Summerfest 101

It all started when then Milwaukee mayor Henry W. Maier visited Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. He was so inspired by what he experienced, that in 1968 he kicked off his own multi-day, multi-event music festival. Needless to say, Summerfest has grown since then to become “The World’s Largest Music Festival,” (certified by the Guinness Book of World Records since 1999). To ensure your Summerfest experience is something to tweet about, we rounded up a few insider tips. So without further adieu…


Summerfest’s 11 stages are located throughout the 75-acre festival park. There’s a handful of parking lots, including free motorcycle parking, located near the Mid Gate. Preferred parking is $20 with exclusive parking being $35, but if you drive around the nearby side streets, you can sometimes find cheaper options still within walking distance. There’s some construction on the main roadways to get to Summerfest, so be sure to check for updates from the Wisconsin Dept. of Transportation.

  • TIP: Avoid traffic all together! The Milwaukee County Transit System offers Summerfest shuttles that will pick you up from various park and ride lots.


The “Big Gig” lasts 11 days and attracts nearly 1 million people each year. Tickets are available for purchase online or at the gate. (If you’re arriving during peak hours expect a small wait at the gate.) Check the Summerfest website for daily promotions for discounted rates between noon and 3pm. A die-hard music lover? Summerfest offers a money-saving weekday pass, 3-day (noon to midnight) or 11-day (noon to 4pm) pass.

TIP: Weekday admission for adults is cheaper from noon – 4pm. If you can get in then and get a wristband, you can re-enter the park before 6:30pm to save some dough.


Carry-ins are not allowed, but there’s plenty to eat and drink on the grounds. Count on sampling delicious food from some of Milwaukee’s most-loved restaurants and enjoying drinks from mainstay and craft breweries within the state.

TIP: Try the Saz’s sampler platter, for some of the best sour cream and chive fries, mozzarella sticks and white cheddar cheese curds you’ve EVER had.

Opening night of Summerfest kicks off with a spectacular fireworks show known as “The Big Bang.” There really isn’t a bad seat in the house, but anything near the shoreline is even better.

In town for Summerfest and looking for other things to do in the area? We’ve got ideas for Milwaukee dining, events and attractions

This entry was posted in Fairs & Festivals, Arts and Culture, Entertainment and Attractions, Nightlife