In Festival Guide

Where will you spend your summer in Milwaukee? (PHOTO: Visit Milwaukee)

2018 Milwaukee summer festival guide

Note: The contents of this guide were checked for accuracy when this article was updated on Aug. 18, 2018 at 9:01 a.m. We continually update the thousands of articles on, but it's possible some details, specials and offers may have changed. As always, we recommend you call first if you have specific questions for the businesses mentioned in the guide.

The Milwaukee summer festival season has finally arrived, and now it's time to start planning out your fun. But with seemingly a festival or live music event every weekend, it can be overwhelming to try and keep track of all the terrific options headed your way. Luckily, the OnMilwaukee summer festivals guide is here to help.

Here's what you'll be doing, where you'll be drinking, who you'll be hearing and how you'll be getting a sweet tan this summer. (And stay tuned for updates as more festivals announce their official dates, musical lineups and more.)

Now get out there and have some Milwaukee summer fun!

Milwaukee Makers Market
Colectivo - Bay View

Every third Sunday of the month, starting May 20
The Milwaukee Makers Market is the perfect seasonal stop for lovers of art, crafts, alliteration, designers and almost any other hobby. The market meets every third Sunday of the month at the Colectivo location in Bay View, in addition to two bonus dates on June 1 and Sept. 28 for Bay View Gallery Night. So drop by and find your new favorite living room conversation piece, artistic inspiration or something else completely unexpected.

Jazz in the Park
Cathedral Square Park
May 31-Aug. 30
Every Thursday, Cathedral Square Park fills with the sounds of summer from 6-9 p.m. (with a happy hour starting at 5 p.m.). Drinks will be available throughout various tents at the festival; however, it is asked that there are no carry-ins. While jazz may get top billing in the title, the lineup for the weekly summer concert event – sponsored by Educators Credit Union – offers plenty of tuneful variety from across genres and across the globe, from funk to the Cuban-born charanga to brass band to soul to roots reggae to Latin music to bluesy Americana classics and, of course, jazz.

Chill on the Hill
Humboldt Park
June 5-Aug. 28
Hosted as always at Humboldt Park, Chill on the Hill will welcome more than 20 bands over the course of 13 weeks, as well as food vendors from popular Bay View eateries and community partners. And in case that's not enough chilling on the hill for you, this year's festival added a special bonus Friday night Chill on the Hill, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Kids from Wisconsin tour on June 22.

River Rhythms
Pere Marquette Park
June 13-Aug. 29
Westown is the place to be on Wednesday nights this summer! River Rhythms is a free, outdoor summer concert event which hosts some of the finest local talent Milwaukee has to offer – this year including Chicken Wire Empire, Sam Llanas, Charles Walker Band and more.

Bristol Renaissance Fair
July 7-Sept. 3
Grab your corset or your homemade chainmail armor; the Bristol Renaissance Faire is set to make its annual return. Open rain or shine, every Saturday, Sunday and on Labor Day, the Bristol Faire takes visitors for a rollicking romp through Elizabethan England from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., complete with 16th-century arts, crafts, games, rides, food, music and one-of-a-kind encounters with a colorful cast of characters from the era.

NEWaukee Night Markets
Wisconsin Ave. between 2nd and 4th Streets
Sept. 12
NEWaukee's Night Market is a collision of all Milwaukee has to offer. The Night Market is a free, open-air market that offers a wide variety of experiences for people of all backgrounds and ages. The Night Market features a mash up of art, craft and food vendors, live art creation, local music and a beer garden!

Irish Fest
Henry Maier Festival Park
Aug. 16-19
Don't miss the world's largest Irish music and culture celebration. The four-day family festival showcases more than 100 entertainment acts from all over the world, including over 30 Milwaukee groups, several local Irish dance groups and about 90 vendors selling Irish crafts and retail items will as well.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel a la Carte
Milwaukee County Zoo
Aug. 16-19
Head over to the Milwaukee County Zoo to "Feast with the Beasts," enjoying great food and live music as you explore the world's animal kingdom right here in Milwaukee. The kids will love it, but you're sure to love it too!

India Fest
Humboldt Park
Aug. 18
India Fest might be one of the city's youngest festivals, throwing its inaugural edition in 2013, but it's also already one of Milwaukee's brightest summer festivals as well, featuring authentic food, dance, music and marketplaces.

Punk Fest 8
The Local/Quarters
Aug. 23-26
Warped Tour may be dying off this summer, but MKE Punk Fest is still alive and rocking, bringing together acts from across the city, state and even across the country. This year, the lineup includes the likes of The Red Flags, Faux Fiction, The Meatcurtains, Hi/Jack, Gas Station Sushi and many, many more. So after mourning the loss of Warped Tour a month ago, rock yourself back to life with Punk Fest 8 (which, unlike some soon-to-be-deceased punk/alternative rock festivals, never sold out).

Milwaukee Fringe Festival
Downtown Milwaukee venues
Aug. 25-26
Take a walk on the wild side with the third annual Milwaukee Fringe Festival, showcasing local artists, dancers, performers, painters, playwrights and pretty much any other type of artist you can imagine, spread throughout the Marcus Center's Wilson Center at Vogel Hall, Todd Wehr Theater, Peck Pavilion and whatever other Downtown stages can shine a spotlight on our city's art scene – big and small.

Mexican Fiesta
Henry Maier Festival Park
Aug. 24-26
Mexican Fiesta is a celebration of Mexico's rich history of history, art, music and food. Sample some wines, browse through an art gallery, participate in a golf tournament, participate the Fiesta Run and Walk or enjoy taco dinner. Also feel free to take part in various contests such as salsa/bachata, dance, el grito, jalapeno eating and costume. The Fiesta also provides a scholarship for some of Milwaukee's deserving Hispanic youth.

Milwaukee Rally
Various locations
Aug. 29-Sept. 3
Don't let summer go away quietly. Instead, rev your engines with the signature sound of rumbling Harley-Davidson V-twin engines over at this year's Milwaukee Rally – the Midwest's largest free motorcycle rally, featuring events at several venues across the region including musical acts, giant vendor villages, bike nights, street parties, tattoo contests and more.

Big Gig BBQ
Henry Maier Festival Park
Sept. 2
What better way to celebrate Labor Day weekend than by lounging around with some delicious barbecue? That's the beauty of the Big Gig BBQ, featuring award-winning barbecue and tasty beer, as well as the live music, expert cooking demonstrations and Big Gig Pig Award for best professional barbecue that have helped already make the cookout a late summer tradition in just two short years of existence. However, 2018 will cook up a new contest: a rib competition, open to everyone and anyone who savors the sweet smell of victory along with the sweet smell of smoked meats.

Rotary Park/Hart Park
Sept. 7-8
For two nights in Wauwatosa, catch live music performances at one of three stages – this year including the likes of Sam Llanas, King Solomon, The WhiskeyBelles. Greg Koch, Phat Phunktion and more – a cupcake and chili competition, petting zoo, arts and crafts, and local eats and treats. Plus, over the past eleven years, Tosa Fest proceeds have donated over $150,000 to local organizations. So be sure to bring some spare change in exchange for a fun weekend!

Indian Summer Festival
Henry Maier Festival Park
Sept. 7-9
Now celebrating its 32nd year, Indian Summer Festival is still Milwaukee's favorite way to close out the summer festival season. Attend a moving prayer ceremony, clap along with a traditional pow wow or visit the circle of art featuring Native American-inspired art which you can admire and purchase. Indian Summer Festival will be both an educational and exciting experience.

Harbor Fest
East end of Greenfield Avenue
Saturday, September 8th
For a long time, Milwaukee's harbor has been seen as "off limits" or unwelcoming, but it's time to show everyone its true potential. This family-friendly festival includes fun activities like a boat parade, paddling lessons, fishing lessons, a bike tour, street games, music, and food & drink.

Bay View Bash
Between Potter and Clement on Kinnickinnic Avenue
Sept. 15
The Bay View Bash is back with its 14th annual event, delivering a community festival filled with food, art, music, crafts, books and community organizations that's also striving to be waste free!

Cedarburg Wine & Harvest Festival
Downtown Cedarburg

Sept. 15-16
Forget Wine Wednesday and have a wine weekend at the Cedarburg Wine & Harvest Festival, a two-day celebration of the greatness of grape squeezings (and also the start of autumn and the harvest season, but let's be honest, we're mostly here for the vino).

Henry Maier Festival Park
Sept. 22
You've had all the festival fun this summer; it's only fair your cats, puppers and other nature friends had one dedicated to them. That's Fromm Petfest, a free festival featuring all sorts of fun activities and excitement for all your four-legged friends. The best part: It's a festival for them, but you'll probably have a hoot too!

Doors Open Milwaukee
Sept. 22-23
Historic Milwaukee quite literally gets 150 buildings – big and small, new and old, landmarks and hidden gems – to open their doors to the city of Milwaukee for this adventure-minded early fall event. Guided tours are often times offered free of charge with no entry fee required – but if there is somewhere particularly interesting to you, check out the in-depth tours that are ticketed. Doors will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., so get out there and be a tourist in your hometown!

Milwaukee Film Festival
Various theaters in the Milwaukee area
Oct. 18-Nov. 1
2018 marks a big year for the Milwaukee Film – and not only because it's literally taking over a theater this summer. The Milwaukee Film Festival also moved back its start date a whole month to Oct. 18, a seemingly small change that could end up bringing in a whole slew of nationwide festival favorites and buzzy awards season picks that otherwise might've missed the two-week cinema-palooza back in September.

No matter what time of year it takes place, however, come out and see countless eclectic films from all sorts of genres, delivered from all across the globe – and many right from your backyard too. It's almost a guarantee that a few of the films will pop up again a few months later at the Oscars – and will probably pop up on your own personal top ten list for the year!


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