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Thursday–Sunday, 9 am–4 pm

Open Thursday–Sunday. Plan your visit or get tickets.

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The Wonderground

Opening to the public October 2 & 3

Welcome to a world of wonder. Madison Children’s Museum is up-cycling a defunct former parking lot area into an awe-inspiring new four-seasons, outdoor play space. The Wonderground will open to the public on October 2 & 3, 2021, with special events also planned for museum members.

The Wonderground adds 10,000 square feet of new play area to the museum, designed for play in all its forms. The space is designed as a work in progress, with additional features being added in 2022 and temporary exhibits cycling through so that there is always something new.

And—of course, because this is Madison Children’s Museum—the whole space will be made using local, natural materials in conjunction with largely upcycled materials, objects, and artifacts, and will be created by MCM staff and artists from the community.

The Wonders of the Wonderground

Here is a sneak peek at a few of the features we are most excited about:

  • The Thicket climbing sculpture – A 25-foot-tall climbing sculpture takes center stage, weaving together natural structural wood elements into a playful new adventure. The climber will test kids’ agility, strength, risk assessment, and climbing prowess while increasing their connection to each other as helpers and friends. Below the Thicket is an Understory area for additional imaginative play. Parents can observe their intrepid explorers in the Thicket and the Understory while younger siblings stay engaged and learning in nooks surrounding the climbing sculpture area.
  • Dayton Street Cocoon Scramble & Sensory Trail – Even kids too small to clamber up the thicket get their own natural climbing and exploration zone. Little kids can build their balance and proprioception along a series of climbable natural tree structures and other obstacles designed to stimulate their senses and practice coordination.
  • The Orchard, Cabin Yard & Gardens  – The museum’s historic 1830s cabin returns, now relocated onto a small knoll overlooking the rest of the exhibit space planted with native vegetables, fruits, and grasses. The cabin area includes artifacts for historical exploration, educational programs with food and urban gardening, and a quieter resting area.
  • The Wormhole – Located beneath the stairs entering the space from the ground floor, the Wormhole is a series of 10-foot-long culverts stacked next to one another. Children will play inside, crawling through one tunnel and into the next, making a satisfying loop. This will be a great place to cool down during the hot summer months, to read a book, or pretend you are underground.
  • The Down Under – Protected from the elements by the museum’s school-group entrance above, we’re creating a larger gathering space for rest, respite, and special programs. Beautiful mosaic columns will give the space a magical, imaginative feel. Small mini-exhibits from MCM’s past are planned to rotate throughout the space.

Other planned features include:

  • kid-scale climbing wall from the cabin yard to the lower Urb Garden space. The climbing wall will be made from wood, rope, old tires, and other reclaimed parts and pieces
  • giant bucket that can become a playhouse, a performance stage, a monster cave and much more based on the whims of the visiting children or MCM program staff
  • bathrooms, warming areas, bike parking, and more!

Fast facts about the Wonderground

  • Demolition started April 24 with construction continuing through the spring and summer. Installation of the Thicket climbing structure began in July.
  • A grand opening celebration is planned for October 2 & 3. Museum members will also be able to sign up for a series of smaller member parties in the Wonderground; watch your email for updates!
  • Entrance to the Wonderground will be included in general museum admission or membership. No special tickets will be needed to play in the Wonderground after the opening weekend. During the opening weekend, free tickets may be distributed to limit capacity and encourage social distancing in the space. More information on the opening weekend will be announced in September.
  • The Wonderground is designed to be a four-seasons exhibit. Some features and special exhibits may change with the seasons and weather, but families are encouraged to dress in layers to play in the Wonderground year-round.
  • The Wonderground is the museum’s single biggest expansion since we relocated to our current premises over ten years ago. The construction needed to create the space and the climbing sculptures are the most complicated projects the museum has endeavored in its forty-plus-year history.


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