The Milwaukee summer festival season has finally arrived, and now it's time to start planning out your fun. But with seemingly a festival or live music event every weekend once again, it can be overwhelming to try and keep track of all the terrific options headed your way.
Luckily, the OnMilwaukee summer festivals guide is here to help.
Here's what you'll be doing, where you'll be drinking, who you'll be hearing and how you'll be getting a sweet tan this summer. (And stay tuned for updates as more festivals announce their official dates, musical lineups and more.)
Now get out there and have some Milwaukee summer fun!
Bristol Renaissance Faire
Now through Sept. 5
Grab your corset or your homemade chainmail armor; the Bristol Renaissance Faire is set to make its annual return. Open rain or shine every Saturday, Sunday and on Labor Day, the Bristol Faire takes visitors for a rollicking romp through Elizabethan England from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., complete with 16th-century arts, crafts, games, rides, food, music and one-of-a-kind encounters with a colorful cast of characters from the era.
Chill on the Hill
Hosted as always at Humboldt Park, Chill on the Hill will welcome a plethora of bands over the course of three beautiful summer months, surrounded by food vendors and trucks from popular Bay View eateries and community partners. This year's lineup – taking the stage Tuesday nights at 6:30 p.m. – features excellent local acts like MilBillies, Paul Cebar, Vincent Van Great and Amanda Huff, the MSO, the 100th anniversary celebration of the American Legion Band and more.
Milwaukee Night Market
Wisconsin Avenue between 2nd Street and Vel R. Phillips Avenue
Aug. 17 and Sept. 21
Milwaukee Night Market is a glorious once-a-month collision of all wonder things Milwaukee has to offer. From 5-10 p.m., the Night Market puts on a free, open-air market that offers a wide variety of experiences for people of all backgrounds and ages, featuring a mash-up of art, craft and food vendors, live art creation, local music, Milwaukee businesses, tasty beverages and much more. Any day that ends with a Night Market is a good day.
Henry Maier Festival Park
Don't miss the world's largest Irish music and culture celebration. Hot off its 40th anniversary in 2021, the four-day family festival showcases an incredible plethora of live music and entertainment acts from all over the world – this year including We Banjo 3, Red Hot Chilli Pipers, Enter the Haggis and many more – several local Irish dance groups and dozens upon dozens of vendors selling Irish crafts, food and retail items.
Milwaukee a la Carte at the Zoo
Milwaukee County Zoo
Go wild with this special culinary excursion courtesy of the Milwaukee County Zoo, featuring four days of delicious bites from several local restaurants served alongside live music, wine tastings, demonstrations and more entertainment. Plus, you're at the zoo!
Jazz in the Park
Cathedral Square Park
Aug. 18-Sept. 29
Every Thursday, Cathedral Square Park fills with the sounds of summer from 6-9 p.m. (with a happy hour starting at 5 p.m.). Drinks will be available throughout various tents at the festival; however, it is asked that there are no carry-ins. While jazz may get top billing, the lineup for the weekly summer concert event – still to be announced for 2022 – offers a tuneful variety of local music from across genres and across the globe, all while surrounded by beautiful Milwaukee weather and Downtown scenery.
Sounds of Summer
The Yard at Bayshore
Aug. 19 and 26
Head to the green gathering space in the heart of Bayshore and jam out to the Sounds of Summer live music series, with local bands and performers taking the mic every Friday night from 6-9 p.m. Food and drink are available as well from vendors and nearby food trucks. For the full lineup of music acts, click here.
Bloody Mary Festival
From serving them with little beers to topping them with whole chickens, Milwaukee knows how to do bloody Marys. And this summer, we'll celebrate these tomato-y treats with another delicious pour of the Bloody Mary Festival, headed to the plaza outside Fiserv Forum this summer. Expect food, drink, live entertainment, more drink, games and even more drink in the mix this August.
American Family Field
Indulge in a remarkable two-day feast at American Family Field with Indulge Milwaukee. Hosted both days from noon until 5 p.m., dig into special tastings from more than 30 local restaurants and accomplished chefs – plus even more delicious offerings from wine experts and cocktail mixologists to wash down all your delightful dishes. Hosted at the home of the Milwaukee Brewers, Indulge Milwaukee is a certain home run.
Milwaukee Makers Market
See website for location
Every third Sunday of the month, next on Aug. 21
The Milwaukee Makers Market is the perfect seasonal stop for lovers of art, crafts, alliteration, designers and almost any other hobby. The market meets 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. every third Sunday of the month at either Discovery World or Ivy House MKE – so drop by and find your new favorite living room conversation piece, artistic inspiration or something else completely unexpected.
Fresh Coast Jazz Festival
The Pabst Theater
A fresh night of fresh music, the Fresh Coast Jazz Festival will return for its third year in 2022. Hosted in the historic Pabst Theater, the two-day music gathering booked a collection of excellent jazz artists for 2022 – including Marcus Adams and Friends, Adam Hawley, Bob James, Gabriela Anders Band and more. Stay into the evenings as well for the festival's Night Caps, offering bonus live jazz along with conversation with fellow fans and even the musicians.
Henry Maier Festival Park
Mexican Fiesta is a celebration of Mexican culture, history, art, music and food. Sample some wines, browse through art, participate in fun games and activities – past years have featured contests for jalapeno-eating, costumes and more – listen and dance to live music, and enjoy a delicious meal (or multiple meals) of tacos and then some. Mexican Fiesta also provides scholarship awards for some of Milwaukee's deserving Hispanic youth.
Don't let summer go away quietly. Instead, rev things up with the signature sound of rumbling Harley-Davidson V-twin engines at Harley's Hometown Rally. Taking the place of the old Milwaukee Rally, this multi-day festival brings bikers from across the state and even the country to the H-D Museum and several Harley dealerships in the area to talk shop, show off their rides, jam out to live music and entertainment, and send summer off in to the sunset the right way.
Wisconsin Highland Games
Waukesha Expo Center
Great Scott(ish Highland Games)! Make the most of your Labor Day weekend with the Wisconsin Highland Games, featuring all sorts of Scottish celebrations, traditions and of course competitions – from piping and drumming, to sheep and duck herding, to longbow and battle axe throw, and even a haggis hurl. Add in snacking on Scottish favorites like meat pies and sausage rolls – plus other festival favorites – and you'll ring in the start of September on a high note with the Highland Games.
Milwaukee has a summer festival for just about everything – why not "Shrek"? Indeed, after years of celebrating the animated fractured fairy tale favorite in Madison, Shrekfest will call Humboldt Park its swamp for 2022, hosting live music, fan art, kooky competitions and festivities – almost entirely "Shrek"-themed, of course – all capped by a screening of the original movie surrounded by fellow fans. So be sure to make your way ogre to Humboldt Park from 3-9 p.m. in early September!
Downtown Dining Week
Dig into Downtown Dining Week, serving up delicious dishes all over Milwaukee from Sept. 8-15. Restaurants across Downtown – past years' dining weeks have featured the delicious likes of DOC's Commerce Smokehouse, Kanpai, Mader's, Oak Barrel, SafeHouse, Blue Bat, SportClub, Third Coast Provisions and so many more. Save up your appetite, and then save some cash, dining out at some of Downtown's finest.
Henry Maier Festival Park
Everybody loves tacos – and now we've got an entire festival dedicated to them! The latest foodie festival courtesy of OnMilwaukee, Taco Fest will return to the Summerfest grounds with delicious tacos of all shapes, sizes and shells – plus drinks, live entertainment, games courtesy of Bars & Rec, and even a chihuahua pageant to wash them all down. And did we mention tacos? Because there's gonna be a ton of tacos.
Bay View Bash
Between Potter and Clement on Kinnickinnic Avenue
The Bay View Bash is back, delivering a community festival filled with food, art, music, crafts, books, community organizations and entertainment from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. Kick it down Kinnickinnic with everything the Bay View neighborhood has to offer.
Henry Maier Festival Park
You've had all the festival fun this summer; it's only fair your cats, puppers and other furry friends have one dedicated to them as well. That's Fromm Petfest, a free festival running from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. and featuring all sorts of fun activities and excitement for all your four-legged friends – from dock-diving to agility to just happy summery snacking. The best part: It's a festival for your pets, but you'll probably have a hoot too!
Doors Open Milwaukee
Historic Milwaukee gets well over 100 buildings – big and small, new and old, landmarks and hidden gems – to quite literally open their doors to the city of Milwaukee for this adventure-minded early fall event. Guided tours are often times offered free of charge with no entry fee required – but if there is somewhere particularly interesting to you, check out the in-depth tours that are ticketed. Get out there and be a tourist in your hometown!
Italian Community Center, 631 E. Chicago Ave.
It looked like we might unfortunately have another Festa-free summer in 2022 – but viva Festa because it's back after all! This year's event may be changing locations from the Summerfest grounds to its original roots at the ICC, but what's staying the same are the terrific traditions Festa friends know and love, from bocce to Italian dance to traditional ceremonies to the delicious food and drink, and so much more.
Milwaukee Comedy Festival
Show of hands: Who's in need of a good laugh these days? Alright, let's tally this up, looks like ... yep, literally everybody. Luckily, the Milwaukee Comedy Festival is coming back around for its annual tight five, with performers ranging in experience and style – from stand-up to sketch to improv and beyond – but all certain to hit your funny bone.