A Guide to Milwaukee’s Summerfest

Known as “The Big Gig,” Summerfest’s 11 stages host over 700 acts in 11 days

It’s no wonder Guinness World Records named it the world’s largest music festival.

We’ve gathered tips from seasoned fans to help you make the most of Summerfest 2011, which begins June 29.

This year’s schedule includes Kanye West, Katy Perry, Maroon 5, Kid Rock and Jason Mraz, along with your favorite bands from way-back-when, like Def Leppard, Styx and REO Speedwagon—among many others.

Two Tickets to Paradise
Purchase tickets online and print them instantly at summerfest.com where you’ll also find plenty of deals. For example, Tuesday is Kids Day, with free admission from noon to 3 p.m., even if you don’t have kids!  And, et in “Free Before Three” on the final day of the fest!

“Like” Summerfest on Facebook and check the page for giveaway offers and contests such as haiku competitions, word scrambles and more.

Summerfest is already a bargain. For $15 you can stay all day and see everything. The Marcus Amphitheater requires an additional fee, but you can get a hand stamp before a show and gain access to a limited number of free lawn seats.

Ride Captain Ride
Getting to and from an event that welcomes between 800,000 and 1 million people each year can be daunting without these tips:

  • Many Milwaukee Bars offer a free roundtrip shuttle to riders 21 and over, with the purchase of a drink. Contact Hooligan’s or Spirit’s (Beware—the last shuttle back can get rowdy!)
  • Park free and hop a bus to the North Gate
  • Pick up the $3 Wisconsin Avenue Shuttle at any bus stop marked with the Summerfest smiley face and it will drop you at the North Gate
  • Harley Davidson’s motorcycle parking area has the best proximity to the Main Gate

Show Me The Way
The Sky Glider is the best way to get a sense of the fairgrounds. Summerfest offers something for everyone, including kids shows and activities, fireworks and comedy acts. Get around to several stages and expand your musical horizons.

Who’ll Stop The Rain?

When it rains the bands may stop playing, but the fun goes on. Veteran Summerfest fans advise weathering the storm as it thins out the crowd to only the diehard music lovers. To beat the heat, try the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse deck for a little shade.

My Bags are Packed
You don’t need to carry much to make the most of a day at Summerfest. Bring only what you can fit in your pockets, a small bag, or yes—a fanny pack! Prepare for the forecast—plenty of SPF, a hat and jacket. Bring some cash since most vendors don’t accept credit cards and ATM fees can be costly.

Everybody’s Got a Hungry Heart
There are so many great foods offered by a multitude of vendors that the best advice is to eat small portions so you can try more. A Summerfest favorite offered by a number of vendors is grilled corn and rotisserie chicken—best enjoyed with an ice cold beer. Or try a Saz’s combo platter for an abundant taste of some Milwaukee favorites, including the famous cheese curds.

Summerfest is Like No Other Fest
Not only is the sheer variety of entertainment astounding, but you’ll see things you just can’t find anywhere else. One year, fans who gathered to see Buddy Guy were surprised when Kid Rock, fresh from his own show one stage over, joined Buddy for an impromptu, once in a lifetime collaboration. This is the kind of magic that makes music lovers into Summerfest lovers.

Lead photo credit: Flickr, RexWorld