Of course, the National Mustard Museum is on the list.
Doing fun things and enjoying Wisconsin doesn’t have to blow your budget. You can find a gazillion free things to do throughout the state, whether you want to be outdoors, visit a museum, or enjoy wildlife. Here are a few of our favorite Wisconsin destinations you can enjoy without paying a dime for admission.
Henry Vilas Zoo, Madison
Open Daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Madison’s Henry Vilas Zoo is one of 10 remaining free zoos throughout the United States. The zoo is home to more than 650 animals from around the world, featuring more than 115 species, 20 of which have been identified as endangered and vulnerable. Visitors can see African penguins, Amur tigers, red pandas, and much more. As a bonus, if you ride your bike to Henry Vilas Zoo, you get a 25% discount at their concession stands.
National Mustard Museum, Middleton
Open Tues. through Sun. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
If you didn’t know there was a museum dedicated to mustard, well, now you do. The National Mustard Museum is located right outside Madison in Middleton. This quirky institution has more than 6,000 mustards on display, representing all 50 states and more than 70 countries around the globe. After you view the “Great Wall of Mustard,” you can discover the magic of mustard at MustardPiece Theatre, where the museum shows videos about mustards from around the world.
UW Geology Museum, Madison
Open Mon. through Fri. 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m, Sat. 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Did you know there used to be volcanoes in Wisconsin? It’s true. The University of Wisconsin Geology Museum is the perfect place to take your little ones—or just your own curious inner child—for a step back in time. Displays include glowing rocks and minerals, dinosaurs, meteorites, and a model of a Wisconsin cave.
Chazen Art Museum, Madison
Open Mon. through Fri. 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sat. and Sun. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Art enthusiasts will enjoy a visit to Chazen Art Museum, home to the second largest art collection in Wisconsin. The museum’s 176,000 square feet holds around 23,000 works of art from various historical periods, cultures, and geographic locations. You can find pieces from ancient Greece, Western Europe, the Soviet Empire, modern Africa, and more. One important exhibit that you may want to spend some time with looks at UW–Madison’s complicated history and, the website states, “the multifaceted ways that racism and exclusion permeated campus life, and how the community responded, organized, and resisted.”
Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary, Green Bay
Summer Hours 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Winter Hours 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary’s 600 acres are home to live animal exhibits, educational displays, miles of trails for hiking and cross-country skiing, and various opportunities to see Wisconsin wildlife including bobcats, North American porcupines, white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, and more. The sanctuary offers various free public programs for visitors, such as wolf feeding, trail fitness walks, and Sanctuary Storytime for the little ones.
Menominee Indian Tribe Cultural Museum, Keshena
Open Mon. through Fri. 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The Menominee are indigenous to Wisconsin and have survived 10,000 years in this area. They have a fraction of their homeland on a reservation in northern Wisconsin, where you can find the Menominee Indian Tribe Cultural Museum. The space houses artifacts of cultural significance like headdresses, also called war bonnets. A visit here will give you a chance to learn more about the Menominee’s traditions while respecting their cultural practices.
Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, Wausau
Open Mon. through Fri. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sat. and Sun. 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
The Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum is known for its internationally acclaimed Birds in Art exhibition, which includes paintings, sculptures, and graphics. This is an especially great destination for kids; the Woodson museum also has an interactive gallery that offers creative play, art making, and children’s books that complement the Birds in Art Exhibition.
Wally Keller Tool Museum, Mount Horeb
Open Sun. through Thurs. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Fri. and Sat. 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The Wally Keller Tool Museum, which pays homage to Mount Horeb folk artist and sculptor, Wally Keller, is found tucked away in the Duluth Trading Co. store in Mount Horeb. The owner of Duluth visited the Keller home in search of sculptures and found a collection of more than 3,000 hand tools. Stop by to see the vintage hand tools that date back to the Civil War.
Iron River National Fish Hatchery, Iron River
Open daily from dawn until dusk
You might assume you would only see fish at a fish hatchery, but—surprise!—Iron River National Fish Hatchery offers so much more. And, it’s free! Today the hatchery produces eggs for lake trout and brook trout, and you can learn about their activities. However, you can also enjoy 3.5 miles of trails, archery demonstrations, birdwatching, cross-country skiing, hiking, hunting, foraging, and more.
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