BMO Harris Pavilion at Dusk

2017 Milwaukee Festival Guide

Your chronological guide to dozens of Milwaukee area festivals, from Summerfest to Jazz in the Park to the Milwaukee Film Festival and everything in between.

* indicates a weekly event. 

Bay View Art in the Park

This monthly series (the second Saturday of every month) features handmade items made by local artists for sale in Humboldt Park. Just grab a quick peak by strolling through the park or stop and participate in one of the community workshops.

  • Date/Time: Second Saturday of month between May-Sept., 11 a.m.-4p.m.
  • Location: Humboldt Park, 3000 S. Howell Ave.

Gloss Weekend

Gloss Records celebrates its second-year anniversary with three nights of shows featuring the bands that have released albums on the local boutique record label including The Fatty Acids, Rio Turbo, Sex Scenes, Marielle Allschwang and Dashcam on Friday, May 19 at Cactus Club and Foreign Goods, NO/NO, Surgeons in Heat, Hello Death and Iron Pizza on Saturday, May 20 at Riverwest Public House. On Sunday, May 21, Gloss features a surprise band with Gloss co-founders Harrison Colby and Joe Peterson spinning records.

  • Date/Time: May 19-21, m. (4p.m. on Saturday, May 20)
  • Location: Cactus Club, 2496 S. Wentworth Ave. (5/19),Riverwest Public House, 815 E. Locust St. (5/20) and High Dive, 710 E. Center St. (5/21)

Jazz in the Park*

Get to Cathedral Square early to find a comfortable spot amongst the hordes, but once you’ve parked your lawn chair safely, crack a beverage and take in the bustling atmosphere at the weekly Thursday night series Jazz in the Park, which celebrates its 26th anniversary this summer. There are rows of food and beer vendors to satisfy any craving and, of course, there’s the musical entertainment, which offers more variety than the title suggests. Acts this year include Alma Afrobeat Ensemble (June 29), Christopher’s Project (July 20) and Salsa Manzana (August 10).

  • Date/Time: Thursdays between June 1-August 31, 5 p.m.-9 p.m.
  • Location: Cathedral Square Park, 520 E. Wells St.

Milwaukee Scottish Fest and Highland Games

Immerse yourself in Scottish culture this summer during the annual Milwaukee Scottish Fest and Highland Games. The traditional bagpipe music, Highland dancing, the parade of the Tartans and seeing sheepdogs herding a flock of sheep may just have you researching where to purchase a wool kilt.

  • Date/Time: June 3, 9 a.m.-10 p.m.
  • Location: Hart Park, 7300 W. Chestnut St., Wauwatosa

Beer Barons’ World of Beer Festival

Does the 60-beer tap list at Sugar Maple somehow seem unimpressive? Then check out the 14th annual Beer Barons’ World of Beer Festival at Schwabenhof Pavilion in Menomonee Falls, where there are more than 350 beers, meads and ciders available from breweries like O’so, Central Waters, Mobcraft, Karben 4, Lakefront, and Surly along with special mead and homebrew sections.

  • Date/Time: June 3, 1 p.m.-5 p.m.
  • Location: Schwabenhof Pavilion, N56 W14750 Silver Spring Dr., Menomonee Falls

UPAF Ride for the Arts

While the plan to build a bike lane on the Hoan Bridge was nixed by the state in 2011, you can see what that experience would have been like by entering the United Performing Arts Fund’s Ride for the Arts. Each of the 70-mile, 45-mile and 25-mile routes travel over the bridge (the 12-mile family route and the 5-mile youth route are much more manageable for those with a fear of heights). But don’t forget to bring a helmet, as they are required, and you should probably remember a camera to capture the experience, too.

  • Date/Time: June 4, 7 a.m.
  • Location: Henry W. Maier Festival Park, 200 N. Harbor Dr.

Chill on the Hill*

While Jazz in the Park can get a little sloppy as the night wears on, the Tuesday night music series Chill on the Hill in Bayview offers more open space and a more kid-friendly atmosphere for parents, who can watch their offspring prance in front of the stage while they casually sip on a bottle of wine.

  • Date/Time: Tuesdays between June and August, 6:00p.m.-8:30p.m.
  • Location: Humboldt Park, 3000 S. Howell Ave


Festival season kicks into full gear with the opening of Henry Maier Festival Park for the 30th annual Pridefest. The world’s biggest LGBT+ celebration with permanent festival grounds welcomes a diverse group of performers this year, including headliner Betty Who on Friday night, comedian Dina Nina Martinez on Saturday, and a closing night set from local singer-songwriter Mandy Cappleman.

  • Date: June 9-11
  • Location: Henry Maier Festival Park, 200 N. Harbor Dr.

Summerfest Rock ‘n Sole Run

Burn off the excess calories gained from the fistfuls of pizza cones and unending stream of beer during the festival season with the Summerfest Rock ‘n Sole Run, where registrants can compete in half marathon, quarter marathon and 5K races.

  • Date: June 10, 7a.m.
  • Location: Henry Maier Festival Park, 200 N. Harbor Dr.

Locust Street Festival of Music and Art

The block party season commences every year with a 1.8-mile beer run through the Riverwest neighborhood. After the boozy race concludes, the party really gets started with indoor/outdoor stages of music, craft tents, food vendors, and, of course, beer for sale. But what seems underrated is the great opportunity to people watch while walking up and down Locust Street. Riverwest is truly filled with some interesting characters and they all tend to come out for the annual block party.

  • Date/Time: June 11, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
  • Location: Locust Street between Humboldt and Holton avenues.

River Rhythms*

For its prime downtown riverside location, Pere Marquette Park is a mostly underutilized space—usually a shortcut to/from Old World Third Street or the launching point for booze cruises—but on Wednesday nights during the summer the park is resurrected with delicious aromas of diverse food vendors and the rhythmic sounds of live entertainment.

  • Date/Time: Wednesdays between June 14 and August 30, 6:30 p.m.-9 p.m.
  • Location: Pere Marquette Park, 900 N. Plankinton Ave.

Filth Fest 5

Self-described as “Milwaukee’s Queer Punk Fest,” Filth Fest celebrates its fifth year with a three-day art and music festival in Riverwest, heralding the community’s LGBTQ+ voices. Every show is all-ages and all the proceeds go to supporting the Trans Assistance Project and Courage Milwaukee.

Polish Fest

Celebrate the city’s ethnic heritage at the 36th annual Polish Fest. You can participate in a vodka tasting, purchase Polish souvenirs and knickknacks in the Sukiennice Marketplace, gaze at and pet some fluffy Polish sheepdogs, check out some authentic Polish music and even take a cooking class to learn the intricacies of Polish cooking.

  • Date: June 16-18
  • Location: Henry Maier Festival Park, 200 N. Harbor Dr.

Lakefront Festival of Art

The annual Lakefront Festival of the Arts serves a dual purpose—to champion great artists while also acting as a fundraiser for the Milwaukee Art Museum. The festival has been doing so for more than 50 years.

  • Date: June 16-18
  • Location: Milwaukee Art Museum, 700 N. Art Museum Dr.

Juneteenth Day

A remembrance of the day when slavery was abolished throughout the Confederate South more than 150 years ago, Juneteenth Day has been long celebrated in Milwaukee. The city’s annual festival started 46 years ago and is still going strong, with a kick-off parade and a mix of live music and food vendors.

  • Date: June 19
  • Location: Dr. Martin Luther King Drive between Center and Burleigh streets.

Summer Soulstice

North Avenue transforms from a bustling, bar-heavy street into an even bigger mass of people watching a few stages of music, various street performers and, oh yeah, experienced riders doing sick tricks on a BMX half pipe. Summer Soulstice separates itself from the glut of annual block parties by the sheer variety of activities they offer, including a dodgeball tournament, a rock wall and a yoga session in North Point Water Tower Park.

  • Date/Time: June 24, noon – midnight
  • Location: North Avenue between Oakland and Prospect avenues

Garlic Fest

A bad-breath sanctuary of sorts, Garlic Fest, now in its 6th year, spends an afternoon reveling in all dishes garlic-infused. You’ll be able to taste endless food items that utilize the versatile bulbous plant including a Green Garlic Bloody Mary from Braise. Because this is a Milwaukee festival, there will be beverages from local breweries and distilleries.

  • Date/Time: June 25, noon-4 p.m.
  • Location: Braise Restaurant, 1101 S. 2nd


While you can easily complain about the irrelevant and tiresome festivals, the granddaddy of them all, Summerfest (aka The World’s Largest Music Festival®) truly offers something for everyone, like Red Hot Chili Peppers (June 28), Luke Bryan (June 29), Paul Simon (June 30), P!nk (July 2), The Chainsmokers (July 4) and Bob Dylan (July 9) .

  • Date: June 28-July 2, July 4-9
  • Location: Henry Maier Festival Park, 200 N. Harbor Dr.

Wonderful Wednesdays*

Get away from the city without traveling to far with Lake Park’s Wednesday night music series which features one hour performances from Jim Gill, Danika and Jeb, Paul Kaye, Twang Dragons, Cash Box Kings and Fox & Branch.

  • Date/Time: Wednesdays between June 21 and July 26, 6:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.
  • Location: Lake Park, 3233 E. Kenwood Blvd.

Musical Mondays*

Gorgeous Lake Park provides some nice scenery for live music on Monday evenings during the summer. You can catch performances from Lakefront Brass Quintet, 4th Street Elevator, Caribbean Eclipse, Cream City Percussion, Folias Music and The Rhythm Aces.

  • Date/Time: Mondays between July 3-August 28, 6:30 p.m.-8 p.m.
  • Location: Lake Park, 3233 E. Kenwood Blvd.

Bastille Days                             

The French holiday, Bastille Day, remembers the 1789 storming of the medieval fortress called the Bastille, which helped accelerate the French Revolution. Milwaukee honors that historic event with an annual four-day celebration, which kicks off on Thursday, July 13 with the 5K run/2-mile walk entitled “Associated Bank Storm the Bastille.” The entertainment portion of the festival has certainly seen better days—back in the ‘80s Sun Ra and Camper Van Beethoven performed—but its musical accompaniments are often on par with the other block parties.

  • Date: July 13-16
  • Location: Cathedral Square Park, 520 E. Wells St.

Ayre in the Square*

Spend a relaxing Thursday evening in the urban chic Third Ward neighborhood for this laid-back weekly music series. A diverse set of performers are featured, playing everything from reggae to vintage country.

  • Date/Time: Thursdays between July 13-August 31, 6:30 p.m.-8:30p.m.
  • Location: Catalano Square, 147 N. Broadway Ave.

Gallery Night and Day

Even casual art fans will get a kick out of Gallery Night and Day. There’s no stuffy art gallery experience during the two-day event. Rather, plenty of businesses open their doors for guests to appreciate the temporary installations in a casual atmosphere.

  • Date: July 21-22
  • Location: Businesses around the Third Ward

Festa Italiana                              

Enjoy an array of Italian activities at Festa Italania. You can play bocce, watch futsal (a variation of soccer), test your vocal chords in an Italian Idol competition, march in the Grand Parade led by infamous wooden puppet Pinocchio, or take a romantic voyage on a gondola.

  • Date: July 21-23
  • Location: Henry Maier Festival Park, 200 N. Harbor Dr.

Milwaukee Firkin Beer Festival

Not your normal beer tasting festival, the Milwaukee Firkin Beer Festival spotlights, you guessed it, firkins. A firkin is small barrel (usually a quarter barrel) of cask-conditioned ale. It forgoes some steps of the normal brewing processes of big breweries, like cold filtration, pasteurization or carbonation. The festival offers more than 40 firkins and 150 beers for sampling. General admission tickets are $49, but VIP tickets ($80) will give you an early entry (3 p.m.) and access to rare and limited beers.

  • Date/Time: July 22, 4 p.m.-7:30 p.m.
  • Location: Cathedral Square Park, 520 E. Wells St.

Warped Tour

Teenage angst reigns supreme at the traveling music festival Warped Tour. This year’s lineup boasts some notable acts of pop punk’s past—Watsky, Hands Like Houses, Band Omens, Andy Jack—and then an endless bill of band names that only someone under the age of 20 could possibly know.

  • Date: July 24, 11 a.m.
  • Location: Henry Maier Festival Park, 200 N. Harbor Dr.

Riverwest 24

While a 24-hour bike race sounds like a grueling affair, the Riverwest 24 is actually the best party of the summer. Riders compete to see who can compete the most 4.6 mile laps around Riverwest and can earn extra points by stopping in at designated bonus checkpoints. But residents take the opportunity to cheer on bicyclists from their lawns and host day-long barbecues. No neighborhood in Milwaukee is as quite as alive as Riverwest during the 24.

  • Date: July 28-29
  • Location: Starting line at Fratney and Center streets

German Fest

There aren’t many occasions on the calendar when you can bust out the lederhosen from the closet and enjoy a stein of dunkel. For those who can’t wait for Oktoberfest in the fall, German Fest offers an early opportunity to celebrate the city’s rich Germanic roots with a children’s parade, Trachtenschau (a traditional clothing exhibit), Marktplatz (a German market), and authentic German music. Plus, there’s a soccer game between local sports team and business mascots, which doesn’t make that much sense, but sounds really watchable.

  • Date: July 28-30
  • Location: Henry Maier Festival Park, 200 N. Harbor Dr.

Brady Street Festival

The former hippie epicenter of Milwaukee, Brady Street has certainly been spruced up since the ‘70s, but the neighborhood still shows flashes of its counterculture past. One example is the annual Brady Street Festival, which offers local food and drink vendors and four stages of music, but its main draw is the closing “Fifty Shades of Drag” drag show.

  • Date/Time: July 29, 11 a.m.-midnight
  • Location: Brady Street between Van Buren Street and Farwell Avenue

Milwaukee Brewfest

Sample more than 300 different beers while enjoying a beautiful view of Lake Michigan at Milwaukee Brewfest. A $60 ticket ($50 if you buy in advance) earns you four hours of unlimited beer samples, live music and home brewing demonstrations. For an extra $15 you can purchase a VIP ticket, which includes a pint glass, a private restroom, a private lounge, free snacks and gets you into the festival an hour early with access to limited edition beers.

  • Date/Time: July 29, 3 p.m.-7 p.m.
  • Location: Old Coast Guard Pavilion Park, 2420 S. Lincoln Memorial Dr.

Milwaukee Comedy Festival

Do you like to laugh? Of course, you do. While still in its nascent stages, Milwaukee’s comedy scene is stronger than ever before. There’s no better chance to see some great local and national comedians than at the Milwaukee Comedy Festival—this years’ headliner is Michael Ian Black, a comedian and actor known for Wet Hot American Summer (August 6).

  • Date: August 1-6
  • Location: Various locations

Wisconsin State Fair

The annual “wait, we’re eating what now?” festival returns to Wisconsin State Fair Park this August to fill our arteries with cholesterol from all that chocolate covered bacon, food-on-a-stick and cream puffs (so many cream puffs). The musical entertainment this year includes performances from John Mellencamp (August 4), The Beach Boys (August 6) and Pentatonix (August 8),

  • Date: August 3-13
  • Location: Wisconsin State Fair Park Grounds, 640 S. 84th St.

Center Street Daze

Only one Milwaukee block party starts with a cart race, and that block party is Center Street Daze. Center Street Daze isn’t only for sporting types—there are multiple stages of music, as well, including shows at Company Brewing, Club Timbuktu, The Jazz Gallery and The Uptowner.

  • Date/Time: August 5
  • Location: Center Street between Holton and Humboldt avenues

Bronzeville Cultural and Arts Festival

Kicking off the fifth edition of Bronzeville Week, the Bronzeville Cultural and Arts Festival celebrates the revitalization of the African-American neighborhood with a full day of live music, vendors serving food and artists selling crafts.

  • Date/Time: August 12, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
  • Location: North Avenue between Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and 7th Street

Irish Fest

With St. Patrick’s Day a distant memory, Irish Fest brings out a calmer, more family friendly atmosphere than its sloppy March equivalent. Among the activities at this year’s festival are tastings at the Jameson Lounge, a red hair and freckles competition and, of course, some traditional Irish music.

  • Date: August 17-20
  • Location: Henry Maier Festival Park, 200 N. Harbor Dr.

Milwaukee Punk Fest 7

The seventh incantation of Milwaukee Punk Fest is utterly huge, containing both a four-day festival and pre- and post- parties (August 12 and 26, respectively) and featuring more than 50 bands and five comedians.

  • Date: August 17-20, pre-party August 12, post-party August 26
  • Location: Various locations


A relatively new festival, Indiafest started in 2013 and has grown exponentially in the meantime. It’s not hard to see why the festival hooked so many people—it’s a fun day filled with traditional costumes, food, dancing and jewelry and is set in the beautiful Humboldt Park.

  • Date: August 19
  • Location: Humboldt Park, 3000 S. Howell Ave.

Mexican Fiesta

As the penultimate ethnic festival of the season Mexican Fiesta overtakes Henry Maier Festival Park for a big summer blow-out. There are mariachi bands, Mexican food and drink and a soccer tournament.

  • Date: August 25-27
  • Location: Henry Maier Festival Park, 200 N. Harbor Dr.

Indian Summer Festival

This year Indian Summer Festival celebrates the 31st anniversary of honoring the culture of native peoples. The festival exists today as a way to learn about and embrace the traditions of the American Indian.

  • Date: September 8-10
  • Location: Henry Maier Festival Park, 200 N. Harbor Dr.

Bay View Bash

Car traffic is blocked off on Kinnickinnic Avenue for the yearly Bay View Bash, which celebrates the south side neighborhood with two stages of music, a children’s stage, a strongman competition, a vaudevillian side show, arts and crafts tents and some community food vendors.

  • Date: September 16
  • Location: Potter and Clement on Kinnickinnic Avenue

Doors Open Milwaukee

There are so many historic Milwaukee buildings that can only be viewed from the outside. The two-day Doors Open Milwaukee seeks to give the public access to these exclusive interiors. This year people can tour places like the Iron Horse Hotel, the Federal Courthouse and the Stone Creek Coffee Factory.

  • Date: September 23-24
  • Location: Various locations

Fromm Petfest

A festival for our cute and cuddly best friends in the whole wide world, Fromm Petfest grants access to Henry Maier Festival Park for cats and dogs (as long as they are properly vaccinated and remained leashed). Now in its fourth year, new areas include the Petfest Bier Garden and Dog Park, where our furry friends can run around freely while we humans sip on some cold ones and Petfest University, which features demonstrations from pet trainers, groomers and nutritionists.

  • Date/Time: September 23, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
  • Location: Henry Maier Festival Park, 200 N. Harbor Dr.

Milwaukee Film Festival

The ever-growing Milwaukee Film Festival makes the city a cinephile’s dream in the fall. There’s really nothing else like it here and the better response, the bigger the festival gets.

  • Date: September 28-October 12
  • Location: Various theaters