As a recent transplant to Madison, we are always seeking out things to do with the kids.

Here are 15 Madison-area activities to check off your bucket list for your first summer in Madison! 

Explore Olbrich Botanical Gardens: With 16 acres of outdoor gardens, there’s plenty to explore at Olbrich, from the reflecting pool in the English-style Sunken Garden to the Royal Thai Pavilion (the only one of its kind in the entire United States).

Visit Allen Centennial Gardens: This garden in the middle of UW’s campus is free to visit and open to the public from dawn to dusk. You can catch a jazz concert every other Sunday at 5pm from June to August.

Walk through the UW Arboretum: The arboretum has three distinct garden collections (on more than 40 acres) and over 17 miles of trails through restored prairies, savannas, woodlands, and wetlands – and it’s free to visit!

See the sunset from Memorial Union Terrace: Summer on the Terrace means outdoor movies and live music, ice cream and brats, all with fantastic views over Lake Mendota.

Swim at a State Park: Whether it’s the beach at Devil’s Lake or the pool and splash pad in Blue Mounds, there are so many ways to explore the state parks around Madison.

Read with Madison Public Library: This summer, the Madison Public Library has a variety of activities to inspire your love for reading and connecting to your community.

Dine over a fire at Picnic Point: As its name suggests, Picnic Point is the perfect place to eat outside with your friends and family. Did you know that you can also reserve a fire circle to up your picnic experience, or to cook your campfire dinner?

Bike through the city: Madison is the bike capital of the Midwest with over 200 miles of trails. If you don’t have a bike of your own, you can rent one from Madison BCycle, which has dozens of stations throughout the region.

Relax by the pool: Whether you go to Goodman Pool in Madison or somewhere a little farther away like the Sun Prairie Aquatic Center, you’re sure to have a great day when there’s water play involved during hot summer days. If you have littler ones, you could consider visiting a splash pad, too!

Go on a Betty Lou Cruise: Hit the open water on a tour of Lake Mendota or Lake Monona aboard the Betty Lou. Public and reserved private cruises are available May through October.

Watch a play at American Players Theater: About an hour away from Madison you’ll find a totally unique theater experience: at American Players Theater, you can start your evening with a picnic in the park, then watch Shakespeare (or a number of other, more modern plays) outdoors, under the stars.

Listen to music outside: There are so many outdoor music options in Madison during the summer: Monona Terrace Concerts on the Rooftop, Sugar Maple Music Festival, Concerts on the Square, Jazz at Five, Opera in the Park, and more!

Cheer on a local team: The Badger’s football season may not start until September, but sports fans can still cheer on local professional teams this season: Forward Madison FC plays soccer from April to October or catch a Madison Mallards baseball game! New for the 2024 summer, the Madison Night Mares will bring top-level softball to the Madison-area. The Night Mares will play at the same field as the Mallards.

Spend a day on a lake: Madison has a variety of boat rental options, including canoes, kayaks, paddle boats, and stand-up paddle boards. The water is the best place to get a full view of the city on an isthmus.

Attend a fair, festival or market: From the weekly Farmer’s Market to the annual Dane County Fair, there are dozens of events to explore with your friends and family. We have Art Fair on the Square, the Dane County, Great Taste of the Midwest, and so many more!

Maggie Suggett
Maggie had her first taste of Wisconsin life when she attended Marquette University. She lived in Illinois and Indiana before coming back north to settle in the Madison area. Maggie loves digging into a good book with a warm cup of tea, and exploring the great outdoors with her family.


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