Memorial Day was established as a way to honor our fallen soldiers. The holiday began after the Civil War and through the years has become a yearly landmark. There are rarely war memorials that are both solemn and uplifting. But somehow, Memorial Day has become just that.

Although summer solstice isn’t until June 21st, we’ve culturally begun to recognize Memorial Day Weekend as the official beginning of summer. School is out. Pools and beaches are opening. The scent of charcoal grills fills the air. And everybody loves a 3 day weekend!

Memorial Day (like the 4th of July or Halloween) is a time when the city of Madison truly becomes alive. A city-wide positive energy buzzes throughout our parks and breweries. Memorial day means sunny days and good times. It’s exactly what we need after a long winter. Fun events pop up all over town. Here are all the city-wide events happening this Memorial Day weekend.

Run Madtown Half Marathon, 10K, and 5K

Although we get why some people think running a marathon is an insane way to spend a holiday… there is something wonderful about race day energy. There is a communal struggle (followed by glorious achievement) that in many ways is an apt analogy for what Memorial Day is all about.  Family, friends, and neighbors line the streets to cheer on racers. Somehow there are always cowbells and silly costumes. After wearing yourself out with a morning run, the rest of your holiday is bound to be relaxing (nap on the beach, anyone?!).

This year’s course:

  • Begins on State/ Langdon
  • Follows the shoreline of Lake Mendota
  • Dips through the University
  • Snakes through the Nakoma Golf Club and the Arboretum
  • Follows the Shoreline of Lake Wingra

Free food and beer are available for racers after they cross the finish line. Dogs and strollers are welcome to join in the fun.

Register here.

Madtown Scrumdown

The Madison Minotaurs Rugby Club will host the 3rd annual Memorial Weekend Scrumdown. It’s so much more than a rugby tournament. It’s an entire weekend of camaraderie and events.

On Friday, May 27th FIVE Nightclub will be hosting a meet and greet. Grab wristbands, enjoy free beer, and mingle with the other attendees.

On Saturday, May 28th, you can begin the day by checking out the morning farmers’ market on Capitol Square. The tournoment begins at 10:00am. Free lunch and a drag show will happen at 1:00 pm. Rugby games will resume in the afternoon. A celebratory afterparty will be held at FIVE nightclubs at 9 pm.

Optional celebrations and a pub crawl for tournament participants will be happening on Sunday.

Get tickets here. 

Brat Fest 

All weekend the 40th annual Brat Fest will be happening on Willow Island. This is a 3-day, family-friendly event. Carnival rides will light up the island. Volleyball, cornhole games, and an adult obstacle course are ongoing throughout the weekend. So will live music. A new band plays every hour, on the hour at the main stage. A large bounce zone will help the kiddos work off all the energy they got from their plates of brats. A petting zoo will be set up whenever you need a break.

Make sure to take the time to check out the Vietnam War Memorial, set up in honor of Memorial Day.

And of course, all the brats you can eat! This is the perfect family-friendly, all-American event.

Learn more here. 

Service, Parade, and Chicken BBW 

The Village of Cross Plains will be hosting an early morning Memorial Day Parade, followed by a service to honor the true spirit of the day. Stick around after the service for a community barbeque in the park. 

Get details here. 

Free Beer Friday

Who doesn’t like free beer?!

Pop by Winestyles Tasting Station in Sun Prarie for some Free Beer in honor of Memorial Day! 

Monona Memorial Day Parade

This is, by far, the largest parade in Dane County. There are around 100 parade entries every year! Marching bands, local veterans, and unique entertainment all march down the promenade. Vendors set up along the route, and Bucky Badger always makes an appearance. The parade kicks off at 10:00 AM at Monona Grove High School. With the final note of the National Anthem, the parade begins. It heads south down Monona Drive and ends at Village Lanes. Even if you don’t plan on attending the parade, keep an eye out for road closures. 

Learn More. 

Looking for something more low-key? Here are other ways to spend Memorial Day Weekend in Madison. 

If a big event doesn’t feel right for you this memorial day… here are a few other ways you can enjoy your 3 day weekend:

  • Go to the beach

Bring a towel, a cooler, and a frisbee and enjoy the weather at Spring Harbor Beach. Build a sandcastle, go for a swim, or enjoy a relaxing day of sunbathing by the waterside. 

  • Have a picnic  

Pack a lunch from home and enjoy lunch (or a sunset dinner!) at Picnic point. 

  • Kayak 

Rent a kayak from Wingra Boats and explore the water. Take a fishing tackle with you, if that’s your thing!