Worth the Trip: Summerfest–with Kids {Milwaukee, WI}

Editor’s Update: This story originally published in 2016 and has been updated to include 2017 information. 

What do you do when THE World’s Largest Musical Festival drops anchor practically in your own backyard…and you have kids? I can tell you in one word: “Go!” There’s probably a lot about Summerfest you overlooked when you attended the festival “BK,” you know, BEFORE having kids. You might be surprised at how inexpensive and fun Summerfest can be to attend with your family. There are plenty of activities that make this event an exciting, must-do musical activity for this summer, and for summers to come.

Summerfest provides musical entertainment from 12:00 p.m. to midnight, each day from Thursday, June 28 – July 2 and July 4 – 9, 2017. at the scenic Henry Maier Festival Park. The festival is NOT open on Monday, July 3rd. Summerfest features over 800 live music acts over the span of 11 days. It has been certified by The Guinness Book of World Records since 1999 as THE World’s Largest Musical Festival. In addition to first-rate musical talent, the festival offers great food, interactive exhibits for the whole family to enjoy, excellent lakefront vistas, and programs for children. The musical stages have seating areas, along with plenty of room along the sides to navigate with strollers and child carriers. And if you have to leave a set early, no worries…everyone moves about freely within the festival.
Summerfest, Milwaukee, WI
Wednesday, July 5, 2017 is Children’s Fest Day, and EVERYONE is admitted to the festival between 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. for FREE.  Take your kids to meet the Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club’s Bernie Brewer at the festival mid-gate, and pick up a Map of Fun for your family to visit special stations throughout the festival and enter the completed map for a chance to win prizes. Grab a free milk sample, and enjoy ice cream  in exchange for a donation to to al local charity.

Photo source Summerfest website

Activities for families with younger children peak between the hours of 12:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. A children’s theatre area and playzone offer family-friendly entertainment and performances.  This area features a huge playground area as well as dancers, jugglers, puppeteers and magicians. A Kids’ Activity Tent, open daily from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., features UB the Band, an interactive station stocked with drum sets, special guitars, wireless microphones and stage lighting for children—and adults—to play on.  Older children will be captivated by miniature remote-controlled robots built by members of the Charger Robotics Team 537 from Sussex, Wisconsin.

Photo source Summerfest website

The Kohl’s Captivation Station is chock full of activities for kids and families. Kids can create art projects and enjoy kid-friendly musical performances along with the headliner, ComedySportz for family-friendy Improv Comedy.


In past years, my kids came home with lots of freebies—and good ones, too. A “maker” station was set up to teach kids how to make a manual art print. We may or may not have made it home with the art prints intact. The kids also constructed leather key chains using scrap leather cutouts from a gym shoe manufacturing factory.


I observed families with young children making good use of the Elizabeth “Bo” Black Family Fountain, a splendid splash pad and play area. Picture kids skipping around and screaming with delight as the gentle spurts of water cool them off on a hot, summer day. You may wish to pack a swimsuit and some dry clothes for your young ones, who will delight in cooling off on the spash pad during your afternoon at Summerfest.

We all learned about technology at a computer station, and many sponsors and companies have interactive exhibits and walk-though mobile trailers with educational and game displays. My kids had a blast trying out a car racing simulator, although I am glad that driver’s education is still a few years out in our future.


We also swung golf clubs in order to win prizes at a booth set up along the path near Lake Michigan. With the cool lake breeze at our backs, we gave it our all, but our youngest took the best swing during our visit.


Families can also relax and take in the vista from paddle boats. From 12:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., families can paddle about the lagoon area for 30-minute boat rides that hold up to four people. And there is a Summerfest parade which kicks-off at 3:00 p.m. on select days from the south end of the festival park and completes a lap around the entire grounds.

If you are arriving with sports enthusiasts, be sure to visit the Sportszone, which spotlights sports demonstrations and clinics from the Milwaukee Bucks—one of my family’s favorite’s, the Milwaukee Admirals, BMX professionals, and others. And for the budding rock stars in your family, don’t miss the School of Rock Battle of the Bands, July 8 – 9.  Hundreds of young musicians from across the nation will compete and perform in this spectacular contest. If your family loves thrills, get in line early for the Summerfest “Wheel in the Sky” Ferris wheel, or take a turn on the Skyglider. Both attractions provide scenic views of the festival park, Lake Michigan and all of the musical stages. You might even be able to plan your afternoon meal or snack from a birds-eye view!


Speaking of food, there are many gastronomical delights for all at Summerfest.  From a traditional German feast, to the latest and greatest fried, fair food, it is waiting for you at Summerfest.  We typically don’t leave without devouring a plate of Saz’s battered fried cheese curds.  And many years in a row we have enjoyed and shared the German sampler platter from Mader’s. There is so much more than standard fair food here, so dive in and try something delicious and new.


Now that you know how much fun and excitement awaits you at Summerfest, be sure to check the Summerfest admissions-promotions website page for any special deals as you plan your visit.  You’ll be surprised at how easily your admission price will drop with a simple promotional offer.  Summerfest accommodates both nursing moms, parents with strollers, and the disabled. Bathrooms are clean, and located inside of buildings, and the festival grounds are tidy. Please note that the festival does become increasingly crowded after 6:00 p.m., making navigating with a stroller challenging, and perhaps a tad bit too crowded for comfort if you are carrying a child in a backpack or wrap.

Summerfest is a great opportunity to introduce your family to a top-tier, summer music festival during the day. Get outside, enjoy some music, and have fun. And don’t forget to try those luscious cheese curds when you visit, it’s definitely worth the trip!

Milwaukee Summerfest
June 28 – July 2, 2017 and July 4 – 9, 2017
Located at the Henry Maier Festival Park
200 N. Harbor Dr, Milwaukee, WI 53202 | (414) 273-2680

Will your family be attending Summerfest this year? 


About Jennifer Johnson 52 Articles
Jennifer is mom to a teenage boy and a tween girl, and spends her time changing radio stations in her minivan while driving to band concerts, learning new texting lingo and keeping track of the latest trends in electronics and hairstyles. Jennifer spends any free time she can find trying to stay organized, testing out new recipes that everyone might eat, reading, crafting or trying to beat her own best score in SpellTower. She also serves as a managing editor at Little Lake County.

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