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Summer Bucket List

Lake Monona sunrise

Plan your summer bucket list

Make the most of the Yahara lakes this summer

Sometimes it feels like summer is the shortest season of the year, so why not plan your summer bucket list now?! We are lucky to live in the Greater Madison area, with countless opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. This summer, why not make the lakes a part of your plans? Clean Lakes Alliance has put together a summer bucket list to keep you cool until the seasons change.

1. Hop on a log (log-rolling)

Not for the meek, log rolling is a fun activity for anyone looking to burst their fitness bubble and try something new. This wet and wild activity is the result of friendly competition between loggers back in the 1800s. Madison Log Rolling decided to rekindle that spirit and teach lessons on Lake Wingra. Summon your inner lumberjack and see if you have what it takes to stand on the log.

Log rolling on Lake Wingra - Courtesy Madison Log Rolling
Log rolling on Lake Wingra (Courtesy Madison Log Rolling)

2. Paddle to a restaurant on the water

Canoe, kayak, or even paddle board to one of the popular restaurants that line the shores of the Yahara lakes. These spots are a hit whether you are looking for burgers, oysters, or a good ol’ fish fry. This is a great way to take in the sunshine and still grab some good grub – not to mention the calories you burn paddling there!

3. Bike around scenic Lake Monona

Hop on the Lake Loop around Lake Monona and enjoy gorgeous views of the water. This trail is dotted with pubs, ice cream, and coffee shops making it so much more than just a bike route. It’s easy to spend an afternoon munching as you pedal this path. You can join Clean Lakes Alliance on the Lake Loop on Saturday, June 15th for the 7th Annual Loop the Lake Bike Ride!

Loop the Lake Bike Ride
Loop the Lake Bike Ride

4. Paddle under the moon

Mark your calendars for Full Moon Paddles at Wingra Boats and Brittingham Boats. Don’t worry, there won’t be any werewolves lurking around, but there will be a live band, snacks, and plenty of fun! Try to get a reservation, because this event often sells out.

  • Full Moon Paddle with Wingra Boats
    • Saturday, May 18th
    • Tuesday, July 16th
  • Full Moon Paddle with Brittingham Boats
    • Monday, June 17th
    • Friday, August 16th
    • Saturday, September 14th
Full Moon Paddle - Courtesy Brittingham Boats
Full Moon Paddle (Courtesy Madison Boats)

5. Find your zen on the lake

So much of our time on the water is spent with others, but every once in a while, it’s nice to find a new pace. Try yoga or meditation on paddle boards, and become one with the motion of the water. Even relaxing on a kayak or boat with your favorite book is a great way to unwind. What’s better than adding a long exhale to your summer bucket list?!

SUP Yoga (Courtesy Wingra Boats) - why not add a big exhale to your summer bucket list?
SUP yoga (Courtesy Madison Boats)

6. Paddle to Picnic Point for a bonfire

Mount a lamp or flashlight to your canoe or kayak and take to the water at night. Simply go online and rent a fire pit at Picnic Point a few days before your anticipated paddle. Don’t forget to pack some marshmallows to enjoy when you reach your destination.

7. Realize your sailing potential with Wisconsin Hoofers

Dream about sailing the high seas like Captain Jack Sparrow? You may have some unrealized sailing skills. It’s never too late to pick up a new summer hobby and Wisconsin Hoofers is a great place to start!

8. Camp in Lake Kegonsa State Park

Pitch a tent and spend a weekend swimming, hiking, and soaking up the summertime sunshine. Lake Kegonsa State Park makes a perfect staycation for the entire family. The soothing waters of the lake and quiet forest backdrop are perfect for a stress-free adventure.

Lake Kegonsa State Park docks at dusk
Lake Kegonsa State Park docks at dusk

 9. Grab breakfast to go and savor it on The Monona Terrace

Early bird gets the worm…or is it a pastry? Put some pep in your step before the Dane County Farmers’ Market or your other morning activities with a stop at a local bakery. How many bakeries can you visit before the summer is over?

10. Paint a masterpiece

Get in touch with your artistic side when you take a painting class at the UW Memorial Union. No supplies? Wheelhouse at the Union has you covered. Terrace ArtZone takes place Wednesday evenings (June 12, 19, 26, and July 10, 17, 24) from 5-7 p.m. on the Memorial Union Terrace Plinth. Wheelhouse will also host a Terrace Art Takeover with Allen Centennial Gardens on the Memorial Union Terrace Stage from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on July 30th.

11. Get certified to dive

With multiple cars, boats, and unique features on the bottom of our lakes, it’s another world below the water’s surface. It only takes a few hours to first try diving in one of our local pools. If you decide to get certified, you will be certified to dive all over the world!

12. Watch the Mad-City Ski Team

The Cirque du Soleil of the water—the Mad-City water skiers are a sight to see! Watch human pyramids several tiers high whiz by and see jumpers take to new heights on the water, all while staying comfortable and dry at Law Park in Madison.

Mad-City Ski Team
Photo courtesy Mad-City Ski Team

13. Cruise the lakes in style

If you’re not a captain on the high seas of the Yahara Watershed, have no fear. You can still enjoy the perks of the water on a Betty Lou Cruise, Midnight Splash, or Pontoon Porch. From champagne brunches, to Sunday family barbeques, to moonlight cruises, there is something for everyone.

14. Paddle for a Purpose

Have fun on the lake while supporting its future. Just stop by Brittingham, Wingra, or Marshall Boats on a Monday between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. to participate. This program begins on Monday, June 3rd and continues through Monday, August 26th. All proceeds benefit work to protect and improve water quality in our lakes.

Madison Boats Paddle for a Purpose Locations - mark your calendars for Monday nights, and check this off of your summer bucket list!
Paddle for a Purpose locations

15. Tube down the Sugar River

If you’re looking to trek outside of the Yahara Watershed, head south to the Sugar River for a day of floating. Only a 45-minute drive from Madison, it’s a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of life in the city.

16. Try the Freshman 15

Grab some friends and drag them to the Wisconsin Union because this is not a challenge to be faced alone. Babcock ice cream is famous for being one of the best scoops around. UW-Madison knew this and decided to take Union-goers’ favorite treat to the next level. The Freshman 15 is a whopping fifteen scoops of ice cream with five toppings, whipped cream, and a cherry — this signature dish costs $19.60 and is great when shared with friends.

17. Get ducky on Lake Wingra

Give your date or girls’ day out a fun new twist with the duck boats on Lake Wingra. These spunky watercraft at Wingra Boats are sure to bump up Instagram likes and turn heads all around the lake while satisfying your summer bucket list.

Duck Boat on Lake Wingra - you'll want to make these ducks part of your summer bucket list!
Duck boat on Lake Wingra
Photo courtesy Madison Boats

18. Relax for hours on a boat

What’s better than a day of relaxation on a boat? This summer, load up your coolers, pack all the floaties piled in the garage, and round up the family for a full day on the lake. Don’t forget to make a great music playlist ahead of time and pack plenty of water. Don’t have a boat? You can always rent one through Madison School & Community Recreation (MSCR).

19. Volunteer to clean the lake   

One of the best feel-good activities people can do is volunteer. Whether it’s an organized volunteer program, or simply wrangling a group of friends to pick up trash along the shoreline, anything helps. In addition to Clean Lakes Alliance, other great volunteer opportunities are 1,000 Rain Gardens, River Alliance of Wisconsin, or Clean Boats, Clean Water.

CG Schmidt Volunteer Day
CG Schmidt Renew the Blue Volunteer Day

There are so many things you can do to help the lakes. Find out more about actions you can take at your own home that will help our lakes, while satisfying your summer bucket list.

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