/  North America   /  United States   /  Wisconsin   /  Madison   /  
Chazen Museum of Art

9 Best Museums to Visit in Madison (2022)

Museum Buffs who are willing to count (not literally) the repositories of Wisconsin, there isn’t a better city than Madison to start with. Madison as a city is blessed with a number of great museums that competes on the National front. As a state capitol, it has stories of history and Veterans waiting for their chances of preaching. From the world-class art collection to quirky stuff, science, and kids’ specific, Madison museums are so full of choices and interests.

While the summer sun is at its peak or the snowy winters are making it difficult to stay outside, Madison museums come to the rescue. These four-walled structures guarantee that spark that can interest and captivate visitors of all kinds. The best part is, museums in Madison are either low-cost or free to visit. So why wait? Let’s get into our virtual ride of the must-visit museums in Madison.

9 Best Museums to Visit in Madison

Have a look:

1. Chazen Museum of Art

Beginning with the best, the Chazen Museum of Art is a heaven for art lovers in Madison. This art treasure trove is located in the heart of the University of Wisconsin and is operated by the same. Its impressive art collection consists of over 20,000 pieces, including sculptures, pictures, photographs, paintings and artefacts. The entire variety belongs to American, Asian, and African art, ranging from prehistoric to modern times. Chazen is still growing its collection, making it the second-largest art collection in Wisconsin. The best part is, Chazen Museum operates daily and is absolutely free to visit.

2. Madison Museum of Contemporary Art

If Chazen hasn’t satisfied your inner art enthusiasts, then next head towards the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Unlike Chazen, it focuses on modern and contemporary art exhibits and is best at it. The MMoCA consist of four galleries that exhibit both traditional and performing art. You can observe paintings and sculptures or admire art through music and videos. You can see the artwork of Frida Kahlo, John Steuart Curry, Diego Rivera and other contemporary artists. The museum building is an architectural marvel with its triangular glass façade being the centre of attraction. What the four walls couldn’t comprise lies at the rooftop, a sculpture garden worth viewing. For free admission, easy accessibility and a beautiful art display, MMoCA is a must-visit.

3. Madison Children’s Museum

If you are in the capital with your kids, the next stop in your itinerary must remain the Madison Children’s Museum. The museum works towards engaging, challenging, and inspiring every visitor, especially kids. It focuses on science, art, history, and architecture. While it deals in permanent exhibits, it also focuses upon seasonal programs. Different activities depend upon kids, toddlers, and pre-teens. Some programs are also designed for adults, ensuring the parents do not feel left out.

Along with the indoor setting, they also have a four-season Rooftop Ramble featuring a garden and animals. Madison Children’s Museum is definitely a space beyond traditions. It indeed is one of the best museums to visit in Madison.

4. Wisconsin Veterans Museum

Every Veteran is a story, and there are a lot of stories at the Wisconsin Veterans Museum. Located in the capitol square of the city, the museum consists of two galleries exhibiting American history from the Civil war to the present. Everything one sees here comprises stories from a century and a half, a lot that you may never be able to know them complete. Inside, you can see period military vehicles, warplanes, war-themed memorabilia and more. The highlight of the collection includes an antique Sopwith Camel and a P-51 Mustang. Learning about the stories and observing the displays, one can connect with men and women who lead their lives to the Civil war, Gulf War, and other wars. Apart from the permanent display, the museum also organizes several seasonal events for its guest. And all of it is absolutely free to experience.

5. National Mustard Museum

One of Madison’s quirkiest yet best museums, the National Mustard Museum is a must-visit. Located at 7477 Hubbard Ave, the museum is home to a collection of more than 5,300 mustards imported from nearly 60 countries. It initially started with just a dozen jars; however, today, the collection is the biggest of its kind globally. While the collection features several countries from across the globe, its prime focus is upon French and English mixes. And along with prepared mustard, they also have an extensive collection of mustard memorabilia and artefacts. If you happen to be a Mustard chauvinist, you definitely deserve to pay at least one visit here in life. Along with the museum, they also have an Ultimate Mustard Tasting Bar and a gift shop. Because admission to the museum is free, you can carefree spend some dollars at the tasting bar and gift shop.

6. University of Wisconsin Geology Museum

The University of Wisconsin Geology Museum focuses on geology and palaeontology. The museum is located in the University of Wisconsin in the weeks’ hall. Inside the premises lies about 1,000 items through 66 different exhibits. Their collection majorly focuses upon minerals, invertebrates, rocks and vertebrates and fish fossils. Further, they also house cases of glaciers, meteorites, and fossil plants. While exploring the site, visitors can touch rocks from a time when there were volcanoes in Wisconsin, see extinct creatures (specimen), and imagine if they are walking in the ice age. The biggest highlight here is the Boaz mastodon skeleton which was found in the 19th century. The collection here inspires and engages visitors of every age, and the best part is that it is free.

7. Wisconsin Historical Museum

Another museum located on the Capitol square, the Wisconsin Historical Museum, is a must-visit museum in Madison. The museum focuses upon American and Wisconsin history from prehistoric to current times. The collection here consists of 400,000 archaeological artefacts and 110,000 historical objects, one of the largest of its kind. You get to see photographic displays, interactive multimedia programs as well as audio-visual presentations. The museum also provides an opportunity to explore replicas of a 1,000-year-old house, a fur trading post, a lead mine, and several unusual aspects. You can either use the word displays or take a guided tour depending upon your preference. While the entry here is free, visitors are expected to donate a small amount (optional).

8. Madison Arboretum

Madison Arboretum is an arboretum and botanical research centre; basically, an open-air museum in U.W. It is home to the most varied and the oldest collection of restored ecological communities in the entire world. While the Arboretum is spread over 1,260 acres, there’s also a section of 520 acres prairies and forest around. However, it is a research site for university students; the general public can also visit here. While the Arboretum is operational for visits during the weekend, one can visit the visitors centre during the weekdays. One can take paid classes, walking tours, summer camps, workshops, and other activities. For anyone who is interested in learning about nature and botany, it is a must-visit place in Madison.

9. L.R. Ingersoll Physics Museum

Locally known as the Physics Museum, this wonderful space is located at the University of Wisconsin. You can reach it on the second floor of Chamberlin Hall. It is one of the several museums in the University though it focuses solely upon Physics. The museum premises are home to over 70 interactive exhibits covering several categories of Physics concepts from inside. From light to optics, Mechanics, magnetism, electricity and almost every physics concept are explained and exhibited here. While you walk through the site, you will come across physics experiments and toys designed by the University students. The museum though is housed inside two small rooms the collection here is the first and rare of its kind. Even though it is small, for any Physics enthusiasts, it is a must-visit.

Tips:

  • The University of Wisconsin is home to at least 3 to 4 great museums in the city. Visitors who are falling short of time can give a short to all of them in just one day.
  • Several Madison museums are located near Capitol square. If you are in the city just to explore museums, consider staying near the downtown for easy accessibility.
  • Most of the Madison Museums are free to explore though they welcome donations for operation. When you happen to be in any of them, consider donating even a little as $5 (optional).
  • All the Museums in Madison are closely connected. For reaching them, either take the local transport, or you can also rent a two-wheeler for the day.