5 New Ideas for Winter Kid Outings

By Jessica Steinhoff  | Photos Courtesy University Of Wisconsin—Madison

Short fuses, epic whines, ants in the pants; cabin fever symptoms peak this time of year, especially in households with children. Luckily, several Madison-area museums have just the remedy.


Turn Saturday morning into a cosmic adventure by visiting the UW Space Place, a passion project of UW-Madison’s astronomy department. Filled with hands-on activities for kids ages 6 to 10, free workshops starting at 10 a.m. explore topics such as life on a space station and the mysteries of DNA. After the workshop, visit the exhibits to examine a black hole, see how galaxies make stars and learn about a giant telescope the university is building at the South Pole. spaceplace.wisc.edu


Seeking a weekday warmup? Grab hot cocoa at UW-Madison’s Union South, then scurry two blocks to this physics museum, home of 50 free exhibits about thermodynamics, electricity and energy. Whether simulating an earthquake or marveling at the sound waves their voices make, the kids will shed the winter blahs in no time. physics.wisc.edu/ingersollmuseum


Brimming with thousands of fossils, including prehistoric specimens from Wisconsin, the UW Geology Museum is another solid choice for a weekday or a Saturday morning. Peer into the Fossil Preparation Lab, where UW students examine fossils of large dinosaurs, tiny insects and nearly everything in between. Preschool-age paleontologists will dig Museum Storytime, which features thrilling books, specimens and crafts to take home. This free event happens at 10:30 a.m. the first and third Thursday of each month. geoscience.wisc.edu/museum


The Badger State’s human heritage takes center stage at the Wisconsin Historical Museum on the Capitol Square. Modern families can time-travel through early Native American communities, a pioneer trading post and a variety of immigrant settlements. Visit a lumber camp and discover what loggers of yesteryear did for fun or drive a tractor and learn how agriculture has shaped the state’s identity. A quick game of “I Spy” is likely to reveal many other treasures, from shiny classic cars to turn-of-the-century circus memorabilia. For an even deeper dive into Wisconsin history, take the guided tour, which departs from the lobby each Saturday at 2 p.m. historicalmuseum.wisconsinhistory.org


Around the corner, the Wisconsin Veterans Museum offers more Wisconsin stories for young visitors. A new exhibit, “In My Spare Moments: The Art of Harold F. Schmitz,” tells the story of a World War II soldier who loved to draw. Schmitz’s artwork and handwritten letters share the sense of wonder he felt when he first landed in the South Pacific, as well as the uncertainty he experienced as he began his military service. Kids can also see how Schmitz combined many identities, including U.S. Army map maker, Wisconsin native and fan of Hollywood magazine illustrations. wisvetsmuseum.com


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