FOR THE KIDS
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 Library Youth Services
|Madison Children's Museum
100 N. Hamilton Street., Madison
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
|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!
1215 W. Dayton St., Madison
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
|UW Space Place
2300 S. Park St
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
211 State St.
|Almost every Saturday from September to May, two
free shows (11 AM and 1 PM) are presented.
|Mad-City Ski Team
355 John Nolen Dr., Madison
|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.