Poet T.S. Eliot had no children. And I doubt he'd ever experienced a Wisconsin winter, either, when he proclaimed April to be the cruelest month. Because as every mom and dad in the upper Midwest knows, each and every one of February's 28 days can feel like an eternity when, due to cruddy weather, you are stuck in the house with young kids.
Fortunately, though, the Madison area has a number of terrific indoor venues that can keep February from feeling like a parenting wasteland. Some are so much fun, in fact, that you might even start wishing leap year came around a little more often.
Golfing through history
In many ways, Vitense Golfland's indoor "Madison Landmark" course is as much a mini-local history lesson as it is a mini-golf destination. That's because each of its 18 holes pays delightful and interactive homage to an iconic capital city building, business or place of interest.
Where else around town can a kid get the chance to send a brightly colored golf ball straight through the rotunda of a Wisconsin State Capitol reproduction? Or attempt a hole-in-one while standing alongside a replica of the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile?
And with Vitense's $22 all-day wristband, your child can enjoy not just the mini-golf, but a trip to the heated driving range, tokens for the arcade and access to the remote-control boats, as well.
Vitense Golfland's Madison Landmark Course
501 Schroeder Rd., 608-271-1411, vitense.com
There is no mirrored ball or white leisure suit requirement, but you and the kids are guaranteed to catch "Saturday Day Fever" at the Great Dane-Hilldale this month. On Feb. 2 and 16, the brewpub's pool hall lounge will be transformed once again into a thoroughly non-decadent version of Studio 54.
The kids will enjoy snacks, and parents a much-needed beer, as beloved Madison DJ Nick Nice spins family-friendly dance tunes from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. And at just $5 per person ($20 max for the whole family), this popular Great Dane tradition offers parents a really great reason for "Stayin' Alive" this winter.
Don't worry if you can't make either of the February dates. You'll get one more chance at the final Kid Disco of the season on March 2.
Great Dane Pub & Brewing Co.-Hilldale 357 Price Place, 608-661-9400, hilldale.greatdanepub.com
Finding age-appropriate activities for the very littlest ones can be quite a challenge. But Happy Bambino, the east-side retail store and resource center that specializes in "bellies, babies and breastfeeding," offers more than just the latest products for newborns and their caregivers.
It is also the Madison-area go-to place for joining up with an existing, organized parent/child playgroup. From the Cuddlebugs group for newborns to six-month-olds, to the Nightcrawlers (6- to 12-month-olds), right up through the Fireflies option for two- to three-year-olds, the store offers a warm and sanity-saving place to get out of the house with like-minded folk and their offspring this winter. Trust me - your bambino won't be the only one leaving the store happy.
4116 Monona Dr., 608-513-0789, happybambino.com
Six thousand square feet of tuckered out
In this age of helicopter parenting, "less is more" can be an excellent childrearing philosophy. But in the dreary doldrums of February, when you really need to tire the rugrats out, "more is more" might be just the ticket. And while the name conjures up images of a stodgy prep school, it's the fun that's poured on thick at the Legacy Academy, Fitchburg's absolutely enormous indoor activity center.
During their daily open gym, your future legacy (preschoolers up through preteens are welcome) can enjoy 6,000 square feet of playground, including Rainbow Treehouse play sets, a jumping pit and a Super Strike bowling alley. And don't forget the tricycles, hula-hoops and jump ropes galore. Did I mention the swinging ropes, swing sets, hoppity balls and gymnastics equipment? Your kid is sure to leave elated - and absolutely exhausted. All for $5 a kid. That's a way better deal than prep school.
Legacy Academy Activity Center
2881 Commerce Park Dr., Suite G, Fitchburg 608-270-9977, legacyacademy.com
If you thought you needed to drive to the Dells to enjoy some aquatic fun this winter, look no further than Crawdaddy Cove, Mad Town's only indoor waterpark. The Louisiana Bayou-themed attraction, targeted to the younger set, boasts the very impressive looking S.S. Crawdaddy shrimp boat at pool center, as well as a 55-foot open-body waterslide, five smaller slides, shooting fountains, basketball hoops and a kiddie pool. For the adults, who will definitely need a little spa therapy after a few trips down the waterslide, there is an oversized whirlpool/hot tub.
Crawdaddy Cove is located in the Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites on Madison's far west side, and the use of the waterpark is free if you book a room. Birthday party packages are also available.
Crawdaddy Cove Water Park
Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites, 1109 Fourier Dr. 608-826-0500, wiscohotels.com