Milwaukee continues to surprise and delight us.
For those of you who don’t know (but if you know, you for sure know), Milwaukee summers are incredible and the city prides itself on being a festival destination. In addition to cultural fests and county-fair style celebrations, the big one is Summerfest.
Summerfest is a big freaking deal. The format is four weekends, filled with big-name headlining musical artists, multiple stages of general admission musical artists both old and new, and a grounds packed with food, drinks, shops, rides, and pop-up entertainment shows.
For example, this year’s main event headliner was meant to be Justin Bieber. (He actually had to postpone all of his concerts, because he suddenly became paralyzed in half of his face. Poor guy. 🙁 It should be temporary, but how freaking scary is that?!). In 2021, they had an incredible lineup that included Green Day, Miley Cyrus, Jonas Brothers, the Dave Matthews Band, and Meg thee Stallion (I would’ve loved to be at that one), among many, many more.
Here’s how our first experience at Summerfest went.
Summerfest was vibrant, loud, fun, and buzzing with eclectic energy. We got to the grounds at noon-ish on the final day and enjoyed walking up and down with few crowds and little to no wait in lines.
During the day, we loaded up on classic fair experiences. We ate mini donuts and roasted nuts, drank a frozen lemonade out of a Vegas-style tube, ordered expensive beers, and looked through all the pop-up shops of local artists and vendors. We rode a chair lift that took us across the grounds, and that was a great way to get the lay of the land up-front.
Chad and I hung out lake-side with drinks in a brightly-colored Bubly garden; I ordered a champagne cocktail and we relaxed while families played cornhole around us. We did a lot of window shopping and wandering, and loved that small, local bands were performing throughout the day. We stumbled upon a bunch of kids doing rock covers, which was fun.
My favorite parts were two exhibits. First, we stumbled upon a Roll Train performance: the local roller skating troupe danced a couple of songs, before inviting everyone from the crowd to join for a grooving dance line. It was incredible and I felt so inspired to learn how to skate dance and join the group myself in the future. Second, we saw a BMX group doing tricks and it was so badass. Each rider went off a half-pipe with a trick, with spins and flips and a bunch of numbers adding up to 360. I couldn’t help but cheer every time someone landed safely.
Though the bulk of our Summerfest experience was during the day, Chad and I returned later that night to listen to one of the bigger performances: Death Cab for Cutie.
It was fun! We grabbed a seat on an open bleacher and swayed to their sweet, moody sounds. They played a healthy mix of cannon oldies and new tunes, and my favorite was “I Will Follow You into the Dark.” (Hard to beat the nostalgia of my teen years.)
There was a brief moment of internal panic when fireworks started exploding nearby—lead singer Ben Gibbard said that while they were a bit ominous at first, the fireworks were a nice surprise.
Honestly, we kind of blew it to get the full experience this year, mostly because we didn’t plan ahead. (Remember when we tried to give blood and Chad had a horrible reaction? We got free tickets out of it…but they didn’t send them until the day before.)
We thought we had more time to go, but we suddenly looked at the calendar and realized that we absolutely had to go on the very last day (Saturday, 7/9) or miss out. So, we went to the Summerfest grounds not really knowing what to expect or going for any purpose other than to check it out.
Though we still had a blast, I do not recommend this method. Plan ahead, don’t wait around. Buy the tickets in the spring and set up dates in your calendar like you would for any concert.
Overall, we can’t wait for more fun next year!