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Here's how to do it right.

 1:  Strategize! If several bands you want to see are all playing at the same time, try this: If a group has had several hits, see them first, as they likely will play a big hit or two to get the crowd revved up. If the band has only one hit, wait to see them until later in their set, as they likely want to build up anticipation and hold the crowd. Once you’ve seen all the bands you want to see, go back to the one you liked the best. As they end, follow the music to the stage where a band is still playing. Endings are usually staggered so the exiting crowds don’t all collide.

Photo by DL Hudson


 2:  Find out about free stuff. Go to the Summerfest website to see all the promotions. Some are limited in number, so plan to arrive early to take full advantage. 

Photo by Rebecca Kames


 3:  Once you get onto the grounds for free, get a wristband so you don’t have to stick around all day, spending money. Take advantage of happy hours in the nearby Third Ward or Downtown in late afternoon. Just be sure to return by 7 p.m., or you’ll have to pay full price. Usually, lots of people are returning at that time, so get to the gate early, so you don’t miss out.

Photo courtesy of Historic Photo Collection/Milwaukee Public Library.


 4:  If you think an American Family Insurance Amphitheater show hasn’t been selling well, check at the gates to the amphitheater as soon as the grounds open to see if there are any free passes for the lawn available. Summerfest doesn’t like empty seats!

Photo by Erin Gosch


 5:  Rainstorms are always fun, as the masses huddle together at the beer stands, where you can stay dry and have access to beer. Or, head to the Johnson Controls World Sound Stage, which is fully under cover.

Photo courtesy of Historic Photo Collection/Milwaukee Public Library.


 6:  When the grounds are totally congested and you need to get from one end to another to catch different groups, the path along the lakefront takes you a little out of the way, but is typically the quickest route.

Photo by Rebecca Kames


 7:  Need a break from the music and the madness? The picnic tables along the lake are shaded and comfortable.

Photo courtesy of Historic Photo Collection/Milwaukee Public Library


 8:  Arrive and leave via free shuttles from neighborhood bars. But beware: The return shuttles fill up quickly. Try to leave by 11:30 p.m. if you want a ride that isn’t stuck in traffic and stuffed with hot, sweaty and inebriated bodies.

Photo by Erin Gosch


See all 14 Weekends of Summer Fun

14 Weekends of Summer Fun: Milwaukee


‘Enjoy Summerfest Like a Pro’ appears in the June 2017 (City Guide) issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find it on newsstands beginning May 29, or buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop.

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