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Summer Fun: What to Do Once You’re There

OK, you’ve read up on Brew City and you’re game for a trip across the lake. The only question remaining: When to schedule that long weekend?

Like their fellow Midwesterners, Milwaukeeans seem to pack a year’s worth of fun into the few months when the weather is most cooperative. Ethnic festivals, outdoor cafes, the beach — there’s a lot going on during the summer in Milwaukee. To help inform your decision, we’ve highlighted some of the city’s not-to-be-missed summer events.

By Curt Wozniak
Photography courtesy City of Milwaukee


Event: The Quest for Immortality: Treasures of Ancient Egypt
Location: Milwaukee Public Museum
Date(s): Through Aug. 8
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (closed July 4)
Admission: $18.50 for adults, $17.50 for seniors 62 and older, $11.50 for children ages 3 to 15. General museum admission and an audio tour are included.
Details: Both the Field Museum of Natural History and the Art Institute of Chicago vied for this touring exhibition of antiquities from the Egyptian national collection — the largest to tour the United States since the Tutankhamen exhibit in the late 1970s. Milwaukee won the prize, however, and the city is proud to be the only Midwest stop on the exhibit’s nine-city tour.
Don’t miss it if: From time to time, you still catch yourself singing Steve Martin’s novelty hit “King Tut” in the shower.
For more info: (888) 700-9069 or

Event: Café Sopra Mare
Location: Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum
Date(s): Sundays June 6-Sept. 26
Hours: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Admission: Free; museum admission not included.
Details: Specialty coffees, espresso, iced drinks and pastries served up by Bella Café from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Music served up by local jazz and classical musicians from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Don’t miss it if: You wanted to go to Italy, but Milwaukee was the best you could afford.
For more info: (414) 271-3656

Event: Milwaukee Community Sailing Center Open House
Location: Milwaukee Community Sailing Center
Date(s): June 12
Hours: All day
Admission: Free.
Details: Activities include sailboat rides on Lake Michigan and presentations on community sailing classes.
Don’t miss it if: You like water so much, you otherwise would have thought the ferry ride was the best part of your trip.
For more info: (414) 277-9094

Event: Polish Fest
Location: Maier Festival Park
Date(s): June 18-20
Hours: 3 p.m. to midnight June 18; noon to midnight June 19; noon to 10 p.m. June 20
Admission: Gate tickets are $9 for adults, $7 for seniors 55 and older, free for children 15 and younger.
Details: America’s largest Polish festival. Weekend highlights include Polish ethnic foods and five stages of non-stop polka music.
Don’t miss it if: You broke a sweat just reading the phrase “non-stop polka music.”
For more info:

Event: Summerfest
Location: Maier Festival Park
Date(s): June 24-July 4
Hours: Noon to midnight
Admission: Gate tickets are $12 for adults, $3 for seniors, children 3-10. $30 three-day passes are available through Ticketmaster until June 24.
Details: Gate tickets do what they say: They get you through the gate. Concerts by such headliners as Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, John Mayer and Prince require a separate ticket. But hey — performers on the Ground Stages, whom you can see with gate admission, include Fountains of Wayne, Los Lobos, Taj Mahal and Richard Thompson! Plus, for any headliner shows not sold out the morning of the concert, patrons can obtain a hand stamp that will get them into the Marcus Amphitheatre where they can enjoy the show for free from the lawn. Tip: Take advantage of downtown shuttle bus service to avoid traffic snarls.
Don’t miss it if: You love live music and don’t mind crowds.
For more info: (800) 273-FEST or

Event: Gallery Nights
Location: Sixty participating museums, galleries and eccentric shops in downtown Milwaukee’s East Town and Historic Third Ward neighborhoods.
Date(s): July 23, 24 and Oct. 15, 16
Hours: Shuttle service runs every 15 minutes from 5 to 9 p.m.
Admission: Free (including parking in downtown’s Historic Third Ward parking structures and shuttle service).
Details: From all descriptions, it’s more of a party where art exhibits seem to have broken out than the other way around; a great place to see and be seen.
Don’t miss it if: Your main draw to Milwaukee is the impressive Milwaukee Art Museum and you’re looking for something to round out the weekend.
For more info: or

Event: Irish Fest
Location: Maier Festival Park
Date(s): Aug. 19-22
Hours: 5 to 10 p.m. Aug. 19; 4 p.m. to midnight Aug. 20; noon to midnight Aug. 21; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Aug. 22
Admission: $12 for adults, $8 for seniors 60 and older, free for children under 12.
Details: Four family-friendly days promoting Irish music and culture, featuring top performers from Ireland and the United States.
Don’t miss it if: Your favorite holiday is St. Patrick’s Day.
For more info: GR

Curt Wozniak is the staff writer for Grand Rapids Magazine.

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