A Badger’s guide to fairs and festivals this summer

June 13, 2017 By Emily Hamer

If you still need more fun things to do this summer — even after reading our guide to cheap summer activities — there’s a festival or fair near Madison almost every week for the rest of the summer.

Don’t worry about researching all of these festivals on your own, just read the following list made specifically for University of Wisconsin–Madison students who are in Madison this summer. Even better, all the events are accessible without a car.

Mark your calendars for a summer of live music, art, carnivals, fireworks and plenty of food!

June

SummerPalooza

Hosted by the Madison Children’s Museum and Rotary Club of Madison, this festival is not just for kids. In addition to free Children’s Museum admission all day, there’s a block party outside of the museum with free performances, games, activity tables and an inflatable obstacle course.

When? June 17, starting at 10 a.m.
Where? Outside of the Madison Children’s Museum on N Hamilton Street, right off of the Capitol Square. 
Cost: Free

Mad City Vegan Fest

At this one-day festival you can buy vegan food from a variety of vendors, listen to speakers, and get more information on how to be healthier while protecting animals and the environment. Vegans and non-vegans are welcome!

When? June 17, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Where? Alliant Energy Center, Exhibition Hall
How to get there: 20 minute bike or bus ride from campus
Cost: Free

Fireworks over Lake Monona during the 2016 Shake the Lake Festival. Courtesy of Flickr user Dave.

Fireworks over Lake Monona during the 2016 Shake the Lake Festival. (Photo courtesy of Flickr user Dave).

Shake the Lake

Enjoy live music, fireworks, a human cannonball, food carts, a market and more all along the shore of Lake Monona. Band headliners include Saint Motel and The Record Company. Best of all, this event is right off of campus near Monona Terrace and admission is free.

When? June 24, 4 p.m. – 11 p.m.
Where? Along John Nolen Drive near Monona Terrace
How to get there: 10-minute bike, 20-minute bus ride or 30-minute walk from campus
Cost: Free 

Summerfest attendees gather outside of one of the festival's 11 stages. Courtesy of Mike Bash

Summerfest attendees gather outside of one of the festival’s 11 stages. (Photo courtesy of Mike Bash).

Milwaukee Summerfest

Going to this summer festival is a little pricier, but it’s the largest music festival in the world, featuring more than 800 acts and 1,000 performances of a variety of genres. And UW–Madison students can get there, even if they don’t have a car. The Badger Bus is offering discounted round trip tickets that pick up on campus and drop you off four blocks from the Summerfest grounds.

When? June 28 – July 2 and July 4-9, from noon until midnight
Where? 200 N Harbor Dr, Milwaukee
How to get there: Take the Badger bus ($25 round trip), schedule a trip on a Greyhound or try to find a ride in the rideshare group
Cost: $20 admission + transportation (some days and time have special discounted prices)

July

Monona Community Festival

Celebrate the Fourth of July in Madison on the other side of Lake Monona. It’s a bit of a trek from campus, but has an event for almost everyone including, a carnival, an art fair, fireworks, live music, a car show, a keg toss and tons of food.

While the festival will only run July 3-4, the carnival will be open July 1-4. Photo courtesy of Fred von Graf.

While the Monona Community Festival will only run July 3-4, the carnival will be open July 1-4. (Photo courtesy of Fred von Graf).

When? July 3-4
Where? Winnequah Park, Monona
How to get there: 30-minute bike ride from campus or a 20-minute uber ride for about $15.
Cost: Concerts have no cover charge, other events have varying prices

Art Fair on The Square

Enjoy art from nearly 500 different artists at a fair that draws almost 200,000 people to the Capitol Square each year. In addition to the art, there’s also music, outdoor dining and other entertainment at this two-day fair.

When? July 8, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.; July 9, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Where? Capitol Square
Cost: Free

La Fête De Marquette

If you haven’t had enough festival activities and live music by mid-July, this festival will have 20 different performances on three stages, art vendors, food from 14 local restaurants and family games and activities. Proceeds from the event will go to the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center.

When? July 13-16
Where? Madison’s Central Park
How to get there: 20-minute bus or 15-minute bike ride
Cost: Free

Maxwell Street Days

Take shopping on State Street to a new level by attending the summer sidewalk sale. On the third weekend in July, State Street and Capitol Square shops and restaurants will be offering bargains all along State Street. There will also be live music and food.

When? July 14-16
Where? State Street
Cost: Free to walk, costs money to shop

The Alliant Energy Center is located at 1919 Alliant Energy Center Way, Madison, southeast of campus. Courtesy of Lrn2Go.

The Alliant Energy Center is located at 1919 Alliant Energy Center Way, Madison, southeast of campus. (Photo courtesy of Lrn2Go).

Dane County Fair

Dating back to 1851, this event has everything you would want out of a fair. There will be animals, carnivals rides, free concerts, stunt shows and food.

When? July 19-23, 9 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Where? Alliant Energy Center
How to get there: 20 minute bike or bus ride from campus
Cost: Fair admission is $8 for those 12 and over

Atwood Fest

Enjoy more live music at this year’s Atwood Fest, located along Atwood Avenue, about 20 minutes from campus via bike. Attendees can listen to 25 different bands, get food from 20 local food stands and shop at 50 different vendors.

When? July 29-30
Where? Atwood Avenue, Madison
How to get there: 20-minute bike, 30-minute bus ride from campus.
Cost: Free

Greek Fest

A smaller festival, but a great way to experience Greek culture. The festival will feature Greek food, pastries, folk dancing, church tours, live music and a market.

When? July 29-30
Where? Assumption Greek Orthodox Church, 11 N 7th St, Madison
How to get there: 20-minute bus or bike ride from campus
Cost: Free

August

This year the National Day of Mustard is on Saturday, August 5. (Photo courtesy of Chris Riebschlager).

This year the National Day of Mustard is on Saturday, August 5. (Photo courtesy of Chris Riebschlager).

National Mustard Day

Yes, there is an event devoted entirely to mustard. Enjoy music, games, other entertainment, hot dogs, brats and, of course, free mustard sampling.

When? Aug. 5, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. 
Where? The National Mustard Museum, 7477 Hubbard Ave, Middleton
How to get there: 35-minute bike ride, 30-minute bus ride from campus
Cost: Free

Yum Yum Fest

If you want more lavish food options, come to Yum Yum Fest in Madison to appreciate “artistry in food.” Try delicious food from more than 25 top-rated restaurants from the Dane County area, then get ready for some surprise entertainment.  

When? Aug. 6, 3-8 p.m.
Where? Breese Stevens Field
How to get there: 10-minute bike ride, 15-minute bus ride or 30-minute walk from campus
Cost: $10 admission in advance, $13.50 the day of the event + $5 per small plate

Pride Parade

Celebrate LGBTQ+ pride by marching down State Street to the Capitol Square. Organized by OutReach LGBT Community Center, this is a great way to rally for LGBTQ+ equality, then enjoy entertainment around the Capitol.

When? Aug. 20
Where? Runs from State Street to the Capitol
Cost: Free

Orton Park Festival

This four day music festival features everything from funk to jazz and country to rock. Watch and listen to acts such as a Fleetwood Mac cover band and an aerial dance group, all located at Orton park on Lake Monona.

When? Aug. 24-27
Where? Orton Park, Madison
How to get there: 15-minute bike or bus ride from campus
Cost: Free

September

People watch a musical act at the 2014 Taste of Madison. Courtesy of John Benson.

People watch a musical act at the 2014 Taste of Madison. (Photo courtesy of John Benson).

Taste of Madison

Before you head back to class Sept. 6, be sure to make your way up to the Capitol for the annual Taste of Madison festival. The two-day event, which draws more than 250,000 to Capitol Square, has three stages for entertainment, more than 80 restaurants and 26 beverage stands.

When? Sept. 2-3
Where? Capitol Square
Cost: Free