608today City Guide Play

A guide to City of Madison parks

From picnics and playgrounds to sledding and skiing, there’s no shortage of recreation here.

608today Yahara

Picture this: You’ve just found a perfect picnic spot near Yahara Place to enjoy some Spotted Cow by the river.

Photo by @honeyoliveblaire

Table of Contents

Madison adores the outdoors this much we know. Maybe it’s the series of lakes that surround us, or the fact that we’re regularly named one of the fittest cities in America. We love the outdoors so much, our city oversees 200+ parks in the greater Madison area.

With more than 30 unique activities + an additional 40 services offered through the Parks Division network, let’s map out how to make the most of these ~6,000 acres of parkland.

📍 Find a park

With so many parks to choose from, it can be daunting to begin planning a day out. Here are two ways to search for a local hangout.

A view of Olbrich Gardens from above

Did you know Olbrich Gardens is operated as a public-private partnership with Parks Division?

Photo by @sekretempire

🗓️ Host an event

The city’s parks host dozens of large + picnic shelters ranging in size and price. Here’s what to know about booking.

📝 Pro tips for the parks

  • Dogs are welcome in most city parks with a proper permit.
  • Alcohol is also permitted in most city parks with a few exceptions — details here. (Think: Olbirch, James Madison, and Brittingham.)
  • Personal grills are allowed in non-conservation parks. Warner Park hosts two built in grills for public use.
  • Anyone can reserve a tee time to play on a public golf course.
  • Parks Division is constantly updating its calendar of events. Check in regularly to stay in the loop about seasonal activities + outdoor experiences.

🎒 Your park grab bag

Picked your perfect park? Make the most out of your experience with our favorite items for a relaxing day outside:

  • Is there anything quite like sitting in the shade and enjoying a good book? Check out our guide to books by local authors to help choose your next great read.
  • The Kindle Paperwhite is a lightweight e-reader option that stands up to bright sunlight.
  • A good water bottle keeps you hydrated — we’re big fans of the best-selling Owala FreeSip + this insulated stackable tumbler from Asheville NC-based retailer Pirani.
  • Heading to the park with kids? Check out the Owala FreeSip for kids.
  • Don’t forget the travel-size bug spray and sunscreen.
  • These sunglasses from Nordstrom Rack are available at discount prices + have a style for everyone.
  • Keep it all together in a handy tote bag — these adorable tote bags are all crafted by small businesses and local makers.
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