University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum

#4 in Best Things To Do in Madison, WI
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Key Info

1207 Seminole Highway

Price & Hours

7 a.m.-10 p.m. daily


Free, Parks and Gardens, Hiking, Recreation Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend


  • 5.0Value
  • 3.5Facilities
  • 5.0Atmosphere

For a break from the bustle of the university campus and downtown core, head to the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum. Sprawling across 1,200 acres, the arboretum shelters tallgrass prairies, savannas, wetlands, several forest types, flowering trees, shrubs and an impressive lilac collection. Explore the attraction's various habitats while traversing the more than 17 miles of trails that weave through the property. There are also three gardens, one of which houses one of the largest displays of lilacs in North America. When you're not admiring the arboretum's collection of plants, head to the visitor center to watch an orientation film detailing the arboretum's history and to access facilities like restrooms, a bookstore, an art gallery and a horticultural library. 

Past travelers were impressed with the arboretum and say you'll need several visits to see everything the site has to offer. Many visitors particularly enjoyed the opportunities for bird-watching and recommend wearing sturdy shoes and bringing along bug repellent. 

You'll find the arboretum on the west side of Madison, bordering the southern shore of Lake Wingra. It is free to access. The trails are open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. The visitor center is open Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 12:30 to 4 p.m. Several parking lots are available. Note that pets are not permitted at the arboretum. For more information, visit the official website.

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#1 University of Wisconsin – Madison Memorial Union

One of the star attractions of the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, the Memorial Union is beloved by students and locals alike. Open since Oct. 5, 1928, and perched on the shores of Lake Mendota, the union is perhaps best known for its terrace, which faces the lake and is filled with colorful sunburst chairs and tables perfect for enjoying the view, a brat and a pitcher of beer. When the terrace closes for the season (typically in late September), retreat inside to Der Rathskeller. With its German beer hall vibe and cozy fireplaces, Der Rathskeller is a popular spot to watch Badger games. There's also a stage for open mic nights and plenty of seating. Other Union attractions include rotating art exhibits and galleries, an ice cream shop, multiple eateries and a store selling grab-and-go items, along with Badger apparel and gifts. 

Past visitors raved about the union, specifically the terrace, with a few calling it among the top spots for Madison travelers to visit. According to reviewers, the best time to visit is in summer, when the weather is just right for enjoying the building's lakefront perch. Just remember: This is a popular spot, so you may have to wait for one of the coveted terrace tables if you're here during the busy evening hours.

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