Summerfest returns with more than 1,000 performances

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Jake Magee
Thursday, June 19, 2014

MILWAUKEE—Eleven days, 11 stages and more than 800 acts and 1,000 performances.

Welcome to Summerfest 2014, the world's largest musical festival, located just a short drive away at the Henry Maier Festival Park on Milwaukee's Lake Michigan shoreline.

From June 25-29 and July 1-6, you and nearly 900,000 other Summerfest attendees can enjoy a vast array of country, R&B, pop, reggae, rock, alternative and independent music performances from famous headliners and underground artists alike.

Just like every other festival, you'll have to plan ahead to reduce your stress and optimize your fun. It wouldn't hurt to bring a full wallet that you're prepared to empty, too.

It all starts with parking. To avoid the chaos of driving near Summerfest, your best bet is to park for free at one of the several park-ride lots and hop on a Freeway Flyer shuttle for $6.50 to be delivered right to the park's gates.

Some shuttles offer round-trip tickets for only $10. Otherwise you can empty your pockets and pay $20 or $35 to park in Summerfest's packed lots. Parking away from the festival means you might be able to grab an affordable meal as well.

Either way, you'll be out a few bucks before you even stepping through the gates. But that's when the fun begins.

A good way to start your adventure is by taking a gentle ride on the Skyglider. From up above, you'll be able to get scenic view of the entire park, the lake, and the stages and entertainment below.

If you didn't grab food downtown, you'll find plenty of it at Summerfest, though it's sure to be overpriced. More than 45 food and beverage vendors will sell everything from spaghetti to doughnuts to fajitas.

Beer will be flowing as well, including Miller Lite, the official beer of Summerfest.

While eating and drinking, you might wander through one of the four marketplaces selling clothes, jewelry, accessories, artwork and souvenirs. You can pick up official Summerfest merchandise at the nearby Summerfest Store.

Got restless kids to take care of before your show begins? The festival grounds have plenty of attractions to let them blow off steam.

The Northwestern Mutual Children's Theater and Playzone features family-focused entertainment, including magic, comedy, circus arts, dancing and puppetry. And the Elizabeth “Bo” Black family fountain, or splash pad, is a great place to take rowdy children who need to cool down.

Try riding a paddleboat for 30 minutes—they were new last year—or hop on Summerfest's new Wheel in the Sky Ferris wheel. With all that, an activity tent and parades, surely you can find something to keep your young ones occupied until show time.

That just leaves the main attraction: the music.

I'm not interested in any of the headliners this year (though I never am), but fans of Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, Outkast, Dave Matthews Band and more can catch them live at the Marcus Amphitheater. Get your tickets quick if you're interested, and be ready to shell out more than $100 for decent seats to see some of those artists.

Those of us with more refined tastes will find the best music at the smaller stages, and they cost nothing more than the price of admission. Food might be expensive, but at least the shows are dirt-cheap!

You'll be able to catch some of my personal favorites—including indie rock bands Arctic Monkeys and Bear Hands and electronic duo Phantogram—at the smaller venues. Other artists worth seeing: Ingrid Michaelson, Walk Off the Earth, New Order and Crowder.

If those groups aren't your jam, you can find almost any genre of music at the 11 stages, from classic rock bands such as REO Speedwagon to rap artists such as Ludacris.

Regardless of your tastes or style, you'll probably be able to find a show you like at Summerfest, and you're guaranteed to have a good time.

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