The Midwest is so much more than “fly over” states, especially Wisconsin. (Anyone get that country song reference?) More than just cheese and beer, Milwaukee is quite the hot spot in the summer! There are no shortages of summer festivals ranging from ethnic, music, beer and art festivals.
In my personal opinion—-the state fair is the best of the best. Probably only to be rivaled with the next on my list, Summerfest. Our state fair occurs every year for 10 days in August at the Wisconsin State Fair Park. I’m a HUGE foodie, so that’s 95% of the reason I love our state fair. Plus, it’s a tradition in our family; I haven’t missed a year! There is never a shortage of anything on-a-stick or fried, and sometimes you can get them combined, such as fried cheesecake on a stick (yikes..or yum?).
If you go, you’re not a true fair-goer if you don’t try one of our Original Cream Puffs. They’re made fresh in front of you and are messy and delicious. Along with Original Cream Puffs, getting flavored milk is a tradition at our fair. Besides chocolate and strawberry, you can try banana milk, rootbeer milk, and other wacky flavors for a quarter each! I can’t forget to say this, too: since you’re in Milwaukee, please grab yourself some fried cheese curds and a beer (or get out.)
If you’re into the farm life, there are animal barns to check out and see who placed in the competitions. There are carnival activities, bands playing, art buildings, and too many vendors to count. Bring some cash, you might want everything.
Named “The World’s Largest Music Festival,” Summerfest attracts around 800,000 to 900,000 people. This year happens to be the 50th year! My Facebook is guaranteed to be flooded with videos and pictures of everyone’s experiences during these days.
3. Pride Fest
Like many major cities, Milwaukee does have it’s very own Pride fest! I have not been to it personally, but from all the stories and pictures I’ve seen, it’s a crazy fun time. Another opportunity to drink beer (thanks, Milwaukee) but also meet and connect with new people!
4. Bastille Days
Not nearly as big as the others, but its still a cute little summer festival to go to. There are vendors, food, and drinks which is pretty typical for a summer festival in Milwaukee. They have a mini Eiffel tower on display, and 2 vendors offered French foods and cheeses, along with a few street performers. The ethnic traditions aren’t as authentic as some of these other festivals, but it’s great for the small space they have. If you just want a beer and a nice (and free) place to hangout? You’re golden!
5. German Fest
The last weekend of July, at Henry W. Maier Festival Park, is probably one of my favorite ethnic festivals: German Fest! (May or may not be because it’s a majority of my heritage.) German Fest Milwaukee is larger than Bastille Days; it’s actually one of the largest German Festivals in North America. There’s polka music playing, so you can polka dance until your heart’s content! Beer everywhere, from American brands to German brands. Bratwursts, wiener schnitzel, bretzels und käse(pretzel & cheese), und kartoffelnsalat (potato salad) are only some of the authentic German foods served at this festival.
6. Polish Fest
Tired of beer? Attend the vodka tasting event at Polish Fest! Similar to these other festivals, Polish Fest offers authentic cuisine (pierogis with many filling options), vendors, various bands, and contests all relating to Polish heritage.
7. Irish Fest
Along with delicious food and fabulous music, there are many different activities to participate in at Irish Fest. If you know someone 12 and under with true Irish blood running through their veins, they could win the “Red Hair & Freckles Contest!” Those of legal drinking age could head over to the Jameson Lounge to taste some delicious whiskeys or enjoy a specialty drink.
8. Mexican Fiesta
Mexican Fiesta is more than just tacos (though there is a Taco dinner). There’s a salsa/bachata contest, traditional costume contest, and jalapeño eating contest! Starting off the weekend of Mexican Fiesta is a Dia de los Muertos Parade Friday evening. There’s something each day to immerse and introduce you to Mexican culture!
9. Indian Summer Festival
To end the summer, and start off fall, is the Indian Summer Festival! To clear confusion, this is all about Native American culture. Many Wisconsin city names come from Native American names (Milwaukee being one of them!), so it’s no surprise there would be a Native American festival to celebrate the culture! There are powwow contests, workshops, traditional music and art!
10. Festa Italiana
At Festa Italiana, you can be a true Italian and try your hand at the Bocce Ball tournament! If bocce isn’t your thing, you can enjoy the festivities on a gondola ride, play futsal, or watch the parade! Wine tasting is also offered, which is a nice change of pace away from beer. Also, who doesn’t love Italian food?
Other summer festivals in the area include:
- Garlic Fest, June 24, (Safe place away from vampires.)
- Cedarburg Strawberry Festival, June 24-25. (An extremely busy festival for it not being downtown Milwaukee)
- Milwaukee Brewfest, July 29. (Beer. Self explanatory)
- Firkin Fest, July 22. (Yes, more beer.)
Along with many smaller art, music, and street summer festivals. There is an opportunity to drink beer and have fun every weekend. It is Milwaukee after all! These are simply my favorites and ones I plan on attending this year. If you’re interested in seeing a full list, you can check out the full calendar on Visit Milwaukee website. You will see that festival season even extends into the fall and springtime!