17 local activities to maximize your family time this summer

There is plenty of fun for families big and small.
A little boy spreads his arms out wide like an ape at Henry Vilas Zoo.
Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.
A little boy spreads his arms out wide like an ape at Henry Vilas Zoo.

Over the last year, many families huddled in and spent more time together than ever before. While it’s easy to get caught up in our busy schedules, don’t let the summer slip away. Check out these activities and events to discover the best ways to experience the summer with your loved (and little) ones.

Art Cart
The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA) and Madison School & Community Recreation (MSCR) are partnering together again to offer a free outdoor art program. In light of COVID-19, the museum and school are offering Art Cart ArtKits to Dane County families. Feel free to pick up a free ArtKit on a first-come, first-served basis. One is provided to each family, with supplies and instruction for three creative activities included. All the art projects can be completed at home. Look out for the museum’s colorful Art Cart van, which is traveling to communities around the area. Free, every Saturday in July, locations and times vary 

Beach Day at B.B. Clarke Beach Park
Soak up the sun with a beach day. Bring some snacks and take some cute family photos at the mini B.B. Clarke Beach Park, where kids can splash in the Lake Monona waters. Free, 4:00-10:00 p.m. daily, 835 Spaight St. 

“Behind the Scenes” Tour at Henry Vilas Zoo
Embark on a family trip to Henry Vilas Zoo and see different animals from all over the world. The zoo just launched its “Behind the Scenes” tours for July. With five different tour options, visitors can check out a whole range of exhibits. See the polar bear exhibit in the “Arctic Passage” tour or offer food to a giraffe in the zoo’s “African Adventure” tour. Public and private tours are available for visitors to get an insider look at the conservation work and care for the animals. If a tour isn’t for your family, come to the zoo on a Friday morning between 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m., when the Dane County Bookmobile will be running. Prices vary, open 9:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m., 702 S. Randall Ave.

Berry Picking at Smallfolk Farm
Blueberry season has finally arrived! The best part about berry picking with the family is using some to bake a fresh muffin or pie afterward. Don’t miss the season, which began on July 2 and ends in early August. With fresh garden veggies, pastured chicken, eggs and more, Smallfolk Farm also provides an impressive array of foods that make for the perfect summer dishes. Prices vary, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, 1818 State Road 92, Mount Horeb

Bird and Nature Adventure Guided Tour
Take the kids out for a fun, guided walk at the Aldo Leopold Nature Center. Meet at the center’s parking lot to begin the adventure. Free, 1:30-2:30 p.m., July 21, 330 Femrite Drive, Monona

Cooking Classes with Sur La Table
Sur La Table is inviting all young chefs to try its summer 2021 classes. Kids and teens alike can learn from some of the best, trying new dishes and ultimately receiving both a certificate of completion and a free apron. Students will also receive a coupon worth $20 off an in-store purchase of $100 or more during the five-day class session. Start at the basics in Cooking 101 or try the Global Street Food and Restaurant Week courses. From key lime pie to vegetable samosas to shrimp tacos, there is great variety and sweet treats to go around for everyone. Prices and dates vary

Family Day at the Dane County Fair
The Dane County Fair is a jam-packed four-day event you won’t want to miss. Sunday, July 18 marks Family Day, which includes some good music by La Movida Radio along with a dog demonstration, a taco eating contest and a carnival. Free, July 18, Alliant Energy Center

Family Yoga – Hilldale Sweat Series
For a light, breezy activity, relax and take a breather through yoga through the free Hilldale sweat series. Pre-registration is required and walk-ins will only be accepted if capacity allows. The yoga classes are free and affiliated with little om BIG OM, which emphasizes its benefits of improving awareness, focus, fitness, reducing stress and increasing kids’ confidence. Free, July 20 and Aug. 10, Hilldale Way

Kids in the Rotunda and Madison Ballet: Behind the Curtain
Grab your ballet shoes, Madison Ballet is calling your name. Everyone is welcome to join the School of Madison ballet students virtually as they warm-up and practice dancing. Learn about all that goes into a performance with a behind-the-scenes look at everything from the tech booth to rehearsal. Followed by a live Q&A session, this event is also part of the Overture Center’s Kids in the Rotunda Series, intended to engage the whole family. Free, 10-11 a.m., July 21, Online

“Kids Summer Cinema” at Point Cinema
Share some laughs with the family at Point Cinema Marcus Theatres, which is showing “Despicable Me” this week. A great rainy day activity, grab some popcorn on the go and enjoy the old-time family favorite movie. There’s also a whole movie screening lineup throughout the summer as part of the “Kids Summer Cinema” series, with showings of “Trolls,” “Shrek,” “The Secret Life of Pets,” and more. $2, Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at noon through Aug. 19, 7825 Big Sky Drive

Madison Children’s Museum
We would be remiss not to mention the Madison Children’s Museum. The museum is back open after a closure to due COVID-19. Walk-ins are allowed, but they recommend purchasing advance tickets. Masks are required for visitors above 3 years old. 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Thursdays through Sundays, 100 N. Hamilton St.

Madison Mini Half Marathon & 5K (Virtual)
If you’re a practiced runner or just want to get your steps in, the annual Madison Mini Half Marathon, 5K and Kids’ Run is perfect for you. While the event is virtual , participants can still feel proud to support the race and its beneficiary Girls on the Run of South Central Wisconsin. $5,000 will be donated to the nonprofit, which aims to inspire girls through lessons and running. Registration closes July 23 or sooner if field limits are reached. Participants who complete the 5K will receive a medal, half marathon finishers will get a collectible bottle opener-finisher medal and everyone partaking in the event will receive a T-shirt commemorating the race. Prices vary, July 17-24, 800 Langdon St.

Music + Movement on the Lawn
Rejoice in movement, songs, and more on the Monroe Public Library front lawn. This event is catered toward kids ages 0-6 and takes place every week. Free, Wednesdays at 10 a.m.

Playgrounds Aplenty
Madison prides itself for ranking first in the nation for its number of playgrounds per capita, according to the Trust for Public Land Madison. With so many options, the kids will never be bored. Multiple locations

Pet Parade at Monroe Public Library
The Monroe Public Library is hosting a pet parade, and that means you have an excuse to dress up your pet (or a plush friend). Bring your kids and family to the front lawn to watch the best fashion show in town. Free, 6 p.m., July 29, 965 16th Ave., Monroe

Stargazing
There’s a whole universe out there, but the sky shimmers with beauty right here in Madison. Go stargazing with the family at Brigham County Park or Donald County Park, where you can observe the constellations and even try camping. Permits can be purchased if hoping to go stargazing outside of normal park hours. 5:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m. daily

Urban Air Indoor Trampoline Park
The fan-favorite Wisconsin saying “jump around” rings true at this indoor trampoline park. Every Thursday the Madison Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure park hosts a family night, which includes four attraction passes, four drinks and one large, single-topping pizza, all for $69.99. Urban Air isn’t just a trampoline park, though. For a full experience, check out its other attractions like laser tag, bumper cars, a rope course and more. $69.99, 4-9 p.m., Thursdays,  7309 W. Towne Way

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