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?
Summerfest in Milwaukee is always the last Wednesday in June for 11 days but closed Monday. The festival runs every day from noon until midnight. Summerfest 2019 is June 26th – June 30th and July 2nd- July 7th. Open daily Noon to Midnight.
2019 Summerfest Music Festival Dates: June 26-30th and July 2-7th
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!
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!
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).
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.
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.
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.
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 market place 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.
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.
- American Family Insurance Amphitheater
- BMO Harris Pavillion
- Miller Lite Oasis
- Harley Davidson Roadhouse
- Briggs & Stratton Big Roadhouse
- U.S. Cellular Connection Stage
- Uline Warehouse
- Johnson Controls World Sound Stage
- Jojo’s Martini Lounge
- Klement’s Sausage and Beer Garden
- Gruber Law Offices Sportszone
- Northwestern Mutual Children’s Theater & Playzone
- 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.
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 seating. 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.
2 Free Days
Take advantage of free days, save the money to sample more food & drinks inside the festival. Summerfest runs several promotions in which admission free or discounted, click here to see all promotions.
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 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 or click here for times & tents.
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 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.
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!
Recommended Hotels Near Milwaukee Summerfest
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 permits 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.
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*Thanks to Summerfest for inviting us as always all opinions are our own.This post may contain affiliate links, see our disclosure