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Top Rated Attractions in Madison

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Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Olbrich Botanical Gardens comprises 16 acres (6.5 hectares) of outdoor gardens and a conservatory that amazes with countless tropical plant species. The outdoor gardens, which are generously free to the public, feature a Thai Pavilion, Rose Garden, Herb Garden, and more. A modest entrance fee to the Bolz Conservatory uncovers a world of exotic flowers, flowing water features, and circling birds, all of which are housed in a 50-foot (15.2-meter) glass pyramid that is kept as humid as a Caribbean island. Offering wheelchair-accessible walkways, the Olbrich Botanical Gardens welcomes all to meander its serene spaces.

Memorial Union Terrace

This popular venue was established in 1928 by the University of Wisconsin to provide a space where students can gather and the university can host college fests, alumni events, and other functions. But with magnificent views of the adjoining lakes and an easy-going ambiance, the Memorial Union Terrace quickly became a hotspot for students. Today, it hosts a variety of events, like the popular Annual UW Credit Union Summer Stage concert series and Lakeside Cinema, which is held every Monday throughout summer. In the winter, the iconic Terrace chairs removed to make room for an ice rink. You can even see ice skating and snowboarding competitions. Though the Terrace has undergone several transformations since first being built, it manages to retain its charm no matter the season.

Chazen Museum of Art

The Chazen Museum of Art aims to collect, preserve, and exhibit works of art, exposing the public to the wonders of the art world. Playing a crucial role in Madison's visual art scene, it boasts an exciting and extensive permanent collection, which consists of old photographs, lithographs, drawings, paintings, sculptures, and more. Not only is the Chazen Museum of Art a wonderful cultural attraction, it's also free, so keep an eye out for exciting upcoming events and exhibitions.

Lake Mendota

Bearing a shoreline dotted with numerous towns and villages, Lake Mendota prides itself on being the largest of Madison's four lakes. Also the northernmost of all, the lake sprawls across a total length of 9,470 acres (3,940 hectares). Connected to other lakes by Yahara River, this lake is lovingly mottled with beaches, pleasant greenery as well as a number of scenic buildings. Several notable attractions like the James Madison Park and the Wisconsin State Capitol building, lie on the banks of the lake, making it a central feature of the city's landscape. It is also a popular spot for outdoor activities, particularly in the warmer months when locals take to the lake for boating, fishing, and water sports excursions. A natural jewel considerably defining the city's pleasant topography, the lake also proffers some breathtaking panoramas of its scenic surrounds. Its calming, yet rippling waters a splendid sight to behold, Lake Mendota metamorphoses into a heartwarming canvas of autumnal colors come fall.

Henry Vilas Zoo

For a relatively small animal park, there are endless ways to entertain yourself at Henry Vilas Zoo. The zoo is spread over 28 acres (11 hectares) and houses such attractions as a petting zoo, indoor carousel, and train ride through the park. Wildlife exhibits range from a Primate House to a rhino enclosure. There is also a children's zoo onsite, as well as opportunities for programs and events year round. One of the most popular among them is the Zoo Run Run, which both begins and ends at the zoo. Join the roughly 500,000 annual visitors to Henry Vilas Zoo on your next trip to Madison!

Wisconsin State Capitol

The crown jewel of Capitol Square, Madison's glorious landmark is a pristine white canopy awash in stately Beaux-Arts style. Construction on the building was completed in 1917, and it has been the center point of the state's historic and legislative tenor ever since. However, this striking structure is the fifth capitol building of the state. The first was used only temporarily until Madison was ready to assume its role as the capitol site, the second was constructed in 1837 and later replaced for a larger facility, and the third was eventually destroyed in a fire in 1904. An eye-catching landmark that is perhaps best recognized by its large dome, the current state capitol building houses the Wisconsin legislature, as well as the state Supreme Court and the offices of the governor. Designated a National Historic Landmark, the capitol building sits like an enchanting jewel, ornamented with a string of rolling lawns and sculptures.

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