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Up Next: Madison Children’s Museum  

Madison Children’s Museum (MCM) has been entertaining and teaching children and their families for over four decades. Since 2010, MCM has resided on the Capitol Square in Madison, drawing in many from the Madison area and beyond. In a typical year, the museum serves over 200,000 visitors. MCM is consistently rated one of the top ten children's museums in the nation in publications such as Parents Magazine and USA Today. The museum’s whimsical, creative bent plays out over two indoor floors, a rooftop garden, and the newly renovated outdoor Wonderground exhibit. MCM is the perfect place for families in the Madison area looking for year-round fun and educational activities.  


In 1998, the museum began working toward becoming the most sustainable museum possible. To start, they launched First Feats, an exhibit that ensured the safest learning environment available for young children, who are particularly vulnerable to the effects of chemicals and other manufactured elements typically found in play areas. First Feats did away with toxic carpeting, laminates, formaldehyde-infused plywoods, and plastics of all kinds, and created a warm and inviting space based upon use of local, natural materials. Since then, MCM has become a trailblazer in sustainable exhibit design in the museum field, a value that has come to influence every aspect of the museum, from facilities and energy use to programming. MCM took a great leap forward when it moved from a rented location near the top of State Street to its "forever home” on the Capitol Square, in a building that the museum owns. A lush green rooftop oasis in the heart of downtown has become one of the most-loved parts of the museum. This led to the expansion of outdoor exhibits and programming when the 10,000-square-foot Wonderground project development launched in 2020. 


The museum strives to be a place every child can enjoy, no matter their background. MCM Access for Everyone programs ensure that price is never a barrier, with $1 admissions and memberships for as little as $15 for those who qualify. Earlier this year, the museum opened Little John’s Café, the only pay-what-you-can restaurant in a museum in the country. MCM’s First-Time Parent Membership program, proudly supported by Park Bank, makes a free membership available to any parent (up to two caregivers) and their child, until the age of 18 months.


MCM offers a wide variety of fun exhibits geared towards children of various age groups. Children and families can explore exhibits indoors and outdoors, making it the perfect location to bring kids in any season. 

  • Visit the outdoor greenery of the Rooftop Ramble and take in the spectacular views of the Capitol and Lake Monona.
  • Meet Earl the Snake or one of the many rooftop chickens.
  • Run and climb in the Wonderground, MCM’s newest addition, which includes 10,000 square feet of outdoor, active play space.
  • Inside, spin in the human-sized Gerbil Wheel or paint and weave in the Art Studio.
  • Children 5 and under can crawl, toddle, skip, pretend, and play in a beautiful space that supports their growth and development.  Babies gaze at the fish tank and peer up at the butterflies moving their wings.  A few years later, they’ll traverse the Bone Bridge high above the visitors below.


During the first half of 2022, the museum held a series of listening sessions with community stakeholder groups including Hmong, Latinx, Indigenous, and Black families, to better align MCM to meet community needs. MCM recently launched a new summer program in partnership with the MMSD Summer Arts Academy, providing free museum visits and arts enrichment programming. Led by contracted teaching artists of color, the program reached over 1,200 MMSD elementary summer school students. As a result, MCM served a larger and more diverse group of children than during previous summer camp seasons. MCM Roadshow launched a series of mobile exhibits and programs in order to reach neighborhoods where museum visitation is low and access to cultural events is limited.   


Madison Children’s Museum will continue to strengthen relationships and partnerships with neighborhoods, communities, and diverse cultures to serve all children and families—so that every child can reap the benefits of creative, open-ended play.