A visit to Kenosha’s lakefront would not be complete without a ride into yesteryear aboard an Electric Streetcar. Kids love to wave out the window, while many grandparents fondly recall waving out the windows of their own hometown streetcars as youngsters.
Seven beautifully restored Electric Streetcars provide a scenic tour of the Lake Michigan shoreline. The electric streetcar travels a two-mile route along 54th and 56th Streets.
From 1903 to 1932 the electric streetcar was a regular mode of transportation in Kenosha. On June 17, 2000, Kenosha welcomed back home the electric streetcar system. Kenosha's streetcars are authentic 1948 and 1951 President's Conference Committee (PCC) cars that once operated in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Toronto, Canada. Each car is painted in the colors and lettering of a city in North America that operated these cars in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Orange is for Johnstown (also the color of Kenosha's former trolley buses), the maroon and cream car is Toronto, green and cream with an orange stripe is Chicago, yellow and green is Cincinnati, red and cream is Pittsburgh, green and white is San Francisco, and Philadelphia is grey with a red stripe.
Whether enjoying a drink and a bite to eat at one of Kenosha's many downtown and harborside cafes, walking along the lakefront promenade, or shopping at a downtown boutique, you can hear the "clang clang" of the streetcar and watch it travel by. Even better than watching it, is riding it. Just look for the streetcar signs for a boarding stop and climb aboard. There's not a bad seat to be found.
As you travel along, you'll see the Civic Center and Pearl Street historic districts, the Downtown Kenosha business district, the picturesque lakefront neighborhood called HarborPark with beautiful fountains, sculptures and gardens, Southport Marina, Veterans Memorial Park, the METRA train station, and much more.
Within steps from the Electric Streetcar are The Civil War Museum, Kenosha Public Museum, Dinosaur Discovery Museum, Rhode Center for the Arts, the Pollard Gallery, and Saturday morning farmers markets. Simply pull the rope above the window to let the conductor know when you want to get off. Across the harbor, you'll see the Kenosha History Center, the Southport Light Station Museum with its 1866 Southport Lighthouse (available to climb in the summer), and the red North Pier Lighthouse, which was built in 1906. Then there are the sailboats, jet skis, and fishing lines along the shore to watch. And on a clear day, you can look to the south and see the Chicago skyline from the streetcar!
Whether they are streetcar buffs visiting from around the country or overseas, groups touring the Kenosha Area, former classmates having a reunion, lakefront visitors attending a festival or families on vacation, thousands upon thousands of people have boarded Kenosha's Electric Streetcars. The streetcars are a popular form of transportation during lakefront events, including the Fourth of July celebration and Taste of Wisconsin™. The streetcars are also an integral part of Downtown Kenosha events, with Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny often going along for the ride. Whatever the season, be sure to bring your camera to take home great streetcar photos.
For the hard-core streetcar fans, a non-profit organization exists to preserve and promote Kenosha's streetcar legacy: the Kenosha Streetcar Society. According to the Society, Kenosha has the first operating streetcar system in this region since 1958. The Society held a tenth anniversary party in 2010 to honor the return of streetcars to Kenosha. Guests came from as far as Missouri, Pennsylvania, Canada, and Germany.
New memories continue to be made every day and Kenosha's streetcar system serves as a model for other communities.