Madison is famous for its green spaces and open spaces. This is a summary of the main parks, preserves, and natural features in or outside of Madison. Unless otherwise noted, everyone is free to enter and explore, subject to open hours and other usage and parking restrictions. As always, be careful at night.
Once Lake Mendota freezes over, usually in late December, it becomes a popular ice fishing spot. The trails that run through much of the lake are popular with runners and cyclists throughout the year. Although the Isthmus side is fairly densely built, there is plenty of seaside greenery in the residential neighborhoods northeast of the Capitol. And, with a smaller circumference than its big brother, fitness vacationers can do a realistic circuit before breakfast.
University of Wisconsin-Madison Main Campus
The University of Wisconsin-Madison campus stretches for hundreds of acres along the south shore of Lake Mendota, west of downtown Madison.
Olbrich Botanical Gardens is a 16-acre expanse on the northeast shore of Lake Monona. The main attraction is the stunningly designed outdoor native landscaped gardens, including meticulously recreated prairie lawns and hardy flowering shrubs found throughout the rural Midwest. The Bolz Conservatory, a year-round open (and steaming) tropical indoor garden, is also worth checking out. It’s definitely worth the $ 2 admission charge.
Much of the conservation occupies an elevated strip of semi-open land with stunning views of the lakes, the Capitol dome, and the university campus. As the name suggests, it is a fantastic place for bird watching too. Don’t miss the bubbling springs that supply most of Lake Mendota’s water. Bring your camera!
Much of the park is essentially wilderness, but there is an abundance of baseball fields, lawns, and shore access points. It is also a popular recreation center with regular programming for residents and non-residents. Come here for a jog, picnic, or join a game of basketball.
Governor Nelson State Park
You can hike the entire eight-mile trail network in the morning and enjoy a hearty lunch at the picnic shelter at noon. Please note that vehicle admission stickers are required for drive-ins: $ 8 per day for Wisconsin license plates and $ 11 per day for after-hours.
Lake Kegonsa State Park.
Lake Kegonsa State Park runs along the shores of its namesake lake, which occupies a shallow channel between Madison and Stoughton’s smaller town. Its swimming beach is often uncrowded, even on hot summer days, and its 3,200-hectare stretch is large enough to support a lively sailing and fishing trade. The same vehicle admission fees apply.