Jump Start Your Holiday Season in Madison

By Judy Frankel
Greater Madison Convention & Visitors Bureau

The holiday season in Madison brings an added festive touch to many of our area’s beloved attractions. Even if you have visited before, do check out our holiday happenings. The combination of the crisp air, holiday decorations and air of jolly good cheer makes Wisconsin’s Capital City shine even brighter. Here’s our guide on how to jump start your holiday season with a visit to Madison.

Light up the Night:

Holiday light displays are a wonderful way to celebrate the season and the Madison area has plenty to offer. Henry Vilas Zoo’s Zoo Lights, an enchanting holiday experience for the whole family. Walk the grounds of the zoo to experience more than 300 displays of holiday lights. Sip on some hot cocoa while you take in all the magic. Be sure to take a spin on the zoo’s lovingly restored antique carousel, or hop a ride on the zoo train running through the entire campus. Live music and holiday markets make this a one-stop holiday spot. While admission to the Zoo is free, Zoo Lights costs $7/person; children aged 3 and under are free.

Follow that up with the spectacular Fantasy in Lights at Olin Park in Madison’s downtown. This perennial holiday favorite offers a lovely drive through one of Madison’s favorite parks with holiday inspired light displays lining the route that are guaranteed to jump start your holiday cheer.  Catch the magic from November until early January. Holiday music is even simulcast to add to the fun. Admission is free, although donations are accepted.

Sing to your Heart’s Delight:

Holiday music is a well-loved part of any celebration but even the most familiar tunes can sound different when they are sung underground. If you have never caroled in a cave before, be sure to visit Cave of the Mounds during the holiday season. With special musical events like the sing-a-long caroling that takes place each Sunday in December, you can add your voice to the holiday chorus. Too shy to sing along? Celebrate the sounds of the seasons with a wide array of musical events in the caverns that will surely become a holiday experience you won’t soon forget.

Find the Perfect Gift:

If shopping is your reason for the season, check out the newly renovated Hilldale Shopping Center, featuring an open-air concourse with new restaurants and shops ranging from designers kate spade, Michael Kors and more to local boutiques. The greater Madison area is blessed with an incredible array of locally-owned shops and boutiques. Explore the nearby Monroe Street neighborhood for their annual Holiday Glow event. Revel in the festive holiday atmosphere as stores and business’ spread the holiday cheer with decorated shops, sweet treats and specials galore.

A trip to Madison wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired Monona Terrace Community & Convention Center®. The Fair Trade Holiday Festival is a neat place to shop for unique one-of-a-kind gifts, many with a great story behind the artisan. Can’t make the date? Their gift shop is another go-to for the most wonderful gifts for the special people on your list.


Madison is simply magical during the holidays, with the best shopping in the region, festive, memorable performances and outstanding restaurants featuring seasonal favorites. The Holiday Tree at the Capitol and decorations along State Street add to our irresistible charm. Make this holiday one to remember with a visit to Madison.

This entry was posted in Holiday Events Tours Tours Fairs & Festivals