7 Things to Know About Jazz in the Park

Every Thursday evening from June 1 to August 31 you will find jazz music streaming from the confines of Cathedral Square. Here’s what you need to know before attending.

The early bird catches the…best seat?

Get to the park early! While the festivities officially begin when the food and drink vendors open for “happy hour” at 5 p.m. (and music starts at 6), you’ll need to get to Cathedral Square as early as possible to secure your preferred seat. Not only does seating fill up quickly, but so does parking. Plan accordingly. 

Find the right spot

Sun gods and goddesses should sit to the left of the stage while shade dwellers should hang out under the protection of the building’s shadows on the right side. Like it loud? Up front is for you, but if you need a quick escape to the food vendors, find a spot towards the back of the park.  Meanwhile, the blanket crowd tends to converge near the front, while the lawn chairs find themselves in the back. Everyone else either stands or plants themselves on the grass.

Bring the kids

You’ll see just about everyone from families to couples on date night and teens out with their friends. Everyone is out enjoying the weather, food and most importantly, the music. People of all ages come together to enjoy Jazz in the Park every Thursday night.

Come hungry

There are plenty of food (and drink) vendors with options for everyone. Craving a slice of pizza? Louise’s has you covered. Or nibble on some Fiesta Corn from Vagabond. What about some gooey fried cheese curds or a sweet waffle with strawberries, whipped cream, and Nutella from Press? The list of delicious meals, treats and drinks goes on.


Share a Dance

While everyone comes to Jazz in the Park expecting to listen to a great jazz band all night, you may be surprised to learn that they aren’t the sole entertainment of the night. Jazz dancers often perform at the front of the crowd below the stage and draw their own attention. Professionals and amateur dancers alike show off their moves throughout the night, so feel free to get up and show off your moves as well. You never know what or who you might see at Jazz in the Park. My favorite? The old man who dances through the crowd balancing a cup and soda can on his head. Yes, it happens and it’s great. The more free entertainment, the better!

Indulge in the unofficial Jazz in the Park snack

The go-to jazz snack: kettle corn. A night at Jazz in the Park is not complete without a bowl of kettle corn from the ever-present Cowboy Kettle Corn stand. It’s impossible to ignore the delicious smell of freshly made kettle corn all night. You’ll be stopping by for a bucket by the end of the night; I guarantee it.

Cowboy Kettle Corn; photo by Megan Otto.

 They have a great Happy Hour deal

If I haven’t already given you enough reasons to head to Jazz in the Park at least one Thursday this summer, here’s my final push: happy hour is from 5-6 p.m. every week and all alcoholic drinks are a dollar off. If jazz music isn’t your thing and you don’t like great food, then the combination of an outdoor happy hour in great weather must surely have you zipping over to Cathedral Square Thursday nights for Jazz in the Park!

Photo by Megan Otto



Megan Otto is a digital and editorial intern at Milwaukee Magazine. She currently attends the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has previously interned in London.