Wisconsin is famous for plenty of things – mouth-watering dairy products, proudly wearing green and gold and of course…festivals! Here in America’s Dairyland, there are those who think “America’s Festival-land” might be even more appropriate. From pumpkins to craft beers to chainsaw sculptures, there’s pretty much a festival for everything in Wisconsin.
Whether you have a family in tow or want to get away as a couple, there’s no need to break the bank. You’ll be pleased to know that there’s free admission at all the following fests, along with inexpensive ways to maximize your experience – searching for loose change between the car seats isn’t required for these festivities.
Cheese curds are basically a staple at any Wisconsin festival, but this fest is all about what is possibly the most delectable fried food ever created. As the Cheese Curd Capital of Wisconsin, Ellsworth is an ideal place to honor these bite-sized cheesy creations. The festival serves up a whopping 5,000 pounds of curds alongside other Wisconsin fare like craft beers, hard cider and even cinnamon sugar dessert curds. It’s nothing but all smiles in this cheese lover’s paradise.
Bonus Tip: All the live music is free, so don’t miss these shows while you nibble on some curds! You can also participate in low-cost tastings, like an ice-cream tasting for only $1 per person.
Every summer, the Museum of Wisconsin Art comes alive with color, artistic expression and vibrant chalk drawings. Featuring over 65 artist booths and 15 chalk artists, you can watch as these masterpieces on pavement unfold before your eyes. After getting your creative juices flowing, soak up live music, workshops and local eats.
Bonus Tip: Visit the art activities tents so your little Picassos can whip up their very own free art projects.
You certainly won’t be feeling blue at this music festival. It’s nothing but free admission and smooth tunes for three days as you dance and croon alongside fellow music revelers. With two stages showcasing the stars of the Midwest blues scene, you’ll find it hard to believe that all these guitar hooks and soulful vocals didn’t cost you a penny.
Bonus Tip: To keep that outdoor festival vibe going (and to be kind to your wallet), there are tons of camping options available in Durand and listed on the festival website.
At this festival geared toward beginners and pros alike, you’ll stand-up paddleboard the day away and enjoy the sun, sand and waters of Fowler Lake. Join in a free 1-mile fun paddle or you can register for an adrenaline-pumping paddleboard race. If you’d prefer to stay on land, you can mellow out with some lakeside yoga or take in a free equipment demo.
Bonus Tip: For a $10 donation benefiting the Oconomowoc Watershed Project and Oconomowoc Sports Booster Club, you’ll get all-day access to the yoga classes, clinics and other paddle-centric endeavors.
It’s not called the World’s Largest Cranberry Festival for nothing! There’s no admission for this giant event that honors one of Wisconsin’s top crops. Pick from a dizzying array of activities, like the festive parade, a huge arts and crafts fair, a farmer’s market and of course food, food and more food.
Bonus Tip: Pay only $6 a person ($4 for children) to take an in-depth, hour-long tour of a cranberry marsh, complete with transportation and an up-close look at these tart treats.
The festivities don't stop here! Check out all of Wisconsin's fairs and festivals and keep the summer celebration going.