Where to stay during summerfest?
April 26, 2011 7:53 AM   Subscribe

Summerfest in Milwaukee questions. Where to stay and what to do?

Me and a friend are going to see Peter Gabriel in Milwaukee to kick off Summerfest. We are in our early 30's and enjoy good food and craft beers. We plan on being there for a few days (weekdays), and would like to stay in an area where there will be a fun nightlife, plus hopefully interesting sites to see in the daytime. We will be on foot.

Any suggestions on areas we should be concentrating our hotel search would be appreciated. Also specific activities, hotels, bars and restaurants to try would also be helpful.

I am also curious about Summerfest in general. As this is a weekday night show, will there still be summerfest stuff going on in the daytime. Any tips in general that will make going to the Marcus more enjoyable?

Thank You!
posted by travis08 to Travel & Transportation around Milwaukee, WI (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like you guys might need a Safe House.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:11 AM on April 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

Funny, I was coming in here to say, "Don't miss The Safe House" but Robocop is Bleeding beat me to it. Most fun bar I've ever been to in my life.
posted by Gucky at 8:36 AM on April 26, 2011

There's Summerfest stuff going on from noon on each day. If you don't mind how much you pay, a hotel in East Town will put you within walking distance of Summerfest and Milwaukee night life. The busiest places for nightlife near you will be Water St., the Third Ward and it's a short bus ride to the East Side or Bay View. Someone who hasn't been raising kids the last few years could give specific bar or hotel suggestions.
posted by drezdn at 8:45 AM on April 26, 2011

if you are a fan of craft beers, the Saturday or Sunday Pub Crawl Cruise is a must. Get tickets early.
posted by rtimmel at 9:03 AM on April 26, 2011

It doesn't really matter where you stay; there are plenty of cheap shuttle buses that run throughout the city. We parked downtown by the... Hilton, maybe? and the bus was about 10 minutes. You'll have more flexibility that way.

Looks like the Brewers will be out of town (playing the Yankees... ugh...). Which is too bad; I'm not actually a huge baseball fan, but Miller Park is a pretty great experience.

Summerfest definitely has all sorts of stuff going on. It's kind of like a local festival on a ginormous scale -- you're leaving the Marcus, and oh, hey, there's Matisyahu on your left with Hall and Oates on your right. But the side activities are not particularly thrilling; lots of the same old hippie pullovers and knockoff fedoras. Somewhere between the outright cheesiness of a midway and the cool stuff you'd find at an art fair. Definitely filled with "festival people" who are just there to drink and be seen in their too-tight tops :P

(Not that I have an opinion.)

The Marcus has crappy video screens, so if you can stomach more expensive seats (and they are expensive -- we were in the last section before the lawn and it was something like $75 apiece) get as close as you can.
posted by Madamina at 9:14 AM on April 26, 2011

Best hotel for Summerfest (if you have money budgeted that way) - The Iron Horse. its pricy by Milwaukee standards ~$250 a night, but it is a beautiful place.

I personally don't recomend The Iron Horse's high-end restaurant, Smyth, however -- expensive and not that good. It has a related burger place a couple of block away towards Summerfest, Stack'd, that I highly recommend.

Also, the Third Ward, the area just to the west of Summerfest, has taken off in the last few years to become the young, hip part of Milwaukee. You will have no problem finding food, drink and entertainment around there. The Public Market has lots of good places for lunch. The Eisner Museum of Advertising is well worth a little time.

Summerfest starts at noon and finishes at around midnight with about seven or eight stages running continually. There is an emphasis on '70 music (see Hall & Oates and Meatloaf on openning day). I don't know why this is, but given the amount of music each day you should be able to find something you like (Buddy Guy is there that night). Usually, the night winds down with a single stage or two open -- that's where I have seen some of the best shows.

Summerfest is self contained -- lot of food and beer -- so you can spend the entire day on grounds if you can find music you like. The Marcus is inside the Summerfest grounds -- you treat it like an additional stage that requires tickets for the one show. Its a fairly decent open air venue.

The biggest issue can be the weather. Even though it stretches along the lake, it can get brutally hot on grounds. This can be conteracted with massive amounts of beer, but that has its own issues. There's not a lot of shade so dress appropriately.
posted by rtimmel at 9:36 AM on April 26, 2011

I'd definitely invest in a downtown hotel. Hotel Metro is funky and cool and will put you in a good location for both Summerfest and the nightlife. I'd absolutely go to the Safe House as robocop is bleeding suggested. Carve out some time for the Art Museum.

For beer, go to the Milwaukee Ale House or the Water Street Brewery. Go to Trocadero for breakfast or brunch. Elsa's On the Park for a classy cocktail. Farther from downtown, Maxie's Southern Comfort is incredible. Casablanca is close to downtown and good for Middle Eastern food (they also have hookahs). Maharaja is also close to downtown.

I'll probably think of more stuff later.
posted by desjardins at 10:34 AM on April 26, 2011

I've been to The Safe House twice and I doubt I'll be going back. For whatever reason I never really fell in love with it like some people have.

Since you say you enjoy craft beers, and because it hasn't been mentioned yet, I see absolutely no reason you shouldn't try to take a tour of Lakefront Brewery. Also highly recommended are the Sugar Maple, which is a craft-beer bar (60 American craft beers on tap! 60!) and their "sister" bar, the Palm Tavern. If you want to experience the classic Milwaukee dive bar, I'd suggest Wolskis.

Along the same lines, if you're into spirits I'd look at taking a tour at Great Lakes Distillery. Their gin (Rehorst) is delicious.

A new favorite of mine is the Milwaukee Cupcake Company. New flavors every week.

For dinner away from downtown and the Summerfest crowd, Nessun Dorma is one of my favorites, as well as Comet, Honeypie, and Beans and Barley.

Other options for food are Red Dot, Mr. Senor for late-night walk-up Mexican, Pizza Shuttle or Ian's Pizza for pizza.

I hope that helps!
posted by fore at 2:48 PM on April 26, 2011

I don't know where you are from, but note that Milwaukee is not an easy taxi city -- you can get them but they are not roaming the streets. And, while I've never really paid attention, I would guess that they are all but impossible to find at Summerfest. So, staying in an hotel that is walking distance from the grounds makes all sorts of sense.
posted by rtimmel at 2:50 PM on April 26, 2011

I want to second Comet Cafe (parking is hell, though), and Honeypie (they're owned by the same people). If you love a good burger, go to AJ Bombers.

If you like cooking good food as much as eating it, you must also visit The Spice House on Old World Third Street.
posted by thebestsophist at 6:55 PM on April 26, 2011

Seconding fore's suggestion for Sugar Maple and the Palm Tavern. Sugar Maple focuses on American beers while the Palm focuses on Belgian and German beer. The selection changes constantly depending on what they can get in and frequently they will be featuring a half-barrel of something they never expect to see again. The Palm also has an incredable selection of whiskeys
posted by rtimmel at 8:07 PM on April 26, 2011

I can't believe that no one (including me) has mentioned the Sprecher Brewery Tour yet. Also the Harley Museum.

Seconding what rtimmel said about taxis, though the bus service in downtown is pretty good. The bus will be packed full of drunks when you leave Summerfest, however.

If you or anyone in your party is gay, all of the gay clubs and bars are in Walker's Point, south of downtown.
posted by desjardins at 7:17 AM on April 27, 2011

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