No matter who you are going to talk with, if you come to Madison, Wisconsin, during the winter people are going to tell you to stay strong because “the summer here is worth every single snowflake.” I grew up in Italy, I know what summer means, how amazing it can be, so I was a little bit skeptical at the beginning. I must say that they were right: Madison in the summer is amazing. Everything brightens up, people are always outside doing every kind of activity and the city is full of events. You can’t get bored here if you like being outdoors and enjoy the warmth of the sun. After a winter like the ones in Wisconsin, believe me, you are going to love every single ray of sun.
THE TERRACE AT MEMORIAL UNION
If you come to Madison in the summer this is the place to go. No matter what, hands down, this is home for thousands of people during the days and nights from May to September. Colorful chairs and tables are set in front of Lake Mendota that always gifts with amazing sunsets. I traveled a lot, I saw amazing places but the sunsets that Madison has, I’ve seen nowhere. I love to spend time here with friends, just chit chatting in front of a pitcher of beer to share. The Union is part of the UW Campus and has been recently renewed. It has a lot of varieties of food provided. You definitely should try the Orange Custard Chocolate Chip ice cream. It’s a must to do at the Terrace. During the evenings, something is always going on: movie night, open mic or live bands playing.
State Street is a “pedestrian mall” that links the Capitol Square to the University of Wisconsin Campus. It’s a good place where to find amazing and unique pieces in the interesting stores all along the street. If you like arts and crafts you have for sure stop in one of the many independent shops. Here you can find the Overture Center for the Arts, the Orpheum Theater, The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. There’s plenty of coffee shops, restaurants, and bars. During the night State Street becomes Madison’s main attraction. People love to pub crawl from the top to the bottom of State Street. Everything closes at 2:30 am. For a foreigner like me, still pretty early.
I had the best and the worst times of my life on this street with people from all over the world. State Street is not only a summer place, it’s all year-around but with the warm weather is definitely easier to walk around without risking to freeze. Go to Tiki Bar if you want cheap alcohol, at the Piano Bar if you want good music, Whiskey Jacks if you want to dance and Mondays if you want totally get wasted.
PADDLEBOARDING OR KAYAKING ON THE LAKES
Before coming here I had never kayak or paddle board. After one year and a half, I can easily say I can’t imagine my life without those two activities. Madison has three major lakes: Lake Mendota, Lake Monona, and Lake Wingra. On all the three lakes there’s plenty of places where to rent boats, paddleboard or kayak. I personally have a membership at Wingra Boats, on Lake Wingra, a wake-free lake surrounded by the UW Arboretum. I love this place. Paddleboarding or kayaking in it truly relaxes me. I think Lake Wingra’ seaweed situation is slightly better than in the other two lakes. During weekdays there’s a boat that cleans the lake from the majority of seaweeds.
Madison is full of parks and beaches where to relax, do some yoga and take a walk in nature:
- James Madison Park is a waterfront park located on Lake Mendota;
- Tenney Park is a waterfront park located on Lake Mendota;
- Olin Park is a waterfront park located on Lake Monona that has an amazing view of the Madison skyline;
- The University of Wisconsin–Madison Arboretum is a teaching and research facility of the University of Wisconsin–Madison and the site of historic research in ecological restoration. 1,260 acres (5 km2) in Madison, Wisconsin. Beautiful place where to walk in nature;
- Picnic Point is a nearly mile-long peninsula along Lake Mendota’s south shore.
Madison and its suburbs are full of farmer’s markets during the spring and summer time. The most known is the one held on every Saturday morning on the Capitol Square. The Market encircles the Square.
DEVIL’S LAKE – BARABOO
If you want to drive 45 minutes up north you should totally visit Devil’s Lake. It’s a great place where to hike, swim, relax at the beach, have a picnic, paddleboard or kayak. It’s a State Park so the entrance with the car costs 8$ if you have a Wisconsin License Plate. There’s a concession over there where to buy souvenirs and food. The internet signal is weak but surrounded by so much beauty it’s definitely not something you are going to complain about. The water is clear, no seaweeds.
At the end, I think it’s pretty clear, I love Madison in the summer. There are so many things to do, places where to go and hike, swim, paddleboard, kayak or simply relax. It’s a perfect place to discover your inner outdoorsy personality. I have to thank Madison because it’s here that I figured out I didn’t want to be a lazy person anymore and I dragged myself outdoor discovering how amazing it is just to be in the sun and do things surrounded by nature.