Neighborhood Spotlight: Everything You Need to Know About Waunakee, WI
“Waunakee” is a Native American name meaning “fair and pleasant valley.” The Village of Waunakee is downright lovely. It sits just north of Lake Mendota, about a 25 minutes from Downtown Madison. It lives in a sun-dappled valley with a historic downtown, many new subdivisions, and an active community.
History of Waunakee
Sparks from grinding railroad tires and tracks ignited the need for a village to live and trade. In 1864 a railroad was built through the Waunakee plains. With the ribbon-cutting grew a need for a town.
Two early settlers, Louis Baker and George C. Fish swooped in on the opportunity. They owned land along the railroad line. It was decided their property would be an ideal spot to build a village. Their entrepreneurial spirit still energizes the town. 100 years after the ribbon was cut, the town continues to grow, evolve, and expand.
If you’re a history buff, you can view photos of historic town dances, the first high school, and more here. You can also take an audio tour of the History of Waunakee, assembled in 2012 by students at Waunakee High School.
There is a lively farming community in Waunakee. Non-farming locals can enjoy the farm-fresh food grown by their neighbors at the Waunakee area farmers market.
Waunakee is an area of increasing popularity. For this reason, there are many brand-new subdivisions and home builds in Waunakee. Residents of these communities revel in the low maintenance nature of a brand-new construction. Developers flex their master-planning skills in neighborhoods like Savannah Village.
But if classic-style homes are more your speed, you can find historic-style homes walking distance from downtown Waunakee.
Recreation in Waunakee
If you find yourself stuck in a quarantine rut, you can find a socialization outlet at Waunakee’s Virtual Recreation Center. The city chamber has organized all sorts of activities. You can complete a scavenger hunt, play BINGO, or enter the virtual “Positive Things” contest.
Impressively, there are 272.59 acres of parks located in Waunakee Village. You can find a complete list of parks here. But here are a few beautiful spots that stand out:
This spot is one of Waunakee’s newest greenspaces. You can find it bordering the west side of Southbridge Subdivision (which is a great space to look for a house!). This park has both classic and nostalgic park amenities. Soccer fields, baseball fields, and playground equipment are all available in the park. But you’ll also find a tire swing and 12.7 acres on which to roam.
One of the Village’s most used parks. It hosts the WaunaFest festival each year in July and is commonly known as one of the area’s most popular, and most actively used parks.
Ripp Park is the largest park in the area. Wetlands border the park, so wildlife spotting is common. Families frequently visit Ripp Park for sports practices and games. It’s home to multiple fields, diamonds, and sports complexes. Walking trails are scattered throughout the greenspace. The sledding area is a popular sport in the winter.
Every year, Ripp Park hosts Waunakee’s Relay for Life Race in June.
Montondon park has a picturesque covered bridge and convenient access to the Arboretum walking paths. It’s accessible from the Savannah Village Subdivision. The views are so lovely that the Parks and Recreation department has built an observation platform.
Waunakee public schools are very well respected. With a 98% graduation rate, Waunakee High ranks:
It’s easy for both adults and children to get involved locally. There are plenty of opportunities for youth to join sports teams or for adults to participate in softball and basketball leagues! Youth enrichment leagues are available to the children of Waunakee. They offer nearly 60 hours of robotics and coding curriculums. There are guitar lessons, rocketry, woodworking, and sewing camps as well—so many ways to expand the mind outside of the classroom.
The annual traditions in the village of Waunakee are super creative. Here are a few of our favorites:
Annual Candlelight Hike
Every February the trails of the Castle Creek Conservancy are lit with candles. Locals can participate in a self-guided hike at specific time slots. There’s even a twilight option for those who aren’t confident walking in semi-darkness. Dressing for the weather is crucial, as the weather is often frigid in Wisconsin this time of year. But for the properly bundled couple, this event is memorable and romantic.
The slogan “It’s Where You’ll Wanna Be!” is correct. Most Waunakee locals wanna be at the festival in July. There’s something for everyone at WaunaFest. They’ve got carnival rides, beer gardens, live music, a softball tournament, a fun run, a craft show, fantastic food, a parade, and a car show.
Is it a 4th of July thing? Nope.
Do we need a reason? It’s a fun opportunity to be festive and get the community together!
Locals celebrate German heritage… in a big way. The Waunakee version of Oktoberfest is so involved that it was even featured in Travel Mag. A jam-packed weekend at Wauktoberfest includes live music, helicopter rides, a Limburger cheese eating contest, keg races, a home-brew contest, and all the spaetzle you can eat.
Chalk the Kee Event
Chalk the Key is a chance to fill the village with color and creativity. Everyone who registers is given a box of chalk and a 6×6 foot space to color. Then, each group lets their creative energy out onto the streets of Waunakee. The city is totally transformed into an explosion of color. A group of judges determines each year’s winner. But even if you’re not participating in the competition, it’s an amazing experience. Walking around town and appreciating the local artistic ability is a lovely way to spend an afternoon.
Best Places to Dine and Drink in Waunakee
Named the best coffee in Waunakee, M-N-M’s is a great spot for a hot (or cold!) drink, a light lunch, or for catching up on your reading or work.
Locals say “this is where you’ll meet the real Waunakee”. This local hotspot located in a small house, offers great service, small-town hospitality. It’s the place where the locals hangout.
Known as “Waunakee’s Best Kept Secret” this family-owned business has something for everyone. Classic American fare with steak, seafood, and friendly service.
Lone Girl Brewing
Their lively patio atmosphere and communal tables are the perfect way to pass a sunny Saturday… and get a soft-pretzel fix. Is anyone interested in trying a carrot brew? Lone Girl gets pretty creative with their seasonal blends. But they also keep local favorites on tap year-round.
Homes for Sale in Waunakee
Waunakee is a great place to call home. If you’re curious about it, search homes for sale in Waunakee.