If you’re looking for a break from the same old campus or for an adventure, there are various attractions and hidden gems in Madison to see and experience.

Whether you’re an out-of-state student or a ‘Scon’ through and through, the wonders of Wisconsin will never cease to amaze you. Here are a few cool spots you should definitely check out before you finish your first year at the University of Wisconsin.

Lake Wingra

Located at 824 Knickerbocker Street, right off Monroe Street, rentals such as canoes, kayaks, paddleboards and row boats can be rented out with starting prices for the first hour as low as $14. Open 7 days a week from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., you can host parties in their grilling and picnic area if you’re looking for the atypical get-together with friends. What’s better than kayaking on a peaceful, pretty lake on a nice summer day? Nothing. 

Henry Vilas Zoo

Next time you’re throwing a frisbee around at Henry Vilas Park, make sure to stop by next door to Madison’s only zoo. They have lions, tigers and best of all — badgers. Open from daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., there are countless exhibits available for students and families alike, such as a goat feeding exhibit and a reptile exhibit. Parking and admission are free of charge, so there really is no excuse to miss out.

Picnic Point

Located at 2002 University Bay Drive, Picnic Point provides a beautiful scenic view of Lake Mendota and the Capitol building. It’s approximately a three-mile run from Memorial Union, so the Lakeshore path provides a great backdrop for your daily dose of cardio. But if running isn’t really your thing — I feel you — don’t fret because you can always drive out to PP and have your own little picnic with friends.     

James Madison Park

Situated just along the curvature of Lake Mendota, this park provides not only an aesthetically pleasing view, but a great space for yoga, throwing around a ball, a game of volleyball, tanning, reading a good book or simply cartwheeling around the grass. Located at 614 East Gorham Street, it’s not too far from campus, yet just far enough to feel as if you’re getting away for a bit. Open daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., James Madison Park provides the perfect getaway for UW students. 

Devil’s Lake

This is where your inner “wanderlustful” self will truly shine as the hiking, camping and views for day will make for the perfect adventure in the great outdoors. Whether you’re passionate about exercising or just want to #DoItForTheSelfie, you should definitely pay a visit. The obscure configurations of rocks within the mountains encircle the lake. Sorry Minnesota, a new state takes the crown for the greatest quantity of lakes and, I must say, there is something special about Wisconsin’s lakes that no others can mimic. Open to the public from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day, a trip to Devil’s Lake is a must for UW students.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

With 16 acres of outdoor gardens and an indoor tropical conservatory available to the public every day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Olbrich Botanical Gardens provides a beautiful getaway for UW students and Madison families alike. Admission for the general publicis only $2 and free for children most days. Located at 3330 Atwood Avenue, UW students should take advantage of the free days on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon.

The park also holds concerts and an attraction known as Blooming Butterflies on select dates. If dorm life is getting a tad bit too stuffy or if homework and assignments are stressing you out, you might as well take a break from it all and surround yourself with nature to relax, observe and enjoy.