Cheap fun in Madison!
July 31, 2008 5:45 PM   Subscribe

What are your favorite free (or nearly free) things to do in Madison, Wisconsin?

I'm looking for ways to kill a couple of hours that are a little more interesting than just walking up State Street or hanging out at the Terrace (though those are certainly fun). I'm especially looking for unique, quirky, or out-of-the-way things to do and places to go. I'm outdoorsy but will consider indoor activities, too. Thanks!
posted by chippie to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

Oh, how could I forget--Olbrich Gardens! One of my favorites.

Also: Vilas Zoo and The Arboretum.
posted by divka at 6:47 PM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

I never tire of going to the Vilas Park Zoo, though I always have a toddler with me -- might not be as much fun without one, and toddlers are definitely not free.

Farmer's Market and excellent and obvious choice, though if you get through it without spending some money you've got stronger willpower than I do.

Cinematheque is free, and digs deep into the archives of world cinema.
posted by escabeche at 6:48 PM on July 31, 2008

If you're a member of the Union, renting canoes from Hoofers is really cheap and there's nothing like paddling lazily around Mendota on a hot day.
posted by escabeche at 6:53 PM on July 31, 2008

Take a tour of the State Capitol!
posted by spinifex23 at 7:01 PM on July 31, 2008

If you're not a member of the Union, rent canoes or paddleboats or whatever from the Wingra Boathouse at the end of Knickerbocker St.

Bike (or walk, or skate) around the lake or out to the Riley tavern.

Volunteer for a local theater company. There are scads, and they're always looking for people to help hang lights, hand out programs, etc. Plus, you'll get to see shows for free.

Get books or movies from the library.

Check out the Guide at or the events calendar at for free and low-cost stuff around town and on campus. There are loads of free shows every week, especially this time of year.

Pickup basketball or frisbee at James Madison Park.

Frisbee Golf at Hiestand or a bunch of other places.

Batting cages or driving range at Vitense.
posted by Madamina at 9:23 PM on July 31, 2008

Play DND at a Dennys.
posted by OwlBoy at 11:21 PM on July 31, 2008

Jazz At Five starts next Wednesday.
posted by Floydd at 7:23 AM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

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