Your guide to winter fun — outdoors, indoors and all around town

The long, volatile Wisconsin winter can make even the hardiest locals want to stay inside. But Madison remains a bustling city even in the colder months. Before cabin fever hits, check out this handy guide to getting out and about in the winter.

Winter sports

A woman enjoys cross-country skiing along a snow-covered trail through Curtis Prairie at the UW-Madison Arboretum at the University of Wisconsin-Madison during winter on Feb. 8, 2013. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

If cold and snow don’t scare you off, seek adventure by getting outdoors and hitting up a local skiing or snowboarding hill. Tyrol Basin offers both on its 17 tree-lined slopes and is located 20 minutes outside Madison near Mount Horeb. For those looking to stay closer to the city center, Blackhawk Ski Club in Middleton has ski jumping, alpine and cross-country skiing programs. Speaking of cross-country skiing, Wisconsin is one of America’s most prolific states for the sport. Madison is no exception, with 22 miles of trails at eight locations.

For more laid back winter sport activities, check out local ice skating rinks at a variety of Madison parks or The Edgewater Hotel downtown. Or, take advantage of the city’s hilly terrain for some old-fashioned sledding. Elver Park on the far west side offers a lighted hill for nighttime fun.

Holiday performances

wintersongNot the outdoor type, but still looking to get into the holiday spirit? Downtown Madison offers a variety of seasonal art performances and exhibits. The Overture Center will host “The Nutcracker” from Dec. 12-27, as well as a winter art gallery beginning Dec. 8 and running until early March. For a younger audience, the Children’s Theater of Madison will perform “A Christmas Carol” at the Overture’s Capitol Theater from Dec. 12-23.

Meanwhile, the Barrymore Theatre will host the fourth annual Wintersong event on Dec. 12. Budding indie superstars PHOX and other local folk musicians will perform seasonal music with all proceeds going to benefit Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin.

For more holiday cheer, check out the state Capitol Christmas tree in the rotunda or the Holiday Fantasy in Lights at Olin Turville Park, running every night until New Year’s Day.

Places to people watch

On Oct. 20, 2011, visitors view contemporary art in one of the third-floor galleries at the Chazen Museum of Art at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Among the museum's new features are copper-clad north-facing light monitors that filter damaging ultraviolet rays and allow natural light in the galleries. The photograph was made during an open house for the campus community, which was followed by a weekend public opening. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

Even if you can’t stand the weather (or are a Scrooge when it comes to the holidays), winter can still be for you! Get out of the house and find an indoor public space to walk around and people watch.

On campus, explore areas you don’t normally check out, like the world-class art on display at the Chazen Museum or the mastodon at the Geology Museum. Both are free.

If none of these activities get you excited, look forward to a staple of Madison summertime: the Dane County Farmer’s Market. While the Capitol Square booths may have disappeared several Saturdays ago, the event continues indoors at Monona Terrace through Dec. 19 and at the Madison Senior Center until moving outside again in April.

Consider it a pseudo-slice of warm weather until winter comes to a close.

–Jim Dayton