Free or Low Cost Learning in the Madison Area

This document is a resource of free or inexpensive educational experiences in the Madison Area.

This list has been compiled as a resource for free and/or inexpensive educational opportunities in the Madison area.  This is not an inclusive list as there may be additional resources not listed here.  Please follow the links provided below to find out more information about the requirements, limitations, and potential costs associated with these opportunities.

UW–Madison noncredit free or inexpensive educational resources:

  • UW-Madison Continuing Studies: These classes are not available for cost-free auditing. Fee-based. 

  • UW–Madison Campus Tours: UW-Madison offers campus tours to meet the needs of all visitors. Tours are specially designed for prospective students, educational groups and field trips, civic and community groups, and the casual drop-in guest. Free

  • UW and Madison Area Visitor Guide: Follow this link to the UW and Madison Area Visitor Guide PDF. A comprehensive list of community engagement opportunities on campus and in the Madison area. May be some fee-based options.

  • Wisconsin Alumni Association: For UW–Madison alumni only. Alumni resources and services. As alumni, you have access to special benefits and services to celebrate what it means to be a Badger. Free and fee-based.


  • UW–Madison, Wisconsin Union, Wheelhouse Studios: Wheelhouse Studios is an open art studio located in the lower level of Memorial Union. Fee-based.

  • UW–Madison Chazen Museum of Art: Home to the second-largest collection of art in Wisconsin, the Chazen Museum of Art contains more than 20,000 works, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, and decorative arts. Exhibits frequently change and tours are available throughout the year. Free although donations are welcome.

  • UW–Madison School of Music: The Mead Witter School of Music presents an array of choral, orchestral, opera, and band performances, led by faculty, students, and guest artists. Free or senior discounted tickets.

  • UW–Madison Wisconsin Union, The Marquee Cinema: The Marquee, located on the second floor of Union South, is the home for film on campus. Film screenings are held almost every day during the academic year, from featured new releases to old-time favorites. Free

  • Wisconsin Union Theater: Home to Shannon Hall and the Play Circle Theatre, the Wisconsin Union Theater serves as UW–Madison's largest, busiest, and primary performing arts facility. Each year, the Wisconsin Union Theater welcomes more than 100,000 attendees for dance, music, theater, cultural, and sporting events. Some activities are fee-based.


  • Botany Garden: With more than 500 different types of plants from all over the world, the Botany Garden is an important resource for teaching and research and provides a leisure area for students and community members. The Botany Garden is located between Lathrop Hall and Chamberlin Hall. Free

  • Allen Centennial Garden: Allen Centennial Garden is an outdoor classroom for UW–Madison students and the surrounding community offering a peaceful respite, a beautiful walk, and a visually stimulating place to relax. The garden is open daily from sunrise to sunset. Free

  • UW-Madison Arboretum: The UW–Madison Arboretum is devoted to ecological restoration research, practice, and education. The 1,200-acre grounds are home to restored prairies, woodlands, wetlands, and savannas, Longenecker Horticultural Gardens, and the Wisconsin Native Plant Garden. Visitors can also enjoy 20 miles of walking trails, 4 miles of biking roads, and many learning and volunteer opportunities. Free


  • UW–Madison Geology Museum: While at the Geology Museum, located inside Weeks Hall, learn about the rich geological history of Wisconsin and discover the ancient sea creatures who once called this state home. Free

  • UW–Madison L.R. Ingersoll Physics Museum: Established in 1918, the L.R. Ingersoll Physics Museum inside Chamberlin Hall offers hands-on exhibits and instruments ranging from mechanics to modern physics, all in a kid-friendly environment. Free

  • UW–Madison Discovery Building: The Discovery Building is home to several programs highlighting science and creativity for campus and community members. Free

  • Science Outreach: Discover the latest from UW–Madison faculty and staff as they share how their research and inventions are changing the ways we look at life. Topics cover a full range of sciences, engineering, and technology. Free

Local organizations for non-credit free OR inexpensive learning opportunities-

  • PLATO (Participatory Learning And Teaching Organization): PLATO is a community of intellectually curious adults, typically 50 and over, which explores subjects of interest through member-led discussion groups, lectures, travel, and cultural activities. Membership fee.

  • Dane County New Horizons Music, Inc.: Dane County New Horizons Music, Inc. is an area band for adult musicians who may be new to playing a musical instrument, those who have not played since they were in high school or college, and those who want to learn to play a different instrument. Membership fee.

  • American Family DreamBank: From entrepreneur workshops and yoga sessions to crafting mornings with the kids, DreamBank offers dozens of free events each month. Free

  • Madison Senior Center: Their mission is to promote successful aging in the Madison community by avoiding disease, engagement with life, and maintaining high cognitive and physical function. They engage older adults as leaders, teachers, and learners to support and balance these goals. Free and fee-based

  • Madison School & Community Recreation (MSCR): MSCR will enhance the quality of life for individuals in the Madison Metropolitan School District and for the community by providing recreation and enrichment opportunities year-round that are accessible to all. Fee-based.

Local colleges with senior audit opportunities (see disclaimer below*)- 

*Due to residency requirements under Wisconsin law, enrollment at institutions of higher education can impact your eligibility for resident status at UW–Madison. If you have questions about whether your educational plans could impact your eligibility, please contact the UW-Madison Office of the Registrar at 

*Glossary term

Follow this link to 'Learn More' about the glossary terms listed in this document:

UW–Madison Continuing Studies
Adult Career and Special Student Services
21 N Park Street, Suite 7101 | Madison, WI 53715 | 608-263-6960

KeywordsACSSS DCS adult nondegree university special student continuing studies classes guest career nontraditional advising credit courses free noncredit non-credit low-cost madison senior guest auditor alternative inexpensive alumni visitor edgewood madison area technical college music museum fee based fee-based theater cinema   Doc ID98935
OwnerAnne N.GroupAdult Career and Special Student Services
Created2020-03-16 15:37:45Updated2023-10-04 16:09:07
SitesAdult Career and Special Student Services
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