38 Festivals You Should See
A guide to the festivals this summer -- and beyond.
As Milwaukee starts to wake up from its late winter hibernation, or what some call spring, more and more festivals are starting to pop up. To help you make your choices, we’ve gathered all the festivals — music, eats, arts, you name it — in one list. All events are free unless otherwise stated. And you can link to its webpage by clicking on the title of each festival.
Cuban Day Street Festival – May 16
(The website is from 2014 but this is definitely on for Saturday) Enjoy a $12 all-you-can-eat buffet and a $7 mojito courtesy of Cubanitas as you listen to live Latin music bands. Everyone, from children to adults, is welcome to the event between Mason and Wisconsin on Milwaukee Street.
Jazz in the Park – June 4-September 3 (Thursdays)
Cathedral Square comes alive with Jazz in the Park every Thursday during the summer. The free event features both local and cross-country musicians performing a variety of jazz. Performances start at 6pm with a happy hour special on drinks during the hour before.
PrideFest – June 5-7
All are welcome at the Henry Maier Festival Park during Pridefest. Join in the celebration of the LGBT community through a variety of musical bands and activities. Tickets start at $13 with children 12 and under free. For more information about pricing and purchasing, check out the ticket info.
Show off your Scottish pride at Hart Park in Wauwatosa with Scottish Fest and the Highland Games. Watch a variety of classic events including bagpipe playing, highland dancing, and the parade of tartans. Also enjoy a feast of Scottish food. Adult tickets are $10 but children 12 and under and active military in uniform get in free.
River Rhythms – June 10-August 26 (Wednesdays)
Take in stunning views of downtown, while enjoying a different artist every week at Pere Marquette Park. The free, weekly event is hosted by Westown Assocation.
Polish Fest – June 12-14
“America’s largest Polish festival” at the Henry Maier Festival Park. Shop at the marketplace for authentic Polish goods and listen to classic Polish music.
General admission starts at $12 at the gate or $10 for tickets bought in advance. All tickets are $0.50 from noon to 5 p.m. Friday (but $5 after 5 p.m.). Admission is free for Sunday Mass (gates open at 9:30 a.m. and Mass starts at 10:15 a.m.). Retired and active military personnel with a valid ID get in free on weekends. More info on tickets can be found here.
Locust Street Festival – June 14
Beer and food aplenty can be found on Locust Street, Riverside. Highlights include the beer run/walk, where you race on a track around the neighborhood with four different beer stops. Register early for the race for a discount on the entry fee and a t-shirt. For more information about the Beer Run as well as the entrance form, look over here. (See photos from the festival: 2012, 2013, 2014)
Juneteenth Day Celebration – June 19th
One of the biggest Juneteenth Day celebrations in the country, Milwaukee’s event features a parade from N. 19th St. and W. Atkinson Ave. to N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. A festival follows at N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. between W. Center St. and W. Burleigh St. The event celebrates the end of slavery.
Lakefront Festival of Art – June 19-21
See a wide variety of paintings, jewelry, sculptures, and more at an outdoor festival on the grounds of the Milwaukee Art Museum. Also enjoy food, beer sampling, and children’s activities. General admission is $17 with discounts for students, seniors, and Milwaukee Art Museum Members. Kids 12 and under get in free. You can buy tickets here (once they become available). (See photos from the festival: 2012)
Summer Solstice Music Festival – June 20
Celebrate summer with free, live music and food on North Avenue, Upper East Side. Festival goers can also come to the Arts Avenue to watch in the live creation of art or create art themselves. You can also shop at the arts/crafts fair. (See photos from the festival: 2014)
Summerfest – June 24-28, 30, July 5
Enjoy a variety of bands at “The World’s Largest Music Festival” and by far one of Milwaukee’s largest and most popular festival. Headliners for this year include The Rolling Stones, Florida Georgia Line, Kings of Leon, Keith Urban, Zac Brown Band, Linkin Park, and Ed Sheeran. (See photos from the festival: 2013, 2014)
General admission starts at $19 and weekday admission is $12 when bought between 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. Seniors (60 and older) and children (10 and younger) get in for $7. Infants 2 and under get in free. See the ticket info page for more information.
Cedarburg Strawberry Festival – June 27-28
Satisfy your strawberry sweet tooth in Historic Downtown Cedarburg. Enjoy a variety of classic and experimental strawberry creations including chocolate-covered strawberries, strawberry crepes, strawberry shortcake, strawberry slush, strawberry pancakes, strawberry blush wine, and even strawberry brats. (See photos from the festival: 2014)
Skyline Music Series – July 7-August 18 (Tuesdays)
Can’t get enough live music? Then head over to Kadish Park in the center of Riverwest. Performers include De La Buena, 5 Card Studs, Tweed Funk, and the Extra Crispy Brass Band. (See photos from the festival: 2013)
Live at the Lakefront – July 8-September 2 (Wednesdays)
The lakefront music series returns for 2015 with nine shows at the amphitheater at Discovery World sponsored by the Downtown Rotary Club A bonus over other events, the event has no weather cancellations, it simply moves inside to avoid inclement weather. Bartlotta’s is on-site selling food and drink, but feel free to bring your own carry-ins. The artist schedule has yet to be announced, but will feature a mix of genres.
Bastille Days – July 9-12
Whether you want to sample local French cuisine or shop at a variety of local vendors, Bastille Days in Cathedral Square Park is the outdoor festival for you. (See photos from the festival: 2012, 2013, 2014)
Watch as colorful boats race across the waters of Veterans Park. The festival also features traditional dance, folk music, opera mask and lantern making, and martial arts. Anyone can sign up for the boat races; no experience or equipment is necessary.
Milwaukee Indyfest – July 11-12
Everyone from the young to the young at heart can see vintage cars race each other on the Milwaukee Mile at State Fair Park. Practice races are on Saturday and the actual races for the gold are on Sunday (see the tentative schedule for more information).
Saturday general admission starts at $10 for adults and $5 for children and Sunday general admission starts at $25 for adults and $5 for children. See the ticket info for more information.
Festa Italiana – July 17-19
Enjoy the best of Italian culture at Henry Maier Festival Park. The event includes Italian music and opera, authentic Italian arts/crafts shopping, and of course, Italian cuisine. Tickets are $13 at the gate or $10 when bought in advance. Children 12 and under come in free with an adult. Buy tickets here.
Port Fish Day – July 18
Don’t miss your chance to join in an entire day of fundraising festivities including a fish fry, live music, walk/run, parade, classic car show, arts and crafts show, soccer water fight, and smoked fish eating contest.
German Fest – July 24-26
Grab your favorite stein and a fresh pair of lederhosen and head to Henry Maier Festival Park for shopping at the marktplatz, sheepshead, St Ben’s Run/walk for the Hungry, family fun, and food. Admission starts at $15 for adults or $12 when bought in advance. Seniors (60 and older) and students with a valid ID get in for $7. Children under 12 come in free with an adult. Active military personnel with a valid ID come in free any day all day. See the admissions page for more information on discounts. (See photos from the festival: 2014)
Brady Street Festival – July 25
Walk down one of Milwaukee’s favorite streets while enjoying live music, art vendors, and food. Highlights include the Division BMX Stunt Team, the Casablanca Rumble V Pro Wrestling Ring, and the CFSC Bounce House. And you can bet there will be beer. (See photos from the festival: 2010, 2012, 2014)
Milwaukee Brewfest – July 25
Celebrate one of Milwaukee’s most famous beverages at the Old Coast Guard Pavilion Park along the lakefront. Activities include beer and food sampling, musical performances, and silent auctions for charity. Event starts at 3 p.m. and ends at 7 p.m.
General admission is $50 and designated drivers get in for $15 (with $5 off discounts if bought in advance). VIP tickets (which gives you early admission along with other perks) are available in advance for $75. You can buy tickets here. (See photos from the festival: 2010)
Milwaukee Air and Water Show – July 25-26
Come to Bradford and McKinley Beach to witness death-defying stunts from the best and brightest of the US Air Force and Jet Teams while supporting the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight charity. Reserve seating and parking passes are going to be available for purchase soon.
Bronzeville Week – August 1-8
Inspired by “the primary African-American economic and social hub of its time,” Bronzeville Week is a relatively new festival in Milwaukee featuring a variety of events. The weeklong event features everything from health screenings and business resource seminars to live painting, lots of live music and
Milwaukee Comedy Festival – August 6-9
The Comedy Festival at Historic Turner Ballroom has been tickling funny bones for ten years. The festival features many groups around the US and Canada specializing in stand-up, improv, and sketch comedy.
Wisconsin State Fair – August 6-16
A Wisconsin tradition in its own right, the State Fair boasts one the the largest animal, food, and flower competitions in the country. Visitors are treated to musical performances, family activities, and as many fried foods and pastries as they can eat. Tickets are $12 for Adults 12 and older, $7 for seniors 60 and older and military/veterans with ID, $6 for youth 6-11, and free for children 5 and younger. (See photos from the festival: 2014)
Irish Fest – August 13-16
You don’t need to be lucky to find fun at Irish Fest. In addition to the marketplace, food, and live music, festival goers can also see the baking contest, sample whiskey at the Jameson Lounge, and enter the red hair and freckles contests. General admission is $17 with seniors getting in for $12 and children getting in free. For more information on discounts and purchasing, click here.
Milwaukee A La Carte – August 20-23
(Website from 2014, but these are correct dates for this year.) Come enjoy food with a furry (or scaly, feathery, etc.) friend. Around 30 restaurants offer food to Milwaukee County Zoo goers as they listen to local and national musical performers. Tickets are $14.25 with discounts for seniors and children. Parking is $12.
Mexican Fiesta – August 21-23
Celebrate the very best of Mexican culture at the Henry Maier Festival Park with food, art galleries, arts and crafts, and a Fiesta Walk for diabetes and obesity awareness. Tickets are $15 for adults and free for children 8 and under. Pre-sale tickets are available for $13.
PetFest – August 29
A fest of furry friends awaits you at this BYOP (bring your own pet) event at the Henry Maier Festival Park. Activities include a marketplace for toys and kibble, an agility course, dock diving, and competitions for prizes. Free admission and free parking.
TosaFest – September 11-12
A weekend of food, music, and fun awaits you at one of Milwaukee’s favorite villages. Activities include the Badgerland Striders Run (on September 6) and a cupcake and chili contest.
Indian Summer Festival – September 11-13
Head on over to the Henry Maier Festival Park for music, food, marketplace shopping, and activities such as a Pow Wow and Dylan’s Run for autism awareness and fundraising. Tickets are $14 for adults, $10 for seniors, and free for children 12 and under. Advance discount tickets will be available for purchase soon. You can donate school supplies on select dates and times to get in free (more info here).
Bay View Bash – September 19
Come to the beautiful neighborhood of Bay View for a night of music and fun. Activities include cooking demos, a strong man competition, and an old school party jams stage with DJ D-ON. (See photos from the festival: 2014)
Cedarburg Wine and Harvest Festival – September 19-20
As the summer starts to wind down, sample the artisan food (including the Olsen’s Piggly Wiggly’s Original Harvest Apple Brat and Cranberry Turkey Wraps) and enjoy the music and scarecrow and pumpkin contests in Historic Downtown Cedarburg.
Milwaukee Film Festival – September 24-October 8
(Website to be updated as event draws near.) Milwaukee becomes a hub of film celebration. Check out the website for locations and movie showtimes.
Artscape – October 1-November 7
(Website from 2014. Will be updated as event draws near.) Celebrate local artists as you observe the outdoor sculpture exhibition around the Historic Third Ward.
Cedarburg Oktoberfest – October 10-11
Cedarburg celebrates its German pride with authentic German music and food. Contests with prizes include the best lederhosen contest and sauerkraut eating contest.
Milwaukee Oktoberfest – October 10-12
Enjoy your favorite brew and your German pride in Cathedral Square Park. Activities include live music, a brat eating contest, and a weiner dog race. (See photos from the festival: 2014)
Trainfest – November 14-15
Hobbyists, casual viewers, and people young and old alike can enjoy what “America’s largest operating model railroad show” has to offer. Tickets are $13 for adults, $5 for children 4-12, and free for children 3 and under. Advanced discount tickets will be available for purchase online on June 1.
Cedarburg Christmas – November 14-January 31
Embrace the winter season in Cedarburg with horse drawn sleigh rides, live outdoor nativity, pictures with Santa at Santa’s workshop, and more. Check out the calendar for a complete listing of events.
Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival – November 19-January 3
(Website from 2014. Events subject to change) Beat the Milwaukee cold as the city lights up in red and green. Enjoy a bevy of music concerts and theater performances as well as Leonard Bearstein’s Sumphony Orchestra in Grand Avenue, Pancakes on Parade, Breakfast with Santa at Watts Tea Shop, and more around downtown Milwaukee. You can view the full list of special events here.