we are leaving for madison wisconsin soon. any recommendations about how to meet other parents, resources for children (ours is currently 1.5 years), anything similar to this ucb electronic newsletter.... any info at all... is very welcome. thanks.
My sister lives in Madison. She recommends Children's Museum on the Square, Vilas zoo, Saturday morning kid's shows in the Civic Center (maybe summer only?), 4C's childcare reference service, lots of city parks (any local terms in the above will be clear when you arrive). Just do what you like to do and you'll meet folks with kids doing the same thing...it's a very kid-focused city
My brother just moved to Madison recently, and had this to say in response to inquiries about that city: I'd say that the single most important thing would be to choose the neighborhood you move to with care. There are lots of neighborhoods in Madison that are dominated by young, single, undergraduate renters, especially near the University, and a few upscale areas (I'm thinking of Shorewood Hills, in particular) where there are relatively more retired people, or people whose kids are grown, and relatively fewer families with young children. If I were you I'd avoid these, and stick to places where families with younger children predominate.
When we moved to Madison we wanted to live in a neighborhood with lots of younger children, on a wide, flat, tree-lined street where kids can play or ride their bikes without fear of getting run down by cars. We scoped out neighborhoods by walking around, talking to people we met on the street, speaking with our realtor, and asking people at my new job with kids. (If you're moving here in the middle of winter, of course, you'll be at a disadvantage because you won't see so many people playing outside.)
The newer subdivisions, especially on the far west side, have a suburban feel: the development pattern emphasizes curving streets and cul-de-sacs, with most commercial development occurring in malls (strip or otherwise). They'll remind you of Concord or Danville. Closer to the center of town, the houses are older, the streets have more of a grid pattern, and the commercial areas have a more natural pattern (stores cropping up in districts rather than contained in malls), like you find on College or Solano in Berkeley. Which style you prefer is pretty personal, and probably depends a lot on where you grew up.
Another way to meet parents is through your child's day care center or preschool. We've met a lot of parents that way, and my guess is you'll have a similar experience at any place you choose. But for the rest of the day, and on weekends, it's still nice to have parents and kids around your neighborhood. Another suggestion: try to live within walking distance of a nice park with play equipment and grass -- parents with young kids will flock there in the Spring and Summer.
Overall, you're moving to a very family-friendly place -- far more so than most places I've lived. Congratulations, I think you're gonna love it