Located midway between Chicago and Milwaukee, Kenosha might seem like nothing more than a stop along the expressway. But this city of nearly 100,000 on the shores of Lake Michigan is an exciting destination in itself. Diverse restaurants, craft beer, vintage streetcars, and family-friendly activities are among many reasons to visit Kenosha.
1. Lake Michigan shoreline
One of Kenosha’s most appealing features is public access to Lake Michigan. You won’t find highways or industrial buildings on the lakefront. Instead, the shoreline near downtown consists of miles of beaches, parks, walking trails, bike paths, and festival grounds.
Relax with a cup of coffee at Harborside Common Grounds (5159 6th Ave) overlooking the water, or take a walk around HarborPark, a 69-acre redeveloped space featuring a promenade, historic lighthouse, sculpture park, marina, streetcar tracks, and museums.
2. Diverse cuisine
The revitalized city center is a great place to try many locally-owned establishments. From European pastries at Linnea Bakery (512 56th St) to old-school diners (Franks Diner (508 58th St) is the oldest operating lunch car diner in the country) and award-winning thin-crust pizza at Kaiser’s Pizza and Pub (510 57th St), downtown Kenosha has plenty of options for any taste. And just a few miles south, Twisted Cuisine (7546 Sheridan Rd) serves casual gourmet food with a creative “twist.”
Get more Kenosha food recommendations from my post: Dining and drinking in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Wisconsin’s long-standing brewing tradition is strong in Kenosha, with two downtown microbreweries operating a few blocks apart:
- Rustic Road Brewery (510 56th St) produces beer in small batches and runs brewing classes. Outdoor seating is available in season. Brews include: Motueka Extra Pale Ale (made as a single malt/single hop beer) and Southport Wheat (Bavarian-style wheat beer).
- Public Craft Brewing Co. (716 58th St) offers tours and workshops, and the taproom has a feel of a neighborhood tavern. Among the brews are: Perception Porter, Public American Pale Ale, and the WIT (strong wheat beer).
Find out more about Public in: Hangout: Public Craft Brewing Co. in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
4. Museums & historic architecture
Once an important Great Lakes shipping port and automobile manufacturer, Kenosha has a rich history. You can explore it at a number of museums and institutions in the area, including:
- Kenosha History Center (220 51st Pl) on the harbor, located inside a 19th century lighthouse and adjacent Lighthouse Keeper’s home. Exhibits showcase Kenosha’s early settlement and industrial legacy.
- Civil War Museum (5400 1st Ave) in HarborPark focuses on stories of the people of the Upper Midwest around the time of the war and the connections between home and the battlefield.
- Kemper Center and Durkee Mansion (6501 3rd Ave) is a restored historic complex overlooking Lake Michigan. It consists of a Civil-War era mansion, conference center, fine art gallery, and chapel. Self-tours and tours by appointment are available.
For more 19th and 20th century architecture, take a walking tour of Kenosha’s National Register Historic Districts, which include well-preserved residences and commercial buildings.
5. Family-friendly activities
In addition to beaches, Kenosha County offers numerous attractions that can be enjoyed by families:
- Dinosaur Discovery Museum (5608 10th Ave) features fossils, bones, life-size replica casts, family programs, and a paleontology lab. Free admission.
- Jelly Belly Center (10100 Jelly Belly Lane, Pleasant Prairie, WI) is a Jelly Belly® candy warehouse, store, and sample bar. Learn how the famous jelly beans are made with a free video train tour.
- Kenosha Harbor Market (514 56th St) near the lakefront has freshly-baked goods, snacks, samples of local produce and cheeses, chef demos, arts & crafts, and live entertainment. Pets on leashes are welcome.
- Vintage streetcars – authentic 1951 President’s Conference Committee cars relocated from Toronto – circle downtown Kenosha on a two-mile scenic route, passing by the lakefront, HarborPark, and two historic neighborhoods. Fare: $1.00 ages 13+, $0.50 ages 5-12, children under 4 ride free.
If you go:
- Kenosha is accessible by train from Chicago and Milwaukee. I94 runs a few miles west of the lakefront.
- There is plentiful free parking in the city center.
- On the second Saturday of each month, downtown businesses offer extended hours, special discounts, family activities, and live entertainment.
Thank you to Kenosha Area CVB and its associates for hosting me in the city. All opinions, as always, are mine.