Think Labor Day is only about fireworks and parades? Think again.

With a blissful three-day weekend (for most), get ready for BBQ, major-music festival headliners, an art festival in the Third Ward, admission deals at museums and even a Shakespeare production where the actors perform while drunk.

Read on to learn more. Whether you are hunting for a deal, outdoor fun or a cultural jaunt, it’s all in town over the holiday weekend.


Labor Day Weekend Rally at Harley-Davidson Museum

If you’ve lived long enough in Milwaukee to remember the 95th, 100th and 110th anniversaries of hometown company Harley-Davidson, then you know Labor Day weekend is when Harley owners start their engines. Harley-Davidson Museum is hosting a Labor Day Weekend Rally, Aug. 30-Sept. 4, including test rides of 2018 models, live music, food and drink. Admission is free.

Parades and Festivals

Big Gig BBQ

Bummed that Summerfest is over for the year? Then you might want to head to Big Gig BBQ, which costs nothing to enter (and parking is free, a rarity for a lakefront festival!). It’s hosted at Henry W. Maier Festival Park (same as Summerfest) on Sept. 3 and runs from noon to 7 p.m. Tasting-size BBQ foods from 14 different vendors are for sale, paired with two stages of live music.


As a nod to the holiday, Laborfest is an annual tradition sponsored by the Milwaukee Area AFL-CIO. It’s always held the first Monday in September (this year, on Sept. 4). A parade at 11 a.m. departing from Ziedler Union Square is followed by the festival at Henry W. Maier Festival Grounds featuring classic cars, wrestling, food and kid-friendly entertainment. There is no cost to enter the festival.

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MSOE Backyard BBQ

Headlining this year’s MSOE Backyard BBQ is Alejandro Escovedo, performing his alternative-country songs towards the end of the event (held from noon to 8 p.m.) Held at Humboldt Park in Bay View on Sept. 2, the event is free but be sure to bring cash to buy some BBQ.

Third Wart Art Festival

An annual tradition in the Third Ward — already home to many art galleries and boutiques filled with wares created by artists — the Third Ward Art Festival capitalizes on the fall weather. Around 100 artists display their creations, and there’s food and live music, too.

St. Francis Days

Kicking off on Friday night with a fish fry at 6:30 p.m., St. Francis Days in the southern suburb of St. Francis also includes a Saturday parade at 11 a.m., followed by live-music acts like Pat McCurdy and Frog Water all day long and into the evening, too. Then, on Sunday, there’s polka at 11 a.m. and a petting zoo with carnival rides in the afternoon. Naturally, food and drink is all around.

Wisconsin Scottish Highland Games

Even if you can’t claim Scottish or Celtic heritage, Wisconsin Scottish Highland Games is a fun people-watching festival because you’ll see highland dancing, pipers and drummers (and lots of plaid kilts), and games like the hammer toss. Held Sept. 1-3 at the Waukesha Expo Center in Waukesha, tickets on Friday are free, but they run $10 Saturday and Sunday. They can be purchased online through Aug. 31.


Drunk Shakespeare

The Bard & Bourbon Theatre Company is a newer theater group with a quirky twist. Actors perform Shakespeare productions after throwing back some alcohol (Shakespeare would definitely not be rolling in his grave about this). On Aug. 31-Sept. 3, Bard & Bourbon presents Twelfth Night at the Tenth Street Theatre, 628 N. 10th St., Milwaukee. Curtain time is 7:30 p.m. and tickets (available here) cost $12-$18.

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