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 June 23, 2018 at 12:56 p.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.

Hart Fest
Hart Park
June 22-23
Presented by Shorewest Realtors, Hart Fest delivers two days of community spirit inspired via live entertainment – this year headlined by Pat McCurdy, Rebel Grace and The LoveMonkeys – demos, a half-marathon, Fido Fest at Central Bark for all your four-legged festival goers and more.

Greek Fest
Wisconsin State Fair Park
June 22-24
There's a reason why Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church has been putting on its annual Greek Fest for over 50 years. Milwaukeeans can't get enough gyros, lamb and chicken roasted on a spit. Throw in some family fun and carnival rides, and it's a party! Opa!

Summer Soulstice
East North Avenue
June 23
Join in on the fun of celebrating the summer solstice – Milwaukee style! This East Side is one of the largest free showcases for the region's top music acts (stay tuned to OnMilwaukee for the lineup of musical entertainment coming soon!), visual artists, creation stations, local chefs and so much more! Don't worry, the Summer Soulstice is family-friendly, so you can bring the kids along, too.

Cedarburg Strawberry Festival
Historic Downtown Cedarburg
June 23-24
Summer is the time for fresh berries – and what better berry than the strawberry? Sample some strawberry blush wine and chicken strawberry wraps, get sugared up at the strawberry shortcake eating competition and strawberry bubblegum blowing contest, or settle in for the Sunday morning strawberry pancake breakfast. You'll satisfy your strawberry cravings for a while after you've finished with this festival! There will also be live music, pony rides, a petting zoo and the CedarQuacker 500 where 500 rubber duckies will be released into a creek.

Garlic Fest
South 2nd Street
June 24
Come celebrate all things garlic! Various restaurants around Walker's Point will be offering their favorite garlic cuisine outside Braise Restaurant on South 2nd Street. In true Milwaukee spirit, there will be drinks from local distilleries, breweries and Braise Green Garlic Bloody Marys, as well as live music, a DJ, games and local artisans. Just maybe bring an after-festival mint.

Henry Maier Festival Park
June 27-July 8 (off-day on July 2)
From rock to pop, rap to alternative, country to electronic, the world's largest music festival has something for everyone! And best of all, general admission is less than $20 – with plenty of opportunities to save even more money with deals scattered throughout the festival! This year features yet another all-star lineup including Imagine Dragons, Dave Matthews Band, Blake Shelton, The Weeknd, Arcade Fire and more. And that's just the main stage!

Burnhearts' Pabst Street Party
June 30
We know we just had a Pabst Brewery street party a few weeks ago, but this is a completely different Pabst Street Party – one that the beloved Bay View tavern has hosted for more than a decade and has graced the city with good food from the neighborhood, good local brews and good local bands every single time. One imagines they'll do exactly the same this year; their musical lineup certainly says so, with acts like B-Free, Buffalo Gospel and more set to show in 2018.

Bristol Renaissance Faire
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
July 11, Aug. 15 and 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!

Bastille Days
Cathedral Square Park
July 12-15
Bienvenu a Bastille Days! Come visit Paris via Cathedral Square Park and celebrate the 37th anniversary of one of the country's biggest French-themed celebrations, with impromptu street performers, roaming minstrels, musical entertainment and tasty French delicacies. This year's edition comes with a slightly adjusted footprint due to the new streetcar driving through, so keep your eyes open for that – and keep your eyes open for the replica 43-foot Eiffel Tower in the center of all the fun.

Wild Ones Weekend
H-D Museum
July 12-15
If it's got wild in the name, you know it'll be a good time. That's certainly the case with Wild Ones Weekend, a special vintage 1940s-style motorcycle rally hosted at the Harley-Davidson Museum. This year's edition, however, is not just a celebration of sweet motorcycles (though it certainly is that); the 2018 Wild Ones Weekend will have a few anniversaries to ring in, including ten years of the H-D Museum, the 16th annual Knucklehead Company reunion and 70 years – 70 YEARS! – of the Harley-Davidson Panhead engine. With all of that, plus field games and more, your engine is sure to get revving.

Festa Italiana
Henry Maier Festival Park
July 20-22
As one of Milwaukee's oldest ethnic festivals, Festa Italiana continues to build on rich traditions from the past to represent our city's Italian community in the present and future. Enjoy jazz music, a parade, children's activities and fireworks each night – and show off your competitive side as you cheer on the players in futsal tournament and nearby flag throwers. Headlining acts this year include Tony-winner Anthony Crivello, famed Italian actor and singer Louis Vanaria, George Busateri's Spider George and the Web, and more!

Firkin Fest
Cathedral Square Park
July 21
The Milwaukee Firkin Beer Fest is here to educate and help you celebrate! This celebration of MKE's past, present and future of beer will feature samples of over 150 brews and 50 firkins on site. What is a firkin, you ask? It's a small, wooden barrel filled with about nine gallons of God-given brews. The more you know ...

Milwaukee Air & Water Show

July 21-22
It's a bird! It's a plane! No, actually, it's both, as the Milwaukee Air & Water Show will bring back the famed Thunderbirds – more formally known as the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron – to headline this year's event, alongside other exciting demonstrations roaring to life on and above Lake Michigan.

Armenian Fest
St. John the Baptist Armenian Orthodox Church, 7825 W. Layton Ave
July 22
Armenian food takes center stage at this festival, and the offerings resemble Greek and other Eastern Mediterranean cuisines, but with different spices and seasonings. The menu will include chicken and beef kebob, cheese and spinach burek, lamajoun (a pizza-like meat dish served on thin tortilla-like dough), hummus (a dip made of chickpeas), tabouleh (a green salad without lettuce), choreg (breadsticks), vegetarian and meat sarma (stuffed grape leaves) and a mouthwatering array of baklava and other traditional pastries.

Warped Tour
American Family Insurance Amphitheater
July 23
Wave goodbye to the Warped Tour as the annual traveling music festival is calling it quits in 2018. Come release your inner hardcore punk persona one last time and jam out to your favorite metal, pop punk and artists across all sorts of genres at this annual one-day music festival overload.

EAA AirVenture
Wittman Regional Airport, 525 W. 20th Ave.
July 23-29
Every year, EAA AirVenture Oshkosh earns its distinction as "The World's Greatest Aviation Celebration." The members of the EAA make this annual event one of the world's most impressive showcases of attractions, representing innovation, history, technological advancement and current and future trends in aviation.

Washington County Fair
Washington County Fair Park
July 24-29
Enjoy good food and good music at the Washington County Fair. Country headliners tend to dominate the festival, with this year currently featuring Scotty McCreery and Walker Hayes, as well as 3 Doors Down and Collective Soul. There will also be a carnival and a multitude of vendors so come out and see what all the fuss is about!

Riverwest 24
July 27-28
Calling all biking lovers! Come out to Riverwest for its 24-hour bike race, where you get in some exercise and experience the culture of one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Milwaukee. May 6 is registration day over at Riverwest Public House so pedal your way over there!

German Fest
Henry Maier Festival Park
July 27-29
Enjoy three days jam-packed with music, Sheepshead tournaments, wine tasting and children's activities. Learn your family history as well as genealogists look up your family tree and see the alluring display of European trains. The Stihl Timbersports Series returns this year, bringing some of the top lumberjack athletes to Milwaukee, as well as Die Lauser, six musicians from Austria appropriately clad in schottenröcken.

Brady Street Festival
Farwell Avenue to Van Buren Street
July 28
You'll be rockin' the day and night away at one of the four stages packed with local bands (stay tuned to OnMilwaukee for the lineup of musical entertainment coming soon!) and entertainment lineups including belly dancers, the Cream City Queens drag show and plenty more. And when you're parched from walking around Brady Street and singing along to the songs, quench your thirst with an ice cold beer or fill up on an array of food from various vendors. The festival begins at 11 a.m. and closes at midnight.

Milwaukee Brewfest
Lincoln Memorial Drive
July 28
Make way to the shore of Lake Michigan and join the party at the ninth annual Milwaukee Brewfest, featuring hundreds of craft and micro brews, as well as ciders and meads, from around the world. And that's not even mentioning the musical performances, silent auctions, food sampling and local vendors providing food for purchase.

Milwaukee Comedy Festival
Aug. 1-5
Show of hands: Who's in need of a good laugh these days? Alright, let's tally this up, looks like ... yep, literally everybody. Luckily, the Milwaukee Comedy Festival is coming back around for its annual visit, with performers ranging in experience and style – but all certain to hit your funny bone.

Wisconsin State Fair
Wisconsin State Fair Park
Aug. 2-12
It's that time of year again - the Wisconsin State Fair! For ten days, enjoy some classic cream puffs, fried Oreos and other tasty treats by the winners of the Golden Spork Awards. Then wear off all those calories by walking around the grounds, hopping on amusement park rides, watching endless fair competitions and listening to countless concerts – with this year's main stage entertainment including Alice Cooper, TLC, Why Don't We, Cole Swindell, Reba McEntire and more.

Urban Island Beach Park
Aug. 3
The Urban Island Beach Party at Lakeshore State Park is not your typical fundraiser. Instead when you attend, you'll find a festival filled with live music, fantastic food and drinks, kayaking, dancing and more with proceeds going to the Friends of Lakeshore State Park! So put on your best Hawaiian shirt, hunt down one of our flamingos and come to celebrate the park and the summer.

Black Art Fest MKE
Aug. 4
This annual festival - reborn this year at the Summerfest grounds - honors African and African American culture, creating a positive atmosphere that unifies all ages. Black Arts Fest MKE will expose attendees to African and African American heritage and inspire and strengthen pride in our ancestry. OnMilwaukee is a proud sponsor, and organizers hope all will leave the festival with a greater understanding of history. The impressive inaugural batch of musical headliners hitting the stage Saturday, Aug. 4 are blues legend Bobby Rush, R&B hitmakers Tony! Toni! Toné and hip-hop groundbreaker MC Lyte.

Center Street Daze
Aug. 4
This Riverwest Neighborhood festival is perfect for the whole family, featuring events such as car races, car shows, pool, dodgeball and pinball tournaments. The opportunities during one of the city's most eclectic days of the year are endless as you make your way down one of the city's most diverse neighborhood's main drags.

Milwaukee Concours d'Elegance
Veterans Park
Aug. 4-5
Bring some elegance to your summer fun with the 14th annual Milwaukee Concours d'Elegance, a classic car show featuring some of the most luxurious high-end motorcars throughout history on display for your enjoyment and probably a lot of jealousy. This year will also include several rare Ferrari America models to rev your engines even more.

Waukesha BluesFest
Naga-Waukee Park in Delafield
Aug. 10-11
Known as an "American Music and Art Festival," the festival features blues, R&B, soul, gospel and roots music mixed in with country and rock. In the past, the festival has seen the likes of Mavis Staples, James Hunter, John Mayall and many other nationally and internationally renowned musicians. This year, you can see headliners Joe Louis Walker and Carolyn Wonderland on night one, and Nikki Hill and Eddie "The Chief" Clearwater.

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.

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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