Madison, Wisconsin, season by season
Wisconsin’s capital city is unique in each season thanks to its location on an isthmus between two lakes, three other nearby lakes and its northerly latitude. Madison offers different outdoor activities throughout the year, as well as museums, national architectural landmarks, farm-to-table restaurants and even an underground cavern ideal for visiting regardless of the weather.
Madison’s summers can get hot and, thanks to the nearby wetlands, humid. The area has lots of places to cool off, though, as Madison is surrounded by five different lakes where visitors and residents can kayak, canoe, stand-up paddleboard and swim. Summer’s hot days are often followed by cool nights, so take a light jacket for patio dining and to throw on when attending one of the city’s frequent free outdoor concerts. Average daily highs in the summer hover around 80 degrees F, and overnight lows are in the mid-50s to low 60s.
June is the rainiest month of the year, which can result in perfect breeding conditions for mosquitoes, so bring both a rain jacket and repellent throughout the summer, just in case.
Thanks to Madison’s northerly latitude, summer days seem to be endless with the sun setting after 8:00 p.m. followed by a long twilight. Earlybirds beat the crowds and get a start on the day’s activities with summer sunrises around 5:30 a.m.
Milder weather and fall colors make post-Labor Day a popular time to see Madison’s sites, and it’s back-to-school season for this college town. September and October daytime highs are in the 50s and 60s, while nights are chillier in the 30s and 40s. November can feel more like winter.
With the summer humidity down, September and October are perfect for biking in and around the city. Madison boasts over 200 miles of scenic bike paths to explore, and the League of American Bicyclists awarded Greater Madison with a platinum certification for its biking amenities. If you don't have your own cycling gear and helmet to pack, you can rent once you get there.
As September rolls into October and November, nighttime temperatures can fall to freezing and snow is possible. Autumn visitors will want one set of clothing for Madison’s crisp days and another for cold nights. Keep the cold nights in mind for visiting Madison at Halloween too. The city hosts a huge street party and music festival, Freakfest, over Halloween weekend. Costumes need to be planned with not just fun in mind, but warmth as well.
Winter arrives early in Madison and this season can get very cold. It’s rare for daytime temperatures to rise above freezing, and at night it's much colder. Average lows are in the teens, and highs are in the mid-20s or low 30s.
December and January are Madison’s snowiest months. This is the least crowded time to visit the city, but the favorite for winter sports enthusiasts. Cross-country skiers, snowmobilers and ice fishing enthusiasts pile on layers, tech fabrics and down-filled coats to embrace the low temperatures.
A warm coat, hat and gloves are necessary for spending any length of time outdoors exploring the city, and boots will make it easier to walk through the snow and navigate potentially slippery sidewalks.
As the days grow longer, Madison starts to warm up. Average daytime temperatures in March are above freezing, but a fair amount of snow still falls – an average of 7 inches. With April, even though snow becomes a thing of the past and gardens come alive, you'll need to pack warm clothes – April’s nighttime temperatures still drop below freezing.
Things get pleasant in May with daytime highs near 70 degrees F. Snow is absent until October comes around again, but rain is always possible, so keep that rain jacket handy.