Day Trip to Madison, WI

This summer my family opted for a stay-cation so we could do as many local, and not so local, outings in the Illinois/Wisconsin area before relocating. Last week included a day trip to Madison, WI, about 2.5 hours from Gurnee, IL. We opted to avoid the I-94/I-43 traffic and take US 12, a very scenic drive with not as much traffic.

 View from the rooftop of the Madison Children’s Museum

There are quite a few museums located in Madison, plus a botanical garden, but we decided our children would do best at the Madison Children’s Museum.  Madison Children’s Museum is on the Blue Star museum list, and is reciprocal with Kohl Children’s Museum memberships. The Madison Children’s Museum opens at 9:30am, which, if your children are morning people like mine are, makes it quite feasible to get out the door early, and to the museum not too long after the doors open.  Overall, we enjoyed the museum but would not have gone out of our way to visit the museum had we not made other plans in the city. The highlight of the museum was the exhibit on the roof of the building.  The rooftop teaches children about ecology and weather, with hands on access to a greenhouse, solar oven, live animals, a garden, and more.

After the museum, we found Ian’s Pizza. I was so thrilled we chose this restaurant to eat at because it was an easy walk from the museum.  The pizza was completely worth the trip!  They sell pizza by the slice, featuring 12 varieties.  The Mac and Cheese pizza lived up to our expectations and the kids thought it was fun.  We also tried a meatball pizza that had a hint of Indian spices, and a sausage and penne pizza.   All were very satisfying and enough to feed our family of four.

We stumbled upon Ella’s Deli and Ice Cream Parlor while driving around town.  Ella’s is the oldest deli in Madison.  The unique aspect of Ella’s that caught our eye was the running carousel outside the deli.  The 1920s carousel is one of less than 75 original carousels still running in the United States.  The carousel runs from spring through fall.  Unfortunately my children fell asleep in the car on the way to Ella’s, so I cannot give a full report on the ice cream or food served at Ella’s.

Had we decided to stay overnight, we would have liked to visit the following attractions:

Wisconsin Historical Museum: $10 for a family, closed Sundays and Mondays, short walk to Children’s Museum, Veterans Museum, and many restaurants.

Wisconsin Veterans Museum:  features 19th century and 20th century galleries commemorating the roles of Wisconsin Veterans.

Museum of Contemporary Arts:  Closed Mondays, opens at noon Tues-Fri and Sun, 10am on Sat.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens:  16 acres of outdoor gardens are free, $1 for children older than 5 to enter the Conservatory.

University of Madison Geology Museum: free, self-guided tours including rocks and minerals, fluorescent display, fossils, and dinosaurs.

Do you have a favorite stay-cation outing? 

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About Melissa Haak 907 Articles
Melissa is mom to 4. She used to dream of traveling the world, now she dreams of a clean kitchen. She can be found on most social media sites as @PBinmyHair because with this much hair and four kids, you're bound to find something in it.

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