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Madison, WI Travel Guide

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Courtesy of Focal Flame Photography/Destination Madison

Best Times to Visit Madison, WI

The best times to visit Madison are from May to August and September to November. Similar to other Midwestern cities, Madison experiences all four seasons. But if you're not a fan of chilly temperatures and heavy snowfall, you'll likely want to avoid the city from December to April. During the summer months, Madison is much quieter since most of the university's more than 40,000 students have gone home. Plus, the pleasant 80-degree temperatures are perfect for enjoying the Memorial Union Terrace and the water activities on Lake Mendota. If you want to experience the city at its most vibrant, plan a fall trip when university classes are in session, students are on campus and Camp Randall Stadium is filled to the brim with passionate Badger fans on football game days. 

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Weather in Madison, WI

Switch to Celsius/MM
Average Temperature (°F)
26.42
11.6
31.1
15.1
43.2
24.8
57.4
35.8
68.4
46.04
77.9
56
81.7
61
79.34
59
71.8
50.2
58.82
38.8
44.1
28.22
30.2
16
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Average Precipitation (in)
1.2
1.4
2.2
3.4
3.5
4.5
4.2
4.27
3.12
2.4
2.4
1.74
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec

Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center

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September-November

The changing leaves and crisp air, accompanied by high temperatures in the low 70s in September and the mid-40s by November, provide the idyllic setting for a fall visit. Along with the pleasant fall weather, this season also welcomes university students back to campus, bringing an infectious energy to the downtown area. For the quintessential Madison experience, time your visit so that it coincides with a home football game at Camp Randall Stadium. Though there may be increased rates at area accommodations and more people filling the downtown area's bars and restaurants, attending a Badger football game is a must-do. Just make sure you plan accordingly: Hotel rooms and vacation rentals for Big Ten Conference games like Ohio State can book up to a year in advance. 

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December-April

Winters in Madison are not for the faint of heart. With average high temperatures hovering in the 20s and 30s and lows in the teens, conditions can be harsh. What's more, the city sees an average snowfall of more than 50 inches. While the fresh powder is certainly conducive to snowshoeing, sledding and skiing, it can cause frustrating travel delays. Still, if you're not dissuaded by the freezing temperatures, you'll be able to take advantage of some uniquely Midwestern activities like ice fishing on Lake Mendota. Winter hiking at the University of Wisconsin–Madison Arboretum and ice skating at The Edgewater hotel are also popular winter pastimes. Plus, you'll be able to score discounted nightly rates at some of the city's best hotels during Hotel Week in February. A variety of kid-friendly activities, including holiday light displays at the Henry Vilas Zoo, the Wisconsin state Capitol and Olbrich Botanical Gardens, make this an especially fun time for families to visit.

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May-August

After the university's spring commencement, Madison is noticeably quieter once the majority of the student population heads back home for summer break. This allows visitors to enjoy a little more elbow room at the city's top attractions and summer events. High temps range from the upper 60s in May to the low 80s come August. You'll want to take advantage of the warm weather with a day spent on one of Madison's five lakes, or with a scoop of ice cream or pitcher of beer on the Memorial Union Terrace. The Capitol Square is another popular hangout spot, and it hosts a variety of events all summer long, including the popular farmers market and the Concerts on the Square series.

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