Milwaukee Irish Fest claims to be the largest Irish Festival in the world – and after spending a weekend there, I’m more than willing to believe the hype.
The festival fills – actually overflows – the 75 acre Henry Maier Festival Park, turning it into what I call ‘Ireland’s 33rd County.’
You only have to peek at the Irish Fest website to realize that there is no way you can do everything (it’s much like a trip to Ireland in that way), so you have to come up with some ‘plan of attack.’ I’m here to help you keep from wandering aimlessly.
Managing Your Time at Milwaukee Irish Fest
I’m going to begin by saying that you should plan a very loose itinerary because you will be distracted as you navigate from one point of the festival to another, either by shiny objects for sale, a great sounding band on one of the stages, or by the kids deciding there is something they must see .
#1: Use the Irish Fest website. It’s your most powerful planning tool. It tells you what band is playing where, and when. You’ll also find a map of the grounds, so you can have an idea of where you’re going.
Now, you may find, as we did, that your favorite bands are playing at the same time. It is entirely possible – especially if they are playing the last show of the night – to see portions of all three shows. As long as you don’t get distracted along the way.
#2: Go to the festival on Thursday evening. None of the headlining bands play on Thursday, which gives you the opportunity to discover new favorites. Bonus: the grounds aren’t as crazy busy as they will be as the weekend goes on.
#3: Take in a little culture. If you can pry yourself away from the music, visit the cultural areas of the festival. Historical lectures, Irish language sessions, Irish dance lessons, and fabulous plays are taking place all day.
#4: Saturday is the day for Irish sports. Hurling matches, curragh races and tug-of-war. Try to catch a game or two, it’s great craic.
#5: Let the kids have a little fun. Nestled against Lake Michigan – renamed Lough Foyle for the festival – is the Kid’s Cultural Village. Not only are the activities here fun and free, but this is also the most shaded spot in the park and perfect for getting off your feet for a few minutes while the kids explore the Leprechaun Village and chat with Liam the “extra large” leprechaun.
#6: Enhance those Ireland travel dreams. Find your way to the Irish Destinations area and meet representatives from Ireland who have come to share their lovely spot of the country.
#7: Eat, Drink & Try to Watch Your Budget. Milwaukee Irish Fest offers some pretty tasty fair food. But it comes at a dear price. So eat a hearty breakfast and, if you park near the festival, maybe leave a cooler in your car with snacks. Bring along a water bottle to refill at the water fountains. Drinks come dear, as well, with drink tickets costing $1 each, with a 6 ticket charge for the average drink.
A Few Irish Fest Facts
- Milwaukee Irish Fest is always held the 3 rd weekend in August.
- Parking in nearby lots can cost up to $20 per day, though free parking can be found if you don’t mind a bit of a hike. Shuttles are also available from downtown and select Park & Ride locations. (Find out more about parking on the festival website under Festival Information.)
- Kids 12 & under are free.
- Though it’s not your dream trip to Ireland , a weekend at Milwaukee Irish Festival is decent “filler” until you can visit the ‘auld sod.’
Did you go to the Milwaukee Irish Fest? We’d love to hear what you thought of it in the comments!