- Where to Go
- The Best of Milwaukee and Madison
- The Best Wisconsin Weekends
- A Perfect Week in Door County
- Wisconsin for Recreationists
- Rustic Road Tripping
- Made in Milwaukee
- Madison Weekend
- Sports: The Packers and Beyond
- Out on the Town in Milwaukee
- Say Cheese!
- Four Days in the Mad City
- A Wisconsin Family Road Trip
- Wisconsin’s Best Brews
State Historical Museum
On the State Street corner of Capitol Square, the State Historical Museum (30 N. Carroll St., 608/264-6555, www.wisconsinhistory.org, 9 a.m.–4 p.m. Tues.–Sat., $4) lets you stroll through commendable, challenging permanent multimedia exhibits that detail the state’s geological, Native American, and European settlement history.
The lower level is a gallery area featuring revolving exhibits; three more floors feature boatloads of historic exhibits. This museum also has unquestionably the best bookstore for Wisconsin titles.
Wisconsin Veterans Museum
Kitty-corner from the State Historical Museum, the Wisconsin Veterans Museum (30 W. Mifflin St., 608/267-1799, http://museum.dva.state.wi.us, 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Mon.-Sat. year-round and noon-4 p.m. Sun. Apr.-Sept., free) has two impressive main galleries of exhibits, dioramas, and extensive holdings tracing Wisconsin’s involvement in wars from the Civil War to the Persian Gulf conflict. Even Mexican border campaigns are detailed.
Main attractions are the mock-ups of battles and cool aircraft hovering overhead. Children will love the submarine periscope sticking out of the gallery’s roof, which allows for a true panoramic view of downtown Madison.
Madison Children’s Museum
The kid-centric Madison Children’s Museum (100 N. Hamilton St., 608/256-6445, www.madisonchildrensmuseum.org, 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, till 8 p.m. Thurs., $7) two blocks east is housed in an old triangular corner edifice. After a couple years of construction, it opened in its new home, in 2010, and features state-of-the-art and cutting edge everything—quite amazing for a city of any size. (And yes, this being Madison, it’s all recycled, earth-friendly, etc.) Visitors can romp through and get their hands on a variety of traditional and computer-oriented activities. The kid-centered rooftop park is good for anyone!
Madison Museum of Contemporary Art
One block nearer to the university from the historical society museum is the distinctive Madison Civic Center and, within it, the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (211 State St., 608/257-0158, www.mmoca.org, noon–5 p.m. Tues.–Thurs., till 8 p.m. most Fri., 10 a.m.–8 p.m. Sat., noon–5 p.m. Sun., free). The prominent gallery window is always attracting the attention of passersby, most staring quizzically at the art or, occasionally, the performance artist trapped inside. The small galleries are interspersed through three floors of the civic center complex and feature contemporary art—mostly paintings and some photography. A good gift shop is here.
The complex also houses the Overture Center for the Arts, which hosts modern and classical music, touring shows, and Broadway plays. The Isthmus Playhouse inside is a thrust-stage venue.
Chazen Museum of Art
The remaining museums operate under the auspices of the University of Wisconsin. The first one listed here is only one block off the end of State Street. As State Street runs its final block and melds with the Library Mall, walk past the bookstore and a church and then bear left down a cul-de-sac. The Chazen Museum of Art (800 University Ave., 608/263-2246, http://chazen.wisc.edu, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Tues.–Fri., 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Sat.–Sun., free) contains almost 16,000 holdings, the oldest dating from 2300 B.C. The open, airy design features several levels of permanent collections, including Egyptian and Greek porcelain, Japanese prints, Indian figurines, Russian icons, early European and American art, and a somewhat moody roomful of Renaissance church art. The top floor showcases modern American artists. At the time of writing, the already-wonderful museum was set to unveil its massive $43-million renovation, which would double the exhibition space (the new design itself looks smashing).
© Thomas Huhti from Moon Wisconsin, 5th Edition