Madison is one of only two U.S. cities on an isthmus, which means we’re tops when it comes to topography! Not only is our downtown situated between two sparkling lakes, the 1/2 mile in-between is THE place where activity meets stunning scenery. Get a head start on summer plans with these 22 things to do on our isthmus!

#1 Lake 2 Lake

Bike the Lake Loop
We suggest you start at Olin Turville Park and get set for a picturesque, 12-mile ride. This route features stunning lake views, quaint neighborhoods and a chance to stop around mile 7 for ice cream at the Monona Bait & Ice Cream Shop.

#2 Lake 2 Lake

Ride the Bike Elevator
Proof that we’re a bike-friendly city, the Monona Terrace® features a bike elevator—the first of its kind in Madison. You’ll find it on the east side of the building, and it accommodates up to three bikes and riders at one time, moving riders from lake level to street level. 

This photo of Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center is courtesy of TripAdvisor

#3 Lake 2 Lake

Discover What’s SUP at Brittingham
In addition to renting Stand Up Paddleboards and other watercraft, Brittingham Boats also hosts SUP Polo. Players can participate in single games, leagues or schedule private parties and teambuilding activities.

#4 Lake 2 Lake

Unwind at Oyster Happy Hour
One of Madison’s most picturesque places for happy hour just got better: Sardine is now offering its Oyster Happy Hour every day of the week, from 4-6 p.m. This special includes discounted oysters, house wine and Kronenbourg 1664, along with stunning views of sparkling Lake Monona.

#5 Lake 2 Lake

Sing along at Concerts on the Rooftop
Madison loves live music and for six weeks each summer, local bands are accompanied by some of the best views in the city as part of Concerts on the Rooftop at Monona Terrace. See this year’s schedule.

#6 Lake 2 Lake

Walk down Willy Street
Madison’s Williamson Street, known as "Willy Street" to locals, plays host to retail shops, restaurants and attractions that promise to keep your attention for a full afternoon or evening. Learn more about this "Boho" and eco-friendly area, along with other neat neighborhoods on the isthmus—and beyond.

#7 Lake 2 Lake

Converge at Central Park
This linear, urban park was more than 40 years in the making! Since its debut in the summer of 2014, Central Park has played host to a slew of successful community events. This year, check out Food Cart Fest, La Fete de Marquette, Africa Fest or one of the Central Park Sessions. Get event details.

#8 Lake 2 Lake

Be Part of the Breese Stevens Rebirth
This historic athletic field is experiencing a revival with community events including Yum Yum Fest, concerts, the Madison Radicals Ultimate Disc League and special events like Bodega at Breese Stevens. Check out the concerts coming to the stadium this summer, including Boston, The Avett Brothers, and Modest Mouse.

#9 Lake 2 Lake

Borrow a BCycle
The majority of the 40 BCycle stations are located on the isthmus and are a green, convenient way to get around downtown. How it works: Check out a bike. Ride for 30 minutes (or more!). Return it to the station that happens to be closest to wherever you end up.

#10 Lake 2 Lake

Lunch on the Capitol Lawn
In spring and summer, the Capitol Square comes alive with school field trips, mommy groups and business lunchers. Grab a bite from one of the food carts circling the square and if you come on a Tuesday, bring a blanket—you’ll get the added bonus of bands that play an hour’s worth of music, courtesy of Lunchtime Live.

#11 Lake 2 Lake

Take a Tour of the Capitol
A don’t-miss Madison tip: take the time to take a tour of the Wisconsin State Capitol building. Free tours are offered daily (except for major holidays) and in the summer months, include the 6th Floor Museum and Observation Deck, which affords a stunning, panoramic view of our city’s skyline.

#12 Lake 2 Lake

Explore Museum Mile
Madison’s “museum mile” stretches around the Capitol Square and down State Street to the UW-Madison campus. Along the way, you’ll experience seven different museums, suited for audiences of all ages.

#13 Lake 2 Lake

See a Show at Overture
Overture Center for the Arts recently announced its 2017/18 season, which will bring more than 100 performances to downtown Madison, from favorites including “RENT” and “Les Misérables” to “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical” and more! Browse the brochure.

#14 Lake 2 Lake

Shop the Saturday Farmers’ Market
The Dane County Farmers’ Market, which winds around the Capitol Square, is a Saturday morning tradition in Madison. This market is the largest producer-only farmers’ market in the country, and features 300 vendors throughout the year. Get a sneak peek at what’s in season.

#15 Lake 2 Lake

Save Your Seat at Concerts on the Square
What better way to break up your week than with a Wednesday night concert? Any time after 3:00 p.m. you can place your blanket on the lawn to save your seat, then pack a picnic and enjoy the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra’s alfresco artistry. Kids welcome! See the schedule.

#16 Lake 2 Lake

Play at Parks & Beaches
There are a dozen different City of Madison parks—most of them on the isthmus. A local favorite to try is Tenney Park, where families can swim, fish, boat, bike, rollerblade and more. See the list.

#17 Lake 2 Lake

Wind Through the Wednesday Market
Though it’s a smidge smaller than the Saturday version, the Wednesday market on MLK Jr. Blvd. is filled with fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers, cheeses, meats and more. Make it a regular part of your lunch hour errands!

#18 Lake 2 Lake

Take a Water Taxi
In 2015, The Edgewater introduced its water taxi, which served as a ferry between the Edgewater Pier and the Memorial Union Terrace—as well as a chance to charter the vessel for Happy Hour cruises, private events and lake tours. Stay tuned for new news about this year’s taxi plans!

#19 Lake 2 Lake

Stroll down State Street
This popular pedestrian walkway may be one of Madison’s most famous assets and is home to more than 370 shops, galleries, restaurants, bars and businesses—many locally owned. Learn more.

#20 Lake 2 Lake

Dine Alfresco
As soon as the springtime sun warms our city, you’ll find outdoor seating everywhere—from sidewalk to rooftop and every alcove in-between. Choose your next outdoor dining destination.

#21 Lake 2 Lake

Consider Climbing Bascom Hill
Just on the edge of the isthmus—but at the center of the UW-Madison campus—you’ll find Bascom Hill. Though it looms large from its entrance at the base of Park Street, the view from the top is worth the 850-foot walk.

#22 Lake 2 Lake

Try the New Terrace
The Memorial Union Terrace reopened last year with upgrades like additional seating, improved accessibility, and expanded space for the Brat Stand (which translates to shorter lines!). Get set to pull up a sunburst chair and enjoy the 2017 season including free concerts and movies, live music and more.

On the Lakes >