Explore beautiful parks, historical sites, and the arts all year long in Wisconsin's capital city
You’ll find there’s a vibrant cultural scene and lots of activities for seniors in Madison, Wisconsin. There are exciting places to experience all over the city. The good news is that many are free, low-cost, or offer senior discounts.
Madison is a historically rich and vibrant city with iconic buildings including the Wisconsin State Capitol, which is known for its famous dome shape. Another claim to fame is the city's long association with American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
Let's dive in to explore all that Madison has to offer.
Activities for seniors in Madison
We’ve hand-picked a selection of fun activities that are fun, accessible, and affordable. There’s a lot to do in Madison and you'll always find something to explore.
Tour the Wisconsin State Capitol Building
When in Madison, the first place you want to explore is the Wisconsin State Capitol Building. This historic building is known for its large 284-foot-high dome, which is one of the largest in the world. Finished in 1917, it's a beautiful sight to see, especially when lit up at night. You will also find one of the best views in Madison from the building’s observation deck, which features a 360-degree view of downtown.
Guided sightseeing tours of the building are free. You’ll receive a close-up look at the detailed marble interior, painted murals, and a breathtaking skylight.
See Frank Lloyd Wright’s influence in Madison
Madison holds a wealth of Frank Lloyd Wright’s visionary work, which cemented his place in the American Institute of Architects as the “greatest American architect of all time.” He created some of the most innovative spaces in the United States and changed the way we build and live.
The Monona Terrace features an exterior design proposed by Wright back in 1938, including the stunning work of a curved glass façade. We encourage you to experience its rooftop terrace which features downtown views and panoramic sites of Lake Monona. You won’t want to miss this view during a sunset.
One of Wright’s most well known masterpieces is the Taliesin Estate. The buildings on this estate represent Wright’s work from the 1890s to the 1950s. The 800-acre estate was not only his home but also a studio and school. Most recently, it was designated as a National Historic Landmark and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2019. Tours are available, but they're more pricey.
For a more low-cost tour option, you can visit the iconic House on the Rock, which was inspired by Wright’s designs. This unusual house has a variety of rooms featuring interesting themes such as aviation, circus acts, and nostalgic moments over the years.
Explore the University of Wisconsin-Madison
The University of Wisconsin’s Madison campus is a 1,260-acre complex and research institution built 150 years ago. Its visitor center provides maps and tour information to help navigate its grounds.
A must-see on campus has to be the University of Wisconsin Arboretum, which houses one of the oldest collections of restored ecological communities. From tallgrass prairies to lilac collection, it is well worth exploring. You can also visit the Geology Museum to enjoy informative displays on how rocks, minerals, and fossils are formed.
Another attraction at the University is The Chazen Museum of Art where you can enjoy a wide range of exhibits including paintings, sculptures, drawings, and photography. The museum also features traveling exhibits and a great chamber music program. It's open daily and is admission free.
The university’s horticulture program uses the Allen Centennial Gardens as a living classroom. It's also open to the public and is a great activity for seniors in Madison. You’ll find plants from all over the world, all free for everyone to visit and enjoy.
A great way to wrap up the day is to unwind on the Memorial Union Terrace. You can relax and enjoy live music, restaurants, and an array of rotating activities with guest passes available to the public.
Enjoy Museums and Gardens
The activities for seniors in Madison are endless when it comes to learning about culture. Here are some other must-see places:
- The Wisconsin Veterans Museum spotlights the history of those who served in the Civil War and Gulf War. Enjoy a number of vintage vehicles and warplanes, including the mighty P-51 Mustang.
- The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA) holds a large display of exhibits, but the building is also a piece of art itself. It's an eye-catching three-story glass structure, which many refer to as one of the city’s most impressive architectural landmarks.
- Olbrich Botanical Gardens is an experience you won’t want to miss. Stroll through 16 acres of a wild variety of plants, flowers, and exotic foliage.
Experience outdoor activities for seniors in Madison and beyond
The Henry Vilas Zoo is home to a wide variety of animals from tropical, arctic, and other habitats. It's a great opportunity to learn more about wildlife and conservation. They also have wonderful volunteer opportunities for seniors.
The two best spots to spend some time outdoors are on the waterfronts of Lake Monona and Lake Mendota. Whether you would like to take a bike ride or simply just walk the paths, you’ll enjoy seeing this different side of the city.
Travel Tip: You can enjoy a Pontoon Boat Ride for just $5, offered by Madison School and Community Recreation, which will take you around the most picturesque views of Madison. Another popular activity for seniors in Madison has to be fishing from the number of boat landings in the area.
Visit the Dane County Farmers’ Market
When you go to downtown Madison, you’ll find something special happening at Capitol Square every Saturday: the famous Dane County Farmers’ Market. You can support more than 300 vendors by buying locally-produced cheeses, flowers, meats, and vegetables.
Indulge your inner book lover at the library
The Madison Public Library system has nine locations and all are open six days a week. All you need is a library card to enjoy the vast number of books, ebooks, audiobooks, magazines, DVDs, and Blu-Ray DVDs at your disposal.
They also offer a Home Services Program for older adults who live in Madison and have an ongoing physical condition that prevents them from coming to the library in person. This program delivers books, CDs, and DVDs to the individual’s home.
Don’t forget to ask about discounts
Madison has many senior discount opportunities! Here’s a list of senior discounts in the area for different spots, such as restaurants, retail stores, grocery stores, and travel.
Always remember: if there are admission fees, find out if there is a free day for seniors. You might be surprised by how many amazing activities for seniors offer free days in Madison.
Home-based activities for seniors in Madison
In addition to all the beautiful activities for seniors in Madison, you can also enjoy time at home. Arts and crafts is one of the many fun activities you can do at home.
Get started with these great art activities for seniors that you can make with things you already have around the house. Another great place to find cheap crafting supplies is at thrift stores. You can also look for free craft supplies in local Buy Nothing groups. Lastly, the neighborhood dollar store may offer materials for painting on canvas, stitch art, or even pottery.
You can also do more practical arts and crafts, such as "flipping" items in your home. For example, you can paint a vase to fit more into your home’s décor or add some funky knobs to your nightstands. Decorating your home is a wonderful creative outlet. It's also a way to make your home an even more enjoyable place to spend time in.
If you want to keep active at home with some exercise, start with the options, including gentle exercises for seniors. Then, ask at your local community center or senior center about free or low-cost classes.
Work with seniors in Madison
If working with seniors, older adults, and families in Madison sounds good to you, consider becoming a Papa Pal.
Papa Pals are part-time companion caregivers who set their own flexible schedules. They focus on companionship and doing things together with Papa members.
Papa Pals help others in the community by offering support with a range of tasks and activities, including help with errands, house tasks, basic technology, car rides, pet care, and light exercise. It's a great job for kind, friendly, and reliable people.
Start your application to become a Papa Pal here.