Your guide to summer in Madison is here. Nothing beats moving from lake to biergarten to museum to nightlife in just one day. And you can fit even more than that in one weekend. Our vibe is loved by the outdoor enthusiasts and urban explorers alike. We're a Midwest summer vacation destination that offers all the best in outdoor adventure, culinary excellence, arts and culture and more.

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Soak in the sunshine

1. Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Explore 16 acres of stunning outdoor gardens and landscapes including the breathtaking Thai Pavilion. Want to feel like you're in the tropics? Head inside to explore the Bolz Conservatory.

2. Allen Centennial Garden

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

3. Betty Lou Cruises

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

4. 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. Explore Lakes Mendota and Wingra at Marshall Boats and Wingra Boats as well. Learn more about our five glittering lakes here.

5. University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum

With nearly 20 miles of trails, you can set out on your own or learn from experts on guided Sunday hikes. 

6. Cave of the Mounds, Blue Mounds

Cool off from the summer heat underground and enjoy a guided tour of this geologic wonder. 

7. Madison Log Rolling

Embrace Wisconsin’s Lumberjack heritage while improving balance, agility, leg strength, coordination and endurance! Kids and adults are invited to step out of their comfort zone and experience this one-of-a-kind sport.

8. Memorial Union Terrace

Meet up with friends for a scoop of locally-made Babcock ice cream or grab a pitcher at UW-Madison’s most iconic summer spot. Settle in for live music and other events.

9. Parks + Beaches

Did you know when you're in Madison you are never more than a ten-minute walk from a park? It might take all summer to explore Madison’s 40+ city parks and their activities. In the Greater Madison area there are more than 12,000 acres of parkland including wildlife and natural resource areas, more than 200 miles of trails, five campgrounds, and two dozen recreation parks. Ready for adventure? Explore nearby state parks for experiences sure to wow the crowd.


Feel the beat

10. Festival season

To say Madison loves its festivals would be an understatement. We'll throw a party for almost anything. Summer is kicked off annually at the World's Largest Brat Fest, an eccentric water parade floats through town during the Marquette Waterfront Festival, food (and music) takes center stage at Taste of Madison, and that only scratches the surface.

11. Concerts on the Square

Our Capitol Square is beautiful. Add some music and it is truly magical. This FREE summer concert series hosted by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra is a well-loved, authentic Madison experience.

12. Live on King Street

Looking for more FREE live music just steps from the Capitol Square? This concert series presented by the Majestic Theatre brings funk, rhythm and a whole lot of groove.


Discover art, culture and history

13. Chazen Museum of Art

This museum is home to one of Wisconsin’s largest collections of art, with pieces in all mediums coming from across the globe. It is open daily and perhaps the best part... it's totally FREE.

14. Madison Museum of Contemporary Art

Located next to 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.

15. See a live show

Iconic venues like the Overture Center, The Sylvee, The Orpheum, Café Coda and more bring in big names and up-and-comers in the music, dance, theater and comedy scenes.

16. Wisconsin Veterans Museum

Better understand Wisconsin's military history and the role Wisconsinites served in some of history’s biggest conflicts from the Civil War to today through award-winning exhibits and programs. 

17. Visit Frank Lloyd Wright Sites

Frank Lloyd Wright, one of the most influential architects of all time, called Madison home. His influence is still seen throughout the region to this day. Tour the iconic Wright-designed Monona Terrace, his beloved First Unitarian Meeting House and his infamous estate, Taliesin, including stops at Wright’s studio, house and grounds.

18. American Player's Theatre, Spring Green

Nestled in the rolling landscape at the entry of the Driftless region, American Player's Theatre is a professional open-air theater where the works of Shakespeare and other literary legends come to life.


Family must-dos 

19. Henry Vilas Zoo

Lions and tigers and bears…oh, my! See these animals and their many friends — more than 800 animals, in fact — at this FREE zoo open daily.

20. 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! The fun isn't restricted to indoors. Let the kids run wild at the new outdoor Wonderground included with admission.

21. Tour the Wisconsin State Capitol

The Capitol building is open to visitors daily to stroll through the rotunda or get a birds-eye view of the city on the observation deck. Free, guided tours are available on the hour and offer a dive into the historic building's history.


Dive into the culinary scene

22. Dane County Farmers’ Market

The largest producer-only farmers' market in the COUNTRY 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.

23. Dine al fresco

Madison's popular streatery program has brought some of the finest local cuisines outside with beautiful patios and outdoor seating arrangements.

24. Madison Eats Food Tours 

Have your meal and enjoy it too on these gastronomic journeys throughout the city and beyond.

25. Locally-Made Ice Creams

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

  • Babcock Ice Cream, made fresh on the UW-Madison campus and sold at both Wisconsin Union locations and Babcock Hall Dairy Store
  • Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream Co., also made in Madison and sold at five locations around the city
  • Sassy Cow Creamery bottles milk and makes ice cream from their own dairy herd, which can all be viewed from windows in their store
  • Ice Cream Social makes sweet treats for a cause, with proceeds from sales going toward local nonprofits advocating for a range of social issues

Tap into the craft beverage scene

26. Madison On Tap

Guide your summer getaway along a tour of more than 30 craft breweries, cideries and distilleries in Madison AND earn discounts and prizes along the way when you sign up for Madison On Tap, your guide to beer, bubbles, bourbon and beyond.

Madison On Tap connects you to the people behind our craft beverage scene, who are just as exciting as the drinks are. Ready to get started? Sign up now >> 


Catch Some Competition

27. Forward Madison

Join the Flock and cheer on Madison's professional soccer team at Breese Stevens Field. Forward days are for everyone. No soccer knowledge needed. Come ready to get loud and experience a gameday like no other.

28. Madison Mallards

Enjoy your nine-inning vacation 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 open-air seating Duck Blind section.

29. NEW: Madison Softball

New in 2024, Madison will be home to a Northwoods League fast-pitch women's softball team. Catch a game from June through August at the Duck Pond.

30. American Family Insurance Championship

Support PGA legends, including host Steve Stricker, as they help raise money for local nonprofits at the scenic University Ridge Golf course. The festivities kick off with a concert at Breese Stevens Field.

31. Madison Radicals

Join Madison's professional Ultimate Frisbee team as they take on teams in the American Ultimate Disc League at Breese Stevens Field.

32. 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 from Memorial Day to Labor Day.


Get up and move

33. Bicycle Trails

Madison is one of five platinum-certified biking cities in the country. Take advantage of hundreds of miles of urban and rural biking trails. Make biking an experience with Madison By Bike, your pass to discovering four rides and four vibes.

34. Madison BCycle

Cyclists of all experience levels can explore our uber-bikeable city with these electric bikes available to rent all around the city. 

35. 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 of the University of Wisconsin men and women’s golf teams.

36. Putt around

The Madison links are calling your name whether you are a recreational novice or headed to the PGA. Mix up your golf experience at spots like Vitense Golfland featuring two outdoor 18-hole miniature golf courses that are among the top-rated in the U.S. and Door Creek Golf Course, an award-winning public golf course home to 27 holes plus Footgolf and indoor virtual golf simulators.