Terrace Views

10 Things to Do When Your Family Comes to Town

With spring in the air, the Memorial Union Terrace open once again and graduation right around the corner, there’s no better time than now to visit Madison, Wis. As a Madison native, I can say with complete certainty that you will never run out of fun things to do during a Madison spring. Even after living here for 21 years, I’m still finding new gems that the city has to offer. I’ve compiled a list of 10 of my favorite things to do and places to visit around campus, so that when your family arrives for a Wisconsin weekend, you won’t waste any time wondering what to do. 

  1. Discover delicious dining options
A margherita pizza from Strada in Memorial Union, which opened in 2017.

If your family is anything like mine, it is nearly impossible to collectively decide on a place to eat, because everyone wants something different. One of the greatest things about dining at our buildings Memorial Union and Union South is the variety of restaurants available to satisfy your cravings. This means that everyone can easily grab the food that suits their needs and then reconvene to eat together—that way, everyone’s happy! For example, if you and your family are deciding what to eat at Memorial Union, one person can order a BBQ chicken pizza from Strada, while someone else can get a stacked burger and gooey cheese curds from der Rathskeller. Once the food has been secured, you can all eat outside on the Terrace, everyone content with their desired meal. Explore all of our mouthwatering dining options here

  1. Bask in the lively atmosphere of the Memorial Union Terrace
A beautiful day at the Memorial Union Terrace.

Pull up one of our iconic sunburst chairs and make yourself at home on the Terrace! At the Terrace, you’ll get a front row seat to one of the most beautiful views in Madison. The bustling Terrace environment is the perfect place to catch up with your family while eating a warm brat from the Brat Stand or enjoying a creamy, rich dish of Babcock Ice Cream from the Daily Scoop. Stay late for a sight that can’t be beat: the sun setting over Lake Mendota.

  1. Recharge with a refreshing beverage

In typical caffeinated college student fashion, I always have a coffee in hand, whether I’m walking to class or studying at the Terrace. Provide your family with the true college experience by taking them to some of the best cafes in town. 

Peet’s Coffee, conveniently located in Memorial Union, boasts an extensive menu with something for everyone to enjoy. From steaming coffee to fruit tea shakers to horchata cold brew oat lattes, Peet’s menu features the perfect blend of go-to staples and signature drinks. Regardless of whether you’re an early riser or a night owl, Prairie Fire in Union South has got you covered whenever you need a burst of caffeine, since it opens early and closes late. Both of these cafes serve their delicious handcrafted beverages alongside the Wisconsin Union experience, providing you with memories for a lifetime.

  1. Enjoy a free movie 
Watch a free movie at the Memorial Union Terrace or at the Marquee Cinema in Union South.

Did you know that Union South is home to the Marquee Cinema, a 330-seat theater with a state-of-the-art sound system, and that we show free movies there and at the Terrace? Students involved in the Wisconsin Union Directorate (WUD) Film Committee select and program hundreds of free film screenings each year for students and community members. Films range from contemporary blockbusters to old classics, representing favorites for every kind of movie lover. Check out the Wisconsin Union event calendar to see what’s playing next. 

  1. Catch a Wisconsin Union Theater performance

The Wisconsin Union Theater has plenty of exciting programming to entertain you and your family. This month, we’re lucky enough to have three different events with “the people’s diva” Renée Fleming, including a night of world-class opera, a presentation on “Music and the Mind” and a masterclass with the Mead Witter School of Music. The Theater team welcomes numerous world-renowned musicians to Wisconsin Union spaces throughout the year. And, in case you didn’t know, current UW-Madison students and other Wisconsin Union members enjoy discounts on Theater tickets!

  1. Explore the outdoors
Outdoor UW’s camping and hiking equipment is available to rent year-round.

Now that the snow has finally melted, it’s the perfect time to get outside and appreciate the blooming greenery. Go on a nature walk along the Lakeshore Path or in the Arboretum, or take a relaxing stroll around Allen Centennial Gardens, located near the Lakeshore dorms on campus. 

If you and your family are seeking an outdoor adventure, check out the opportunities available to you through Outdoor UW. Treat yourselves to a family getaway in one of Wisconsin’s nearby state or county parks with camping, hiking and climbing equipment rentals through Outdoor UW. Stay tuned for when paddling rentals will start up again at the end of May. You will be able to rent kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards and explore the beauty of Lake Mendota.

  1. Shop ‘til you drop

Your trip to Wisconsin isn’t complete without acquiring an armful of souvenirs to commemorate your time in the Badger state. You can shop in-store at Badger Market, located in both Memorial Union and Union South or online at the Terrace Store for all the Wisconsin Union and Terrace merch your heart desires! From hoodies to T-shirts to mini Terrace chairs, we’ve got plenty of ways to bring a piece of the Wisconsin Union back home with you, wherever home may be.

  1. Make a masterpiece at Wheelhouse Studios
Ceramics is just one of many art mediums to try out at Wheelhouse Studios.

What better opportunity for family bonding than creating artistic masterpieces at Wheelhouse Studios? Wheelhouse Studios is an open art studio in the lower level of Memorial Union, featuring a unique array of art activities. Art courses range from introductory to advanced levels in a variety of mediums. Let your imagination run wild while creating a beautiful memento of your time in Madison! Learn more about available courses on the Wheelhouse Studios website or the Wisconsin Union event calendar

  1. Take advantage of Sett Rec now through May 15

Get your adventure on with Sett Recreation, which offers bowling, climbing and billiards every day through May 15. Sett Rec will be taking a hiatus over the summer, so come and play now while you still can! Put your competitiveness to good use and challenge your sibling or parent to a game of pool or bowling, or see who can conquer the climbing wall the fastest. Sett Rec also has food and beverages available for purchase to fuel all the rematches that are bound to ensue. 

  1. Go on a campus scavenger hunt

Last but not least, show off UW-Madison’s unique (and sometimes infamous) landmarks on a well-rounded tour of Madison. Create your own version of a scavenger hunt for your family, in which the prize is the satisfaction of feeling like a true UW-Madison student. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Find the fishtank on the first floor of Memorial Union.
  2. Eat at the tapas bar at Prairie Fire in Union South.
  3. Trudge up Bascom Hill, a true rite of passage for any UW-Madison student or employee.
  4. Get lost in the Mosse Humanities Building. (It’s not hard.)
  5. Discover the coolest bathrooms on campus by visiting the School of Human Ecology building. 

This is nowhere near an exhaustive list of all the things to do around Madison, but hopefully it provides you with an idea of what to do the next time your family is in town. 

Current UW-Madison students experience the benefits of a Wisconsin Union membership, including discounted Union Theater tickets, Outdoor UW equipment rentals, Wheelhouse Studios classes and more. Anyone, regardless of UW-Madison affiliation, can become a Wisconsin Union member here and enjoy all the membership perks.

Author: Abby Synnes

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