunt," the clue to find the Papyrus is "Growing in shallow waterways, this plant made paper in ancient days." Looking for plants that produce many common foods -- lemon, cacao (the bean that makes chocolate), coconut, banana and cinnamon to name a few -- also can be fun.

On weekends, children can monitor a science project by bringing home a plant cutting from the "Snipping Garden," part of the Bottle Biology Exhibit that showcases root systems and what decomposition looks like at the bottom of your compost pile.

Sometimes it's nice to visit the conservatory in the middle of winter just to remind very young children with few winters under their belts what summer is like.

It's open 10 AM to 4 PM Monday through Saturday and until 5 PM on Sundays. Admission is $1 (children 5 and younger are admitted free), except all day Wednesday and on Saturday mornings 10 AM to noon, when it's free for everyone.

Kids in the Rotunda
Overture Center 211 State St.
(608) 266-6550


Almost every Saturday from September to May, two free shows (11 AM and 1 PM) are presented.
Mad-City Ski Team
Lake Monona
Law Park
355 John Nolen Dr., Madison
(608) 255-2537

We're big fans of the Mad-City Ski Team that performs a free water-skiing show every Sunday night during the summer months, June through August, on Lake Monona, along the shores of Law Park. Some parking is available at Law Park or, for a small fee, you can park at the Monona Terrace Convention Center nearby. In fact, you can see the show from the Rooftop Garden of the center, although most people take advantage of bleacher seating inside the park.

The Mad-City Ski Team is made up of about 100 adults and children. For more information, call the Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau at the number listed.

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