Complete Guide to Festivals

Ethnic fests, art fests, music, fish and strawberry festivals. It’s all here.

By - Jun 9th, 2017 01:33 pm
2016 PrideFest. Photo by Abe Van Dyke courtesy of PrideFest.

2016 PrideFest. Photo by Abe Van Dyke courtesy of PrideFest.

Milwaukee has often been called the City of Festivals and for good reason — few cities so enthusiastically embrace the urge to create outdoor festivals. The city’s many ethnic festivals are well known, but there are also festivals set on streets, on the river and on the lakefront and in parks. And there are festivals devoted to art, food and drink, dragon boats, trains and pets. Here’s our list. Have we missed any? Let us know.

Jazz in the Park – Now – September 1 (Thursdays)

Free outdoor, summer music series featuring an eclectic lineup of jazz, funk, R & B, reggae, and blues. 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Cathedral Square Park.

Scottish Fest/Milwaukee Highland Games – June 3

Watch a variety of classic events including bagpipes, highland dancing, Scottish food, working Sheepdogs and the Parade of Tartans. Held in Hart Park. Tickets $10, Children 12 and under: Free.

PrideFest 2015. Photo by Jack Fennimore.

PrideFest 2015. Photo by Jack Fennimore.

PrideFest – June 9-11

Now entering its fourth decade, PrideFest returns to Milwaukee’s beautiful lakefront. Supporting 30 years of LGBTQ pride in Milwaukee. Now entering its 20th year at Henry Maier Festival Park. Click here for ticket info. (See photos from the festival: 2015)

Locust Street Festival of Music & Art – June 11

Six different stages of music and entertainment. Join in on the Beer Run that starts at 11:30 a.m. Festival is from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Food from over 10 Milwaukee favorites! For Beer Run registration visit here. (See photos from the festival: 2012, 2013, 2014)

River Rhythms – June 14 – August 30 (Wednesdays)

Westown’s free, outdoor summer concert series in Pere Marquette Park is the premiere place to be on Wednesday nights. River Rhythms plays host to some of the finest local talent. Visit here for this season’s lineup.

Filth Fest 5 – June 15-18

This will be the fifth Filth Fest that combines punk mentalities and grass-roots music and art. Organizers say the Fest creates “an inclusive, intentionally Queer and Trans centered space while raising money for Queer and Trans organizations.” Filth Fest 5 is held various bars in or near Riverwest, for details click here.

Wisconsin Beer Lovers Festival – June 17

Located in the Bayshore Town Center, more than 40 Wisconsin breweries will pouring over 100 samples to be paired with cheeses and other local food. Combine this festival with a little buzzed shopping.

Good City Fest 2017  – June 17

In honor of their one year celebration, Good City Brewing is hosting an outdoor craft beer, food and music festival at 2108 N. Farwell Ave. Visit here for tickets.

Drink Wisconsinbly’s Inaugural Curd Fest  – June 17

Beer and cheese curds. Need I say more? The day will start with a 5Curdk! A 5k run through the streets of Walker’s Point with cheese curds along the route. For the non-runners, take part in the 0k and step right up and cross the finish line straight to the bar. Cheese curd eating competition and Best Cheese Curd in Milwaukee competition. Visit here for race registration. Located at Drink Wisconsinbly, 135 E. National Ave.

Polish Fest – June 16-18

“America’s largest Polish festival” at the Henry Maier Festival Park. Listen to classic Polish music and shop the marketplace for authentic Polish goods. For ticket information visit here. (See photos from the festival: 2014)

Lakefront Festival of Art – June 16-18

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. For ticket info visit here. (See photos from the festival: 2012, 2015)

2016 Juneteenth Parade

2016 Juneteenth Parade

Juneteenth Day Celebration – June 19

Milwaukee Juneteenth Day Celebration is a community-wide event.  The annual summer block party includes live music, kids’ games, exhibits, soul food, and more! Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. between Center and Burleigh streets. (See photos from the festival: 2015, 2016)

Dummerfest  – June 24

Cudahy’s leading all-ages single day poser convention is back with the dumbest lineup of all time. Located at The Metal Grill, 5036 S. Packard Ave., Cudahy.

Summer Solstice Music Festival  – June 24

Largest free showcase of top local bands along with visual artists, makers of Milwaukee’s arts/crafts scene curated by the Waxwing, creation stations, East Side restaurants, dodgeball, BMX stunt bikes, family-friendly activities and more. Noon – Midnight. East North Ave. (See photos from the festival: 2014)

Cedarburg Strawberry Festival – June 24-25

An art-filled weekend brimming with the most luscious summer fruit.  Strawberry Festival features a wide variety of food vendors focusing on the summer favorites. Visit here for the full schedule of events. Downtown Cedarburg. (See photos from the festival: 2014)

Garlic Fest

Garlic Fest

Garlic Fest – June 25

Just outside of Braise Restaurant on South 2nd Street, the smell of garlic will fill the air. Garlic lovers come from everywhere to enjoy garlic-tastic food from a variety of Walker’s Point restaurants, garlic-themed games for kids, live music, beer, Bloody Marys, and art. (See photos from the festival: 2014)

Summerfest – June 28 – July 2, July 4 -9

Enjoy a variety of bands at “The World’s Largest Music Festival” and by far one of Milwaukee’s most popular festivals. Headliners for this year include Red Hot Chili Peppers, Luke Bryan, Paul Simon, Zac Brown Band, Future, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Chris Stapleton and many, many, many more. (See photos from the festival: 2013, 2014, 2016)

Click here for full lineups and here for ticket information.

Live @ The Lakefront – July 12 – August 30 (Wednesdays)

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 12th 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 13-16

This free four-day bash attracts over 250,000 visitors annually who enjoy live music, an international marketplace, chef and wine demos, French and Cajun cuisine, roaming busker entertainment, and a signature 43-foot Eiffel Tower replica offering hourly light shows. Located in Cathedral Square Park. Visit here for stage lineups and more information about events. (See photos from the festival: 2012, 2013, 2014)

South Shore Frolics – July 14-16

This three day festival starts off with a traditional Friday Fish Fry with live music. Saturday is a kid-friendly day featuring the Kohl’s Wild Theater, Doin’ It Live Karaoke, free games for the kids and music by Chameleon. At 9:00 a.m. on Sunday, there will be a car show, followed by a 9:30 a.m. Catholic Mass. Ending the event is the “Frolics Festival of Arts” from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Port Fish Day – July 15

“The World’s Largest One Day Outdoor Fish Fry.” Plenty events in addition to the fish fry including a parade, classic car show, arts and crafts, carnival, helicopter rides, multiple music stages, soccer water fights and fireworks. Held at the Wisconsin Harbor in Port Washington.

Garfield Avenue Festival. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Garfield Avenue Festival. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Garfield Avenue Blues, Jazz, Gospel & Arts Festival – July 15

Located from Garfield Ave to King Drive. Lineup information not yet available but sure to be plenty of great music acts! (See photos from the festival: 2015)

Milwaukee Air & Water Show – July 15-16

The Milwaukee Air & Water Show is proud to announce the grand return of the Navy Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Squadron, and many other world-class performers to the Milwaukee Lakefront. Ticket information here.

Festa Italiana. Photo by Jack Fennimore.

Festa Italiana. Photo by Jack Fennimore.

Festa Italiana – July 21-23

Enjoy the best of Italian culture at the Summerfest Grounds. The event includes Italian music and opera, authentic Italian arts/crafts shopping, and of course, Italian cuisine. The Bodeans headline the festivities on the 21st. Visit the link above for more info or check out their Facebook page. (See photos from the festival: 2015)

Milwaukee Firkin Beer Fest – July 22

The Firkin Beer Fest features unlimited samples from more than 150 local and national craft breweries and over 40 cask ales, as well as food and live music. It should be firkin fun. Located in Cathedral Square Park.

GermanFest 2015. Photo by Jack Fennimore.

GermanFest 2015. Photo by Jack Fennimore.

German Fest – July 28-30

Established in 1981, German Fest Milwaukee strives to keep the German culture alive and well. Held on the Summerfest Grounds, attendees can enjoy lumberjack competitions, a Dachshund Derby, Culture Pavilion, meet Veronika Hummel, and watch local German dance groups. For ticket info visit here. See photos from the festival: 2014)

Brady Street Festival – July 29

Brady Street will be rockin’ the night and day away with 4 stages packed with live entertainment, including some Milwaukee’s favorite local bands. Plenty of local vendors will be there as well. 11:00 a.m. to midnight. (See photos from the festival: 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016)

Milwaukee Brewfest – July 29

Celebrate one of Milwaukee’s most famous beverages at the Old Coast Guard Pavilion Park along the lakefront. Activities include beer and food sampling and musical performances. 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Tickets can be purchased here. (See photos from the festival: 2010)

Milwaukee Comedy Festival – August 1-6

The Milwaukee Comedy Festival is celebrating 12 years of bringing joy and laughter to our beautiful city. Since 2005 the festival has featured the most talented performers in live stand-up comedy, improv, and sketch comedy we can find across the country. This year’s headliner is Michael Ian Black. For tickets visit here

The cream puffs draw a large crowd at the 2014 Wisconsin State Fair. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The cream puffs draw a large crowd at the 2014 Wisconsin State Fair. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Wisconsin State Fair – August 3-13

A Wisconsin tradition in its own right, the State Fair boasts one the largest animal, food, and flower competitions in the country. Visitors are treated to musical performances, family activities, and a plethora of fried foods and pastries. Plenty of big name music acts this year. For lineup info visit here. (See photos from the festival: 2014)

Center Street Daze Festival – August 5

From a cart race to a car show, Center Street Daze has fun for the whole family. Over 50 vendors offering Milwaukee food products and over 30 bands on 8 different stages. (See photos from the festival: 20072014

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 5-12

Enjoy Bronzeville’s upbeat vibrancy, energy, and its wide mix of entertainment offerings, art, culture, and opportunities for neighbors and the community to engage in healthy, fun positive activities. The Bronzeville Cultural and Entertainment District is located between Garfield Ave. to Center Street and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive to 7th Street. (See photos from the festival: 2014

Waukesha Bluesfest – Augest 11-12

The 11th annual Wakesah Blues fest is held at Naga-waukee Park in Delafield, WI. Music runs from 1:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. under a large tent.

Milwaukee Dragon Boat Festival – August 12

Showcasing a variety of Chinese culture and traditions including traditional dance, Chinese folk music, and Martial Arts. Hands on opportunities include making opera masks and lanterns, learning to speak and write Chinese and participating in the dragon parade. To register in the dragon boat race visit here. Held in Veterans Park.

Wilson Center Guitar Festival – Brookfield – August 17-19

The goal of the Festival is to celebrate the greatest guitarists of today and tomorrow. It will host four live competitions – Classical, Jazz, Fingerstyle, and Rock and Blues. Competitions are open to all ages. Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts, 19805 W. Capitol Dr., Brookfield, WI.

Irish Fest –  August 17-20

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. For more info about the entertainment acts visit here. For ticket info go here. Located on the Summerfest Grounds.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel a la Carte at the Zoo  – Aug 17-20

“Feast with the Beasts” and enjoy delicious food from local eateries. Animals are on display as popular, national and local live bands perform.

Mexican Fiesta 2015. Photo by Jack Fennimore.

Mexican Fiesta 2015. Photo by Jack Fennimore.

Mexican Fiesta  – August 25-27

Mexican Fiesta brings the sound, culture, and taste of Mexico to Milwaukee’s lakefront. Three days of fun, food, Mariachi and Fiesta. Mexican Fiesta encourages individuals for all ethnic backgrounds to share in the beauty of Mexico’s rich history, art, music and food. Located on the Summerfest Grounds. (See photos from the festival: 2015

Milwaukee Rally – August 30- Sept. 4

The Rally continues it momentum toward the 2018 Harley Anniversary. Large crowds are expected to celebrate at the Harley-Davidson Museum and the four dealer locations. Visit here for participating locations.

Third Ward Art Festival – September 2-3 (Labor Day Weekend)

Located in the art driven Third Ward of Milwaukee, this festival features a plethora of art, live music, food and family-friendly activities.

TosaFest – Sept 8-9

Celebrating Wauwatosa’s tradition of music, food, and family fun, to celebrate our historic village and community spirit. Friday 6:00 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturday 11:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Indian Summer Festival – September 8-10

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. Ticket information available here

Bay View Bash. Photo by Mariiana Tzotcheva.

Bay View Bash. Photo by Mariiana Tzotcheva.

Bay View Bash – September 16

Bay View Bash is a community festival of food, art, music, crafts, books, and community organizations. Between Potter and Clement on Kinnickinnic Avenue. (See photos from the festival: 2014)

Cedarburg Wine & Harvest Festival – September 16-17

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.

Petfest – September 23

Located at 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. And, best of all, pets!

Cedarburg Oktoberfest – October 14-15

Located in Downtown Historic Cedarburg, Oktoberfest activities include authentic German music, German foods and beer, wine, German dinners, Lederhosen contest, Sauerkraut eating contest, and much more.

TrainFest –  November 11-12

Join the fun at Trainfest, America’s largest operating model railroad show.  This year’s fest will feature over 70 intricately-detailed running railroads. Kids’ activity zone filled with crafts and train building. 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. both days at the Wisconsin State Fair Park Exposition Center.

Milwaukee Holiday Lights Fest – November 17 – January 1

Downtown Milwaukee lights up for over a month. A variety show, fireworks, bright lights to see, a Jingle Bus to ride, music, and tons of ornaments and other special gifts for the holidays. Come stroll the lit streets of Downtown Milwaukee.

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