My Great Uncle John loved the Milwaukee Irish Fest with the kind of quiet passion that is born out of simple tradition. It wasn’t hard to understand why he came back to the fest every year. Good music, traditional Irish foods, and family made it special. These simple joys gave the fest a kind of magic that allowed it to be both a pivotal part of my own childhood and a yearly necessity for John.
We all have traditions that tie some of the meaning in our lives back to a sense of place. Oftentimes, some of the traditions that become the most important to us are part of an event or a festival. Below are of some of Wisconsin’s best, as well as some insider tips to help you find the moments that will elevate these events from vacation to tradition.
The Madison Summer Duo
This sauerkraut filled festival is a Memorial Day Weekend staple for Madison residents. Come for great brats, good beer, live music and a midway perfect for both kids and children-at-heart.
Insider Tip: You can beat the traffic and enjoy a scenic ride by biking to brat fest. If you’re coming from out of town, start your ride downtown and hop on the bike path near Monona Terrace. You can ride the trail all the way to the fest grounds.
If you’re a beer lover then you need to put this event on your calendar. The Great Taste of the Midwest features beers from more than 150 breweries. Tickets can go quickly, but if you track them down you’ll find that a Madison road trip is on the calendar every August.
Insider Tip: Since all the breweries arrive the night before the event, you can catch some unique beers on the appropriately named Great Taste Eve. Look for bars like Alchemy which often feature exclusive brews along with great food.
This music festival is newer, but earns their spot on the list for consistently attracting big name groups and offering an experience typically found at much larger music festivals. Come ready to camp and make friends, as this festival truly offers a full weekend experience.
Insider Tip: Come hungry to Eaux Claires because food options at this festival are Foodie approved. You can either take your pick of unique food cart options or check out some of the local places that set up on site.
There’s no better way to kick off a long weekend in Milwaukee than attending a Thursday night Jazz in the Park. Watch Cathedral Square come alive with some of Wisconsin’s best jazz and big band musicians.
Insider Tip: Local Wisconsin wineries will often have bottles of wine on sale for prices that won’t hurt your wallet. Be sure to show up at least an hour early to find a seat and enjoy the food and drink specials.
This country music fest earns a shout out for attracting many popular country acts and providing ample camping space for everyone to enjoy the experience. Unlike a lot of music festivals, camping for Country Fest is located right on the festival grounds. No need to grab a shuttle.
Insider Tip: If you’re planning a multi-generational trip, consider one of Country Fest’s unique “Glampsites.” These luxury campsites offer premium features such as full beds and air conditioning, while still allowing the family to have the outdoor music festival experience.
La Crosse puts on the biggest Oktoberfest outside of Germany. Between the parade, the festival grounds, and the lively bar scene, you’ll be sure to make some memories that will keep you coming back year after year.
Insider Tip: Lace up your running shoes and participate in in the Maple Leaf Walk Run. The course goes along the parade route for the first few miles and will immediately immerse you in the Oktoberfest atmosphere. Plus, nothing brings people closer than sharing a few miles together.
The Village of Warrens typically has a population of only 400 people. When Cranberry Festival kicks off the community grows to an incredible total of around 100,000 people. This family friendly festival will keep you coming back with the popular Sunday parade and the massive number of food and shopping vendors.
Insider Tip: The cranberry marsh tours offer an authentic look in to Wisconsin’s cranberry country. This part of Wisconsin features more family owned cranberry farms than almost anywhere in the world.
There are plenty of memories to be made in Wisconsin. For fairs, festivals, and more, check out our full events directory.