16 Summer Food/Drink Festivals in Milwaukee

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Milwaukee Taco Fest

Milwaukee Taco Fest

What: Milwaukee Taco Fest

When: June 5, 2016

Where: Harley-Davidson Museum, 400 W. Canal St., Milwaukee

Details: At a new location for its third year, this taco-fueled fest which last year served 6,001 tacos, will also serve margaritas and keep folks entertained with live music and wrestling matches. A portion of sales goes to the Hunger Task Force of Wisconsin. Taco tickets of $2 each get you access to a sample-sized taco from a local restaurant’s booth. There’s an opportunity to vote for your favorite tacos, too.

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Polish Fest

Visit Milwaukee

What: Polish Fest

When: June 17-19, 2016

Where: Henry Maier Festival Park, 200 N. Harbor Dr., Milwaukee

Details: From pierogis to polish sausages, this annual festival celebrates the ethnicity of a large chunk of Milwaukee’s residents, including its heritage, with three days of Polish food, drink, music and other entertainment. It’s the country’s largest celebration of Polish culture. Tickets are $12 per day at the gate ($10 in advance) or receive free admission on Saturday from 8 p.m. to midnight with a donation of three or more food items to the Hunger Task Force.  A special $4 admission on Sunday applies to entrances before noon. Dads get in free from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Father’s Day with an accompanying child.

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Summer Soulstice

East Side Business Improvement District

What: Summer Soulstice

When: June 25, 2016

Where: East North Avenue on Milwaukee’s East Side

Details: Held from noon to midnight, this annual fest celebrates the year’s longest day of sunlight. Charging no admission fee, the streets are filled with the music of live, local bands and vendors sell crafts (from noon to 6 p.m. only) and food/drink in the East Side Food Court from local restaurants (noon to midnight).  There’s even a 10 a.m. al-fresco yoga class sponsored by Urban Om Yoga. Are you a true foodie? Sign up for the egg-roll eating contest (details on the festival’s website).

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Cedarburg Strawberry Festival

Cedarburg Strawberry Festival

What: Cedarburg Strawberry Festival

When: June 25, 2016

Where: downtown Cedarburg

Details: Each June the streets of quaint downtown Cedarburg is the site of an outdoor festival celebrating all things strawberry. Here you can bite into a strawberry brat, strawberry desserts or simply a fresh, just-picked strawberry. Artists sell their wares in booths and each of the downtown shops opens their doors, selling everything from antiques to fine soaps and other little luxuries. There is no admission charged to browse the festival; drinks and food items carry a fee.

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Bastille Days

Visit Milwaukee

What: Bastille Days

When: July 14-17, 2016

Where: Cathedral Square Park, 520 E. Wells St., Milwaukee (Downtown)

Details: Each year this totally free French-themed festival—in honor of France’s National Day; the festival celebrating its 35th year in Milwaukee in 2016—kicks off with “Storm the Bastille” on Thursday night, a 5K walk/race. Live music fills the stage and vendors emulate a Parisian-style flea market. But the food (purchased through each vendor) is the best, with warmed beignets topped with powdered sugar, Cajun cuisine and cups of café au lait are a few examples. The Alliance Francaise de Milwaukee also hosts French-language lessons and local chefs preside over cooking demonstrations and wine tastings.

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Festa Italiana

Festa Italiana

What: Festa Italiana

When: July 22-24, 2016

Where: Henry Maier Festival Park, 200 N. Harbor Dr., Milwaukee

Details: It’s more than just ravioli at this annual Italian festival along Lake Michigan. Thirty-some food vendors cook authentic Italian food, from calamari to cannoli as well as eggplant strips, pasta dishes, gelato, rice balls and other Italian eats. Among the local restaurants and markets that participate are Glorioso’s Italian Market, Peter Sciortino Bakery, Venice Club, Alioto’s and Trattoria di Carlo. Since all of the food is to-go from the vendors, you can easily take in a musical performance or stroll the Artisan market while noshing. Did we mention the Cannoli Eating Contest? It’s held on Saturday, July 23 in the Cucina Showcase. There’s also an Italian cinema serving free popcorn as well as bellinis, limoncello, espresso and other drinks served. Admission to Festa Italiana is $10 before July 21 and slightly more thereafter.

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Big Taste

Big Taste

What: Big Taste

When: July 24, 2016

Where: Pier Wisconsin/Discover World, 500 N. Harbor Dr., Milwaukee

Details: Do you like fireworks and taking your palate on an adventure? This nighttime festival is just the place for you then, with sample-sized food portions from Milwaukee restaurants such as Bartolotta’s Harbor House, Buddha Lounge, Centro Cafe and Shawarma House. Because the festival is right on Lake Michigan, this means you get a front-row seat to Festa Italiana’s fireworks that evening.  General-admission tickets are $40 (through May 21; $45 after), sold in advance through the fest’s website. Tickets are $50 at the door, if any are left. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the fest wraps by 9:15 p.m.

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Milwaukee Firkin Craft Beer Festival

Milwaukee Firkin Craft Beer Festival

What: Milwaukee Firkin Craft Beer Festival

When: July 23, 2016

Where: Cathedral Square Park, 520 E. Wells St., Milwaukee (Downtown)

Details: True beer fans don’t want to miss this, an opportunity to taste 50 firkins (cast-conditioned ales) and ciders. Many of the participating breweries are in the Midwest, including Lakefront Brewery, Goose Island Beer Co., Door County Brewing Co. and St. Francis Brewing Company, although there are some from other regions like Crispin Cider and Tallgrass Brewing Company. All festival-goers get to vote on their favorites, with the winner earning the “Big Firkin Award.” Food venders at the fest range from Classy Girl Cupcakes to gastropub fare from Rumpus Room as well as a Dairy State favorite (cheese curds). George’s Big Dog’s, Louise’s Trattoria and Miller Baking Pretzilla are also on hand to provide sustenance. General admission costs $49 and includes unlimited sampling of beer.

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Brady Street Festival

Visit Milwaukee

What: Brady Street Festival

When: July 30, 2016

Where: Along Brady Street between Humboldt and Oakland Avenues (East Side)

Details: There’s a little bit of everything at this free-admission fest, thanks to a slew of food-related events at the Glorioso’s Entertainment Stage, sponsored by Milk Marketing Board. This includes a pizza-making contest for kids, the fourth-annual cheese-curd eating contest and primers in how to cook with Wisconsin artisan cheese. These food events last from 11 a.m. to 5p.m. Also worth checking out are local bands jamming on the stage and vendors hawking unique finds that reflect eclectic Brady Street.

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Milwaukee Brew Fest

Visit Milwaukee

What: Milwaukee Brewfest

When: July 30, 2016

Where: Old Coast Guard Pavilion Park, 1600 N. Lincoln Memorial Drive, Milwaukee

Details: At this 7th-annual fest you can expect mead, firkin, cider and sour beer from 18 breweries at last count (the list is growing, and representing around 300 beers). On the list are local very-micro favorites like District 14 and Lowlands Brewing Collaborative, as well as bigger breweries with hometown roots like Lakefront Brewery and Milwaukee Brewing Co. Chicago and imported brews will be represented, too, with Finch’s Beer Company and Bofferding two examples. Food options for purchase include BBQ from Saz’s, Johnsonville Brats, Irish food from Burke’s Irish Castle and Nathan’s hot dogs. General admission is from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.; tickets are $50 ($45 in advance).

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Wisconsin State Fair

Visit Milwaukee

What: Wisconsin State Fair

When: August 4-14, 2016

Where: 640 S. 84th St., West Allis

Details: Cream puffs are a wildly popular item within the Dairy State’s annual ode to all that’s crafted, harvested and raised in the state, from agriculture to wine to dairy, over a 10-day run. In addition to live-music concerts (this year the Main Stage acts include Rascal Flatts and Berlin), the Dairy Education Center, carnival games and rides, and livestock buildings, the food is eclectic. Other eats are chocolate-covered Wisconsin cranberries on a stick, deep-fried pretzel-crusted Sciortino’s brownies on a stick, and tater tots topped with cheese, eggs, bacon bits, cilantro and Sriracha. Naturally, Wisconsin micro beers are in abundance. Special $6 tickets are sold online via this link through June 30; after that, the price is $12.

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Irish Fest

Visit Milwaukee

What: Irish Fest

When: August 18-21, 2016

Where: Henry Maier Festival Park, 200 N. Harbor Dr., Milwaukee
Details: Considered the world’s largest festival of Irish Culture, Irish Fest debuted three decades ago. Irish music (with some of the acts flown in from Ireland) is a huge draw but so is the food, with vendors representing the Midwest’s best Irish restaurants, places like McBob’s in Milwaukee and The Abbey in Chicago. Among the food choices are Bailey’s Irish Cream cheesecake, Irish soda bread, corned-beef sandwiches (and cabbage), Guinness beef stew, plus beers like Guinness and Harp—or shots of Jameson—to wash it down. Tickets are $20, with additional prices for food.

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India Fest Milwaukee

India Fest Milwaukee

What: India Fest Milwaukee

When: August 20, 2016

Where: Humboldt Park, 3000 S. Howell Ave. Milwaukee (Bay View neighborhood)

Details: An infusion of curry dishes and spicy street foods, come to this free festival each August, tucked into a hilly park (this means good views of the live music acts in the open-air amphitheatre) in the Bay View neighborhood. It’s designed to bring awareness to India’s many layers of diversity, whether it’s food, music or clothing. The festival is held from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and there are additional costs for food from various vendors.

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Mexican Fiesta

Visit Milwaukee

What: Mexican Fiesta

When: August 26-28, 2016

Where: Henry Maier Festival Park, 200 N. Harbor Dr., Milwaukee

Details: Uniting Latino cultures through food, dance and music, the schedule at this three-day fest includes a tequila tasting, bands from Mexico, and a cultural pavilion with vendors selling crafts and art from regions throughout Mexico, such as Oaxaca, Jalisco, Zacatecas and Guanajuato. Food options range from tacos to churros, with stands from local Mexican restaurants like Tres Hermanos, El Paisa, Guadalajara and El Campeon. There is also a demo in the art of baking pan de feria, bread native to Hidalgo, Mexico, hosted in the cultural pavilion. Admission is $15.

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German Fest Milwaukee

Visit Milwaukee

What: German Fest Milwaukee

When: July 29-31, 2016

Where: Henry Maier Festival Park, 200 N. Harbor Dr., Milwaukee

Details: Bratwurst, potato pancakes and sauerkraut are among the culinary eats at this German-centric fest, which mirrors the enthusiasm for German culture in Milwaukee—after all, nearly half of the city’s residents claim German ancestry. Tickets are $15 ($12 in advance). Naturally, the beer flows in abundance, including steins filled with Dairy State brews like Miller Lite and Leinenkugel’s, the perfect pairing with Usinger’s sausages, which are made in Milwaukee. There’s no shortage of polka bands and this year Grammy-nominated musician and producer Alex Meixner will perform with his band. 

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Wine & Vine

Wine & Vine

What: Wine & Vine 

When: August 27, 2016

Where: Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi, 3221 S. Lake Drive, St. Francis

Details: Planted in 1912, the property's grape arbor spawned this annual wine-tasting event; this year is the sixth annual. Fifty vendors pour wines (as well as other beverages) and serve food samples, including Wisconsin's own Stone's Throw Winery, Purple Door Ice Cream and Rishi Tea. (All are included in the $55 pre-sale ticket cost; $75 at the gate if not sold out. Purchase through the event's website.) Restaurants represented at the event include Triskele's, The Packing House, Blackfinn Ameripub, Tenuta's Italian Restaurant and Barnacle Bud's. The state's top wine distributors will pour wines from around the globe.

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