Freshman year can be a stressful time. You’re learning to manage a new, often heavier workload, taking care of yourself, and being a (baby) adult. Spending time in nature can be a great way to manage the anxieties that accompany the first year of college. Luckily, the UW-Madison campus provides a number of beautiful green spaces in which students can destress.
1. Lakeshore Preserve
Occupying over 300 acres and stretching all the way from Memorial Union to the Wally Bauman Woods, the Lakeshore Nature Preserve is an accessible, beautiful place to spend time outdoors. Whether you’re walking along the path, having a fire out at Picnic Point or hammocking on the shore of Lake Mendota, you’re sure to enjoy the Preserve’s natural beauty. As you explore, keep an eye out for some of the many Native American burial mounds that dot the landscape.
2. Memorial Union Terrace
The iconic Memorial Union Terrace offers a breathtaking view of Lake Mendota, along with tasty food and drinks. Take some time to sit at a table in one of the Union’s sunburst chairs or walk along the lakeshore. Keep an eye out for ducks and muskrats as you go!
3. UW Arboretum
Though a bit far from campus, the UW Arboretum is worth the trek. Home to 17 miles of trails for walking, running and biking, the Arboretum also offers visitors the opportunity to see conifers of all kinds in the Longenecker Horticultural Garden, in addition to many native plant species. Just like the Lakeshore Preserve, the Arboretum is home to burial and effigy mounds, many of which can be seen from the trails.
4. Botany Garden
The UW Botany Department has some of its best work on display in the Botany Garden. Located directly behind Birge Hall, the garden features a variety of plants and quiet spaces for contemplation. Rumor has it there’s even a chipmunk nesting under the bridge! Pro-tip, the Garden makes for a great shortcut when walking from class to class.
5. Botany and Horticulture Greenhouses
There are a number of different greenhouses on campus, many of which are open to the public. The Botany Greenhouses, located in Birge Hall, contain a variety of plants from many different regions of the world, including an absolutely massive cycad and many very pokey opuntias. The greenhouses can only be accessed through the basement of Birge (a fun adventure!). Closer to the Lakeshore side of campus, check out the D.C. Smith Horticultural Greenhouse, which offers many comfy places to sit inside its conservatory, in addition to a teeny-tiny koi pond.
6. Allen Centennial Garden
The Allen Centennial Garden is a beautiful spot right across from Slichter Residence Hall. Sit on the porch of the old Agricultural Dean's house, say hi to the numerous koi that call the garden home or plop down somewhere with a good book. The garden is maintained by a team of UW staff and students with expertise in horticulture and natural sciences, and there is almost always something in bloom.