May 15, 2012
07:30 AM

Madison Parks: Picnics and Fun for Everyone

Madison Parks: Picnics and Fun for Everyone

For a moderately sized city of about 235,000 people, Madison sure has a lot of parks––247 to be exact. Each one has its own personality and unique feature but they all share a commonality: each park is a potential picnic spot. Tucked under a tree at Hoyt Park, or stretched out in the open expanse of Olbrich Park, Madison and its surrounding cities are teeming with beautiful destinations for your next outdoor meal.

I talked with Laura Whitmore of the City of Madison Parks to get her two cents on the best picnic parks in the city, and those hidden gems that you might not think of after you’ve packed your basket.

While Madison offers parks for every type of picnic, I am dividing my post for today into parks for romance and parks for family fun.

Romance:

“For romance, James Madison Park is a great one,” Whitmore says. Nestled between Lake Mendota and E. Gorham St, this downtown getaway offers 12 acres of greenery for any mood. The green grass hill near where the park intersects with Blount Street offers a great view of the lake and seclusion from the Frisbee-throwing and basketball bouncing down below. Grab a couple sandwiches at Mildreds nearby on Johnson and head there for a relaxing afternoon picnic. No alcohol allowed though.

flowers at Hoyt Park in Madison

What could be more romantic than a picnic over candlelight? How about a picnic over a fire you built! If this is your idea of a picturesque evening, then head to one of the 12 newly restored stone fireplaces at Hoyt Park (pictured above) and really see sparks fly. After your picnic/grill out, take a hike through lush prairie and forest habitat.

warner beach park

You have probably been to Warner Park, but have you picnicked in Warner Beach Park (pictured above)? Right along Lake Mendota, this park is the calmer little brother to all the happenings and parties in Warner Park. Go fishing, take a swim, revel in the sun and then walk across the expanse of grass to watch the Mallards play.

Heritage Park Sanctuary

Family fun:

“Go today because the trilliums are in bloom!” Whitmore quips about HeritagePark and Sanctuary (pictured above). Mid-May is a great time to take the family out of the house to discover something new while the temperatures are not scorching yet. Half the family can play tennis or bike while the other half hikes in the serene sanctuary, then meet back up for a picnic in the cool shade of the shelter.

Looking for the best park to teach your kid how to ride a bike? Look no further than Northland Manor Park, Whitmore says. This park has a congruous sidewalk around the entire perimeter. Your new rider won’t have to cross any streets and you can watch from the grass. Make sure you bring your basket to take advantage of the shaded shelter to eat lunch.

wexford park, Madison WI

Add Wexford Park (pictured above) to your list of good picnic spots, especially if you enjoy flowers or have kids who can handle more challenging play equipment like a climbing net. Bring the family to the fields for a soccer game, have lunch under a sun shelter then go for a hike in the woods across the street.

Photos courtesy Madison Parks

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