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Nine things to see when UW opens its doors this weekend

April 2, 2024 By Mike Klein
People walk on an open campus mall.

Pedestrians walk down East Campus Mall alongside 175 Anniversary banners. Visitors are welcome to campus during the open house April 5-7. Photo: Althea Dotzour

Come on in!

That’s the invite from the University of Wisconsin­–Madison for its 175th Anniversary Community Open House April 5-7, featuring more than 60 events, from science experiments to a scavenger hunt to building tours.

“We’re proud of the legacy of innovation here at UW–Madison — in research, the arts, athletics and more,” said Charles Hoslet, vice chancellor for university relations and chair of the 175th Anniversary Steering Committee. “We want everyone to see examples of how an idea can change the world, and meet the amazing people who make this happen.”

But it’s a big campus — nearly 1,000 acres — and there’s a lot going on. So here are nine suggested spots to visit that the general public doesn’t always get to see. Be sure to check out the whole list of events.

  1. Babcock Dairy Observation Deck Tours, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, April 5 and Saturday, April 6; and 2 to 3 p.m. April 7.

    Two people scoop red berries into yellow cheese curd.

    Cheesemakers add the cherries and cranberries to make Cranniverscherry cheese. Photo: Bryce Richter

The newly renovated plant has the latest equipment for milk processing, ice cream churning, milk bottling and cheesemaking. Tours are first-come, first-served for up to 30 people, but the deck is open to the public during all store hours. See where the deliciousness starts and enjoy samples of 175 S’more Years ice cream and Cranniverscherry cheese, made right here on campus.

  1. Open House and Public Nights at Washburn Observatory; Open house is noon to 4 p.m. Friday, April 5, and Saturday, April 6; Public Nights are 8 to 10 p.m. Friday, April 5 and Saturday, April 6.

    The interior of Washburn Observatory is visible as a large dome bathed in red, and slot to the outside that a telescope pokes out of.

    Bathed in the glow of dim red light, members of the public take in a nighttime view of the stars using Washburn Observatory’s vintage telescope in 2017. Photo: Jeff Miller

This hilltop observatory was a leading astronomical research center when it was built in 1878. Today, it’s just a beautiful place to enjoy views of campus and Lake Mendota and to take a look at the night sky through the original, 143-year-old telescope.

  1. Celebrating Geography and Map-making in Science Hall, 4 to 6 p.m. Friday, April 5.

    Light streams in through a colorful stained glass window.

    A stained glass window decorates the entrance to Science Hall. Photo: Bryce Richter

In the storied corridors of Science Hall, a Romanesque red-brick building constructed in 1887, you can wander the Robinson Map Library to find a map or aerial photo of a favorite site in Wisconsin or beyond. You can also view antique maps from the History of Cartography Project.

  1. Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences Building Open House, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, April 6.

    Large satellite dishes and other equipment cover the top of a building.

    People look at satellite dishes and the view from the roof of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences (AOSS) Building during an event in 2018. Photo: Jeff Miller

You’ve seen those satellite dishes on top of the AOSS building from afar — now get an up-close look and enjoy a beautiful aerial view of Madison. Also, you can view real-time satellite imagery on a 3D globe and talk with scientists at one of the world’s leading weather prediction facilities.

  1. Bakke Recreation & Wellness Center Open House, 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 6 (registration required).

    A photo of the atrium of the Bakke Fitness & Wellbeing Center.

    The four levels of the Bakke Recreation & Wellbeing Center provide a wide variety of ways to improve health, fitness and wellbeing. Photo: Althea Dotzour

The newest workout facility on campus is a sight to behold, with four levels open onto a vast center atrium, with large windows looking out upon Lake Mendota. Try free ice skating in the Sub-Zero Ice Center, take a look at the climbing wall and sports simulators and do not forget to check out the nap pods.

  1. UW–Madison in Motion, 10 a.m. to noon on Sunday, April 7. Lot 131, 1100 block of University Bay Drive.

    In a photo taken at night, an antique fire engine pained red and decorated with decals of Bucky Badger drives down State Street, leading the UW Spirit Squad. The capitol dome shines in the background.

    The Bucky Wagon leads the way for the UW Spirit Squad during the UW Homecoming Parade along State Street in 2023. Photo: Bryce Richter

This is your chance to get an up-close look at UW’s trademark rides, from the Bucky Wagon to Madison Fire Department trucks to the UW ice cream truck.

  1. Metalsmithing Demonstration, hour-long demonstrations at noon, 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 6, 7511 Humanities Building.

    A torch is applied to a piece of metal.

    The art of metalsmithing involves shaping and welding heated metal.

Part of UW–Madison’s respected Art Metals & Jewelry program, metalsmithing is not a craft for the faint of heart. Watch as artists heat and shape metal, solder it with torches and other processes. Demonstrations are an hour long.

  1. Wisconsin Athletics Family Fun Fair, Field House, 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday, April 7 (Fill out form at link).
    A black-and-white photo of spectators filling bleachers at an old-fashioned field house.

    Spectators fill the floor and bleachers of the Field House for a concert in the mid-20th century.

    The Field House, built in 1929, is on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s been the site of many hard-fought Badger victories in sports ranging from boxing to volleyball to basketball. Take a look at the trophies they won, and let your kids run around and enjoy the inflatables and interactive displays.

  2. Geology Museum Open House, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 6
    A rock sits on a table in front of a field.

    This 110-pound iron meteorite sits in front of the field where it was discovered in the Town of Vienna, Wis. Photo: Jeff Miller

    Take a peek into Wisconsin’s long geologic history and touch ancient rocks from a time when there were volcanoes here. And most excitingly, see the Vienna Meteorite, a 110-pound hunk of space rock that was found on a Dane County farm and recently purchased by the museum.