Best things to do within walking distance of Monona Terrace

As a premier destination for events, expos, conferences, and weddings, Monona Terrace plays host to thousands of out-of-towners who are looking for fun things to do within walking distance of downtown Madison. Madison’s unique location between two lakes, Mendota and Monona, makes it a wonderful walking city, as well as one of only two major cities in the U.S. built on an isthmus (Seattle being the other). 

Downtown Madison offers an eclectic mix of museums, theaters, cultural attractions, great food and nightlife all within reasonable walking distance within the downtown area and Monona Terrace. Here are some of our favorite places to visit. 

Things to See and Do in Downtown Madison

Overture Center is Madison’s home for the best Broadway shows, music, theater, ballet, and visual experiences you’ll always remember. Check out their calendar of events to see what’s happening when you’ll be visiting downtown Madison. But anytime of the year is perfect for the Overture Center’s three galleries that often include speakers and special guests. And if you’re interested in a few laughs, Comedy on State is as funny as it gets. 

For lovers of modern and contemporary art, Madison’s  Museum of Contemporary Art is dedicated to creating experiences with art that are educational, inspirational, and transformative.  Their permanent collection contains nearly 6,000 pieces of art by 1,400 artists. Other exhibitions throughout the year include world-class artists in a variety of mediums. 

The Wisconsin Veterans Museum isn’t just for veterans. Through the lens of the men and women of Wisconsin who served in the armed forces from World War I to recent service, the museum is a visual and audio storytelling experience that honors their selfless legacy. This moving collection includes artifacts, papers, letters, documents, photographs, video and more that connect museum goers to those who served. This museum is an official Smithsonian Affiliate. 

Traveling with kids and looking for something fun to do? Visit the Madison Children’s Museum to explore, create, and learn about our world. Every exhibit is a colorful, interactive experience for kids of all ages. Check out Possible-opolis™, a “city” where kids explore city life through imaginative puzzles, games, and physical activities. The Children’s Museum also includes an art studio, trash lab, and of course, a Frank Lloyd Wright area where kids “learn by doing” – From Coops to Cathedrals. 

One of the  most popular tourist destinations in Madison, WI is the Wisconsin State Capitol Building, which is now celebrating its 100th anniversary (the building, that is!). Tours of the building are offered daily and last about an hour. During a tour, you’ll see amazing sculptures by Karl Bitter and the awe-inspiring rotunda, featuring 4 massive mosaic panels by Kenyon Cox. One of the best views in all of Madison is on the sixth floor observation deck. The Capitol Building is not to be missed!

Frank Lloyd Wright Buildings to See

Madison is well-known for its connection to master architect Frank Lloyd Wright. While many FLW structures are in Madison, only two are within walking distance of downtown. One is the Robert M. Lamp house on nearby Butler Street. Please note this is a private residence and not a museum, but you can walk past it and see Wright’s “compression and release” design principle that typically feature a narrow entry leading to a spacious room/area. If you have transportation, we encourage you to view more Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in the area

Monona Terrace is another destination that’s not to be missed when visiting downtown Madison. Whether you’re attending any kind of event at Monona Terrace or just visiting Madison, we welcome you to come and explore all Monona Terrace has to offer. 

Dining Options in Downtown Madison

Madison is one of the best eating towns in the midwest. While we’re famous for our cheese (and there are plenty of cheesy options on restaurant menus), Madison has options for every budget, palate, and taste. Just in the downtown area, you’ll find everything from brew pubs and Italian to Mexican and fine dining and all cuisine in between. But if you’re looking for a nice cafe lunch while enjoying the best views in downtown Madison, look no further than Lake Vista Cafe on the rooftop of Monona Terrace, which is open seasonally. 

Where to Stay

Madison is one of the most popular destinations in the midwest, thanks to all the things we have to offer and our location. To accommodate our visitors in the downtown area, there are dozens of hotels and nearly 10,000 hotel rooms of all categories and price ranges.  If you’re coming to downtown Madison for an event at Monona Terrace, our convention and visitor’s bureau, Destination Madison, has a helpful list of accommodations

Enjoy Madison!

As you plan your day and evenings in Madison, bear in mind these destinations are all walkable, downtown options. So depending on the time of year, please plan a walking tour with the weather in mind. 

Madison’s surrounding area has more to offer than most cities of its size and includes the Olbrich Botanical Gardens, The Chazen Museum of Art, the Henry Vilas Zoo, and dozens of parks, miles of bike trails, and water fun galore. Enjoy your visit!