The Best Summer Activities in Wisconsin

Published: June 2, 2014

Wisconsin is a fun place to visit in the summer.  Milwaukee is known for the various festivals put on week after week, but there are also some fun festivals in the surrounding cities.  The best festivals are the most popular ones, so I will be ranking them based on popularity.  If you like to eat and drink, you will love the activities on this list!

  1. Summerfest

    Summerfest is one of the biggest and most popular festivals that Milwaukee puts on!  It usually runs for 10 days, overlapping Independence Day.  The highlight of Summerfest is that it's a large music festival!  

    There are various stages around the grounds and then one large ampitheater.  Usually, the big headliners (people such as Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Usher) are stationed in the Ampitheater and are an extra cost.  Luckily, the other stages are included in your admission fee.  There are still popular large bands such as Yellowcard, Train, Jack's Mannequin, Seether, Evanescence, etc.  

    In addition, there's plenty of food from Saz's to Wong's Wok.  Beer is a staple here in Wisconsin, so if you're of age, expect to head to the beer tents for a nice cold beverage.  

    The nice part of Summerfest is that you are right on Lake Michigan.  On the first day of the festival, there is a fireworks show.  Milwaukee also puts on their own fireworks show July 3rd for Independence Day, and you will be able to view fireworks over the lake.

    All in all, if you like music, you're going to like Summerfest.  If you enjoy food and beer, you will definitely like Summerfest.  It's an extremely fun festival to hang out and have a good time.

  2. Wisconsin State Fair

    Wisconsin State Fair closely follows Summerfest as #2.  It is so popular that other states come celebrate with us!

    We have music every day and night along with lots and LOTS of food!  There is a nature center attached where kids can go and see reptiles and snakes, learn about the DNR and frolic in the grassy areas.  

    There are usually colleges there to promote their University, along with local vendors such as Jelly Belly!  

    Make sure you stand in line to get your cream puff, as that is always a staple of our food (you know, besides the random-food-on-a-stick).  Chocolate bacon on a stick has been popular, as well as the krispy kreme cheeseburger.  You can't go wrong if you come hungry and you will definitely walk off the calories as there is so much to do!

  3. Locust Street Festival of Music & Art

    Locust Street Festival is another incredibly popular one.  As you can see, the walk/run is the first thing people do to start off this festival!  It is a 1.8 mile beer run/walk.  

    Much like the other festivals, there is music!  This time it normally is a bunch of smaller, local bands.  The genres vary from blues, bluegrass, acoustic, etc. 

    Since you are participating in a beer run, you can imagine there is definitely a lot of beer at this festival!  You can just hang out, listening to music, and enjoying a nice, local festival.

  4. Cedarburg's Strawberry Fest

    Strawberry festival takes place in Cedarburg, WI, just north of Milwaukee.  As you can imagine from the title, this festival celebrates strawberries!  

    There are a lot of local vendors selling knick knacks, fresh strawberries, and local services.  You will walk down downtown Cedarburg's streets and see booth after booth filled of goodies.  

    Make sure you definitely come hungry to this festival.  There are plenty of strawberry related foods you can purchase.  Strawberry brats are popular, as well as strawberry cake, strawberry smoothies, strawberry sodas and the list goes on!  

    There are some local bands that play, but that isn't the main attraction to this event.  People usualy come for the interesting items in the tents and of course, for strawberries themselves.

  5. Polish Fest

    Polish Fest celebrates the Polish, of course!  There are a large variety of demographics in Milwaukee and we are sure proud of it!

    There's always some Polish dancing activities taking place, so you can watch the local groups doing what they enjoy best!  There is usually Polish music so you can get up and dance right there with them!

    Food vendors are stationed around the festival so everyone can enjoy Polish cuisine.  Local vendors are stationed as well so you can purchase other Polish items, or even just go to a typical sunglasses tent. 

    You can learn a lot at Polish fest between the cooking demonstrations and array of costumes.

  6. Bastille Days

    Once again, we have a fun festival related to our melting pot, but this time it's to celebrate the French!

    There are plenty of local bands who play and you better believe there's a wide array of French cuisine!  They normally hold a Kids Day that really gets the family involved in French heritage.  There are activities from soccer all the way to ballet lessons.  

    Once again there are local vendors who set up tents, so put on your walking shoes!

  7. PrideFest

    Pride Fest is the second largest festival held in Milwaukee.  It is a festival that celebrates its pride in supporting the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-, trans) community.  

    Even if you are none of these things, you are still welcome to come and celebrate and show your support for the community.  The festival itself is so much fun, as there are many entertainers.  From bands such as Cascada, to local drag shows, there's a lot going on.

    Each year there is also a Mr. and Mrs. Pridefest announced.  The winner gets a reward (usually tickets to a popular music concert).  Just like Summerfest, there's a plethora of food vendors, so come hungry!

  8. Festa Italiana

    Festa Italiana celebrates... you've guessed it, Italians!  

    Much like the other heritage festivals, there's dancing, food, and costume!  Get ready to indulge in some pizza or pasta, because you better believe there's plenty of it!  

    When you think of Italy, you better also think of wine.  There are wine tastings and once again chef demontrations.  Food is always an important part of culture, and each cultural festival won't let you forget that.

  9. Brady Street Festival

    Brady Street festival takes place on, of course, Brady Street on the East side of Milwaukee.  This festival is very popular for college-aged kids, as it is right by the bars on the East side.  

    This festival celebrates Wisconsin, as there are cheese tents, beer tents, and also the typical tent vendors.  There are a lot of jewelry and pottery tents, so you can support local businesses. 

    Enjoy some of the local music on one of the tree stages.  This festival is all about the East side of Milwaukee!

  10. Milwaukee Highland Games

    The Milwaukee Highland Games highlight the Scottish culture.  As you can see in the picture above, there's bagpipe music and demonstrations to enjoy.  Many performances take place as they take pride in their music and costume. 

    You better believe there's Scottish food all around.  We hope you enjoy sausage and meat pies, because those are the highlight of the ovens!  

    Stop by for a game of Cricket, or if you are unfamiliar with the game, learn how to play.  Equipment is available for use and spectators are always welcome.

Summerfest and State Fair are the most popular festivals by far.  Residents from Illinois come up annually to attend our festivals and help us celebrate.  These two festivals are fun for the family and people of all ages, so you can never be steered in the wrong direction.  If you come to Wisconsin, make sure to visit in the summer so you can get a taste of our true pride!