23 Must-Do Activities for Summer in Madison

Whether you are planning to take summer term classes at the UW–Madison School of Education, or have decided to stay in Madison this summer, you’ve made a great choice! With sunsets on the Memorial Union Terrace, over two hundred parks to explore, and endless activities packed along the isthmus between our lakes, there’s nothing quite like summer in the capital city.

Make the most of your summer term in Madison with these 23 things to do.

A windsurfer on Lake Mendota at golden sunset, with two windsurfers in the background

Consistently named one of the fittest U.S. cities, Madison is a hub for participating and spectating sports of all sorts – especially in the summer.

Madison Mallards Baseball Games

Not just for the baseball fans, Mallards games are a great summer outing. The family-friendly spot on Madison’s north side hosts over 30 home games, with tons of fun promo nights and ticketing packages, including the popular Duck Blind, with all-you-can-eat food and drink.

When: Late May through August, afternoon or night games
Where: “The Duck Pond” at Warner Park – 2920 N. Sherman Ave.

Forward Madison FC Soccer Games

From April through October, cheer on the Flamingos at Breese Stevens Field. These soccer games are filled with activity and excitement – especially if you grab seats in the “Flock”.

When: April through October
Where: Breese Stevens Field

Bike the Lake Monona Loop (FREE)

It’s a near-perfect 12 miles to bike the path around Lake Monona, affectionately known as the Lake Loop. Available anytime, this is a great way to experience Madison and the outdoors! Need a bike? Grab a BCycle.

Bonus: Register for the Clean Lakes Alliance Loop the Lake ride on Saturday, June 15, 2024.

Madison BCycle

BCycle is a bikeshare program that provides access to bikes from stations all over the city. With nearly 50 stations and 300 electric bikes, the city is yours to explore! Ride once or purchase a membership.

When: Available daily, beginning March TBD
Where: Rental stations across campus and Madison

Outdoor UW at the Memorial Union

Rent kayaks, canoes and SUPs, participate in group yoga, or join the sailing club with Outdoor UW – all located on campus at Memorial Union.

When: Rentals available daily
Where: 800 Langdon St.

Two large baskets of orange, yellow, red, and green peppers for sale at a farmers' market

Live music, festivals, and countless outdoor events brings Madison to life in summer.

World’s Largest Brat Fest

This Memorial Day weekend tradition is Wisconsin at its finest. The three-day festival features brats (of course), along with two stages packed with live music. There’s carnival games, a sports zone, and fireworks on Sunday night.

When: Memorial Day Weekend; May 26–28, 2024
Where: Alliant Energy Center

Concerts on the Square (FREE)

Enjoying Concerts on the Square is a quintessential part of summer in Madison. For six Wednesdays in summer, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra hosts a free concert right on Capitol lawn. Pack a picnic and bring a blanket to enjoy the night with friends. Or grab food from a nearby restaurant or food cart at the event.

When: Wednesdays, late June through August
Where: Wisconsin State Capitol lawn

Dane County Farmers’ Market – Saturday on the Square

Each Saturday from April to November, local farmers and producers sell fruits and vegetables, bakery, meat, cheese, flowers, and more. Recognized as one of the best markets in the nation, it is a spectacle unlike any other. Come early to enjoy the first pick. Or later to experience the bustle of the city–and yes, the crowds.

When: Saturdays, April – November
Where: Capitol Square

Taste of Madison

End your summer with a foodie extravaganza! Taste your way around the Capitol Square – and Madison – sampling food from dozens of local restaurants and food carts. And enjoy three stages of free, live music all weekend.

When: Labor Day Weekend; August 31–September, 2024
Where: Capitol Square

A view of the Capitol over Lake Mendota, from Picnic Point

Love to get out and explore? These places are available (almost) always and you’re free to create your own path for each.

UW–Madison Arboretum (FREE)

With almost 20 miles of trails, the “Arb” is perfect for an afternoon getaway, a quiet reading spot, or a great run. Located just south of campus, you can explore prairies, woodlands, flower gardens, marshes and more.

When: Open all year long, 7 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Where: Near-west Madison, bordering Lake Wingra

Henry Vilas Zoo (FREE)

Madison’s Henry Vilas Zoo is one of the only free zoos in the nation. Its home to 650 animals (including badgers), as well as a carousel, restaurant, and playground. Post-visit, enjoy time at Lake Wingra or in the sprawling Vilas Park.

When: Open daily, 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Where: 702 S. Randall Ave.

Chazen Museum of Art (FREE)

Did you know the Chazen is home to the second largest collection of art in Wisconsin? Find featured exhibits on the first floor and browse thousands of pieces covering diverse historical periods, cultures and geographic locations.

When: Monday – Friday, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Weekends 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Where: 750 University Ave.

Picnic Point (FREE)

Nearly every student finds their way out to Picnic Point at some point, whether on purpose or accidentally. Picnic Point on the Lakeshore Nature Preserve offers some of the best views of the Capitol and Madison skyline in the entire city. Take a walk with friends or a morning jog down to the end of the point.

When: Open daily, 4 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Where: Lakeshore Nature Preserve, southern shore of Lake Mendota

Olbrich Botanical Gardens (FREE)

Beauty is always in bloom at the east side’s Olbrich Botanical Gardens. Take a walk through 16 acres of serene outdoor gardens, plus the indoor tropical Bolz Conservatory. Don’t leave without photos of the Thai Pavilion.

When: Open daily, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Where: 3330 Atwood Ave.

An upward view of tall, green pine trees and blue skies

Eager to get off campus, and spend time outside of Madison? Plan a day-trip to these nearby attractions, all accessible within an hour drive.

American Players Theatre (APT)

An experience unlike any other, APT is an outdoor theatre located in Spring Green. The woodland amphitheater seats 1,000 and hosts dozens of performances each summer under the stars. Pack a picnic to enjoy before the show.

When: Afternoon and evening performances all summer long
Where: 5950 Golf Course Rd., Spring Green, Wis.
Distance: 50-minute drive

Wisconsin Dells

The Wisconsin Dells – the Waterpark Capital of the World is beloved by Wisconsinites and Midwesterners alike. The area is filled with amusement parks, shops, quirky restaurants, and beautiful, natural landscapes. Must dos include Noah’s Ark Water Park and a Wisconsin Duck boat tour.

When: Available all summer
Where: Wisconsin Dells, Wis.
Distance: 1-hour drive

Devil’s Lake State Park

Devil’s Lake State Park is home to some of the most scenic views and hikes Wisconsin has to offer. Camp, swim, paddle, and relax on the over 9,000 acres of parkland. Admission pass required. See all nearby state parks here.

When: Open yearlong daily, 6 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Where: S5975 Park Rd., Baraboo, Wis.
Distance: 40-minute drive

Rock Lake and Sandy Beach

In need of a beach day? One of the best in the area is Sandy Beach on Rock Lake in Lake Mills. Enjoy the volleyball courts, the sand, or wade out into the water. A day pass is required, and available to purchase on-site.

When: May to September
Where: Sandy Beach on Rock Lake, Lake Mills, Wis.
Distance: 40-minute drive

A man strums an oboe at the Madison Jazz Festival

Can’t get enough of the summer concert scene? Madison in the summer provides a perfect hub for music-lovers of all genres.

Breese Stevens Summer Concert Series

Since 2015, Breese Stevens outdoor sports field has hosted a fantastic summer concert series, bringing in bands of all genres for an unforgettable concert experience. The outdoor theatre has hosted bands such as Bon Iver, Modest Mouse, Darius Rucker, The Avett Brothers, REO Speedwagon and more.

When: May – September, dates vary
Where: Breese Stevens Field, 917 E. Mifflin St.

Neighborhood Festivals (FREE)

Madison’s east side hosts a series of neighborhood festivals – each with their own personality and of course, great music and great food. Stay tuned for 2022 festival dates for Fete de Marquette, Orton-Front Fest, AtwoodFest, and the Sessions at McPike Park.

When: Various weekends in summer
Where: Madison’s east side

Monona Terrace Concerts on the Rooftop (FREE)

Thursday nights on the Monona Terrace, enjoy this outdoor summer concert series. The entire series is free and open to the public. The tentative line-up is

When: Thursdays, 7 – 9 p.m.
Where: Monona Terrace, 1 Nolen Dr.

Sugar Maple Music Festival

This two-day outdoor festival celebrates American roots music and dance with performances on three stages, including interactive jam sessions.

When: August 2–3, 2024
Where: Lunney Lake Farm County Park

Madison Concert Venues

There’s always exciting music and events to enjoy at Madison’s concert venues. Browse each venue’s schedule to see what’s in store this summer: the Sylvee, the Majestic Theatre, The Orpheum, the High Noon Saloon, the Barrymore and the Bur Oak.

Still looking for that special summer pastime? Here’s a few more tips. 

For those looking to give back

Many of the events and festivals listed above are always looking for more volunteers to help out.

The Morgridge Center at UW-Madison also serves as a great resource for those looking to get involved with volunteer opportunities. 

For those who want more ideas

Looking for even more resources? Check out 101 things to do in Madison this summer and 99 things to do in Madison this summer.