Log-roll (or just watch) on Lake Wingra. Started by 19th-century lumberjacks who would test their bravery after driving logs down rivers, log rolling has grown into a competitive athletic event. You can give rolling a try at one of Madison Log Rolling’s free open houses (June 4, June 12 and June 18) or observe competitors practice all summer long, Mondays through Thursdays, at 5 p.m. The log-rolling fun unfolds near the Wingra Boats boathouse at 824 Knickerbocker St.
Strike a pose
Practice your asanas in the park. This year marks the fourth summer of free yoga classes at the Olin Park Pavilion, thanks to a partnership of Friends of Olin-Turville, Madison Parks and the Madison Police Department. Classes begin at 5:30 p.m. on June 2, 9, 16, July 7, 21 and Aug. 4. Focus is on yoga basics and breathing techniques. Mats and props are provided.
Learn to identify native plants and better understand local ecology with free drop-in walks at the UW-Madison Arboretum every Sunday at 1 p.m. Tours of the Arboretum’s Longenecker Horticultural Gardens and the Native Plant Garden, led by Arboretum staff and other local experts, take place Wednesdays at 7 p.m. And there are many more free events throughout the summer, so be sure to check the Arboretum’s event calendar at arboretum.wisc.edu/visit/events.
Portland Cello Project
From honky-tonk to African music to Celtic tunes, the Central Park Sessions offer another rich season of music so good you can’t believe it’s free. Food and beer are sold in this relaxed, neighborhood-festival atmosphere. Support local nonprofits by buying a raffle ticket or two. The final session — the only one held at another park (Olbrich) — features the Portland Cello Project. This all-cello ensemble blurs the lines of genre, playing everything from classical pieces to Kanye West covers. Head over to the east side on Thursday nights starting July 28. Music begins at 5 p.m.
Flicks at the old brickyard
Historic Breese Stevens Field transforms into an outdoor movie theater for three Friday nights this summer with its new Catch & Reel film series. The Incredibles, Star War: The Force Awakens and The Big Lebowski will show on a 30-foot screen on June 10, July 15 and Aug. 12, respectively. Admission is free; beer, wine and food, including a Friday fish fry, will be available for purchase. Doors open at 7 p.m. with movies beginning at 8:30. Bring a lawn chair or blanket and your favorite buddy to snuggle up with under the stars.
l.-r.: Orioles runner Dale Stapleton and Crawfords catcher Sean Michael Dargan.
Men at play
See a serious game of baseball, without buying a ticket. The Men’s Adult Baseball League of Southern Wisconsin gives passionate players the chance to play ball at a competitive level, and sports fans are encouraged to come out and watch the games. Over 20 teams play at East Madison Little League Field at 1010 North St. on Fridays at 6:15 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. and Sundays at one or more of the following times: 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. See mablofsouthernwi.com for a full schedule.
Let us spray
Cool down at a splash park — they’re way better than a sprinkler in the backyard. Madison Parks has three free splash parks (Cypress Way, Reindahl Park and Elver Park), with spray toys and fountains to help keep kids of all ages cool on a hot day. Fitchburg, DeForest and Middleton also have free splash parks.
Dust off your dancing shoes
Thanks to Dane Dances, every Friday in August from 6 to 9:30 p.m. you can dance the night away on the rooftop of Monona Terrace. Irresistibly danceable bands taking the stage include Madisalsa, VO5 and Grupo Candela. Great food, including Venezuelan cuisine from La Taguara, will be for sale.
Mad-City Ski Team
The Mad-City Ski Team is a volunteer water skiing team that performs free shows all summer long at Law Park on Lake Monona. Cheer from the shore as the award-winning team shows off jumps, flips and innovative routines. Skiers range from little kids to people in their 50s, some of whom have professional skiing experience at Tommy Bartlett and Sea World. Shows are held most Sundays, Memorial Day to Labor Day, beginning at 5:30 p.m.
Food and fringe benefits
Visit one of more than 10 neighborhood farmers’ markets all over Madison and adjacent communities. From free coffee (until it’s gone) at the Westside Community Farmers’ Market to face painting and crafts for kids at the Monroe Street market, each spot has its own attractions — in addition to fresh fruits and vegetables. Many also host live music and family-friendly activities. There’s a farmers’ market nearly every day of the week; consult the Isthmus.com calendar and check “Farmers’ Markets” under “event categories.”
Get to know Madison on a DIY walking tour. Explore 10 different historic Madison neighborhoods with guidebooks available from the city. First published as brochures that were available at Madison public libraries in the 1980s, these guides are now long out of print, but the city has made them available again as PDF downloads at cityofmadison.com/planning/walktour.html. Despite their age, much of the information in the guides is still accurate. A walking tour is a fun way to spend an afternoon outdoors and you’re sure to see your neighborhood in a whole new way.
Farm in the city
From learning about passive solar to cultural considerations in gardening, the Sol Levin Memorial Trail at Troy Gardens offers a surprisingly rich self-guided tour of Troy co-housing, the community gardens and adjacent lands, which include a restored prairie and an urban farm. (The trail is named after affordable housing advocate Sol Levin, who spearheaded the Troy Gardens project.) Trail guides are available at the kiosk on the left side of the driveway into the co-housing at 570 Troy Drive, or you can download or print it from the Community GroundWorks website. Taste a cherry or peach from their “edible landscape” area, surround yourself with fragrances in the herb garden, and listen to the songbirds that have returned in strong numbers thanks to the restoration of natural areas.
India Viola (left) and Ali Dwyer of We Are All Mechanics will lead bike rides and host maintenance mini-lessons.
Riding around Lake Monona is a classic summer pastime, but riding with a group of friends is even better. Beginning Aug. 1, We Are All Mechanics, whose mission is to empower people through bicycle education, hosts “Mondays Around Monona.” These leisurely rides, which follow the city’s designated Lake Loop bike route, leave from the intersection of the Capital City Bike Path and Fair Oaks Avenue. You’ll learn something, too. Each week, there’ll be a featured theme, from chain maintenance to shifting techniques.