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Things to do in Madison, WI in the summer

August 5, 2022

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view of the madison capitol building during the summer farmers market

Our favorite activities, places and things to do in Madison, WI in the summer!

It’s no secret that Madison, Wisconsin is an active community. And if anyone knows how to take advantage of warm summer months, it’s Wisconsinites. There are endless activities, events and things to do in Madison, WI in the summer. It’s just part of the reason that Livability ranked Madison as the best place to live in the U.S. in 2022. And out of 150 metro areas across the country, U.S. News ranked Madison as the fourth best place to live for quality of life in its 2021-22 report. Overall, Madison ranked No. 16 for Best Places to Live in the U.S. in that report!

flowers and a smoothie on display in the summer in madison, wi

Our favorite things to do in Madison, WI in the summer:

Hiking

You may not think of hiking when it comes to the city, but Madison is closely surrounded by hundreds of miles of hiking trails. Some areas within the city, such as Olin Park – with its view of the Madison skyline – and the UW Arboretum, have miles of beautiful, secluded nature trails.  

Dane County is home to segments of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, one of the few National Scenic Trails in the country. Plus, there are over 100 miles of hiking  trails in Dane County Parks alone!  

Just an hour north of Madison sits one of Wisconsin’s most popular state parks, Devil’s Lake. Featuring steep trails up bluffs and cliffs, and beautiful 360 views of the lake, it boasts of nearly 3 million visitors per year. 

a hiking trail at indian lake county park, hiking is one of the top things to do in madison, wi in the summer
Indian Lake County Park in Cross Plains – just outside of Madison

Hiking trails for all abilities are plentiful in Madison and its surrounding areas. Here are just a few of our favorite spots: 

  • Aldo Leopold Nature Center 
  • Badger State Trail 
  • Capital Springs Recreation Area 
  • Cherokee Marsh 
  • Devil’s Lake State Park 
  • Glacial Drumlin State Trail 
  • Governor Dodge State Park 
  • Governor Nelson State Park
  • Hoyt Park 
  • Indian Lake County Park 
  • Military Ridge State Trail 
  • Picnic Point 
  • Stewart Lake County Park 
  • Sugar River State Trail 
  • Token Creek County Park 
  • UW Arboretum
tumbled rock trail at devils lake state park, one thing to do in the summer near madison wi
Devil’s Lake is less than an hour from the west side of Madison, and has hiking trails ranging from easy to difficult.
farmstead ruins near indian lake state park, a hiking spot near madison wi
The farmstead ruins across from Indian Lake County Park make for a beautiful backdrop to a hike or even a photoshoot.

Biking

Madison is well known for its accessible bike paths. In fact, it has continually ranked in the top 10 “Best Cities for Biking” nationwide by People For Bikes. You can bike from one end of Madison to the other, from a suburb right to the downtown Capitol Square, or even to towns far beyond the city limits on paved biking trails.  

a biker bikes on the lake loop in the summer in downtown madison, wi

The popular Capital City State Trail takes bikers from suburbs on Madison’s west side, through miles of the scenic Capital Springs State Recreation Area, right to downtown Madison. The trail also serves as a link between the Military Ridge State Trail, Badger State Trail, and the Glacial Drumlin State Trail, which connects the suburbs of Madison to the suburbs of Milwaukee.  

More serious bikers and beer enthusiasts can traverse 30 miles of the Badger State Trail to cool down at one of Wisconsin’s most famous breweries, the New Glarus Brewing Company – home of the state’s exclusive Spotted Cow. 

bikes lined up on a bike rack by the university of wisconsin madison in the summer

Whether it’s to commute for work, to take a scenic bike ride, or to take a long training ride, Madison has endless options for bikers to take safe, enjoyable routes.

  • Badger Prairie County Park* 
  • Badger State Trail 
  • Blue Mound State Park*
  • Capital City State Trail 
  • Devil’s Lake Uplands Loop Trail* 
  • Glacial Drumlin State Trail 
  • Glenway Bike Path 
  • Governor Nelson State Park 
  • Ice Age Junction Path 
  • John Nolen Path 
  • Lake Monona Loop 
  • Middleton Bike Park* 
  • Military Ridge State Trail 
  • Olin Park 
  • Pheasant Branch Conservancy 
  • Quarry Ridge* 
  • Southwest Commuter Path 
  • Sugar River State Trail 
  • UW-Madison Arboretum 
  • UW-Madison Campus to Picnic Point
  • Wingra Creek Path 

*Mountain Bike Trails

Boating, kayaking, and swimming

boats line a dock as part of things to do in the summer in madison, wi

You cannot visit Madison without noticing its lakes. Situated on an isthmus between Lake Mendota and Lake Monona, with more lakes within a short drive, Madison boasts of a humming lake life year round. In the summer, the lakes attract thousands of boaters, kayakers, sailors, swimmers, stand-up paddle boarders and fishermen alike.  

For those who don’t have a means of transport on the water, boat rental shops are open daily in the summer. In a few quick paddles, you will be kayaking on Lake Monona, in front of the Madison skyline. 

When you’re not on the water, the lakes also provide a scenic backdrop to many popular outdoor activities. Walk or bike along the shorelines on several of Madison’s paved hiking and biking paths. Take in the views from the Monona Terrace. Or sit in the famous Sunburst chairs at the city’s most popular sunset spot – UW-Madison’s Memorial Union Terrace.

kayaks are on display outside at the hilldale shopping center in madison, wi

Events 

Wisconsinites know how to take advantage of the warm summer and fall months, and the active lives of those who live in Madison parallel an active events calendar.  

If you pick one of the things to do in Madison, WI in the summer, this is it.

people shop for produce at the dane county farmers market in the summer in madison, wisconsin

The Dane County Farmers’ Market on Saturdays is a must! One of the most popular summer events is the Dane County Farmers’ Market. Every Saturday from April through November, vendors line the Capitol Square in America’s  largest producers-only farmers’ market. Fresh vegetables, fruit, flowers, cheese curds  and baked goods are just some of the weekly finds at the market.  

people line up for stellas bakery at the dane county farmers market in downtown madison, wi
Stella’s Hot & Spicy Cheese Bread might be the most famous item at the Dane County Farmers’ Market. Expect a long line, but quick service and delicious bread!

Other community events, attended by tens of thousands of people from all over the  state, include the Art Fair on the Square, Taste of Madison, Concerts on the Square, and Brat Fest. 

Annual Summer Events:

*Check individual event for most up-to-date months/dates

May

June

July

Bonus!

Be sure to mark Labor Day Weekend in your calendars for Taste of Madison. Just as Brat Fest is Madison’s unofficial start to the summer, Taste of Madison is its unofficial farewell to summer. Hundreds of restaurants and food trucks line Capitol Square with sample-size dishes of delicious food. Come hungry!!

The Orpheum Sign on display on State Street in Madison, WI

Golf and other sports

Madison is home to professional soccer team Forward Madison FC, and summer collegiate baseball team Madison Mallards. Both teams provide a fun, family atmosphere at their games at Breese Stevens Field and Warner Park.  

When you’re not cheering on your favorite local sports team, you might be hitting the links or the field yourself. Golf is one of the most popular summer activities in the area. There are 11 golf courses within Madison, and nearly 30 more within 20 miles of the city. Madison’s University Ridge Golf Course is home of the annual PGA Tour American Family Insurance Championship. 

The city also has an active community of sports leagues, from disc golf to tennis to soccer to volleyball to pickleball, and more. 

Kayakers paddle on Lake Mendota in the summer in Madison, WI

Other places in Madison to visit in the summer (and year round!)

We could write pages upon pages about all of the local establishments, parks, organizations and performing arts spots that are worth a visit in the summer. We’ll list some of our favorites below. Stroll through Allen Centennial or Olbrich Botanical Gardens. Ride your bike, or hike through the Arboretum. Then, visit the Henry Vilas Zoo. Finally, catch a show at The Orpheum, or a concert at The Sylvee. We encourage you to check them all out!

people gather outside the piano bar on state street in madison
Take a stroll down State Street! Shopping during the day, Farmers’ Market and other events on the weekend, and bars, restaurants and entertainment at night!
a crowd sits on the memorial union terrace in madison at sunset in the summer
Memorial Union Terrace
a wide shot of the overture center for the arts in madison, wi
The Overture Center for the Arts

Are you thinking about moving to Madison? There’s so much more where this came from! Although your options of things to do in Madison, WI in the summer are endless, there is a vibrant community life year round. All of our team members are Madison experts and enthusiasts. We’d love to set up a private tour of our city, and answer any of your questions about living in Madison. Send us a message today!

Photography by Morgan Madeleine Photography

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We're Dominic and Ellie, founders of The 608 Team.

We met at a real estate training after being introduced by a mutual coworker (who's now one of our 608 team members!). In our love story are the roots of what is now Madison's most comprehensive real estate boutique.

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