This post is sponsored by Summerfest.
It’s the Big Gig. The iconic music festival that draws thousands and thousands of attendees from all over the country down to the gorgeous Milwaukee lakefront year after year to enjoy world-class performances and a summer experience like no other. It could be argued that there is nothing more “Milwaukee” than Summerfest.
For the couple who is looking to enjoy a unique summer date night like no other, look no further than a visit to the world’s largest music festival! MkeMB Contributor Mariana and her main squeeze headed to Summerfest 2018 right away when it opened and are giving us the run-down on how to turn a visit to Summerfest into the most epic Milwaukee Date Night EVER.
Head to our Summerfest Highlights on Instagram to see Mariana’s night out at Summerfest up close!
A Date Night Guide to Summerfest
Milwaukee is a pretty fantastic city to explore with your sweetie, so why choose Summerfest for your Date Night? If you insist on dates that involve a quiet dinner in a chill, low-lit space where you can gaze into one another’s eyes and talk in a whisper….okay, maybe hanging out at Summerfest isn’t for you. But if you love world-class live music, food options that will blow your mind, fireworks, walks along the lakeshore, snuggles on the SkyGlider and sunset smooches — The Big Gig is the place to be!
Now, anyone can just get their tickets and mosey on into Summerfest, but how do you take your visit from enjoyable to EPIC?
The Official Summerfest 2018 App
Gone are the days of wandering around aimlessly and wondering “what’s fun here?” With the Summerfest App, you get everything you need to navigate The Big Gig in the palm of your hand!
What can this app do?
- View the SCHEDULE tab to see what music is playing and where. If you enable Location settings, you can even click “Locate” on a particular live performance and the app will help you find it! You can also sort performances by place so if you just want to find out what’s going to be hitting the stage you are closest to, you can check that out too.
- Tap the FOOD tab to plan your attack on eating all the things. Scope out the menu and find where the vendor is located so you can nosh your way through the grounds. Plus, there is a whole section for Gluten-free, Vegetarian and Vegan-Friendly Items to make it easy to find good eats!
- MAPS – No more printing PDFs and trying to figure out where you are! You have to try out the Interactive Maps on this app, especially the Interactive Beer Map. For craft brew connoisseurs, this is a must.
Summerfest Photo Hunt – This activity on the app is perfectly designed for a Date Night! Explore the grounds and take a photo at the designated Summerfest landmarks. Be creative with your date and once you’ve collected all nine photos, pop ’em up on Instagram with the #summerfestexplorer and you’ll be entered to win a 2019 Summerfest 11-day pass!
The app was a lot of fun for us to use. We already had our phones out to take pictures and boomerangs of me eating cheese fries so when we needed to check the stage schedule, pulling it up on the app was a snap! The app also had a “light show” feature which you can only use at the U.S. Cellular stage! We tried it out when we landed in the front row to see Nelly and it was fun watching everyone’s phone lights sync to the music.
Food and Beverage
We already mentioned how the Summerfest App makes finding the food and drink you want even easier, but how do you even know what to get excited about? If you’re into trying what’s new, check out THIS LIST. If you are more into wine & cheese than beer & brats, be sure to venture over to one of the two Summerfest Corkscrew locations. There is a location near the box office on the south end of the park and this year they’ve added a second location near the new U.S. Cellular stage along the Lakefront. And if you ARE into beer & brats, we also highly recommend you stop by the Klement’s Sausage and Beer Garden for the perfect combination of the two!
Our favorite thing to do on a date night trying things that might be too adventurous for the kids. Once we got in through the south gate, our first priority was to eat! We noticed a few new food stands this year like Vagabond. On the menu were a variety of tacos, nachos, and other “street eats” but what caught my attention were the trailer fries. Trailer fries have cheese (obviously!), guacamole, salsa verde pork, and possibly unicorn dust? Cuz these were magical!
We were all about sharing so we could try as much as we could fit in our bellies! Our next stop was the AJ Bombers burger stand. We shared their Barrie burger which had cheese, Nueske’s bacon, and PEANUT BUTTER? It worked it was amazing, I highly recommend.
Finally, in the spirit of trying something new, we wandered over to the beautiful new Klement’s Sausage and Beer Garden. There are a fantastic lounge area and amphitheater and an assorted menu of Klement’s sausages. We ordered their summer sausage and cheese plate because we were feeling fancy.
The sausages were good, the sweet gherkins and cheese were also yummy but the crackers were just saltines so they were left alone. If you’re looking for a snack and not a meal, this is a great option! We washed that last plate down with a good ‘ol Leinenkugel Summer Shandy because….Wisconsin.
Activities and Attractions
Of course, a date night at Summerfest wouldn’t be complete without some of these iconic activities that help you slow down for just a moment and take it all in — the gorgeous view of the festival park lit up at night, the reflections on the lake, the city skyline, and more.
- Explore the lake walk. Beautiful views of the water and the Milwaukee skyline.
- Wheel in the Sky (12pm – 11:30pm) is a giant ferris wheel that provides great views of Summerfest, downtown and Lake Michigan
- Paddleboats on the North end is open from 12-7pm. It’s a great way to cool down and take in some of the nature that Summerfest has to offer
- Skyglider: Scenic views of the park, Lake Michigan and the entertainment below. One-way or round-trip fares available
We have been to the Henry Maier park so many times but we have never walked along the lakefront! This time, we took our time checking out the beautiful sites along the lake. We also came across smaller tents set up for various musicians from all over the world. If you need a little break from the crowds, definitely go for a stroll along the lake!
Also, there’s a lot of really great shopping you can do. The markets feature some amazing products like handmade bath bombs, custom jewelry, and all the Summerfest swag you can get your hands on!
Obviously, this one is a given. Summerfest is known as the world’s largest music festival so you can’t come here and not enjoy a full night of live music. But Summerfest is so much more than just the headliners. It’s a great place to discover a new favorite artist, relive an old favorite that now might be called “vintage,” or support an up-and-coming local band that catches your ear! Use the app to explore who’s playing around you and be ready to lose your voice from cheering as you discover new music at 9+ other stages throughout the grounds. People often say that any band at Summerfest is a good band, so take some time exploring. Let your ears guide you! And since you’re on a date, maybe even take a few minutes to dance with that special someone and see how many around you join in!
I wish we could have come for the whole day because there was so much to see and so many musicians we wanted to catch. We stopped at a few stages to check out some local artists like Vincent Van Great and Cincere. But it was #TBT night at Summerfest which only meant one thing to us: NELLY! The best part about seeing Nelly in concert at the new U.S. Cellular stage is that we found out that as U.S. Cellular customers, we could enjoy their Backstage Loft and get front row access to the stage! I didn’t know I needed to see Nelly that up close until we were able to see every detail of his tattoos! We also received another pair of Summerfest tickets courtesy of U.S. Cellular. It was the surprise of the night for us!
Updated Bag Policy
NEW FOR 2018 – If you bring ANY type of backpack or bag larger than 9x10x12, you will be instructed to empty the contents into a clear bag provided by Summerfest in order to be admitted. The prohibited bag will then be donated to Goodwill or you can return it to your home or vehicle. Special consideration may be taken for parents with infants and those with medical needs.
For the full updated policy, including a list of prohibited items, carry-in policies, stroller & wheelchair rental info, and more — head to the Admissions Policies Page for Summerfest.