Most schools are back in session the week of Labor Day, and so the three-day stretch over Labor Day weekend is the last hurrah of summer. Thankfully there are plenty of outdoor events and festivals that celebrate the weekend--as well as our country's hard working culture. Whether you enjoy live music, food festivals, art walks or cultural events, there is an easy getaway for you that doesn't require long travel or lots of money (many of these events are free).
What: Big Gig BBQ
When: Sunday, Sept. 2, 2018
Where: Henry Maier Festival Park, 200 N. Harbor Drive, Milwaukee
If you’re a ‘cue fan, this is where you need to be on Labor Day weekend because all of Milwaukee’s best BBQ restaurants are serving food in one place. Paired with the meats are live-music shows by bands and performers like Chris Janson, Tucker Beathard, Danny Miller Band and Ronnie Baker Brooks.
Sponsored by Meijer and Miller Lite, the event also includes a bacon-eating contest, with the winner receiving a $100 gift card.
When: Monday, Sept. 3, 2018
Where: Downtown Milwaukee
The day starts at 11 a.m. starts with a parade kicking off at Carl Zeidler Square Wisconsin Union Memorial (301 W. Michigan St.) and ending at the Summerfest grounds (Henry Maier Festival Park, 200 N. Harbor Drive). At the fest held at the Summerfest grounds until 5 p.m. are a classic-car show, live music, food and drink for purchase, and family-friendly entertainment shows.
What: Third Ward Art Festival
When: Saturday, Sept. 8-Sunday, Sept. 9, 2018
Where: Historic Third Ward neighborhood, Broadway Street between St. Paul and Menomonee Streets
Held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., 136 artists from around Wisconsin—and other states, too—showcase their works, which are all for sale.
Live music, games for kids, and food and drink (available for purchase from nearby eateries) round out the fun.
What: Wisconsin Highland Games
When: Friday, Aug. 31-Sunday, Sept. 2, 2018
Where: Waukesha County Expo Center, 1000 Northview Road, Waukesha
Cost: free on Friday, Sept. 2, otherwise, $7 in advance (through Thursday, Sept. 1 at 3 p.m. CDT) and $10 at the gate (kids 12 and under free); $5 parking
“The Games” here include highland dancing, axe and knife throw, longbow, piping and drumming, and single-stick fencing. Celtic dogs are available for petting, too, such as Irish Wolfhounds, Scottish Deerhounds, West Highland Terriers and Golden Retrievers. Note that the festival is open late—until 10 p.m. on Saturday and 9 p.m. on Sunday—but food vendors and many of the exhibits begin closing around 5 p.m. Live music and drinks extend later into the evening.
What: Milwaukee Rally
When: Thursday, Aug. 29-Monday, Sept. 3, 2018
Where: seven locations (Hal’s Harley-Davidson, 1925 S. Moorland Road, New Berlin; House of Harley-Davidson, 6221 W. Layton Ave, Milwaukee; Milwaukee Harley-Davidson, 11310 W. Silver Spring Road, Milwaukee; Suburban Motors Harley-Davidson, 139 N. Main St., Thiensville; Wisconsin Harley-Davidson, 1280 Blue Ribbon Drive, Oconomowoc; Harley-Davidson Museum, 400 W.
Canal St., Milwaukee; and Harley-Davidson Pilgrim Road Plant, W156N9000 Pilgrim Rd, Menomonee Falls)
Even if you’re not into motorcycles, there’s lots of fun to be had at this outdoor festival, including food and drink for purchase, live music, and rides on Harleys. Pick your location—or toggle between a few.
What: St. Francis Days
When: Labor Day weekend 2018
Where: "Milt" Vretenar Memorial Park, 4230 S. Kirkwood Ave., St. Francis
There’s a whole hodge-podge of events here, from a viewing of the 1977 “Star Wars” film on Thursday night at 8 p.m. to a polka mass Sunday at 11 a.m. There is live music nightly and the city’s largest parade kicks off at 11 a.m. on Saturday, traveling West on Howard Avenue, South on Kinnickinnic Avenue and East on Lunham Avenue. Milwaukee Brewers’ fans won’t want to miss a photo opp from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday with the Racing Sausages.
Two food options are a Friday fish fry at 6 p.m. Friday and a chicken dinner at noon on Sunday, both hosted by St. Francis Brewery.
When: Labor Day weekend 2018
Where: 9327 S. Shepard Ave., Oak Creek
Hosted by the Oak Creek Lions Club, live music is hosted at two stages, featuring bands like Whiskey Belles (Friday at 8 p.m.). Be sure to come hungry as the food choices range from turkey legs corn on the cob, plus chicken tenders, cheese and burgers. Non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks alike are served. There is also a Friday-night fish fry from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. sponsored by American Legion Post 434. Kids can enjoy the carnival rides after 1 p.m. daily (a $25 wristband yields unlimited rides). Veterans receive a free meal—with military ID—thanks to the Lions Club.
What: Maxwell Street Days
When: Sunday, September 2, 2018
Where: Firemen's Park, W65 N796 Washington Ave., Cedarburg
This flea market near downtown Cedarburg's historic district is held several times each year, and Labor Day weekend is no exception. This year is the 50th anniversary. About 600 vendors sell a mix of antiques, crafts, seasonal items, art and more. Food and beverage for sale keep you nourished and hydrated (this is a festival where you're going to want to pore over all the items!). The market's hours are 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.