by Alison Crim
on Friday, July 9th, 2021 at 11:31am.
8 Spots to Cool Off in the Madison Area
With the crazy sweltering heat we've been having this summer, it has been more than usually necessary to cool off in some form of water on a nearly daily basis. I don't know about you, but my kiddo simply cannot handle "the hotness" (nor can I really) so I have to have an arsenal of ideas ready at a moments' or locations' notice. Since I've lived in Madison almost my whole life, I've got a few standbys on my list that I've been visiting since I was a LIFEGUARD at one of my fave spots way back in high school! Crazy, right? And having a busy 4-year-old at my hip has only broadened my knowledge of our favorite pools, splash pads and beaches. So, here it is. Eowyn and Solveig's favorite spots to COOL OFF around Madison!
Number 1, and this is my former lifeguarding spot, full disclosure, is Goodman Aquatic Center in Verona. Now I am NOT talking about Goodman Pool in the heart of Madison (which will come later in the list). This pool is built into the Jewish Federation of Madison's Irwin A. and Robert D. Goodman Jewish Community Campus on the far west side, where they host Camp Shalom all summer long, but open the pool to the public after camp hours. Take County Rd PD west past University Ridge into the countryside. Kiddos can enjoy the zero-depth entry and "mushroom" water features (Eowyn's fave), adults can enjoy the lap lanes and the idyllic view of pines and rolling hills poolside. Whenever I tell my friends about this pool, I am astonished that so few in Madison know it exists! Normally admission is $5 per person, but this year (due to covid) they are offering full season memberships only at reasonable prices.
Next up, we'll head to the beach. Schluter Beach in Monona to be specific! Schluter is a neighborhood favorite. Across from the infamous Monona Bait & Ice Cream Shop on Winnequah, the beach is a cute little spot to splash in the waves, or set up your beach chair right in the water and read a book. Kids love it because it also has a pirate ship themed playground right there! There's a picnic shelter and picnic tables under the mature oak trees. The beach also has a dock if you want to pull up your boat and pop in just for some ice cream. We've definitely done that a time or two! I added the link to the Dane County Public Health site for Schluter Beach, because as with all our lakes, I like to check the water quality before I pack up the kid and the car for a swim.
Now for Eowyn's round of 3 splash pads - Lakeview Park in Middleton, the Splash Pad at McKee Farms Park in Fitchburg, and Nordic Ridge Splash Pad in Stoughton. Why weren't splash pads a thing when we were kids? What a simple, inexpensive and satisfying concept for our community parks! Eowyn loves Lakeview Park in Middleton because it has SO much to offer. The splash pad is little but very cute. And there are 2 playgrounds close by - including the super colorful playground donated by American Girl. Eowyn calls it the "spider" park because it has a spider web-shaped rope-climbing structure. I have a soft spot for the splash pad in McKee Farms Park because of its endearingly clever farm theme. Tractors, windmill, roasters, chickens, this pad has the most creative water features IMO. This splash pad is nearly always pretty busy, so just plan on it and bring lawn chairs, umbrellas, so the grown-ups have a shady place to sit. There are picnic tables that are both covered and in the sun, but they can get pretty crowded. Even so, it's such a fun splash pad for the kids, and if you get your fill of the water, you can head over to Kids Crossing playground or just take a walk on the nice paved trails through the park. Eowyn's final fave is the splash pad at Nordic Ridge Park in Stoughton, because, well, it's really close to where we live. It's also a little known splash pad in the greater community - Stoughtonites know it, but I doubt others do, so it's NEVER crowded. (Maybe it will be after I write this!!) It has a simple primary-colored theme and a very cute accessible playground next door. It also has lots of shaded space for the adults.
Heading back to the pool, I'll take you to 2 of the best public pools within Madison - there's Goodman Pool, of course, on Olin Ave. Another former lifeguarding spot, it's also pretty regularly busy, but has a huge zero-entry area with water features that is GREAT for kids. There is a clear division between the shallow area and the "deep end", so I can tell Eowyn "not to cross the brown line" on the pool bottom and as long as she listens, she knows exactly where she can be and where she can stand. The infamous water slides are there for the big kids, there are lap swim lanes, and lots of shaded areas to sit underneath. You should plan to bring lawn chairs or towels, because the facility doesn't have any lounge chairs. BYOC. They have lockers as well, though they are not being allowed use this summer.
Monona Community Pool is another favorite. This is the first place Eowyn took swimming lessons! It's great location right by Monona Public Library and Winnequah Park cannot be beat. It has a separate kiddy pool for the littles (no zero-entry at the main pool here), great swimming space and a water slide too. Lots of space around the edge of the pool to sit, and they DO have chairs on site. The parking lot is pretty small, so plan ahead that you may have to do street parking and do some walking.
The last spot on our list is another beach, and this beach is NOT on the Madison chain of lakes! East of Madison in Cambridge is a small spring-fed lake called Lake Ripley. My grandparents grew up coming to this lake so it holds a special place in my heart. The public beach is at the huge community Ripley Park, which has just had a major facelift this year! Brand new playground alert! You can get a season pass for $25, seriously. Otherwise it's $2 for adults, $1 for kids. Have you ever HEARD of anything so cheap anymore? Everytime I've visited on a weekday, we've been one of maybe 4-5 groups on the long beach. The water is super shallow the whole length of the beach - an adult can walk out probably 50 feet from shore and the water is only up to the knees. The whole beach is sandy, with some small pebbles at the shoreline. We like to build sandcastles and decorate them with pebbles! Another fun fact about Lake Ripley - Ole Evinrude, who grew up on a farm near Cambridge, started boating on Lake Ripley as a kid...which inspired him to move off the farm to Milwaukee where he invented the outboard motor in 1907.
There are so many other wonderful pools, beaches and water parks in Madison and the surrounding communities, I can't wait to get out and explore more with Eowyn. If you are inspired to check out one of my favorite spots from reading, post a photo to social media and tag me @theonetheonlysolveig! I want to see all the adventuring you're doing! Do you have a favorite spot that I missed?? Tell me about it! Drop it in the comments, and Eowyn & I will head straight there! I know Eowyn will give me her very honest opinion. Happy swimming & splashing!