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Sara & Katie

An Easy, Kid-Friendly Afternoon in Madison, WI

July 15, 2020

An Easy, Kid-Friendly Afternoon in Madison, WI

July 15, 2020


Sara and I had been discussing a few different options for our adventure of the week this week. However, it was just a busy week with a lot of personal stuff going on and we wanted to keep it quick and simple. We hadn’t been in Madison much recently and thought it would be fun to try out some Madison area outdoor activities.

If you are looking for an adventure that is just a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to get out of the house in Madison while social distancing, this is for you!

What we did

We started at Schluter Park right on Lake Monona. It is a really quaint little park with a playground and small beach. The park has many cute blue and white adirondack chairs spread throughout the park. There are multiple picnic benches in the shade. There is even a nice long pier next to the beach. The beach is sandy and roped off for swimmers. Our kids didn’t swim on this adventure. The beach wasn’t super crowded but just a little bit more people than we were comfortable with.

Our kids love playing hide and seek, finding animals (even if they are geese or seagulls), and playing tag. So it is really easy to go to a park and run around. We hadn’t been to Monona area in a long time and decided to give this area of Madison a shot.

A few fun perks of this park:

  • This park is right along the Monona Lake Loop . Here is a link to a map of the lake loop and other fun things along the loop! An option would be to pack up your bikes and do a family bike ride and stop at this fun park along the way.
  • There is an open field/park directly across the street, Waterman Way Park.
  • Parking is easy!
  • There is a lot of exposure to the shoreline of Lake Monona and spots to fish. Another option would be to bring your fishing poles for the kids and go fishing. Monona Bait & Ice Cream Shop is directly across the street to help get you everything you need.
Waterman Way Park

We ended up directly across the street at Waterman Way park which is basically an open field with a few picnic tables. Our kids played tag and colored in their notebooks. It was fun watching all the people out on bicycles and running along the park. After the kids burned off some energy, Sara walked next door to Monona Bait & Ice Cream Shop and ordered lunch for everyone.

Monona Bait and Ice cream Shop is a classic and iconic to Monona. It is a walk up concession stand-feel shop that has some simple lunch items, and most importantly, ice cream from Babcock and Sassy Cow!

Here’s a picture of the menu posted in the window:

Menu from Monona Bait & Ice Cream Shop


After spending an hour or two near Schluter Park and filling our bellies, we decided to load the kids up and head to Olbrich Gardens. We were fully prepared to leave if it didn’t feel like a safe spot to be distant from others. However, we were very pleasantly surprised that it was not busy and lots of room to explore in our own space. We all wore our masks, including the four kids. We just walked around for a little while.
Fun option: have the kids play “I spy.” There are statues, neat flowers, structures, and many other things to spot.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

A few notes about Olbrich (Check their website for the most up to date information) :

  • They currently have limited hours. Open Tues – Sun from 12-6pm to the public.
  • 16 acres of outdoor gardens and they are limiting the amount of visitors to provide a safe space for physical distancing.
  • The outdoor garden space is free.
  • Indoor facilities are currently closed (other than bathrooms that were open).
  • Many paths have been closed off or changed to one-way paths to allow safe physical space for everyone.

Some other fun options while you’re in the area

Garver Feed Mill: We decided to just drive by Garver Feed Mill since it is so close to Olbrich Gardens. We had visited Garver a few times in the winter but hadn’t been back since COVID started. We loved it there so much and just wanted to see what it was like right now. There was a nice big spread out patio outdoors. Garver describes themselves a “foodie and wellness destination.” If we were hungrier we would have gotten ourselves some pizza from Ian’s Pizza and a yummy coffee from Ledger Coffee Roasters. Sharing some pictures of the outdoor patio below:

Check out a few nearby murals: There are a few nearby murals that are fun to check out and take a picture in front of. We went to the Madison Mural Alley. There is a ‘better together’ mural here that we really wanted to snap a pic in front of but there was a truck parked in front of it (boo hoo). There is also a mural saying ‘this too shall pass’ at 4509 Monona Drive.

Olbrich Park and Olbrich Beach: Located directly across the street from Olbrich Gardens, along Lake Monona, is Olbrich Park and Beach. This is a really wide area with room to spread out. At Olbrich Park there is the option to rent kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards from Rutabaga Paddle Sports. Check out the rentals here.

Atwood Avenue: Atwood Avenue is right there as well, filled with good food and treats. If we wouldn’t have already gotten ice cream, we would have stopped by Daisy Cafe & Cupcakery for some sweet treats (they have gluten free options too).

Monona Lake loop: Mentioned up above, all of these activities are located along the Monona Lake Loop. It could be fun to do a nice long bike ride, jog, or walk with fun stops along the way!

Monona Youth Dream Park: We haven’t been here but it looks like a really fun park for kids to explore. And it sounds like its a huge space with a lagoon. Linked here ! This park was recommended by a few people. Let us know if you go there.

Let us know if we missed any of your favorite stops in the comments below!

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