By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Jun 01, 2023 at 8:21 PM Photography: Summerfest

The Great Milwaukee Summer is HERE! Your guide to what you'll be doing, where you'll be drinking, who you'll be hearing and how you'll be getting a sweet tan this summer is on OnMilwaukee. The Great Milwaukee Summer guide is brought to you by Educators Credit Union and Harley-Davidson Museum

Welcome to June – and welcome to the official run-up to Summerfest, getting the three-weekend party started in just three weeks on June 22.

The headliners and music acts are, of course, the stars of Summerfest – but the Big Gig always rocks out equally as hard beyond its stages with special events, experiences and activities all around the grounds. This year's bunch includes a new lounge by the UScellular Connection Stage, two new bars to drink in, free Summerfest swag and the return of the popular hole-in-one competition. 

Here's the full lineup of on-fire offstage experiences and attractions awaiting you at the Big Gig starting later this month:

Summerfest experiences

US Mode Lounge

New year, new spaces. That's the case with this new area on the grounds: the US Mode Lounge, a space by the UScellular Connection Stage to relax, take a break from the mania of the main drag and enjoy your friends' company without distraction. Here's quite the distraction, though: You could win a $20,000 vacation and Summerfest giveaways during certain UScellular Connection Stage shows. Chat with a UScellular rep at the Lounge to learn more.

American Family Insurance House

The Big Gig's smallest stage is back, every day giving fans a chance to see select performers deliver one-of-a-kind intimate bonus shows in the brightly decorated midgate space. For the full lineup of special performances on deck, click here

Two new bars

In Wisconsin, there's no such thing as too many bars – and that includes the Big Gig, which will add to a duo of new bar spaces to its grounds. In addition to the returning Miller Lite Brewhouse by the Oasis and the Summerfest Dockside Bar, the Big Gig will introduce Keg & Cask craft beer and cocktail bar near the south end of the grounds as well as The Starry Bar with Pepsi on the lake walk, serving up mixed drinks along with photo ops and customized swag areas. 

Fritos Legacy Diner

New to the Big Gig this year, the Fritos Legacy Diner offers a fresh spot for snacking, serving up free samples inside the south gate entrance from noon until 6 p.m. every day of the festival. 

Gruber Law Offices Sportszone

A Summerfest classic, the Gruber Law Offices Sportszone brings athletic feats to this audio extravaganza. Scheduled performers and showcases on deck for 2023 include Division BMX Stunt Team, the current Calder Cup-contending Milwaukee Admirals, Brew City Wrestling, juggling lessons and much more. For the full lineup, click here.  

Northwestern Mutual Community Park

This freshly revamped playground isn't just for families to play on; performers of all kinds will play for crowds of all ages as well, from magicians to dance and all kinds of variety acts. For the full lineup, click here

Summerfest activities 

Iron Joc Hole-in-One Challenge

Fore! The beloved hole-in-one challenge is back at the Big Gig this year, thanks to Iron Joc and 97.3 The Game. For $10, golfers expert and amateur get three hacks at hitting a tough hole-in-one shot – with the first one to sink the shot earning $5,000. So start practing now!

2s, FREES & 3s Basketball Challenge

The NBA postseason should be well over by Summerfest – but the basketball competition won't as the Big Gig will host Steve Novak's 2s, FREES & 3s basketball challenge. Taking place at 2 p.m. on June 22, 23 and 29 at the Sportszone, players have two minutes to hit 21 shots all across the court – with the top four performers moving onto the final during June 30's Alumni Charity Challenge with a chance to beat the Marquette great and NBA sharpshooter himself and win $1,000 of his cash. To sign up, head here


Did you even attend Summerfest if you didn't take a ride on the iconic Skyglider? The aerial activation will come back to the Big Gig, providing gorgeous views of the main drag, the Milwaukee skyline and the Lake Michigan lakefront as well as providing some relaxation amongst the bonanza that is the Big Gig.

Activity Zone

Entertainment old and new meet in the Activity Zone, found on the south end of the Summerfest grounds. For the classic, there's the Wheel in the Sky Ferris wheel, running round and round each day from noon until 11:30 p.m. And for the contemporary, there's Derezzed Virtual Reality taking attendees beyond the Big Gig while right on the grounds. That's just the beginning in the Activity Zone, which also offers Gellyball sporting fun and more. 

Elizabeth "Bo" Black Family Fountain

Summerfest is one of the hottest events in Milwaukee – literally, with those June and July scorching temperatures. So cool off at the Elizabeth "Bo" Black Family Fountain right at the midgate entrance, a splash pad perfect for chilling out with a splash of fun.

Summerfest special events

Free Summerfest swag

What better way to begin and end Summerfest than with free stuff?! On opening day on June 22, the Big Gig will give away free Summerfest hats to the first 10,000 fans through the gates. Then, on the final Friday of the festival, the Big Gig will hand out a free Summerfest/Fritos bag to the first 1,000 attendees through the midgate. 

Big Bang Fireworks

Summerfest always starts with a bang – the Big Bang, to be specific, once again exploding above the lakefront at 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 22. And as always, if you can't be down at the Big Gig for the Big Bang, the light show will replay on WISN 12 at 10:30 p.m. the same night.

Summerfest Parade

Featuring the likes of the Dancing Grannies, the 610 Stompers from New Orleans and more, the Summerfest parade will march through the Big Gig grounds at 3 p.m. on June 23 and 30 as well as July 1, 6 and 8. 

Milwaukee Brewers Tailgate

The Brew Crew may be in Cleveland on Saturday, June 24, but the excitement of the game will be at the Big Gig with a tailgate hosted at the Gruber Law Offices Sportszone. Starting at 3 p.m., the Sportszone will have the 620 WTMJ broadcast of the game plus Bernie Brewer, the racing sausages, traditional yard games and a not-so-traditional VR home run derby.

School of Rock

It's a long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll – and School of Rock gets folks across the globe going on that journey. One of those steps? Performing at the Big Gig, hitting several of Summerfest's grounds stages throughout the June 29-July 1 weekend. For the exact stages and times, click here

Alumni Charity Challenge

An alma mater smackdown will take place at 4 p.m. on Friday, June 30 at the Sportszone as former basketball stars from Marquette, Wisconsin, UW-Milwaukee and UW-Green Bay will battle it out for hoops bragging rights. No matter who wins, though, we'll all win because the contest helps support several charities. 

Latin Music Day

The Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard will be a celebration of Latin music and culture on Friday, July 7, featuring a full day's lineup of excellent Latin and salsa music from the likes of Cache Milwaukee, Salsabrositas, Tito Puente Jr., Grupo Niche and more. Check out the full lineup here

Summerfest Big Win

Attending Summerfest is always a big win – but Saturday, July 8, it could REALLY feel like that with this Potawatomi-sponsored contest. In addition to snagging a 2024 Summerfest ticket voucher, the first 30,000 fans through the gates on the final day will receive a Big Win entry ticket. Drop that in the marked bin at the midgate between noon and 3 p.m. – then, at 4 p.m., gather at the Miller Lite Oasis as five lucky winners will be drawn to score a share of $10,000 plus a chance at a whole one million dollars. For more info, visit Summerfest's website

Big Gig Giveaway with Cousins Subs

Better bread, better subs ... and apparently better giveaways? Now through June 9, enter daily at Cousins Subs' website to win a VIP concert package for an American Family Insurance Amphitheater show at Summerfest this year including two tickets, two Captain's Deck passes, a hotel stay, a parking pass and more. For more info, click here

As for the featured presentations at Summerfest, here's the full day-by-day lineup headed to the stages this summer – and for how to get into the Big Gig for not-so-big bucks, here's the admission promos. And stay tuned to OnMilwaukee for more Summerfest announcements, updates and more as the world's biggest music festival draws even closer. 

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.