Wisconsin Outdoor Theater: 5 Small-Town Hidden Gems

By Denice Ryan Martin
Special to TravelWisconsin.com

“All the world’s a stage,” as Shakespeare put it. But some of the best outdoor stages are found right here in Wisconsin.

Whether your tastes are live theater or music, experiencing the performance outside is magical, especially when a warm summer breeze blows and stars sparkle overhead.

Here are some hidden gems to add to your summer plans, along with ideas on where to dine before or after the show.      


See: Tucked into the serene wooded scenery of the Kettle Moraine State ForestSummerStage delivers top-notch entertainment, from Broadway plays to musicals and family performances. 

Picnicking is encouraged, so bring your own seating or rent a table and chairs along the grassy slope. Set some time aside to climb Lapham Peak’s main attraction, the 45-foot-tall observation tower with its panoramic views of the state forest, lakes and nearby cities.  

Eat: A traditional Irish pub, Revere’s Well Street Tavern offers tasty and filling entrees like Shepherd’s Pie, meatloaf and beer battered/baked cod. Enjoy outdoor dining on the patio and indoor fun in the game room with billiards and darts.

Wholly Cow Frozen Custard has been Delafield’s hot spot for cold treats since the early 1990s. Pick from countless custard and ice cream flavors on the menu. Take a minute to browse their cute gift shop, too.


See: Built in 2007, the Phoenix Park Bandshell is a premier place to catch some great summer sounds. A stuning piece of architecture, the bandshell is bopping all summer long with concerts at least three times a week.

Shows include jazz, classical, pop/rock and blues performances with a sprinkling of special events, including a 4th of July bash. Twist, shimmy and shake on a colorful dance floor. The best part is, all concerts and events are free! 

Eat: Sweet Aroma Ristorante boasts authentic Italian cooking that bursts with robust flavors. They specialize in Old World dishes, such as fish stew, various pastas, chicken, veal and seafood. Splurge on homemade pastries and desserts.


See: Nestled on the banks of the Fox River, Riverside Players' “Theatre in the Park” is a community-supported troupe with a rich history dating back to the 1950s. Two productions are offered each summer, typically a play and a musical. 

Come early to watch the boats in the marina, walk the pretty park trails and view the impressive sculpture fountain Playing in the Rain, created by Neenah native Dallas Anderson.  

Eat: The self-proclaimed “Friendly Neighborhood Meeting Place,” Greene’s Pour House offers a plethora of tap beers and popular fish tacos in a cheerful tavern with games and music.

Solon Springs

See: The Lucius Woods Performing Arts Center is set among tall pines on the shores of Upper St. Croix Lake. The unique concert shell, crafted from red pine logs and tamarack, blends into the woods and provides exceptional acoustics. The summer music series features blues, bluegrass, rock and big band. Children 15 and under are admitted free at this picnic-perfect event.

Eat: KD’s Family Restaurant is known for its home cooking, from country fried steak to deep fried chicken. Complete your meal with a tasty slice of homemade dessert.

Waterford & Burlington

See: Two neighboring Fox River towns work together to keep the music flowing on Thursday nights, staggering their free concerts throughout the summer. Waterford’s River Rhythms is going a decade strong at Village Hall Park, featuring a an attractive brick stage that blends in with its quaint riverfront setting. It’s an intimate venue that encourages dancing and socializing with neighbors and friends.

Burlington’s B-Town Sounds concerts are scheduled the second and fourth Thursday of the summer in the historic downtown Echo Park. Enjoy a Wisconsin craft beer along with the music, as the fest highlights a different one at each concert.

Eat: You can’t miss the Cotton Exchange. It’s the big barn and silo just outside town. Stop for a mouth-watering appetizer like the Ahi Tuna or Spinach and Artichoke dip with Paesano bread. And stay for the Mexican specials Thursday nights.

True burger hounds love to chow down at Fred’s World Famous Burgers. A former neighborhood tap, this now-renowned Burlington dining spot draws folks from all over by delivering juicy, tasty and creative half-pound burgers and quarter-pound sliders.

For those who prefer poultry to cows, check out Fred’s Hen House menu, with items like Cajun, Swiss Mushroom or  Popcorn chicken. Don’t leave without a Fred’s t-shirt or hat for the burger lover in your life.


Looking for more theater under the stars? Check out Wisconsin's most popular outdoor theaters!

This entry was posted in Performing Arts Restaurants