42 Festivals You Should See

Including everything from Pridefest to Petfest, Bastille Days to Dragon Boat Festival.

By - Apr 28th, 2016 05:05 pm
Performer Chris Vogt at Bastille Days in 2012. Photo by Brendan Murphy.

Performer Chris Vogt at Bastille Days in 2012. Photo by Brendan Murphy.

As Milwaukee comes out of its late winter funk and blooms into what doesn’t always feel like springtime, more and more festivals are beginning to pop up. To aid you in deciding which ones to attend, we’ve gathered all the festivals — music, eats, arts, and whatever else you may enjoy- into one giant list. Many of the events are free. You can link to each website by clicking on the name of each festival.

Jazz in the Park: Thursdays June 2- September 1

Every Thursday night music drifts into the air from Cathedral Square in the summer This event is free to the public. It features local bands as well as bands from across the country. Happy hour starts at 5 p.m and music goes from 6-9. 

Chill on the Hill: June 7 until August 30

This summer marks the 12th year that Chill on the Hill will be held at Humboldt Park. A wide variety of music will fill The Humboldt Park Band Chalet. Along with the music, there will be a wide variety of local vendors sharing the space.

PrideFest 2015. Photo by Jack Fennimore.

PrideFest 2015. Photo by Jack Fennimore.

Pridefest: June 10-12

Everyone is welcome at the Henry Maier Festival Park during Pridefest to celebrate the diverse LGBT community. There will be a variety of music and activities that will be a major part of this celebration. Tickets start at $13 with admission for children 12 and under being free. For more ticket info, please visit www.pridefest.com/tickets/ . (See photos from the festival: 2015)

Scottish Fest/Milwaukee Highland Games: Saturday, June 4

Come show off your Scottish pride in Hart Park in Wauwatosa. There will be a variety of events which include bagpipe players, highland dancing and the parade of the tartans. And you can feast on various Scottish foods. Adult tickets are $10 but children 12 and under and active military in uniform get in free.

River Rhythms: June 8th-August 31st

Held every Wednesday from 6:30 p.m to 9 p.m this summer at Pere Marquette Park and featuring a wide variety of music. Westown’s River Rhythms concert series prides itself on bringing the best local talent and mixing with both national and international acts. Every style of music from reggae to country is featured. A full list of featured acts is yet to come.

Polish Fest: June 17-19

America’s Largest Polish Fest is held at Henry Maier Festival Park. Shop around at the marketplace for authentic Polish goods and listen to classic Polish music. Sunday Mass-Gates Open at 9:30 a.m., with 10:00 a.m., Prelude, 10:15 a.m. Mass (Free Admission to Mass at Main Gate). Early Purchase Special for tickets to Polish Fest Available – 9:30-11:59 am – $4.00. Regular ticket prices are still to be determined. (See photos from the festival: 2014)

Locust Street Festival: June 12

Plenty of beer and food can be found on Locust Street in Riverwest. Highlights of this include the beer run/walk, where you race on a track around the neighborhood with four different beer stops. There will also be plenty of music to jam to throughout the day. Register early for the race for a discount on the entry fee and a t-shirt. (See photos from the festival: 2012, 2013, 2014)

Juneteenth Day Celebration: June 19

Perhaps one of the biggest Juneteenth Day celebrations in the entire country, Milwaukee’s event features a parade that starts at N. 19th St. and W. Atkinson Ave. and ends at 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. (See photos from the festival: 2015)

Lakefront Festival of Art: June 17-19

See a wide variety of paintings, jewelry, sculptures, and more at this outdoor festival on the grounds of the Milwaukee Art Museum. There will also be beer sampling, food tasting and various activities for children to enjoy. Ticket prices: Adults $17, Seniors/students $14, Museum Members $10, Three-day pass $25, and free for kids age 12 and under, veterans, active military, and Wisconsin K-12 teachers (with ID). (See photos from the festival: 2012, 2015)

Summer Solstice Music Festival: June 25

Celebrate summer with free, live music and food on E. North Avenue on the Upper East Side. Festival goers can also come to the Arts Avenue to watch the live creation of art or create art themselves. There will also be an arts and crafts fair. (See photos from the festival: 2014)

Summerfest: June 29-July 3, July 5-10

“The World’s Largest Music Festival” and Milwaukee’s largest and most popular summer festival. Headliners for this year include: Luke Bryan, Selena Gomez, Blake Shelton, Weezer and Panic at the Disco!. 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. (See photos from the festival: 2013, 2014)

Cedarburg Strawberry Festival: June 25 & 26

Love strawberries? Then head to Cedarburg to 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)

Live at the Lakefront: July 13-August 31

With Lake Michigan providing a perfect backdrop, Live at the Lakefront hosts a wide variety of bands that cover many different genres. And it’s free. Head on down to the lakefront every Wednesday starting July 13th between 5:30 and 9 p.m to enjoy some live music as the sun goes down.  

Runners filling up N. Jefferson St. at the 2014 Storm the Bastille run. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Runners filling up N. Jefferson St. at the 2014 Storm the Bastille run. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Bastille Days: July 14-17

Whether you want to sample local French cuisine or shop at a variety of local vendors or catch some great music, Bastille Days in Cathedral Square Park is the outdoor festival for you. (See photos from the festival: 2012, 2013, 2014)

Milwaukee Dragon Boat Festival: July 30

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. All are welcome to sign up for the boat races. No experience needed. 

Firkin Fest: July 23

Firkin Fest offers the most eclectic variety of beers from ales to ciders. There are over 150 of them for festival goers to sample. Hosted in Cathedral Square Park, where attendees can vote for their favorites. The event lasts until 7:30 p.m.; VIPs can enter at 3 while general admission starts at 4 p.m. Entertainment for this year’s Firkin Fest will be provided by The Squeezettes. 

Festa Italiana: July 22-24

Enjoy the very best of everything to do with Italian culture at 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. (See photos from the festival: 2015)

Garfield Avenue Festival: July 16

Organized by Andre Lee Ellis, this festival will celebrate its 19th year along Martin Luther King Dr. and Garfield Ave. and highlights local artists and musicians. It also focuses on a wide variety of beers and food from many different vendors as well. The festival has no website but this story gives a good rundown of last year’s fest. (See photos from the festival: 2015)

Port Fish Day: July 16

An entire day of fundraising festivities including a fish fry, live music, walk/run, parade, carnival, classic car show, arts and crafts show, soccer water fight, and the ultimate — a smoked fish eating contest. 

German Fest: July 29-31

Grab your favorite stein and a fresh pair of lederhosen and head to Maier Festival Park for shopping at the marktplatz, sheepshead, wine tasting, beer, family fun, and food. Admission starts at $15 for adults or $12 when bought in advance. See the admissions page for more information on discounts. (See photos from the festival: 2014)

Brady Street Festival: July 30

Stroll one of Milwaukee’s favorite streets while enjoying live music, art vendors, and food. Some of the highlights include Core Essence Yoga,  Annual Cheese Curd Eating Contest, Casablanca Belly Dancers and the Brady Street Cheese Awards. And there will definitely be beer, we promise. (See photos from the festival: 2010, 2012, 2014)

Milwaukee Brewfest: July 30

Celebrate Milwaukee’s most famous beverage 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. You can get info and buy tickets here. (See photos from the festival: 2010)

Milwaukee Comedy Festival: August 4-7

Your festival for belly laughs. There will be a wide variety of comedy acts for everyone in your family to laugh along with. 

Milwaukee Flyers Tumbling Team during Bronzeville Week 2014. Photo by Dave Reid.

Milwaukee Flyers Tumbling Team during Bronzeville Week 2014. Photo by Dave Reid.

Bronzeville Week:  August 6-13

Inspired by the historic near North Side area which was once “the primary African-American economic and social hub of its time,” Bronzeville Week is a relatively new festival in the Milwaukee area featuring a variety of events. This week long event features everything from health screenings and business resource seminars to live painting and lots of live music. (See photos from the festival: 2014

Center Street Daze Festival: August 6

From a cart race to car show, theres’ a variety of events, even be a dodgeball tournament to help unleash your inner child. Local vendors cooking and brewing up a variety of beer and food will be stationed throughout the festival to fuel your activities. (See photos from the festival: 20072014

Wisconsin State Fair: August 4-14

A popular and well known Wisconsin tradition long before Summeriest, the State Fair boasts some of the largest animal, food, and flower competitions in the country. Visitors are treated to various live musical performances, family activities, and as many fried foods 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.

Irish Fest: August 19-21

One of the biggest such fests in the world, known for its terrific music. In addition to the marketplace, food, and live music, festival goers can also see the baking contest, and sample whiskey at the Jameson Lounge. 

Milwaukee a la Carte: August 18-21

Come enjoy a variety of food with a furry (or scaly, feathery, etc.) friend at the Milwaukee County Zoo. Around 30 restaurants offer food and drinks for 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 2015. Photo by Jack Fennimore.

Mexican Fiesta 2015. Photo by Jack Fennimore.

Mexican Fiesta: August 26-28

Mexican Fiesta brings the vibrant sound, culture, and taste of Mexico to Milwaukee’s lakefront at Maier Festival Park. There will be 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. (See photos from the festival: 2015

Milwaukee Rally: September 1-5

Show your Harley pride and enjoy non-stop music, a tattoo contest, and more at various locations around Milwaukee including the Harley-Davidson Museum.

Oktoberfest: September 9-10, 16-17, 23-24, 30 and October 1st

The largest and most authentic Oktoberfest celebration in the area, held at Old Heidelberg Park in Glendale.

TosaFest: September 9 & 10

In Wauwatosa, naturally where the tradition of music, food and other family fun celebrates the Tosa community spirit. More information for this year’s entertainment is yet to come. 

Indian Summer Festival: September 9-11

At Maier Festival Park.  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 17

From 11 a.m until 10 p.m., head to Kinnickinnic Ave. to enjoy a variety of music, food, art, crafts and books from different community organizations. The 2016 lineup is yet to be determined. (See photos from the festival: 2014)

Doors Open Milwaukee: September 17-18

The Fifth Annual Doors Open Milwaukee celebrates Historic Milwaukee and its architecture. Over 150 buildings will be open to the public, free of charge. This event allows you to create your very own sightseeing itinerary throughout the city for an entire weekend. Did I mention these tours are free? (See our Doors Open Milwaukee coverage here)

Cedarburg Wine & Harvest Festival: September 17-18

As the summer starts to wind down and autumn falls upon us, sample the artisanal food and enjoy the music and scarecrow and pumpkin contests in Historic Downtown Cedarburg.

Petfest: September 24

A fest of furry friendly activities include a marketplace for toys and kibble, an agility course, dock diving, and competitions for prizes. Free admission and free parking at this pet-loving event at Maier Festival Park from 10 a.m until 6 p.m. Bring your furry friend along for the ride. (See photos from the festival: 2015)

Milwaukee Film Festival: September 24 through October 8

Milwaukee becomes one massive hub of film celebration. Check out the website for locations and movie showtimes which will update as the event draws closer.

Cedarburg Oktoberfest: October 8 & 9

Cedarburg celebrates its German pride with authentic German music and food. Contests with prizes include the best lederhosen contest and sauerkraut eating contest.

Trainfest: November 12 & 13

Hobbyists, casual viewers, and people of every age can enjoy what “America’s largest operating model railroad show” has to offer to them.  Tickets are $13 for adults, $5 for children 4-12, and free for children 3 and under.

Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival: November 17-January 1

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.

5 thoughts on “42 Festivals You Should See”

  1. Downtowner says:

    43. NEWaukee Night Market on Wisconsin Ave, June 15th, July 13th, August 17th and September 14th

  2. mbradleyc says:

    I thought the Air and Water show was cancelled for this year.

  3. Casey says:

    44. Burnhearts/Pabst Street Party

  4. Downtowner says:

    45. Milwaukee Oktoberfest – http://www.mkeoktoberfest.com/, September 29th-October 2nd

  5. Gary says:

    So what are the 2016 festivals we shouldn’t be seein’?

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