Cool off indoors while gazing at some of the 5,000 works that make up the permanent collection of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (free admission), which includes works by Frida Kahlo, Roy Lichtenstein, and Cindy Sherman. The current main exhibition, "One must know the animals" (through August 19), considers the relationship between animals and artists and features selections by Thomas Hart Benton and Roy De Forest. Take a break in the sculpture garden on top of the César Pellidesigned building, or grab a snack at Fresco, the glass-walled café with terrace seating.
See the mark left on the area by Wisconsin native Frank Lloyd Wright by touring two of his local works, starting on the lakefront at Monona Terrace (daily one-hour tours at 1:00 p.m.; $3). The rounded convention center, which bears a similarity to Wright’s Guggenheim Museum, was proposed in 1938, but the building wasn’t completed until 1997, in a modified format that had been adapted by Anthony Puttnam, who worked with Wright. Contrast its striking curves with the angular limestone, copper, and glass structure of the Unitarian Meeting House (call in advance to arrange a tour; $10), completed in 1951 on the west side of town.
Wander sixteen acres of artfully tended flora at the Olbrich Botanical Gardens (free admission; $2 for the Bolz Conservatory) on Lake Monona. Spot native midwestern plants outside and hundreds of tropical species inside the Bolz Conservatory. Don’t miss the ornate Thai Pavilion, a gift from the Thai government to the university, which hosts one of the largest populations of Thai students in the U.S.