By Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor Published Aug 16, 2022 at 3:06 PM

The great Milwaukee summer is HERE! Don't miss all of our great coverage on local festivals and happenings. Click here for your full summer line-up! 

Your guide to having a great summer is brought to you by Potawatomi Hotel & Casino and Peoples State Bank.

After a two-year hiatus, Milwaukee a la Carte at the Zoo is back, with plenty of great food, music and activities for the entire family.  

In fact, there are just two more sleeps until the wildly wonderful weekend-long festival kicks off on Thursday, Aug. 18, so it’s the perfect time to secure your tickets.

For all four days of the festival, the Zoo will open at 11 a.m. with hours Thursday, Aug. 18 through Saturday, Aug. 20 from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 21 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

Even better, every single day will be filled with great music, delicious food along with two new Zoo experiences for animal lovers of all ages.

In fact, we’ve got a list of five great reasons why you shouldn’t miss this year’s event!

1. Amazing grazing

Bubble waffles
Bubble waffles (Photo: Milwaukee County Zoo)
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During this unique four-day experience, you’ll have the opportunity to experience both the wildlife and the cuisine from climes across the world, including North America, South America and Asia. 

Enjoy delectable egg rolls, tacos, empanadas and amazing sweets like Japanese-inspired bubble waffles from these amazing vendors: 

  • A la Crepes
  • Bubble Waffle Shoppes
  • Café El Sol
  • Catalano Corn
  • Crawdaddy’s on Greenfield
  • C-Viche
  • Kealoha’s Hawaiian Shave Ice
  • La Masa Empanada Bar
  • Mama Bev’s Bakery
  • Meat on the Street
  • MIL-WOK-EE
  • Nothing Bundt Cakes
  • Pig Tailz
  • Saz’s
  • Scrima’s Woodfired Pizza
  • Shawarma House
  • The Soup Market
  • Thunder Bay Grille
  • Ultimate Confections
  • Wong’s Wok

Important note: Be sure to bring your credit or debit card! A la Carte at the Zoo is a cashless event. A kiosk will be available in the U.S. Bank Gathering Place to convert your cash to a pre-paid card if needed.

2. Can can with the caribou

It's an experience for kids of all ages
It's an experience for kids of all ages (Photo: Milwaukee County Zoo)
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Live music outdoors is a hallmark of our Great Milwaukee Summer. But if you’ve never taken the opportunity to stomp with the elephants or foxtrot with the flamingos, you’re in for a real treat.

Each day of A la Carte at the Zoo offers a new live music experience, including performances from headliners including country pop stars Bella Cain (Aug. 18 at 6 p.m.), alternative rockers the Spin Doctors (Aug. 19 at 7 p.m.), pop artists Plain White T’s (Aug. 20 at 7 p.m.) and Latin jazz afficionados De La Buena (Aug. 21 at 4 p.m.). 

Local bands, including acts like the Whiskeybelles, The Toys, Boo! The Band  and the Love Monkeys will also offer performances on five stages throughout the zoo, with performances staggered throughout the day. Check out the full schedule for each day online. 

3. Crafts for the kiddos

Crafts for kids
Photo: Milwaukee County Zoo
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Do your kids love getting crafty? Bring them to Milwaukee a la Carte at the Zoo on Thursday or Friday between 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and they can engage their creativity by creating imaginative projects inspired by works of art from the Milwaukee Art Museum. 

While you’re there, you can also engage in longtime favorite activities like a relaxing ride on the Safari Train, attend educational Animal in Action Talks, engage with sea lions and flippered friends at Ocean Connections, feed the insatiable goats in the Goat Yard and family-friendly 15-minute theatrical performances from Kohl’s Wild Theater. 

4. Dragons and gorillas!

A la Carte at the Zoo
Photo: Milwaukee County Zoo
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Don’t miss the opportunity to escape to the mythical world of Dino Don’s Dragon Kingdom ($3 per person). This lush forest behind the Small Mammals building is filled with over 15 animatronic creatures including a fire breathing dragon, a Russian ice dragon and the the Ninki Nanka, a 30-foot-long beast that’s said to live in the swampland of West Africa.

Alternatively, you can engage in the dynamic and immersive Gorilla Trek Virtual Reality Experience ($7 per person), which features a 360-degree virtual reality film with motion platform seating that allows you to experience mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. It’s as close as you can get to actually meeting these marvelous creatures face to face.

5. ALL the amazing animals

Keep your eye out for the red panda!
Keep your eye out for the red panda! (Photo: Milwaukee County Zoo)
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Milwaukee a la Carte is definitely about the food and music, but don’t forget that you also have access to all of the great exhibits at the Milwaukee County Zoo, which feature over 2200 different animals. That includes some of the Zoo’s newest additions including Yaks Everest and Tinley, bonobos Oliver, Dotty and Nadami and cheetahs Mila and Minnie.

Keep your eye out in the Asia exhibit for Kiki the red panda, who was born in 2019, and be sure to visit Happy and Patti the hippos, which now have their own spectacular underwater exhibit. 

Get your tickets now

Discounted tickets for A la Carte at the Zoo are currently on sale online (pricing will vary for tickets purchased at the door).

All musical entertainment is included with admission. Food, special attractions and Zoo rides can be purchased for an additional fee. Zoological Society membership is valid for A la Carte.

Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.