Throughout the summer Greater Madison welcomes an entirely new array of ways to take in the cultural arts—by taking them outside. Parks, gardens, streets and other spaces transform into venues bursting with brilliant performances and enthusiastic audiences. Read on for five ways you can combine fine arts with fresh air fun!

Jazz at Five: Capitol Square (at State Street)
© Focal Flame Photography


The Experience: Jazz at Five is the Midwest’s premier free jazz concert series, which takes place right in the heart of downtown Madison.

Where: Capitol Square at State Street, Madison

When: Wednesdays, August 10-September 7 at 5:00 p.m.

Know Before You Go:

  • This is an open seating event and you can claim a spot beginning at 3:30 p.m., provided you respect the presence/privacy of fellow fans and local businesses. In addition to bringing your own, chairs can be rented via the onsite Information Tent for $3 each starting at 4:00 p.m. on the day of the show. Sponsorship tables must be reserved in advance.
  • You may bring your own food or purchase food from authorized vendors, but no carry-in alcoholic beverages or beverages in glass containers are allowed on State Street. If seated in the sponsored table area, Jazz at Five will provide table service, and no carry-ins are allowed.
  • New this year, the Jazz at Five audience can enjoy the show from the State Capitol lawn. Unlike the State Street seating area, visitors may bring carry-in food and alcoholic beverages to picnic on the lawn.
  • In case of inclement weather, performances will be held on schedule in the lobby of the Overture Center for the Arts (201 State Street).

Get more details.

Concerts on the Square: King Street Corner of the Capitol Square, Madison
© John Maniaci


The Experience: During Concerts on the Square, the Capitol Square comes alive with a free outdoor concert series, courtesy of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra.

Where: King Street Corner of the Capitol Square, Madison

When: Wednesdays, June 28-August 2 at 7 p.m.

Know Before You Go:

  • Save your seat by placing blankets or low chairs on the Capitol Lawn any time after 3:00 p.m.
  • Carry-ins are welcome, and packing a picnic basket is part of the experience. No time? Food vendors and carts can be found on the outer circle of the square or you can carry out from one of the nearby restaurants on the Capitol Square.
  • This is a family-friendly event that encourages audiences of all ages.

Get more details.

Art Fair on the Square: Capitol Square, Madison


The Experience: Art Fair on the Square is one of the Midwest’s most popular and highly regarded outdoor celebrations of the arts. Visitors are able to view and purchase paintings, prints, photographs, sculpture, jewelry and more.

Where: Capitol Square, Madison

When: July 8-9, 2017

Know Before You Go:

  • This event draws nearly 200,000 visitors and it is typically warm. Plan ahead for sunscreen and clothing that will allow you to stay and enjoy the nearly 500 artists booths.
  • This event includes food vendors and musical entertainment. Plan ahead to make a day of it, or spend the weekend! DoubleTree by Hilton Madison is the official hotel sponsor of the 2016 Art Fair on the Square and is offering free parking and shuttle services.
  • This 58th annual event is presented by the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA). View upcoming exhibitions that will be on view during Art Fair on the Square.

Get more details.

Opera in the Park: Garner Park, 333 S. Rosa Road, Madison
© James Gill


The Experience: Opera in the Park is an outdoor performance that is free to the community and features arias and ensembles from opera and Broadway.

Where: Garner Park, 333 S. Rosa Road, Madison

When: Saturday, July 22 at 8 p.m.

Know Before You Go:

  • This free community event is perfect for audiences of all ages. The park opens at 7:00 a.m. the day of the concert and carry-in blankets, chairs, food and beverages are allowed.
  • The concert lasts approximately two hours, including one intermission. Don’t forget your glow sticks so you can join 15,000 fellow community members in this illuminating summer tradition!
  • You can attend this event as a VIP at the Prelude Dinner, which begins at 6:00 p.m. in the white tent next to the stage.
  • This 16th annual summer tradition is presented by Madison Opera and features singers from their upcoming season, the Madison Opera Chorus and the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

Get more details.

American Players Theatre: Spring Green WI
© Carissa Dixon


The Experience: American Players Theatre is one of the most popular outdoor classical theaters in the nation. Each season, eight plays are produced and performed in the outdoor Up-The-Hill Theatre or the indoor Touchstone Theatre.

Where: 5950 Golf Course Road, Spring Green, Wisconsin

When: From June through October

Know Before You Go:

  • APT’s natural amphitheater is located at the top of a hill and is a quarter-mile walk through the woods from the parking lot. It is recommended that you plan ample time and wear comfortable shoes.
  • Most people dress casually at APT. If you’re attending a matinee, you’ll want to apply sunscreen. If you’ll be seeing a play underneath the stars, you may want to consider an extra layer or blanket. Insect repellant is provided in the picnic area and near both theaters.
  • Picnicking is a great part of the APT experience! Arrive early to take advantage of the outdoor picnic areas on the grounds—food and beverage carry-ins are allowed but must be returned to vehicles before the show. Once you are “Up the Hill,” you’ll have access to concessions including beverages (adult and otherwise), snacks and desserts.

Get more details.