Two people lay in hammocks looking toward each other in a park.

Sharon Vanorny

36 Things To Do This Summer

It's about time you experience an unmistakably Madison summer. Nothing beats moving from lake to biergarten to museum to nightlife in just one day. Our vibe is one loved by the outdoor enthusiasts and urban explorers alike. We're a Midwest summer vacation spot that caters to all and we wouldn't have it any other way.

 

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 Gardens

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.

Explore Outdoor Madison: On the Lakes from Destination Madison on Vimeo.

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 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 park land including wildlife and natural resource areas, 100 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 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.

15. Wisconsin Historical Museum

Explore Madison’s love affair with its lakes, celebrate the state’s agricultural traditions or enjoy educational special events. Admission is FREE.

16. Wisconsin Veterans Museum

Better understand the role Wisconsin’s bravest people played in some of history’s biggest conflicts through award-winning exhibits and programs.

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

Frank Lloyd Wright, one one of the most influential architects of all time, called Madison home. His influence is still seen throughout the region to this day. Tour his infamous estate including stops at Wright’s studio, house and grounds.

18. House on the Rock, Spring Green

Speaking of Frank Lloyd Wright, this iconic Wisconsin attraction is said to have been influenced by the architectural icon. There’s no place like it in the world. This Spring Green attraction — ­built on top of a chimney of rock — ­features a massive collection of eclectic exhibits and displays that we're certain you have never seen before.

 

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 the 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. Goodman Pool

Open seven days a week during the summer, Goodman Pool is a beloved summer spot.

 

Eat like a local

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
  • Good News Ice Cream offers artisan-made ice cream right off the Capitol Square

 

21+ Club

26. Brewskis. Spirits. Vino.

We're famous for our beer, for good reason. Dozens of local breweries call Madison home, each with their own sense of flavor, style and experience. Looking for more than ale? Wineries in both urban and rural landscapes are sure to make wineos sing, and our distilleries concoct spirits that make for the best cocktails you can find. 

Our brewery culture is for everyone. Many breweries have created non-alcoholic beers that rival the real deal, and local mocktail menus are fun for all ages and lifestyles. 

 

Catch Some Competition

27. Forward Madison FC

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 experience 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. NOBULL CrossFit Games 

Watch some of the world’s most elite athletes compete for the title of “The Fittest on Earth™." Be sure to peruse the vendor village (a fitness mecca) in between events.  

30. American Family Insurance Championship

Support PGA legends, including host Steve Stricker, as they help raise money for local nonprofits at the scenic University Golf Ridge 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 consistently named among the country's most bikeable cities. Take advantage with hundreds of miles of urban and rural biking trails.

34. Madison BCycle

Cyclists of all experience levels can explore our uber-bikeable city from 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 to 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.

 

MADISON SPOTLIGHT