Milwaukee Irish Fest

A view of the Irish Fest Cultural Village

A view of the Irish Fest Cultural Village

Hello, Everyone! Kathy here.

Milwaukee Irish Fest is barely a week gone now, but I want to get things written down before they fade from my (ever-decreasing) memory.

What a time we had at 2009 Irish Fest! We saw and did so much; yet, there was so much more we wanted to do that we just couldn’t get to. We planned to do more interviews and watch more bands and talk to more people. The truth is that, just like when you’re driving yourself around Ireland, it takes longer to get from Point A to Point B than you think it should. This is not a bad thing! We lingered over a pint here and an exhibit there. We met up with some old friends and made some new ones.

We would certainly be remiss if we didn’t thank Corey and Liam from the Irish Fireside for showing us the ropes and acting as our tour guides for the weekend. And we can’t wait to go back in 2010!

Speaking of 2010, next year is the 30th anniversary of Milwaukee Irish Fest, which just happens to be touted as the largest Irish culture event in the world. Mark your calendars for August 19 – 22. For those of you who would like to immerse yourself in more Irish culture, plan to attend the Summer School that takes place Monday through Friday of the festival week. If you need housing for the week, while you attend classes, there is some housing available. Be sure to watch the Irish Fest website for more information and deadlines for applying.

If you’re looking for a place to stay while you’re in Milwaukee for the festival, be sure to do your research and book early. Hotel rooms will probably go quickly for the 30th anniversary. Some hotels are accepting reservations for that weekend now, but I did note that some hotels are not taking reservations that far in advance. Be aware that a typical room rate for a basic downtown Milwaukee hotel room within walking distance of the festival (one bed for two people; no suite; nothing too fancy) will run you anywhere from $140 – $250 per night, depending upon the hotel. And that $140 is very optimistic! Plus, be aware that, if you drive a car into downtown Milwaukee, you will pay anywhere from $10 – $30 per day for the privilege of parking said car. If you choose to drive down closer to the festival grounds, this year parking prices ranged from $5 – $15 per day, depending upon how close you actually parked.

We got a really great deal from the Intercontinental Hotel this year, probably because of the slower economy. We got a package deal (that was promoted through the Irish Fest website) that included our room with a king-sized bed, tickets ($10 each value) to a lunch buffet with live music on Friday (sponsored by Marcus Hotels), two admission tickets ($15 each value) to the festival for each of the three nights we stayed, and free parking. This deal was from Marcus Hotels, and they had a couple of other specials as well: one for the Hilton and one for the Pfister. Hopefully, they’ll have some similar package deals for next year, but if you’re planning on that, you might want to get a reservation at some hotel now, just in case they don’t offer any screaming deals next year!

The best way I can suggest that you look for a hotel that will suit you is to pull up downtown Milwaukee on Google Maps and look for Interstate 794 near the lakeshore. When you have found I-794, look along the shore for the Marcus Amphitheater. That marks the very southern end of the festival grounds (which is officially named the Henry W. Maier Festival Park).

Once you’ve located the festival grounds, do a search for ‘Hotels, Milwaukee, WI’ and look at the hotels that pop up in the downtown area. It should pop up the flags that indicate where various hotels are. Be aware that there are about four pages worth of hotel listings, so be sure to look at more than the first page, if you want to be thorough! Once you know where the hotels are located, you can look up reviews of the hotels and check out the hotelsâ websites for more information. NOTE: The festival Summer School classes took place at the Milwaukee School of Engineering at East State and North Milwaukee Streets.

Is it a cop-out that I won’t recommend a particular hotel? Probably. But I’m not terribly familiar with all of the specific hotels, and I don’t know what you’re looking for in a hotel. I want a quiet place where I can sleep at night and shower in the morning. I don’t need a pool or a fitness center or a restaurant or room service or any extras. I do want to be able to print my boarding passes the day before I fly back home, but, if worse comes to worse, I can check in using my iPhone and print my boarding passes at the airport.

So, we expect to see all of you at the 30th anniversary of Milwaukee Irish Fest. Watch for information about a Tweet-Up on the first night of the festival. You can follow us on Twitter at @EngagingIreland or just keep listening to our podcasts. We won’t leave you hangin’!

Slan go foill! Go n-eiri an t-adh leat.