Three- to five-year-old children examine an unearthed beetle as naturalist Colleen Feist introduces the group to the world of moles during a Learning Together class.

Three- to five-year-old children, and their adult companions, examine an unearthed beetle during a Learning Together class at the Arboretum

Free and Low-cost Activities for Children on and around Campus

Free listservs for finding activities and events in Madison

Family-friendly locations

  • Community Centers in Madison
  • Parks in Madison: This website provides a list of all the parks in Madison and lists their facilities, opening hours, etc. In the winter, several parks are open for ice skating.
  • Madison Children's Museum: MCM offers hands-on exhibits and programs for children birth through twelve years old. Admission: $7.95 for children and parents, $6.95 for seniors and grandparents. 101 North Hamilton Street; 608-256-6445
  • Henry Vilas Zoo:  The zoo is open year round, and admission is free.  702 South Randall Avenue
  • Madison Public Library: The libraries offer free story times and many programs and resources for both parents and children. Library membership is free to Madison residents. A monthly schedule of events at all library locations (organized by age group) is available here
  • Olbrich Botanical Gardens:  The Olbrich Botanical Gardens facility has both an outdoor garden (with a traditional Thai pagoda), and an indoor conservatory, featuring exotic plants, flowers, orchids, birds, goldfish and a waterfall. The Outdoor Gardens are free and open daily year round. Conservatory admission is $2 and free on Wednesday and Saturday, 10am to noon. 3330 Atwood Avenue; 608-246-4550
  • Goodman Center: Located on Madison’s Eastside, the Goodman Community Center has a nice playground, an open gym program during the winter, and a variety of family-oriented events programming. It also hosts events such as the El Dia De Los Ninos in the spring.  149 Waubesa St, Madison; 608- 241-1574
  • UW-Madison Arboretum: The Arboretum’s 1200 acres border the southern half of Lake Wingra .Arboretum trails and the Visitor Center parking lot are open year-round from 7am to 10pm The Visitor Center is open weekdays from 9:30am – 4pm and weekends from 12:30 to 4pm (excluding holidays).  1207 Seminole Highway; 608-263-7888
  • UW-Madison Geology Museum: The museum features reconstructed dinosaurs, a mastodon skeleton, colorful mineral samples, a six-foot-diameter rotating globe, and a walk-through model of a Wisconsin limestone caves. Admission is free.  1215 West Dayton Street; 608-262-2399
  • UW-Madison Physics Museum: This is a free, public, hands-on physics museum. Exhibits focus on demonstrating basic physical concepts, from mechanics to atomics, and historical instruments are on display.  2130 Chamberlin Hall, 1150 University Avenue; 608-262-2356
  • Waisman Center Children's Theater: These fun shows teach children about science, dance, music, culture, and more. Admission is $2 for adults, $1 for children.  Waisman Center Auditorium, 1500 Highland Avenue; 608-263-5837
  • UW-Madison Space Place: Space Place is the education and public outreach center of the UW-Madison Astronomy Department. It is open during scheduled events and by appointment. Space Place family workshops are offered every Saturday at 10 a.m. for children ages 6-10 and their parents. The workshops are free and open to the public. Visit their website to learn about guest speakers, stargazing, and other events.  Villager Mall, 2300 S. Park Street; 608-262-4779
  • UW-Madison Washburn Observatory: At more than 100 years old, the Observatory's original 20-foot telescope still provides great views of the heavens. Open House sessions are hosted by UW astronomy graduate students and volunteer astronomers. Visit their website to view the Open House schedule.  1401 Observatory Drive
  • UW-Madison Babcock Dairy Store: Babcock Dairy Store is place to purchase and enjoy many kinds of treats, including ice cream, cheese, and sandwiches.  1605 Linden Drive; 608-262-3045 

Family-friendly programming

Consignment sales

Madison has a variety of community sales oriented toward children and families. These are great places to buy and sell gently used children’s clothes, gear, toys, etc.