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Embrace the Outdoors

1.  Allen Centennial Gardens

Featuring dozens of different gardening styles, from Victorian to Japanese, this UW-Madison gem is open to visitors year round.

2. Betty Lou Cruises

Hit the open water with family and friends on a two-hour tour of Lake Mendota or Lake Monona aboard the majestic Betty Lou. Public and reserved private cruises are available April through October.

3. Brittingham Boats

Your gateway to Lake Monona! Brittingham Boats provides everything you need for a day on the water—from canoes and kayaks to paddle boats and stand-up paddle boards—plus an outdoor patio for relaxing by Monona Bay.

4. Cave of the Mounds, Blue Mounds

Cool off from the summer heat underground and enjoy a guided tour of this geologic wonder. Celebrate the National Natural Landmark’s 75th anniversary at Discovery Days in August.

5. Jet Ski Madison

Stay cool on a hot summer day and explore Madison’s lakes by Jet Ski! Whether you sightsee at your own pace or splash by at 50 mph, you’re sure to have fun in the sun.

6. Local Lakes

Relax on a beach, catch some fish or steer a kayak on one of Madison’s five beautiful lakes.

7. Memorial Union Terrace

Meet up with friends for a scoop of ice cream or grab a pitcher at UW-Madison’s most iconic summer spot. Settle in for live music and movies at Terrace After Dark May through September.

8. Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Explore 16 acres of stunning outdoor gardens and landscapes. This summer, stop by for Olbrich’s Summer Concert Series and the Blooming Butterflies exhibit.

9–­­10. Parks

It might take all summer to explore Madison’s 40+ city parks and their activities, from splash parks and playgrounds to the perfect picnic spot! The city also maintains 12 public beaches, tennis courts, thousands of acres for hiking and several canoe and kayak launch sites.

Dane County Parks
Every year, 2.5 million people visit over 12,000 acres of land in Dane County, including wildlife and natural resource areas, 100 miles of trails, five campgrounds and two dozen recreation parks.

11. University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum

With nearly 20 miles of trails to walk, you can set out on your own or learn from experts on guided Sunday hikes. Also available; free family tours and activities, expertly cultivated gardens and the oldest restored prairie in the world.

 

Family Fun

12. Baraboo's Big Top Parade & Circus Celebration—July 20–23, 2017

Celebrate the century-old circus tradition in downtown Baraboo, home of the world-famous Ringling Bros. Circus. Step right up and see stilt walkers and circus wagons at Saturday’s Big Top Parade.

13. Henry Vilas Zoo

Lions and tigers and bears…oh, my! See these animals and their many friends—more than 800 animals, in fact—in their natural habitats. Enjoy a wide variety of educational programming for the next generation of animal lovers.

14. Rockin’ Jump Trampoline Park

Kids burn energy and adults burn calories with 30,000+ square feet of trampolines, plus other active and adventurous activities.

15. Madison Children’s Museum

Little ones can get creative at the Art Studio, discover Wisconsin history in the Log Cabin and expand their brains in Possible-opolis. Three floors of fun – including a rooftop garden with chickens – await!

16. Mid-Continent Railway Museum, North Freedom

All aboard! From the historic wooden depot in North Freedom, you’ll hop on a restored steel coach for a seven-mile ride through the Baraboo Hills. Dozens of wooden passenger cars, freight carts, and exhibits from the turn of the century are also on display.

17. Movies in the Park

Snuggle up under the stars and check out family-friendly flicks at Movies in the Park, hosted by the City of Madison.

18. Noah’s Ark Waterpark, Wisconsin Dells

Treat your family to fun in the sun at America’s Largest Water park! Enjoy dozens of rides and slides in and out of the water, including thrilling water coasters for the more adventurous and shallow zones and shady spots for little swimmers. Named one of TripAdvisor’s 2016 Top 25 Water parks.

19–24. ­Pools

Thousands of swimmers flock to Goodman Pool every year. Open seven days a week during the summer, this pool’s special events include Dinner and a Swim - an evening of fun in the water plus tasty food truck options. The city maintains three splash parks and there are also public pools in Middleton, Monona and Sun Prairie.

25. Susie the Duck Day, Lodi—August 12, 2017

Watch as 3,000 rubber ducks weave their way through Spring Creek for the 33rd Annual Susie the Duck Day, honoring Lodi’s official town mascot. The festival also features a Rotary parade, tractor pull, petting farm and local food vendors.

26. Warner Park Family Fun Nights

Warner Park Community Recreation Center hosts family fun nights on one Friday evening per month. Play games in the gymnasium, get moving with family fitness classes and try out pool or ping pong in the game room—all for just $5 per family!

 

Pet Friendly

27–28. Dog Parks, Various Locations

Play fetch with Fido in one of the area’s many lush dog parks. The City of Madison maintains eight off-leash parks, and Dane County hosts an additional seven exercise areas. Pro tip: you need a dog license and must pay a fee or purchase a season permit to use these facilities.

29. Dog Paddle—September 10, 2017

Hundreds of canines try out their dog paddle skills at this annual fundraiser for Capital K9s. As Madison’s Goodman Pool closes for the summer, man’s best friend gets his moment in the sun to splash around or compete for prizes.

 

Learn & Explore

30. Chazen Museum of Art

Located on the west side of the UW-Madison campus, this museum is to one of Wisconsin’s largest collections of art in a variety of mediums from across the world and the centuries. Featured April–July: “Samurai: The Way of the Warrior” – a collection of Japanese arms and armor.

31. Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor Center at Taliesin, Spring Green

Tours of the infamous estate—meticulously crafted by one of the most influential architects of all time—run May through October; includes stops at Wright’s studio, house, and grounds.

32. House on the Rock, Spring Green

There’s no place like it in the world. This Spring Green attraction - built on top of a chimney of rock - features a quirky collection of eclectic exhibits and displays.

33. Learn to Stargaze

Learn what’s up in the sky at stargazing workshops in April, September, and October, presented by Madison Parks and UW Space Place.

34. Livsreise Norwegian Heritage Center, Stoughton

Discover the rich cultural heritage thousands of Norwegian immigrants brought with them to Wisconsin through interactive exhibits and artifact displays. The museum also houses a Norwegian Genealogy Center for families interested in learning more about their ancestry.

35. Madison City Tours

Develop a new relationship with Wisconsin’s capital city! Choose from a two-hour driving tour or a deeper exploration of Madison’s history, including Native American burial mounds and Civil War sites.

36. Madison Museum of Contemporary Art

Located within Madison’s Overture Center for the Arts, this museum features works by some of the most highly regarded modern and contemporary artists and holds lectures, film screenings and children’s art classes.

37. Wisconsin Historical Society

Explore Madison’s love affair with its lakes, celebrate the state’s dairy traditions or enjoy educational special events at the Wisconsin Historical Society. Kids ages 8–12 can take history to a whole new level with camps on topics like the dairy industry, archaeology and the old lumber trade.

38. Wisconsin Science Museum

Learn about Wisconsin’s contributions to science and biotechnology for free as you experience hands-on exhibits for visitors of all ages.

39. Wisconsin Veterans Museum

Better understand the role Wisconsin’s bravest men and women played in some of history’s biggest conflicts through award-winning exhibits and programs. The museum’s newest exhibit—“WWI: Beyond the Trenches, Stories from the Front”—opened in April.

 

Eat Local

40. Breakfast on the Farm, Brooklyn—May 27, 2017

Dig into a locally sourced breakfast and get first-hand understanding of today’s modern dairy farm. After you fill up on eggs, sausage and coffee cake, check out the petting zoo, equipment displays and farm tours.

41. Dane County Farmers’ Market—April 15–November 11

This popular outdoor market stretches four city blocks around the state capitol and lands a top spot on most “Madison To Do” lists. Produce, meats and cheeses, flowers, baked goods and other specialty products are on sale Saturdays from 6:15 a.m. to 1:45 p.m.

42. Dinner With a View, Various Locations

Many local restaurants offer outdoor seating in the summertime, including a few with a view of our spectacular lakes—like Mariner’s Inn, Paisan’s and Sardine—or even the entire capital city (Fresco Rooftop Restaurant and Lounge).

43. Eat & Explore, Various Locations

Madison Food Explorers and Capital City Food Tours offer a variety of gastronomic journeys throughout the city and beyond.

44. Food Trucks, Various Locations

Some of the area’s finest chefs hit the road to serve everything from Asian fusion to grilled cheese; you’ll find these food trucks parked in downtown Madison and throughout many community neighborhoods.

45­–47. Locally Made Ice Cream, Various Locations

In the mood for a cool treat? Check out these hot spots:

48. National Mustard Day Celebration, Middleton—August 5, 2017

America’s favorite yellow condiment is front and center every day of the year at the National Mustard Museum in Middleton, but there’s additional family-friendly entertainment, music, games and free samples the first Saturday in August.

49. Sun Prairie Sweet Corn Festival, Sun Prairie—August 17–20, 2017

Every year, nearly 100,000 people attend the oldest sweet corn festival in the state and savor 80 tons of steamed sweet corn, along with family-friendly entertainment and activities.

 

Downtown Shopping

50–52. Art Fair on the Square—July 8–9, 2017

This event brings together nearly 500 artists to display their paintings, prints and photographs, as well as jewelry, sculpture, handmade clothing and more. After you’re done exploring the art, enjoy live music and outdoor dining. Plus, check out more local and regional artists at the Mount Horeb Art Fair July 15-16 and the Agora Art Fair in Fitchburg August 19.

53. Maxwell Street Days—July 14–16, 2017

Save big at dozens of State Street and Capitol Square restaurants and shops—from art and aromatherapy to Wisconsin Badgers gear—during this annual summer sidewalk sale, a Madison tradition for more than 40 years.

 

Get Moving

54. 25th Annual Mad City Open Disc Golf, Madison & Marshall—June 10–11, 2017

Pros and amateurs alike compete in this two-day disc golf tournament at four park courses in southern Wisconsin.

55. Bicycle Trails, Various Locations

Stick to the pavement or go off-roading along one of dozens of official trails throughout southern Wisconsin. Pro tip: Many trails require a state trail pass, which can be purchased on-site for a small fee.

56. Loop the Lake—July 29, 2017

This scenic 12-mile ride along the shores of Madison’s Lake Monona also raises money to support the Clean Lakes Alliance’s lake improvement and protection efforts.

57. Madison BCycle

Explore bicycle-friendly Madison! It only takes a few minutes to rent a bike at one of over 30 stations located downtown and on the near-west and near-east sides of the city.

58. Outdoor UW

Embrace the outdoors and rent canoes, kayaks and camping gear. Or, take your warrior pose onto the water with stand-up paddle board yoga (also offered on dry land).

59. Paddle & Portage—July 29, 2017

Hundreds of competitors take part in Madison’s favorite lake-to-land-to-lake race—a 1-mile paddle, followed by a 1-mile portage, ending in a 2.5-mile paddle to Olbrich Park.

60. River Tubing, Various Locations

Take a relaxing ride down the Sugar River on your own personal inner tube. There are several spots where you can rent tubes and hop in the water, like Crazy Horse Campground in Brodhead.

61. University Ridge Golf Course

Overlooking scenic Madison, University Ridge offers five sets of tees, perfect for players of every ability level. It is the official home course to the University of Wisconsin men and women’s golf teams.

62. Vitense Golfland

Enjoy two outdoor 18-hole miniature golf courses that are among the top-rated in the U.S. and offer challenging and interactive fun; and an outdoor golf range that is fan-cooled for hot summer months.

 

Fan Favorites

63. American Family Insurance Championship—June 19–25, 2017

This championship, which raises money for the American Family Children’s Hospital and other local charities, returns to Madison for a second year. Spectators are encouraged to watch some of golf’s biggest stars hit the greens!

64. Mad-City Ski Team

These local, expert water-skiers perform daring aquatic acrobatics on Lake Monona. Catch a free show at Madison’s Law Park on Sunday evenings, Memorial Day through Labor Day.

65. Madison Mallards

Play ball! Watch as the Madison Mallards, Madison’s collegiate-level summer baseball team, take on the best of the Northwoods League at Warner Park’s Duck Pond. Purchase single-game bleacher seats or enjoy all-you-can-eat and drink with admission to the Duck Blind.

66. 2017 Reebok CrossFit Games—August 3–6, 2017

Some of the world’s finest athletes compete for the title of “The Fittest on Earth™”. Watch grueling athletic challenges while enjoying an exciting festival atmosphere.

 

Live Entertainment

67. American Players Theatre (APT), Spring Green

APT, the country’s second largest outdoor theater devoted to the classics, presents spirited performances among the hilly woods and meadows of Spring Green. The 2017 summer season includes Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov and Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge.

68. Concerts at McKee, Fitchburg

Pack a picnic and a bottle of wine or enjoy dinner from local vendors at Fitchburg’s outdoor summer concert series, happening the third Monday in June, July and August.

69. Concerts on the Rooftop—Thursdays, June & July

Enjoy local bands while taking in a spectacular view from the Monona Terrace! The 2017 lineup includes a boy band tribute night, the LoveMonkeys and Madison County.

70. Concerts on the Square—Wednesdays, June 28–August 2

Stake out a spot on the capitol lawn and enjoy a picnic while listening to the sweet sounds of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. Pro tip: Seating is first-come, first-served, so bring your blanket any time after 3 p.m.

71. Dane Dances—Fridays

Funk, Latin, R&B, jazz … no matter your musical taste, you’ll feel the beat when thousands of people get moving on the Monona Terrace rooftop!

72. Live on King Street – Select Fridays

Presented by Majestic Madison, this free summer concert series features some of the nation’s coolest musicians playing to thousands of their friends in the shadow of the capitol building.

73. Opera in the Park—July 22, 2017

This Madison tradition is celebrating its 16th year. Under the stars at Garner Park, enjoy beautiful music performed by the Madison Opera Chorus and the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

74. Sugar Maple Music Fest—August 4–5, 2017

A two day outdoor festival celebrating traditional music and dance through performances, workshops, and interactive jam sessions. Held at Lake Farm County Park on the shores of Lake Waubesa, just south of Madison. Headliners this year include T’Monde.

 

Over 21

75–76. Festive Fridays, Middleton & Verona

Sample locally produced craft beers and enjoy live music with friends on Friday nights at Capital Brewery or Wisconsin Brewing Company.

77. Hop Head Tours

Choose from five different bus or bike tours to some of Madison’s most popular breweries, wineries, and distilleries, such as the “Country Roads” tour or the “Suds and Spirits” tour.

78. J. Henry & Sons Wisconsin Straight Bourbon

Every bottle of bourbon from J. Henry is made in small batches and slow-aged a minimum of five years. Visit this third-generation, rustic seed corn farm in northern Dane County for tours, nosing, tastings, cocktails and bottle sales.

79. Old Sugar Distillery

This distillery, started by a UW-Madison grad, takes its name from Madison’s history of beet sugar production. The spirits produced here use many local ingredients. Tours and tastings are free (Thursdays-Saturdays), but arrival prior to 7:30 p.m. is encouraged.

80–84. On the Vine, Various Locations

Southern Wisconsin is home to a number of local wineries! Tours and tastings are offered at:

85. Yahara Bay Distillers

Learn the ins and outs of distilling and try samples from more than 20 handcrafted spirits at one of the largest import bottling businesses in the nation. Daily tours Tuesday through Saturday.

 

Celebrate Summer

86. World’s Largest Brat Fest—May 26–29, 2017

Enjoy quintessential Wisconsin fare—Johnsonville brats and hot dogs—at the world’s largest brat fest! Carnival rides, 5K and 10K fun runs, appearances by the Budweiser Clydesdales, and live music from George Clinton, Everclear, and Joe Diffie.

87. Dane County Fair—July 19–23

This family-friendly event dates back to 1851 and features top-notch concerts, great food, animals, and adventure. Free daily entertainment includes a Wild About Monkeys primate show, kiddie farm, and motorcycle stunt shows.

88. Middleton Good Neighbor Festival—August 25–27

For over 50 years, the city of Middleton has thrown this late-summer party to raise money for local charities. Events include a 5K run/walk, live music, food, craft fair, and a parade.

89. Midwest Fire Fest—July 22–23

Explore art forged in fire at this Cambridge festival, including demonstrations of iron pours, pit-fired pottery, and fire performers.

90. Monroe Balloon and Blues Fest—June 16–17

Up, up, and away! Watch balloon launches all weekend and enjoy blues music on the midway.

91–95. In the Neighborhood

Many of Madison’s neighborhoods put their own unique spin on summer with ultra-local celebrations, including the Marquette Neighborhood Association’s Waterfront Festival (June) and Orton Park Festival (August), as well as La Fête de Marquette (July), Atwood Fest (July), and the Willy Street Fair (September).

96. Shake the Lake—June 24, 2017

Madison’s pre-July 4th festival features an artisan market, live music, a Kids Zone, and a Mad Rollin’ Dolls roller derby bout leading up to the fireworks display at 10 p.m.

97. Syttende Mai—May 19–21

Stoughton celebrates its Norwegian heritage with Viking games, a parade, and plenty of traditional foods, including lefse, herring, and Krumkake (Norwegian waffle cookies).

98. Taste of Madison—September 2–3, 2017

With over 80 restaurants serving up samples of delicious food and 3 entertainment stages, this Labor Day weekend event is one you won’t want to miss.

99. Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throw—September 1–2

Thousands flock to Prairie du Sac each summer to test their strength and see just how far they can fling fertilizer. (Fun fact: the current state record is 248 feet!)