Harland Howard once said that country music "ain’t nothing but three chords and the truth," and the truth is that Country Thunder Wisconsin is a festival not to be missed! Part of a family of festivals running in Florida, Arizona, Wisconsin, and parts of Canada, Country Thunder showcases everything from traditional twang to modern country-R&B fusion.
This popular event welcomes household names along with most exciting up-and-coming acts. The fun takes place across two stages, the main one for the bigger acts and a side stage for newcomers, with a special late-night stage, Electric Thunder, spinning electro-country into the early hours.
The festival runs for four whole days, and you definitely won’t want to miss out on any of the action, so load up your RV and prepare to camp! The campground has a real neighborly vibe, and festival-goers have been known to forge lifelong friendships with their fellow campers. The open fields might not be your typical campground, but the sites are level, and with an atmosphere like this, who can complain?
Music is no doubt the main focus at Country Thunder, but attendees can also enjoy karaoke, or just get to know their fellow festival-goers. Add it to your summer festival list; it's worth it!
The earlier you purchase your tickets, the better. Early Bird tickets generally go on sale in April of the previous year for around $125. Otherwise, four-day admission sets you back about $175, and single-day admission, available later in the year, goes for around $75. Reserved seating is also available, from around $320 to $450 depending on how close you want to be to the action.
Camping is purchased separately from admission. You’ll need to pay about $150 to camp in the General Campground. Miller Campground, which gives you a little more space to move around, usually starts around $175, while Encore Campground gets you a little closer to the action for the same price range. If you’re looking for a little more luxury, you can park at the Preferred campground for much the same cost, and get access to water and electric hookups. This is your only option if you’re bringing a big rig, and they sell out fast. Various glamping and VIP packages are also available, and the perks that these come with (comfort, proximity to the stage, a free guitar, among others) will cost you north of $1,000.
The festival grounds are located around ninety minutes away from Madison, an hour from Milwaukee, and around the same distance from Janesville. Wherever you’re coming from, the drive is a treat with views. The interstate will take you most of the way, but you’ll be passing through Wisconsin’s gorgeous lake country. Just be careful of tree branches on the road during windy weather. Once you enter Twin Lakes, you’ll find plenty of signs to point you to the festival grounds.
Your camping spot comes with a parking pass for one vehicle, and you can purchase an extra one for about $60. Otherwise, parking costs around $15 a day to $40 for the entire weekend. Parking overnight is a little extra, almost on par with an extra camp parking pass. There are also other parking lots nearby that open their gates to festival goers at varying rates.
Twin Lakes doesn’t boast much in the way of mass transit, and it’s a little hard to get to by on public transport. When you consider that it takes over five hours to get to the town by bus from Madison or Milwaukee, it’s easy to see why carpooling is such a popular option for festival-goers. A private shuttle service runs from towns around the Lake Geneva, Elkhorn, and Kenosha area, at about $75 for the whole weekend or $20 per day.
Whichever campground that you choose to stay in, you’ll have access to showers, but they can set you back about $7 a pop. If you’d like to avoid long queues for the toilets in the morning or have an extra one near your RV, you can rent your own port-a-potty, which the festival organizers will leave by your site. Whether this is a blessing or a curse will very much depend on how hot it gets. There’s also daily trash collection from every site. If you’ve not managed to snag yourself a site with water hookups, don’t worry, there’s running water available in all campgrounds. The number of festival-goers per campsite isn’t always specified, so it may be up to you how many people you want to squeeze in!
Wisconsin loaded with fishing and boating communities, so campers can find a good range of alternative campgrounds within a forty-minute drive. You can choose from no-frills lakefront sites (which can sometimes be a bit narrow), US Forest Service campgrounds, and the occasional full-service RV park.
Golf carts, bikes, and scooters (aside from mobility scooters) are banned from Country Thunder Festivals, so the only real way to get around the festival grounds is on foot. Fortunately, the site is reasonably compact, and the parking lot and campgrounds are pretty close by the concert bowl. ADA accessible parking will get you closer, and in terms of overall accessibility, Country Thunder rates pretty highly. The concert bowl is reasonably flat, but mud may be a problem for wheelchair users in some areas. For a fee, a golf-cart taxi will get you around the campgrounds.
Summer in Wisconsin is a roulette wheel of weathers, so be prepared. Bring sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat (a ten-gallon one if you want to fit the theme), sturdy, comfortable shoes and a rain jacket. If you’re going for cowboy boots, make sure that they’re waterproof! It can also get pretty cold at night, so bring something to wrap up warm in as the sun sets.
There’s little shade at the campground, so you’ll need to bring some sort of shade structure if you’re planning on hanging out during the day (keep in mind that umbrellas and canopies are banned in the concert grounds themselves). Open flames are prohibited at Country Thunder, so a camp stove is a good idea if you would like to cook outside of your RV kitchen. Soft lawn chairs are allowed in a concert bowl, and it’s always a good bet to bring a tarp.
Twin Lakes is known for its proximity to, well, lakes, so bug spray is an absolute must if you don’t want to itch for the whole trip. Aside from something to give a little shade, bring plenty of sunscreen. Although there is a medical tent, it’s always worthwhile to bring your own kit in case you get injured at a distance away from the resources of Country Thunder.
As long as you’ve got a camp stove plan to use the setup in your rig, you’re free to cook in the campground. There’s a general store on the festival grounds, but it can be a little pricey. Fortunately, the campgrounds are less than a ten-minute drive away from some big box grocery stores. Keep in mind that no outside food or drink is allowed in the concert bowl, though you are permitted to store and drink outside alcohol in the campgrounds.
Restaurants in Twin Lakes offer down-home, delicious cooking, and offer some variety with American, Italian, and some Mexican favorites, and few options for non-meat eaters. You can find good value for the offerings, so it may be worth making a pit stop on your way to or back from the festival. You’ll also find the usual range of fast food options.
Vendors at Country Thunder operate on a food and drink ticket system, and these can be purchased with paper or plastic. There’s also a handful of ATMs dotted around the festival grounds. Food at Country Thunder is delicious and may focus on fewer items. You’ll find some of the best American classics and Wisconsin cheese around, but you might have some trouble getting ahold of anything vegan or gluten-free. The vendors are open late, so go ahead and grab that late night snack!
Country Thunder takes security very seriously, and the festival’s bag policy reflects this. Guests are limited to clear bags or small purses only. Prepare for long lines as absolutely everything is searched, including strollers. There will be a strong police presence on the grounds, and you can expect to see a lot of private security as well.
Although July in Wisconsin sees a lot of cloud cover, that’s definitely not a guarantee, and sun protection helps keep festival days fun and carefree. The music at Country Thunder continues come rain or shine, and in previous years the venue has been graced with plenty of fresh rain.
Paramedics and EMTs staff the first aid tent at Country Thunder. You’ll find a medical center, pharmacy, and various clinics in Twin Lakes. If needed care is not available in town, the next closest urgent care clinics or emergency departments to Country Thunder may be available in Lake Geneva, WI and Kenosha, WI.