Capitol Skyline at Sunset
© TNT Creative Studios

Sunny Outdoor Adventures

Nestled between two lakes, with five total lakes in Greater Madison, our capitol city embraces life on the water! Madison's geographical layout provides for wonderful outdoor opportunities in close proximity to downtown. 16 Weeks of Summer Contest

Water Works
Bring your own boat—or rent one of ours—and take advantage of Greater Madison's plentiful lakes! The area boasts more than 15,000 acres of water, ready for fishing, canoeing, kayaking, swimming and sailing.

After an afternoon on Lake Mendota, tie up at The Edgewater hotel and grab a bite to eat at The Boathouse restaurant, a casual eatery with burgers, brats and a classic fish fry. Or anchor at the Goodspeed Family Pier near the Memorial Union Terrace for live music, brats and beer while lounging on a terrace chair. If you want to try canoeing or kayaking, rent a boat from Outdoor UW, located at the terrace. 

Lake Monona is also no stranger to summertime fun. Five boat landings and seven beaches dot the shoreline, along with boat tours via Betty Lou Cruises. Or tag along with Captain Joe Okada at Madison Fishing Charters as he gives insider tips on fishing Madison's lakes.

New Experiences
Because of our calm waters, Madison is ranked one of the best places to try stand-up paddle boarding according to SUP Magazine and USA Today. Rentals and lessons are available through Paddleboard Specialists and Brittingham Boats. Or visit Madison during the annual Midwest Standup Paddle Festival, a chance to learn about SUP, take your first lesson or test the latest gear.

For a truly unique Madison experience, take part in Paddle and Portage, July 17-18. The race begins at with a 1.5-mile paddle on Lake Mendota, followed by a 1-mile portage past the Capitol, before heading to Lake Monona for a 1.5-mile paddle to the finish line. Participants are encouraged to dress for the annual costume contest as well. 

Other Outdoor Opportunities
Madison is also known for our other outdoor opportunities. Cyclists love our trails and accessibility--Madison was recently ranked the fourth best cycling town by USAToday Travel. The area boasts the largest trail system in the U.S. with more than 200 miles to explore. Our half marathon is also nationally ranked by Runner's World Magazine and Madison is #7 in the Top 50 U.S. Swim Cities, according to USA Swimming. Read our Sports and Recreation page to search for experiences and events.

Win a Slice of Summer!
Take advantage of these and other outdoor adventures by entering our 16 Weeks of Summer Contest! Like our Facebook page and enter to win a different giveaway each week all summer long!

More information

Read more about lake activities
Chart your course with our biking and hiking page.
Stay busy with our Fun in the Sun itinerary.  
Download our NEW Visit Madison app
Subscribe our monthly e-newsletter, Madison Insider.