There’s so much going on in Madison in the summertime, it can actually get overwhelming . . . and expensive! So, here are a few of my favorite free summer activities for kids and families happening this summer. Even better, none of these freebies require registration or much planning (because who has time for that?). And most of them run all summer long. Let the free summer fun begin!
Chill Out at the Movies
There’s nothing better than escaping a hot day in an ice cold movie theater. The American Family Kids Dream Family Movie Series runs June 24 through August 29 at Marcus Theatres’ Point Cinema and Palace Cinema. Get all the details and print your free passes (otherwise, admission is $3) at www.amfam.com/kidsdream. Insider tips: Arrive early to get a great seat–some shows do sell out. And don’t forget a blanket or sweater. It can get deliciously chilly in the theaters.
Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’ on the Lake
Once the domain of 19th century lumberjacks, log rolling is now a serious sport that’s loads of fun to watch! See the rollers of Madison Log Rolling practice their rolling most weekdays all summer long; the full schedule of classes (which are open to the public to watch) is available at their website. Itching to jump on a log? Kids age five and up (and grown-ups, too!) can actually try log rolling at one of Madison Log Rolling’s free open houses on June 10 and 16 from 12 to 2 p.m. Event details are at their website and the log-rolling action unfolds near the Wingra Boats boathouse at 824 Knickerbocker St.
Bier and Babies
Have you been to the Biergarten at Olbrich Park yet? During early evenings in summer, families flock there to enjoy lake breezes and a view of the Capitol. The beer isn’t free, but carry-ins of food and nonalcoholic beverages are welcome, so you don’t need to spend a penny to enjoy the Biergarten. The centerpiece of the Biergarten (at least for my family) is a big, toy-stocked sandbox. On Tuesdays, from 5:30-6:30 p.m., children’s musician Rich Bauman performs. Check the Biergarten’s website or Facebook page for more details.
The Art Cart, a joint initiative from MMoCA and MSCR, brings free outdoor art programs to parks, playgrounds, and beaches across Dane County all summer long. Families can drop in with no pre-registration necessary; programs are intended for children age three and older. With more than 40 locations, chances are the Art Cart will be in your neighborhood sometime soon. You can see a map of locations and a full schedule here.
Ski Show Sundays
The Mad-City Ski Team is an award-winning water skiing team that performs free shows all summer long at Law Park on Lake Monona. Bring a blanket and snack and cheer on the skiers–including kids as young as six–as they show off their jumps and flips. Free shows are held most Sundays all summer long, beginning at 5:15 or 6:00 p.m. Check their schedule for specific showtimes.
Dance the Night Away
Get out your calendar now. Got it? Okay. Block off every single Friday night in August (there are 5 of them this year!). Why? Your whole family is going to shake your booties on the rooftop of Monona Terrace with Dane Dances, of course! Music begins at 5:30 p.m. and this summer’s line up includes salsa band Nabori, R&B from The Voices, local disco fave VO5, and many others! Food is available for purchase, but you’re also welcome to bring a picnic. Blankets and chairs are okay, too.
Have a great–and cost-effective–summer, everybody!
Oh, and if you know of other free kid-friendly things to do in the Madison area, feel free to add them in the comments.