Does just the term "tourist attraction". cause feelings of anxiety? While there certainly are some attractions that you are better off driving on by, there are plenty of good ones too. Our Madison 10Best list can help you sort the worthwhile from the worthless, ensuring only good memories are created this trip.


Wisconsin State Capitol

Actually the state's third Capitol building, this stately structure is a city landmark, resting on an isthmus between Lakes Mendota and Monona. It was completed in 1917. Crowned by a dome and a bronze statue, the Capitol also features an elaborate rotunda, ornate detailing, and furnishings of French walnut and Wisconsin oak. The exterior is built of white granite, and observation decks ring the outer dome, affording great views of the city during the summer. Fourteen acres of landscaped grounds accentuate the structure's beauty and offer opportunity for strolls and photographs. Guided tours on the hour, Mon-Sat 9am-3pm, Sun 1pm-3pm.

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University of Madison – Wisconsin
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For an enlightening overview of Madison's branch of the University of Wisconsin, visitors may want to embark on a 90-minute walking tour of campus. Well-informed student guides provide information about history, architecture, and university programs, and they point out prominent features and structures, including the Carillon Memorial Bell Tower, Babcock Hall Dairy Plant and Store, the Lincoln Statue, and the circa-1894 Red Gym, which houses the visitors center.

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You'll have a whole other perspective on Madison when you view it from a motor yacht on Lake Mendota. These popular cruises run throughout the day and evening and feature complete meals and full bar service. They often present lakeside scenery along 20-plus miles of shoreline, introducing visitors to Governor Nelson State Park, the Governor's Residence, and such downtown landmarks as the State Capitol, Monona Terrace, and UW-Madison. Open-air and cabin seating are available, and options can be arranged for corporate or leisure functions. Reservations required.

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Wisconsin's executive residence, set along the waterfront on Lake Mendota, boasts Classical Revival architecture and rests on almost four acres of landscaped grounds. Lovely garden rooms accentuate the stately structure, which rises three stories and is distinguished by a lofty portico. Built in the 1920s, the private home was acquired by the state in 1949 to house its governors after an earlier mansion was sold to UW-Madison. The residence boasts 34 rooms, and tours are available during spring, summer, and the holiday season.

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Veterans, in particular, are entranced by this thoughtful museum's displays, which chart our nation's military conflicts and the men and women who served in them. Wisconsin residents are highlighted, of course, and battles from the Civil War to the Persian Gulf are addressed. Helicopters, airplanes, vignettes, and other artifacts communicate particular eras and historical situations, and audio tour cassettes are available for rental for $2. A gift shop is located on the premises as well.

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Noah's Ark is the largest outdoor waterpark in the US, at 70 acres. The rides are big and long, and there are a lot of them. To be exact, there are 47 slides, two wave pools, 2 lazy rivers, four interactive playgrounds, the world's only “4D Dive In Movie Theater” and even some land-based activities like mini-golf and three arcades.

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Mt. Olympus Water and Theme Park

Mt. Olympus is a resort of truly mythic proportions. The property includes both indoor and outdoor water and theme parks, so you can have a blast no matter what the weather's like. In all, there are 37 slides and six intense roller coasters, plus go-kart tracks and a host of other rides for all ages. One admission price covers all four parks.

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Targeting youngsters through age 12, this interactive facility seeks to foster learning and adds in a strong dose of fun that all ages can enjoy. Originally a series of traveling exhibits, the museum now boasts its own space and features hands-on displays about archaeology, physics, gardening, dinosaurs, art, creativity, and the dairy industry. If you're trying to occupy the kids' time during summer vacation or just want to break them from cartoons and video games, this museum is a terrific alternative.

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This is the country's largest indoor waterpark. The 125,000 square foot, Africa-themed park has all the thrills of an outdoor park, but on a smaller scale. Nevertheless, you'll find plenty of intensity on rides like the Master Blaster and the FlowRider. The park has several fun, seasonal outdoor features as well, including Extreme Rush Slalom Racers and the Anaconda.

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Essentially an outdoor learning facility, these gardens occupy 2½ acres surrounding a Victorian Gothic home on the UW-Madison campus. Although they were completed in 1989, the gardens convey the sense of much older landscaping. The site includes woodland and wetland gardens, boxwood parterres, rock gardens, and many more garden rooms and horticultural specimens. Along with the ornamental perennials, you'll also find annual beds and seasonal displays.

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