Go play at these 22 Madison Parks
Check out one of these parks
1. Brittingham Park
The Brittingham Boathouse is the oldest surviving public park building in Madison. It was built in 1910, expanded in 1921, designated a city landmark in 1977 and moved 200 feet to more stable ground along Monona Bay in 2006.
2. Cherokee Marsh
At more than 2,000 acres, the Cherokee Marsh is the largest wetland in Dane County. The marsh is jointly owned by the city, county and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and an active friends group is dedicated to its maintenance.
3. Demetral Park
Near East High School, the 49-acre Demetral Park includes a popular one-acre fence-in dog park and fields for softball and kickball.
4. Elver Park
Elver Park is Madison’s largest community park. With 250 acres, there’s room for hiking trails, lighted cross-country skiing trails, disc golf, basketball and tennis courts, a splash pad and a large sledding hill.
5. Garner Park
Madison Opera stages its Opera in the Park performances at Garner Park. For years the park hosted soapbox derby races.
6. Goodman Park
The Goodman Pool was the first municipal swimming pool when built in 2006. This year it opens on June 13.
7. Henry Vilas Park
Henry Vilas Park was named after the son of former U.S. Senator William F. Vilas, who initially bought 25 acres of Lake Wingra lakefront for use as a public park in 1903. The park later grew to 64 acres. John Nolen suggested the city keep a donated herd of five deer in a stable at Henry Vilas Park in the winter of 1910-11. They were joined the following year by a raccoon, red fox, three groundhogs, an eagle, a flock of sheep and some rodents. In 1983, the city kept the park and transferred the zoo to Dane County.
8. Hiestand Park
The high point at Hiestand Park — often referred to as Radar Hill because it was once home to a U.S. Air Force communications facility — is one of the city’s best sledding hills. The 57.8-acre park also includes a disc golf course and a bike path.
9. Hoyt Park
Restoration of the dozen 1930s-era stone fireplaces at Hoyt Park was made possible through fundraising by Friends of Hoyt Park, a volunteer group founded in 1995 — the same year the park was designated a city landmark.
10. Marshall Park
Marshall Park was named after James G. Marshall, who served as the city’s first parks superintendent from 1937 to 1969. It was during his tenure that parkland in Madison grew from 350 acres to more than 3,000 acres. Marshall Park originally consisted of 27 acres bought by the city in 1956. Fifteen acres were added in 1978 and a Holocaust memorial was erected near the bathhouse in 1997.
11. Northeast Park
A cyclocross practice area can be found in the largely wide-open, 230-acre Northeast Park. The park also includes a playground, basketball court and walking path.
12. Olbrich Park
Olbrich Park was named after prominent lawyer Michael Olbrich, who convinced the Madison Parks Foundation to buy shoreline along Starkweather Creek and Lake Monona for use as a park. Olbrich Botanical Gardens and the Bolz Conservatory house more than 750 tropical and subtropical plants and one of only two Thai pavilions in the United States.
13. Olin Park
Olin Park, originally Monona Park, opened in 1919. The Olin Park Pavilion, renovated and restored in 2000, remains the city’s most popular shelter. The park is named after philanthropist John Olin, who was president of the Madison Parks and Pleasure Drive Association from 1892 to 1909. During that period, he helped raise more than $242,000 from ordinary citizens and increased city parkland from 3.5 acres to 229 acres. Olin convinced the city to start issuing bonds for park development in 1903.
14. Orton Park
Orton Park was the city’s only public park outside the capitol grounds until the establishment of Tenney Park in 1899.
15. Picnic Point
Picnic Point, one of Madison’s most popular destinations, is part of the UW–Madison Lakeshore Nature Preserve.
16. Quann Park
Quann Park is an off-leash dog park connected to Goodman Park by the Wingra Creek bike path. Alliant Energy Center uses the park for overflow parking.
17. Quarry Park
Two-plus miles of recently restored mountain bike trail and a pump track at Quarry Park are open to dog walkers and hikers.
18. Tenney Park
In 1899, attorney Daniel Tenney bought 460 feet of frontage along Lake Mendota — what would become Tenney Park — and offered it to the city. The Madison Parks and Pleasure Drive Association raised the money for the city, transforming itself into a de facto city parks department.
19. UW Arboretum
John Nolen’s seminal book “Madison: A Model City,” published in 1911, included “a suggestive plan” with “a really large park” surrounding Lake Wingra — what would become, but not until the 1930s, the 1,200-acre UW Arboretum. Michael Olbrich, a University of Wisconsin regent, brought naturalist Aldo Leopold on board to help with its creation.
20. Warner Park
Warner Park includes a segment of the 1989 Farwell Pleasure Drive and a swimming beach the city bought in 1939. Most of what constitutes the park today was bought in the 1950s. Warner Park is home to the Madison Mallards minor league baseball team. The park also hosted, from 1993 to 2013, the Rhythm & Booms Fourth of July fireworks.
21. Wingra Park
Wingra Park dates back to 1900 when 10 acres were acquired by the Madison Parks and Pleasure Drive Association for a park and boat livery. Canoes, kayaks, paddleboards and pedal boats are still available for rent from the docks.
22. Yahara River Parkway
In 1903, John Olin proposed the city dredge the swampy Yahara River and dedicate its banks as parkland. However, Olin and the parks board would oppose the building of a boathouse designed by a young Frank Lloyd Wright. The stone bridge, built in 1904, was replaced in 2006.
Sources: “Madison: The Illustrated Sesquicentennial History, Volume 1, 1856-1931” by Stu Levitan and Madison’s parks website.
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