By Jessica Steinhoff | Photo courtesy Travel Wisconsin
For the Outdoorsy Family
Team up with your family to explore the great outdoors. Start with breakfast at Lakeside Street Coffee House, which offers a scenic view of Lake Monona – and baked goods from Madison Sourdough. Then pedal around the 11-mile Lake Monona Bike Loop, pausing to visit Monona’s Aldo Leopold Nature Center. Hike one of their award-winning prairie trails, then bike back to Madison for a burger lunch at The Curve.
After refueling and people-watching, make your way to Brittingham Boats to rent kayaks or stand-up paddleboards. Spend your afternoon catching up as you drift across Monona Bay.
For the Green-Thumbed Family
Kick off a day of plant-themed pleasures at The Victory, which turns coffee beans into steamy pour-overs and creamy cortados. Once you’re both fully caffeinated, admire 16 acres of display gardens, including a lush rose garden and a tranquil Thai pavilion, at Olbrich Botanical Gardens. Then stroll to Daisy Cafe & Cupcakery for a lunch of roasted veggie enchiladas (and cupcakes, of course).
Your next destination is The Vinery, a glass-art studio where you can make a garden stake or mosaic in a weekend class. Then travel to West Star Organics garden center in Cottage Grove, which sells more than 200 types of organic starter plants. Whether you want to grow vegetables, herbs or flowers this summer, you’ll find something that catches your eye.
For the Foodie Family
The Capitol Square, home to the Dane County Farmers’ Market, is the perfect starting point for a food-focused outing. Begin with lattes and lemon curd crepes at Bradbury’s. This tiny shop’s seasonal roast, custom-blended by Ruby Coffee Roasters, is also a must-try, so grab a bag to go. If it’s Saturday, visit the market to stock up on farm-fresh cooking ingredients. (Check dcfm.org for the most up-to-date market locations.).
Lunch on Sardine’s lakeside patio is next on the docket. If possible, order from the brunch menu, which includes smoked salmon sandwiches and mouthwatering moules frites. Afterward, walk to State Street to browse vintage cookbooks at Paul’s Book Store. Enjoy a Chardonnay at Eno Vino Downtown as you page through your finds and plan what to cook. Then end your day on a sweet note at Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier, where you can build a truffle box to take home.
For the Competitive Family
Does your family have a competitive streak? If so, this itinerary is a perfect fit. Start your day at State Street’s Short Stack Eatery to see who can eat the tallest stack of blueberry pancakes. Then, race to Vitense Golfland for 18 holes of miniature golf. Three courses — two outdoor and one indoor — dare you to maneuver around a giraffe, slide down a mineshaft and more as you vie for the lowest score.
Next up are pinball and pizza at Rossi’s Pizza & Vintage Arcade in Monona. Battle for bragging rights on an old-school arcade game like Joust, then zip over to The Brass Ring for a cocktail and a cutthroat pool or shuffleboard tournament. Get outside again and navigate to the Perrier Parcourse fitness trail near UW-Madison’s Natatorium. Its 18 stations will prove which one of you is the champion of ’70s-era physical challenges.
End your day in fan mode at Warner Park or Dexter’s Pub. The park becomes the Duck Pond when it’s game night for the Madison Mallards, a collegiate baseball team. This happens about three nights a week in the summer, and it’s wise to buy tickets in advance. Love the Milwaukee Brewers? Catch a televised game at Dexter’s, where you can cheer on the team and make new friends over a plate of chorizo nachos.