Summerfest 101

It all started when Milwaukee then-mayor Henry W. Maier visited Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. He was so inspired by what he experienced that he kicked off his own multi-day, multi-event music festival in 1968. 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.

This year's festival is June 24-28 and June 30-July 5. To ensure your Summerfest experience is something to Tweet about, we rounded up a few insider tips. 


Summerfest's 11 stages are located throughout the 75-acre festival park. There are 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 altogether! 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 one million people each year. Tickets are available for purchase online or at the gate, though you can expect a small wait at the gate if you arrive during peak times.

Check out Summerfest's promotions and discounted rates to get in for free or at a reduced price between noon and 3 p.m. each day. Die-hard music lover? Summerfest offers a money-saving weekday pass, along with three-day (noon to midnight) or 11-day (noon to 4 p.m.) passes.

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


Most 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