Kenosha, Wisconsin: Small Town, Big Heart

Kenosha, Wisconsin
North Pier Lighthouse

Midway between Milwaukee and Chicago stands Kenosha, Wisconsin. Despite being the fourth largest city in the state, the downtown area has a small town feel. Situated on Lake Michigan, this charming harbor downtown provides a culturally rich, entertaining and family-friendly getaway.

Kenosha, Wisconsin Streetcar
Kenosha Vintage Streetcar

Step back in time and cruise around downtown in an authentic electric streetcar, sample the latest and greatest Jelly Belly creation, entertain dinosaur fans, learn about American history, or dine at one of the locally owned fantastic restaurants.

Kenosha, Wisconsin
We are ready for the Jelly Belly tour

We found all that and so much more visiting Kenosha. We were looking for something fun to do with our nephews from Chicago and we found the perfect place to spend a few days during spring break.

Kenosha, Wisconsin
Running from animals at the Kenosha Public Museum

Top Things to Do in Kenosha

Vintage Streetcar Riding

Kenosha operates seven different electric streetcars on a scenic 2-mile loop passing along the Lake Michigan shoreline, Metro Station, downtown Kenosha and Harbor Walk. It is a unique introduction to town or a great way to get around during your stay for a minimal fee. Children 4 and under are free, ages 5-12 only $0.50, and adults $1.00. Just look for the vertical green sign to designate a streetcar stop and hop on when it quietly swings by.

Kenosha Vintage Streetcar #2
Kenosha Vintage Streetcar

We were fortunate to ride in two of the seven restored cars and the boys were ecstatic. I don’t know one child (or adult for that matter) that wouldn’t enjoy a quick trip around town on these cool vintage cars.

Kenosha, Wisconsin Streetcar
Well Hello!

Dinosaur Discovery Museum

Two of the three museums in Kenosha are free: Dinosaur Discovery Museum and Kenosha Public Museum. The boys were the most excited to visit the Dinosaur museum and were in awe of the large hall of bones.

Kenosha, Wisconsin

Upon entering the exhibit go to the left and make your way around to see the evolution of prehistoric dinosaurs to modern day birds. Stop and watch the video of paleontologists uncovering bones at an excavation site.

Kenosha, Wisconsin

Kenosha, Wisconsin

On the lower level you will find the lab and the “Little Clint” display, the smallest T. rex bones ever discovered. There is also a play area with dinosaur puzzles, books and coloring. Every Saturday and Sunday, the museum has a free dino dig from 1pm – 4pm for children 3 and up.

Kenosha, Wisconsin

The museum is only the one exhibit, a small gallery and the lower level activity center so it doesn’t take too long to explore. Plan for 45 minutes to an hour.

Kenosha Public Museum

Who knew the largest and most complete wooly mammoth skeletons in North America were found in Kenosha County? Not us! You will find the wooly mammoth displays, decorative arts and information on Native American culture at the Public Museum. The museum has over 80,000 pieces within its exhibits, including 1,200 works in the fine arts collection.

Kenosha, Wisconsin

Kenosha, Wisconsin

The boys enjoyed the interactive displays and the hands-on activity area of the museum. Make sure to head upstairs for views of the Kenosha Pierhead lighthouse and Lake Michigan. Plan for an hour or two depending on if you have children that will play in The Field Station.

Kenosha, Wisconsin
The Ice Age was so cold

Get your Grub on

Kenosha, Wisconsin
Linnea Bakery

Kenosha has many locally owned restaurants in the revitalized downtown and surrounding area to choose from. From the donuts and chicken at Mike’s hip restaurant (707 56th St.) to European sandwiches and pastries at Linnea Bakery (512 56th St.) to world famous pizza at Kaiser’s (510 57th St.), there’s something for everyone. If you are thirsty try one of the two local breweries, PUBLIC Craft Brewing Company or Rustic Road Brewing Co. For more information on restaurants in Kenosha, check out our more detailed post on Kenosha Dining Delights.

Kenosha, Wisconsin
Mike’s Chicken & Donuts

Walk along the Lakeshore

The boys LOVED walking on the rocks and taking pictures next to all the strange (their words) sculptures. The Kenosha Sculpture Walk runs along the harbor and displays various interesting works of art.

Kenosha, Wisconsin Sculpture Walk
Love this one!

Kenosha, Wisconsin

Civil War Museum

The Civil War Museum is the only Kenosha museum that charges an entrance fee ($9 for adults, children 15 and under are free), but we think it is worth the nominal cost. The interactive displays, life-size dioramas and 360 degree movie experience are impressive. To be honest, the high quality and personal touch amazed us. We weren’t sure what to expect, but the boys were engaged and curious throughout the entire museum.

Kenosha, Wisconsin

The museum illustrates what the average citizen’s mentality was before, during and after the American Civil War. It focuses on the perspectives of people from the seven states of the upper middle west: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Kenosha, Wisconsin

The movie, Seeing the Elephant, is a heartfelt tale of the Civil War through the eyes and experiences of soldiers. The term, seeing the elephant, was used by soldiers to identify that they had gone to battle. I wasn’t sure how the boys were going to like it, but they watched with their mouths hanging open and their eyes growing bigger with every blast of the canon that shook the ground. The movie did a good job drawing us in to the intimate thoughts and feelings of the soldiers, so much that my youngest nephew even started to get teary eyed a bit at the end. When the lights came on, he said he felt bad for the men and wanted to go back and look at the display that showed the injured soldiers. For a short film, I’d say that is quite powerful.

Kenosha, Wisconsin

Go Shopping

The historic downtown Kenosha area is home to many specialty stores that are fun to explore. You’ll find sports memorabilia, sweets, treats, gifts and more.

Kenosha, Wisconsin
The boys getting silly
Kenosha, Wisconsin
Cool comic book store

See How Jelly Beans are Made

A short drive from Kenosha is the Jelly Belly Visitors Center in Pleasant Prairie. Learn how jelly beans are made and how long it takes, see jelly bean art and find out which president the blueberry jelly bean was created for all while driving around on the belly train.

Kenosha, Wisconsin
Jelly Belly Train

The drive around the warehouse took about 20 minutes and is interesting, but the highlight of course for the boys were the free samples and candy purchase at the end!

Jelly Belly Visitors Center
Booger bean or maybe a stinky sock bean? Gross!!

Visit Not One, But Two Lighthouses

Built in 1906, the bright red Kenosha Pierhead Lighthouse stands as a beacon for the town at fifty feet tall. In 2012, the lighthouse was purchased in an auction by John Burhani, a local artist. He grew up fishing and sailing in Kenosha and felt the lighthouse would be the perfect space for his studio. He renovated the interior and in 2012 opened his art gallery of marine scenes and sailboats to the public. Unfortunately, John Burhani passed away in 2015.

Kenosha, Wisconsin
Kenosha Pierhead Lighthouse

Built in 1866, the Southport Lighthouse was the first illumination a mariner would see when entering Wisconsin from Chicago. It was replaced in 1906 by the Pierhead Lighthouse above. Today, it is used as a seasonal attraction. You can climb the 72 steps to the top of the 55-foot lighthouse from May – October (must be 8 or older). The house was restored and is in now a maritime museum with exhibits documenting Kenosha’s harbor history, with information on its lighthouse keepers, shipping and commercial fishing history. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.

Kenosha, Wisconsin
Southport Lighthouse

Fun Facts about Kenosha

  • The charming Mark Ruffalo who plays the Hulk, and American actor and filmmaker, Orson Welles were born in Kenosha.
  • The people of Kenosha lovingly call their hometown “K-town” and “Keno.”
  • It is the fourth largest city in Wisconsin, behind Milwaukee, Madison and Green Bay.
  • It has the highest catch per hour rate in Wisconsin (fishing terms obviously).
  • Franks Diner, a locally owned breakfast joint, has been on numerous lists including Thrillist, Business Insider and Only In your State. It has also been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.


We now understand where the #KenoshaFun campaign comes from. All in all, we were surprised at how many entertaining things Kenosha had to offer at reasonable prices. We’ve passed the city numerous times before on our way up to Milwaukee, never realizing we were skipping a destination unto itself. There’s no doubt we will be back to explore the adult activities like the art galleries and craft breweries. Even though Kenosha is a small town, it sure does have a big heart!

Kenosha, Wisconsin Streetcar

Know Before You Go

Kenosha Transit Electric Streetcar

  • Runs every 15 minutes during operational hours.
  • Takes exact fare only.
  • Winter Schedule (January 2 – February 28th) Monday – Friday Closed, Saturday & Sunday 10:35 am to 6:15 pm.
  • Spring Schedule (March 1 – March 31st) Monday – Friday 10am – 2pm, Saturday & Sunday 10:35 am to 6:15 pm.
  • Summer & Fall Schedule (April 1 – December 31st) Monday – Friday 11:05 am – 6:35pm, Saturday & Sunday 10:35 am to 6:15 pm.

Dinosaur Discovery Museum

  • 5608-10th Avenue, Kenosha, WI (262) 653-4450
  • Free public parking and streetcar stop.
  • Print out an I-Spy worksheet for the kids before you go here.
  • Closed Mondays and holidays.
  • Open Tuesday – Sunday 12 pm to 5 pm.

Kenosha Public Museum

  • 5500 First Avenue, Kenosha, WI (262) 653-4140
  • Sunday 12pm to 5pm, Monday – Saturday 10am to 5m, Closed holidays
  • Free public parking and streetcar stop.

Civil War Museum

  • 5400 First Avenue, Kenosha, WI (262) 653-4141
  • Sunday 12pm to 5pm, Monday – Saturday 10am to 5m, Closed holidays
  • Free public parking and streetcar stop.


Best Location: Best Western Harborside Inn & Kenosha Conference Center, 5125 6th Ave, Kenosha, WI, (262) 658-3281

Best Deal: Comfort Inn & Suites, 7206 122nd Ave, Kenosha, WI, (262) 857-3450

As always, we recommend you book through to utilize the rewards program and Best Rate Guarantee.

Thank you Kenosha Area CVB and its associates for hosting us in the city. All words and opinions, however, are my own.

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Kenosha, Wisconsin

21 Responses

  1. My kids would love the Dinosaur Discovery Museum! Thanks for the information. We’ll have to add Kenosha to our list of places to visit.

  2. The dinosaur museum is in a part of town that you would not want kids walking around after dark.
    Jelly soon will no longer have tours.
    The downtown is mostly one street with abandoned buildings lining the rest.
    Almost everyone living in town want the streetcars removed and the tracks paved over. They really do not want visitors especially from Illinois. Just repaired streets to drive on and high paying blue collar jobs.

    • We had absolutely no safety issues while visiting and everyone was extremely nice when we mentioned we were from Illinois. The lakeshore is nice, many restaurants to choose from and the museums are the perfect size to keep children’s attention.

      • Bob sounds like a bit of a curmudgeon. I live in Kenosha, and my family loves the trolley, downtown, and the lake (we also appreciate visitors from just about anywhere). The downtown area isn’t large, but it seems to be picking up over the past couple years, with the addition of the breweries you mentioned, and some great restaurants and stores.

        I’m glad you came and had a wonderful time!

        • Thanks Joe! Everyone we met was indeed very friendly and helpful. It was a great visit and I’m sure we’ll be back again soon!

  3. Seriously Kenosha is now on my bucket list, and I will be referencing your blog to make sure I don’t miss a thing. Great post!

  4. We live in Chicago and we love visiting Kenosha. The kids really dig the streetcar, whereas we live the views! Thanks do the food suggestions. We usually stick to Trolley Dog because it has a great location off the tracks.

    • We are in the Chicago area too Cheryl and had never been. I know a few people that have gone to the Jelly Belly Visitors Center but that’s it. Thanks for reading!

  5. Chris Travels

    I just loved this post! I don’t know how you managed to pack so many interesting things to see and do in just a few short days of sightseeing. It would have taken me a week to explore Kenosha as thoroughly as you have done. Your energy is amazing!

  6. Best time to come is the summer with the outdoor concerts by the lake. The bike races at the velodrome. Movies in the park sponsored by the Happenings and many more fun things.

  7. I love this post! As a small business owner I always am thrilled when I get visits from tourists. I am a psychic/medium by profession and one of the favorite things about my job is the people I get to meet from all over the country. If you are planning on a getaway to Kenosha check out my Facebook page

  8. This is awesome! I grew up in Kenosha and sometimes it’s easy to forget what a great city I lived in! Another great place for lunch is Trolley Dogs that somebody mentioned in an upper comment

  9. Looks like tons of family fun in Kenosha!

  10. I certainly have head of Kenosha but cannot say it has been on my radar. That streetcar is precious. And visiting the source of jelly beans? Brilliant.

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