In case I haven't mentioned it here recently, I think Madison's a pretty cool town! There's the zoo (it's FREE), a great children's museum, and of course the farmer's market.
But, although we've been here for four years now (wow, has it really been four years already?!?) we're still discovering and becoming part of other Madison traditions and opportunities.
For example, Concerts on the Square. I know free concerts in a park with some sort of live musician(s) are not a tradition original to Madison. My first experience with one of these was in London, actually, but I know it's common all over... However, it's something that happens every summer in Madison, on the capitol square (the orchestra plays on the steps, pretty cool), and not just one week, or two, but for every week for six weeks each summer!
We've made a concert intentionally one other time since moving here, and another time we happened to be downtown when it was going on, but before this summer one child or the other was not really big enough to last for a whole concert. We've made it twice now this summer, and I think we'll continue to try to be there regularly.
Basically, the whole lawn of the capitol square becomes a giant picnicking/relaxing/chatting sprawl of concert attenders. To take part you simply place blankets or chairs or much more elaborate set ups on the lawn. (I didn't get a picture of these, but some people actually have custom made tables just for this purpose and bring/buy a gourmet meal and sip wine while the concert moves along--sounds relaxing to be sure, but we are not in that life stage right now!)
It's an eclectic mix of young and old, dressy and casual, well-to-do and working class. There are kids playing and dancing on the mall and collections of seniors in their rocking lawnchairs tapping in time to the beat and a lot of everyone in betwen. Everyone comes together for one purpose and puts aside their differences for the evening. And it's totally Madison. Love it!
We really enjoyed the music both times, though I'd have to say as much as I enjoy classical music, hearing an orchestra playing movie themes live just really cannot be beat, so the week the whole program was epic movie themes has to be my favorite. The kids enjoyed the music as well, but hands down their favorite part was the treat we got the first week. Rather that purchasing individual ice cream cones for everyone from the vendor and spending a good chunk of the entertainment budget for the month in the process (somewhat defeating the whole point of a FREE event) we instead stopped at a corner grocery store and got a 1/2 gallon and a package of cones. Total cost: just shy of $4, and out of the grocery budget to boot. :) Extra bonus: the kids thought nothing could be cooler than making their own ice cream cones and eating straight from the carton. Mommy loved the fact that it was all outside and everthing that got coated in sticky ice cream hands could either be left behind, wiped down, or tossed in the washing machine upon our arrival home!
We're loving summer time here in Madison (though it's been a bit chilly) and are looking forward to the fun continuing into fall, which somehow seems to be just around the corner. How about you? What's your favorite free summertime activity with or without kiddos?