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Top 7 Reasons to Visit Summerfest + Local’s Tips to the Fest

Top 7 Reasons to Visit Summerfest + Local’s Tips to the Fest

Winter is finally over, and summer is here! Summer in Milwaukee is the best time of year to visit and there is always something going. Our favorite thing to do in Milwaukee during the summer is head to Summerfest. Every year on the shores of Lake Michigan is the World’s Largest Music Festival, Summerfest! 

Summerfest starts the last Wednesday in June and runs for 11 days. During the festival over 800 acts play on 13 stages with music of all types-  from rap, country, rock, indie, reggae, jazz, and more.

When is Summerfest?

2024 Summerfest Music Festival Dates: June 20-22, June 27-29, and July 4-6th

Top 7 Reasons to Visit Summerfest

The main draw to Summerfest is the tunes, but you’ll discover there’s much more than just music. Here are our top reasons we come down to Summerfest every summer!

Suummerfest Milwaukee North Gate Entrance

1. World’s Largest Music Festival

The number one reason to make the trip to Milwaukee to visit Summerfest is just the sheer size of the festival. 13 Stages, hundreds of bands, thousands of hours of music!

lens flare as a concert takes place at Summerfest Milwaukee - Miller Lite Oasis Stage

2. Big Names included with General Admission

Summerfest brings in lots of headliners to play at the main stage American Family Amphitheater for an additional ticket cost, but they also have even more artists that you can see which are included with a general admission ticket. In 2019, some of the biggest names played amazing concerts for just the $23 entrance price, like Steve Aoki, Jason Mraz, and Lizzo (who drew near-record crowds).

Suummerfest Milwaukee Local food and Drink

3. Local Eats (and Drinks)

Many of Milwaukee’s top restaurants are on-site, preparing some of their favorites to keep you fueled for the Fest. There are lots of tasty brews from local breweries that you’ll really need to try while at Summerfest. Lakefront is one of our favorites and they even have special tappings during the festival for limited release beers.

Drone photo of Milwaukee Summerfest Grounds - Sunset over lakefront music festival

4. The Lakefront Setting

This venue is pretty hard to beat. Summerfest is right in the city, right on Lake Michigan. Summerfest has awesome views of the lake and city skyline line, especially at sunset time.

Fireworks in the night sky over the BMO Harris Stage at Summerfest Milwaukee

5. The Big Bang Fireworks & July 3rd Fireworks

To kick off the first night of Summerfest, thousands of fireworks fill the skies above the festival in a show called “The Big Bang”. Summerfest attendees will get a front-row seat to an impressive fireworks show where the launch point is on the small island directly in front of the festival grounds over the lake.

If you miss the opening night fireworks, you can still catch a glimpse of the Milwaukee city fireworks that happen every year on July 3rd. The view isn’t as perfect as the Big Bang, but it will still add some color to your night at Summerfest.

6. The Cost

As we alluded to earlier, you can see multiple big-name artists for a fraction of other music festivals. For only $23 you get access to 12 of the 13 stages with music playing from the time the gates open until midnight.

Ferris Wheel at Summerfest infront of Summerfest Marketplace Shopping tents

7. Shopping at the Marketplace

In the marketplaces scattered around the Summerfest grounds, you can find everything from tour merchandise to local artist handicrafts and everything in between. Between sets, wander the marketplace for a few Milwaukee souvenirs.

A Local’s Guide to Summerfest

There is something for every music lover. With so much going on, and so many good acts to see, it can be tough to navigate for a first-time festival-goer. The music is, of course, the main draw, but there’s also a lot more going on at Summerfest. Here is everything you need to know before heading into Summerfest.

Summerfest Stages

There are now 13 stages at Summerfest, 12 are stages that are included with every admission ticket. There is only one paid stage American Family Insurance Amphitheater in which you’ll need to purchase tickets online.

  1. American Family Insurance Amphitheater
  2. BMO Harris Pavillion
  3. Miller Lite Oasis
  4. Harley Davidson Roadhouse
  5. Briggs & Stratton Big Roadhouse
  6. U.S. Cellular Connection Stage
  7. Uline Warehouse
  8. Johnson Controls World Sound Stage
  9. Jojo’s Martini Lounge
  10. Klement’s Sausage and Beer Garden
  11. Gruber Law Offices Sportszone
  12. Northwestern Mutual Children’s Theater & Playzone
  13. Kohl’s Captivation Station

Must Know Summerfest Tips & Hacks

Here is our list of tips from lifelong locals who’ve been going to Summerfest for 25+ years on how to maximize your time at Summerfest. Follow these tips to have the best time and keep a little extra money in your wallet.

SkyGlide at Milwaukee Summerfest

1. Ride The Sky Glide Between Shows

The Summerfest grounds are big, and if you’re trying to get from a concert on the Southside over to a concert on the Northside of the grounds, it could take you 20+ minutes to walk there.

The Sky Glide is not only is the fastest way from one end of Summerfest to the other, but it also has some of the best views of Lake Michigan, Downtown Milwaukee, and all of Summerfest.

The Sky Glide at Summerfest costs $5 one-way or $8 round-trip. If you purchase a round-trip ticket, you don’t have to continue your trip in one sitting. Make sure to get off, explore the other side of the park, and then show your return ticket to ride it back over to the other side of the park.

Rachel Platten preforming at BMO Harris Pavillion at Summerfest Milwaukee

2 Free Days

Take advantage of free days and save money to sample more food & drinks inside the festival. Summerfest runs several promotions in which admission is free or discounted.

3. Bring Cash

There are a few vendors that only accept cash like the rootbeer barrels or the beer carts strolling through. There are ATMs throughout the grounds, and if you are a BMO Harris customer, the fee is waived.

4. Take Free Bar & Restaurant Shuttles

Many local restaurants and bars in Milwaukee offer a free shuttle to & from Summerfest.  The shuttles have scheduled times, and they’ll let you know where to catch the shuttle back. Parking at Summerfest will cost you $20+, depending on how close you want to get to the festival grounds.

Skip the hassle of parking and traffic getting in and out and instead take a free shuttle. Just make sure to tip the drivers a little something, and don’t forget to stop in and buy a drink or meal before boarding the shuttle.

5. $1 Glasses of Iced Water

No need to buy a $4 bottle of water. Just head to one of the Rootbeer Barrels, they sell glasses of ice water for $1.

6. Miller Brewing Happy Hour Specials

Make sure to download the Summerfest App for all the Summerfest Happy Hours & Miller Brewing promotions. Every day of the music festival (except Saturday, July 6th), there is a buy one get one free special, download the app.

Must-Try Local Favorites Food Summerfest

Summerfest is full of great local restaurant eats. There are a ton of restaurants at Summerfest, but there are a few things we never miss while we are at “The Big Gig.” If you’re visiting from out of town, here are a few items you want to try if you want to eat like a Milwaukeean.

Related Article: Top Things To Do In Milwaukee

Milwaukee brewery tent at Summerfest

Milwaukee Breweries

Milwaukee is known as Brew City, and like all festivals in Milwaukee, there will be beer, and it will be flowing. Many of the local Milwaukee breweries have beer tents at Summerfest. Keep an eye out for the following beer tents: Water Street Brewery, Lakefront Brewery, Leinenkugel’s, and there are plenty of Miller Lite beer tents.

If you aren’t a beer drinker there are vendors with wine, wine coolers, and other mixers. Head to Jojo’s Martini Lounge for tons of other drink options. Make sure to sip your way through some of the best Milwaukee brewery tours on another day.

Deep-fried cheese curds at Saz's at Summerfest Music festival in Milwaukee

Saz’s Cheese Curds

Cheese curds and Wisconsin go hand and hand. If you’re a cheesehead like us, deep-fried cheese curds are a must. Many of the vendors at Summerfest serve up the Wisconsin tradition.

We like to grab an order at Saz’s which serves their curds with marinara sauce. They also have a great sampler platter with sour cream & chive fries, mozzarella sticks, and cheese curds.

Other places to get cheese curds at Summerfest: Flannery’s, Miss Katie’s Diner, Major Goolsby’s, Famous Dave’s, and Vagabond. Basically, you’re never far from cheese curds in Milwaukee!

Milwaukee city skyline near parking for summerfest at night

We suggest spending the weekend in Milwaukee and spend the night. We suggest staying at a hotel near Summerfest so you can easily walk, plus there are a ton of good restaurant & bar options in downtown Milwaukee. Here are a few of our favorite Milwaukee hotels that are within walking distance to Summerfest:

Other Things To Know About Summerfest

No backpacks or large bags (max size 9x10x12). Everyone and all bags go through security. Any bags that are larger than the bag policy won’t be allowed in. You’ll either have to bring it back to your car/home or hand over the bag and it’ll be donated to Goodwill. It’s best to review the Summerfest bag policy ahead of time.

No Outside Food or Drink

No Selfie Sticks or Professional Cameras 

No Pets – Service animals are allowed with proper certification

Weekday Admission Tickets – are valid Tuesday – Friday before 4 pm and permit access to all the ground stages. Admission to American Family Insurance Amphitheater shows require a separate ticket.

American Family Insurance Amphitheater Tickets – Include general admission to Summerfest. So if you are going to see a 7:30 show come early and check out the rest of Summerfest.

Leaving & Re-Enter Rules – If you want to leave and re-enter the festival wristbands are available at all gate areas from Noon until 6:30 pm daily. Re-entry wristbands will be valid for a single, same-day re-entry until 7:00 pm. No re-entry wristbands will be issued after 6:30 pm and there are no re-entries after 7:00 pm.

Don’t Forget to Pin me for later!

drone photo of summerfest music festival in downtown Milwaukee at sunset and concert lights

*Thanks to Summerfest for inviting us as always all opinions are our own.

Elaine Masters

Sunday 22nd of July 2018

Great insider tips. I love Milwaukee but only visited on a chilly spring weekend. Summerfest looks wonderful. I'd definitely be taking that sky tram.

Hannah Lukaszewicz

Sunday 29th of July 2018

Hope you can make it down to Milwaukee for Summerfest 2019! Yes def plan on riding the Sky Tram it's the best way to get from end to end and it's a great view too.

Kashlee Kucheran

Sunday 22nd of July 2018

omg, is it wrong that I might be more excited about the cheese curds than anything else!? ;) But really, this is a great guide to Summerfest! Thanks for putting all these tips together!

Wesley from Trip Hotspot

Thursday 19th of July 2018

I would love to visit this music festival. Looks like a lot of fun.


Saturday 21st of July 2018

Music festivals are our favorite and Summerfest is right on the lake and during the perfect Wisconsin summer!

MD Jatak

Monday 16th of July 2018

Nice place to visit... thanks for sharing your experience...


Saturday 21st of July 2018

What concert did you watch at this year's Summerfest?