8 Free (or Almost Free) Things To Do in (and Around) Madison This Holiday Season

8 Free (or Almost Free) Things To Do in (and Around) Madison This Holiday Season

A city like Madison offers plenty of holiday-themed special events, and it can be tough to keep track of them all. That’s why my team culled through multiple online listings to come up with eight one-day-only and season-long family-friendly events that are worthy of your patronage.

Here’s a rundown of free and low-priced happenings in December: 


Holiday Fantasy in Lights

Through Dec. 31, Olin Park, 1156 Olin-Turville Court, Madison

This musical journey through about 50 festive displays from the warmth and comfort of your own vehicle is soundtracked by WVMO and promoted as a green event with all-LED bulbs. Don't forget to look for the dog with the wagging tail; I sponsored that one! 

When: Dusk to dawn

Admission: Free


Zoo Lights

Through Dec. 30, Henry Vilas Zoo, 702 S. Randall Ave., Madison

Want to see even more outdoor holiday decorations? Then take a leisurely evening stroll through one of the few admission-free, community-supported zoos in the country. The animals will be sleeping, but the lights will be shining and twinkling. 

When: Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 5:30-8:30 p.m.

Admission: $10 per person and free for children under 3 (tickets required)


Madison’s 27th Annual Fair Trade Holiday Festival

Dec. 2, Monona Terrace, One John Nolen Dr., Madison

More than 40 vendors will offer fairly traded, international products — including clothing, food, jewelry, books, cards, ornaments and baskets — to help you complete your holiday shopping list early.

When: 8 a.m.-3 p.m.

Admission: Free


Holiday Express Model Train & Flower Show

Dec. 2-31, Olbrich Botanical Gardens, 3330 Atwood Ave., Madison

What’s the holiday season without trains? The Holiday Express is a perennial favorite, with large-scale model trains chugging through festive scenes surrounded by poinsettias and fresh evergreens.

When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily (except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day)

Admission, which also includes the tropical Bolz Conservatory: Free for Olbrich members; otherwise $8 for adults, $5 for children ages 6 and older, and free for children 5 and younger


Holiday Market

Dec. 3, Aldo Leopold Nature Center, 3330 Femrite Dr., Monona

Sample and purchase foods made locally from Wisconsin ingredients, browse nature-inspired and found-object art, and check out handcrafted jewelry, scarves, yarns and more at this event designed to support sustainably minded artists and vendors.

When: 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

Admission: Free


Howl-iday Dog Party

Dec. 9, The Boneyard, 1018 Walsh Road, Madison

The dog park/beer garden’s December dog party will be a dress-up affair, as well as a holiday fundraiser for Czar’s Promise, which helps dogs and their human companions cope with cancer.

When: Noon-4 p.m.

Admission: Free for humans; $10 for up to two dogs per owner


Fitchburg Holiday Lights Tour & Yuletide Jubilee

Dec. 15-17, Throughout the City of Fitchburg

Local residents and business owners will display elaborate and elegant light displays, while area shops and restaurants will offer special holiday deals.

When: 6-9 p.m. nightly

Admission: Free


Winter Solstice Night Walk

Dec. 21, Visitor Center at UW-Madison Arboretum, 1207 Seminole Highway, Madison

Take a naturalist-led walk through the arboretum on the shortest day of the year. (Yeah, technically this is not a “holiday” event, but the winter solstice is still pretty special.)

When: 4-5:30 p.m.

Admission: Free, but registration is required


From holiday-lights tours to doggie dress-up parties, I’ve got your holiday calendar covered!

Photo by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash

Work With Us

At Forever Home Real Estate, we understand the significance of your search and the importance of your decision. We are here to make it an easy, enjoyable experience, and will support you from initial contact to the final signature.

Follow Us on Instagram