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Wisconsin Parent

Madison Summer Fun: Ten Cool Places to Take the Kids

Jun 25, 2014 04:33PM ● By Julie Henning
Summer is in full swing in Madison, Wisconsin and (if your kids are like mine), people are getting "bored" with "nothing to do." Having scoured the area for fun, unique, and affordable ideas for keeping everyone happy, here are ten of my favorite summertime hangouts:

1. Monona Bait & Ice Cream: 4516 Winnequah Rd., Monona

Website: None

Yum, yum! Nothing says summer vacation like the pairing of worms and superman ice cream. A "hidden away" kind of place, Monona Bait & Ice Cream feels like being in a north woods cabin. With indoor and outdoor seating, you can order food (shakes, sloppy joe sandwiches, chips) or take "to go" items home. I once had gazpacho soup here and it was delicious. Across the street Shulter Beach on Lake Monona, complete with playground and sand. I find the water a bit gross in August, but the ducks sure are cute!

 2. Columbus Aquatic Center: 1049 Park Ave., Columbus


Having frequented every aquatic center in a 50 mile radius, the Columbus Aquatic Center is my favorite. Why? The water is heated, the water slide is fun, and my pigment-challenged skin can always find a lounge chair in the shade. Plus, it's just big enough to have something for kids of all ages and abilities, without being too spread out or crowded. Kids wanting to swim in the deep end are required to take a swim test, but the lifeguards keep an "approved swimmer" list, so you only have to do this once.

Columbus Aquatic Center

3. Highway 18 Outdoor Theater: W6423 Highway 18, Jefferson


What can I say, really? Fireflies, popcorn, stars, watching a movie from your car ("necking," as my Grandma would say). Plus, ticket prices about the same as an indoor theater (or less, depending on when and where you typically go).

Highway 18 Outdoor Theater

4. Cypress Spray Park: 902 Magnolia Ln., Madison


One of the lesser known spray parks in the area, Cypress Spray Park is a good option for parents with younger kids. Two reasons: (1) you can (usually) find a close parking spot and (2) kids can run over to the toddler-friendly playground when they need a break from the water. Pack your sunscreen, though, as you won't find any shade near the water or playground.

Cypress Spray Park

5. Sassy Cow Creamery: W4192 Bristol Rd., Columbus


Totally worth the country drive, Sassy Cow Creamery is another place you probably wouldn't "accidentally" discover on a random drive out to West Bristol Road. About as family friendly as it gets for a working creamery, we've enjoyed meeting baby calves and letting the kids ride on the "tractor" pedal carts. It seems like there's always some event or activity going on at the farm, including tours of the barns and creamery (It's best to just follow the Sassy Cow Creamery page on Facebook, as this seems to be the best way to get your "moos"—now pause to chuckle at this horrible pun).

Sassy Cow Creamery

6. Troll Beach: 509 Mandt Parkway, Stoughton


My kids absolutely LOVE Troll Beach. It's a pool, but not a pool—using clean city water to create a "beach like" experience, what's not to love about inflatable watersides and a three-foot long strand of of licorice from the concession stand?

Troll Beach

7. Poynette Bow Hunters: At the Intersection of State Hwy. 22 and King Rd., Poynette


An archer since the third grade (that's, like, 29 years before Katniss Everdeen made it cool), I have a special place in my heart for the Poynette Bow Hunters Association. Offering an excellent Youth Archery program in January and February, the 3-D course opens up in the summer months (I enjoy snacking from the raspberry bushes lining the trails). If you make it this far north, you might as well leave time to visit the MacKenzie Center just down the road.

Logan Raemisch

8. Goeres Park Swimming Pool: Fair St., Lodi


On a hot summer day, the spring-fed swimming pool at Goers Park in Lodi feels like the Nestea plunge. But the sides were always kind of slimy and you never really wanted to blow bubbles (if you know what I mean). But, thanks to the DNR for enforcing some health regulations, the Friends of the Lodi Pool banded together for a complete park re-model and the new (and WAY improved) facility is now open to the public. New features include changing rooms, chairs, umbrellas, lockers, restrooms, zero-depth entry with wading area, and a street-level entrance.


9. Camp Shalom Playground at the Goodman Aquatic Center: 7762 County Highway PD, Verona


A playground and pool, one-two punch, the Camp Shalom playground is one of our area favorites. Just up the hill from the Goodman Aquatic Center, make sure to pack your towel and swimsuit and turn your visit into an afternoon outing.

Camp Shalom

10. Little Amerricka: 700 East Main St., Marshall


Despite the fact that I can never spell Amerricka without looking it up five different times, the Little Amerricka amusement park in Marshall is a nice alternative to the Wisconsin Dells. Offering deals and coupons (check your next ValPack mailer and, make sure you spring for the ticket package that includes the train ride (After all, nothing says "I'm in Wisconsin," like a free range zebra!). Your kids will love it!

Little Amerrika

If you liked these suggestions, consider downloading the Milwaukee or Madison Loves Kids smart phone app to your iPhone or Android (click on the appropriate link below). A three-year project in the making, the Milwaukee Loves Kids and Madison Loves Kids apps offer a combined total of 330 documented venues, resources, and events for parents living in (or visiting) Wisconsin’s two largest cities.

And if you like this story, check out the related article on 10 Cool Places to take your Kids in Milwaukee.