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Don't Miss These 8 Fun & Festive Holiday Activities in the Madison Area!

Toni Laurich

Where do you call home? I consider the Madison area to be home, but I was born and raised in Appleton, went to college in Eau Claire, and my entire fa...

Where do you call home? I consider the Madison area to be home, but I was born and raised in Appleton, went to college in Eau Claire, and my entire fa...

Feb 7 5 minutes read

Each year, Madison is filled with fun, festive events for the whole family. We have compiled a list of some of our favorite holiday-centric happenings and activities in the Madison area, from gorgeous light displays, to a fantastic Polar Express train ride, we've got you covered.

1. Zoo Lights at Henry Vilas Zoo

What: Enjoy 200,000 lights and 300 themed displays, along with a visit with Santa, a craft marketplace, festive food, live music, and the ever so popular train and carousel.

When: November 25th, 2016 through January 1st, 2017, Thursdays and Sundays from 5:30-9pm, and Fridays and Saturdays from 5:30-10pm.

Where: Henry Vilas Zoo • 702 S. Randall Ave • Madison, WI 53715 

Cost: $7.00 per person, children under 3 are free

2. The Edgewater Ice Rink

What: Skate on The Edgewater's beautiful new ice rink, right in the heart of downtown Madison. Make sure to look for weekly specials, including Family Skate Night on Wednesdays (4-10pm), Date Night on Thursdays (4-10pm), and more!

When: Open Wednesday through Friday 4:00-10pm • Saturdays 10am - 10pm • Sundays 10am - 8pm

Where: The Edgewater • 1001 Wisconsin Place • Madison, WI 53703

Cost: $7 adults • $6 students with valid student ID • $4 children ages 5-12 • $4 seniors 65+ • Free for children 4 years and under • Skate rentals $3/pair

3. Holiday Trolley & Carolers in Downtown Madison

What: Get your holiday shopping done in downtown Madison while listening to beautiful holiday carolers and take advantage of the FREE Holiday Trolley. The trolley is decorated and run by the Downtown Information Ambassadors, who will be handing out holiday treats for kids, downtown maps, and shopping suggestions. Madison's State Street, Capitol Square and King Street areas offer more than 350 unique shops, boutiques, galleries, restaurants and night spots.


Holiday Trolley Schedule - 10:00am - 4:00pm on the following days:

  • Saturday, December 3rd
  • Saturday December 10th
  • Saturday December 17th

Downtown Carolers Upcoming Performance Schedule:

  • Saturday, December 17th 11:00am - 1:00pm @ MCM: Philharmonic Chorus of Madison
  • Saturday, December 17th 1:00pm - 3:00pm @ MMoCA: Midnight Voices

Where: Downtown Madison (State Street, Capitol Square and King Street)

Cost: Free!

4. Visit the Wisconsin State Capitol

What: During the holiday season the Wisconsin State Capitol's Holiday Tree is displayed in the capitol rotunda. The 40 foot Wisconsin grown Balsam Fir is decorated with approximately 700 feet of garland, 2,400 lights and 1,400 handmade ornaments donated by the citizens of our great state.

When: Capitol hours are 8:00am - 6:00pm

Where: 2 E Main Street • Madison, WI 53703

Cost: Free!

5. Olbrich Gardens Holiday Express

What: Olbrich Botanical Gardens and the Wisconsin Garden Railway Society put together a stunning display of large-scale model trains winding through a holiday scene surrounded by hundreds of poinsettias, evergreens and more. Types of trains this year may include a bullet train, steam train, Santa train, circus train, or freight train depending on the day.

When: December 3rd-31st 10:00am - 4:00pm daily (Closes at 2pm on the 24th and closed all day on the 25th).

Where: Olbrich Botanical Gardens • 3330 Atwood Ave • Madison, WI 53704

Cost: $5 adults • $3 children ages 3-12 • Children 2 and under are free • Free for Olbrich Botanical Society members • Admission to the tropical Bolz Conservatory is included

6. Middleton Polar Express Train Ride

What: All aboard The Polar Express Train Ride, which departs from Middleton and features dancing chefs, singing elves, and a special gift from Santa!

When: November 19th - December 23rd • Departure Times: 1pm, 3pm, 5:30pm, 7:30pm

Where: 1850 Deming Way • Middleton, WI 53562

Cost: Prices range from $28-$65 for children and $38-$85 for adults. Click here to view accurate pricing.

7. Fantasy in Lights at Olin Park

What: Drive through Olin Park in Madison and view over 50 lighted displays, put on by The Electric Group with help from various local sponsors.

When: November 19th through January 2nd. Lights turn on at 4:00pm each evening.

Where: Olin Park • 1156 Olin-Turville Court • Madison, WI 53715

Cost: Free!

8. The Nutcracker at The Overture Center

What: Watch the Madison Ballet's rendition of The Nutcracker, featuring 150 dancers, a 25 foot tree, and set to Tchaikovsky's unforgettable score played live by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. 

When: Saturday December 10th - Monday December 26th

Where: Overture Center for the Arts • 201 State Street • Madison, WI 53703

Cost: Ticket prices range from $10 - $65. Click here for accurate ticket pricing. 

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