5 days in Kenosha; a traveler’s guide to local adventure
This itinerary is written by Jake Hoey, Customer Service Coordinator with Visit Kenosha.
Hi, my name is Jake. I’m a Kenosha native and passionate travel enthusiast who just accomplished a long-time goal of visiting all 50 states by the time I turned 30. As someone who has seen so much of what our country has to offer, I feel like I can provide some unique insight into some local activities that make Kenosha special and a fantastic place to visit on your own path to all 50 states!
Day One: Nature’s Splendor
America’s Midwest may lack the rugged mountains and deserts of the West, but our location on the Great Lakes provides a distinct landscape that is fun and easy to explore. To start the morning off, take in the sunrise from Alford Park Beach, one of 5 lakefront parks with public beaches to enjoy. Next, a hearty breakfast at The Coffee Pot awaits. Be sure to try one of their famous eggs benedicts! An afternoon trip to Boundless Adventures, an eco-friendly aerial adventure park in Bristol Woods Park will scratch the itch for excitement while still providing a beautiful setting in some of the woods that used to cover so much of the Upper Midwest. To wind down from the afternoon’s thrills, an evening trip to Chiwaukee Prairie and the Kenosha Sand Dunes will provide a rare look at what Lake Michigan’s shoreline had to offer before settlers arrived. Chiwaukee Prairie is a true jewel of our lakefront and is home to many unique endemic plant and animal species that have few remaining coastal wetlands these days. Kenosha Sand Dunes is another special location where the gently rolling sand that would have been seen in much of this area hundreds of years ago is still in place. It’s a peaceful, tranquil place to end your day of experiencing what nature in southeast Wisconsin has to offer.
Day Two: Vibrant Arts Scene
Wisconsin has long been a crossroads for many different cultures through its history. From the original native tribes that set a powerful cultural baseline, to French explorers, British settlers, Italian, German, Polish, and Scandinavian immigrants, African Americans during the Great Northward Migration, to growing Latinx, and Asian populations; all are welcome and important to shaping the landscape of the arts in Kenosha. A morning stroll along the HarborPark Sculpture Walk is a fantastic start to your day of artistic exploration. Some of the sculptures are permanent, but some are rotated out every two years to keep a fresh vibe along harborside promenade. Lemon Street Gallery & Artspace has been a cornerstone of the creative community for over 20 years, and you are guaranteed to find a special piece during your visit which you can purchase and bring home to cherish, all while supporting a local artist and non-profit gallery. Situated in the Union Park Arts District, other great spots like Artworks/ Pencillarium and Alpaca Art are just steps away. A great meal can be had at nearby Union Park Tavern (try the famous fish fry). To round out your day, Fusion is a performing arts venue where musicians, comedians, storytellers, and all other type of performers can showcase their talents. Take in a show for true immersion into the local scene and connect with the artists that always seem to populate the audience. Open mic nights are a particularly great way to engage with the arts and experience something new and different.
Day Three: Historic Kenosha
While the current city of Kenosha was first settled in 1835, the history of human habitation here actually dates back around 14,500 years. That date represents the age of woolly mammoth bones that were found right here in Kenosha County, and cut marks on the bones tell us that the people living here butchered the massive beasts for their meat. This “mammoth” discovery is celebrated and presented at the Kenosha Public Museum, which is a great place to start your exploration into Kenosha’s past. You can grab a classic lunch at one of Kenosha’s famous drive-in restaurants like The Spot or Big Star. Be sure to have a frosty root beer, they’re both fantastic. No delve into historic Kenosha would be complete without a stop by the Kenosha History Center. With exhibits that commemorate old town Kenosha and our history in the auto industry with American Motors cars on display, you’re sure to learn something new. Also check out the seasonal Southport Light Station Museum where you can climb the 72 steps to the top of an incredible lighthouse built in 1866 and tour the keeper’s house as well. To round out your day, pay a visit to Historic Simmons Field, and take in a ball game from the Kenosha Kingfish of the Northwoods League. Simmons Field dates to 1920 and is perhaps best remembered for being home to the Kenosha Comets of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League made famous in the film “A League of Their Own”. If baseball isn’t in season, go for a stroll through one of Kenosha’s four historic districts. Library Park Historic District features the impressive Simmons Library at its center and includes a plaque where a stop on the Underground Railroad used to be.
Day Four: Local Legends
For lifelong Kenoshans, some places around town can start to feel so ingrained that they no longer register as being unique and special. When I talk to visitors and share with them some suggestions for their trip, the reaction to some of these spots always reminds me of how lucky I am to enjoy them at my whim. A great start to the day is a trip to one of our local markets: Kenosha Public Market and the Kenosha HarborMarket. These both take place on Saturdays downtown with outdoor locations in the warm season and indoor locations in the cold season. You can find produce, crafts, prepared food, live music and so much more as you stroll past the booths. Next hop on our vintage Electric Streetcar line right next to either market. Each streetcar is named and painted to honor a location in North America with a history of electric streetcars. After a fun ride stop into Franks Diner, which is the oldest continuously operating lunch car diner in the country. Grab a famous “garbage plate” and be sure to get the homemade bread! For your afternoon stop visit Mike Bjorn’s Clothing where the fancy duds are just one part of the experience. You can take in the plethora of exotic decorations and find clothing items you won’t see anywhere else. Then in the evening go to Tenuta’s Delicatessen and Liquors to see another truly legendary Kenosha landmark. It’s a classic Italian Deli with fantastic homemade prepared foods like paninis, muffo lotta, salads, and of course cannoli. The selection of meats, cheeses, and wine are second to none, there’s truly something for everyone!
Day Five: Hidden Gems
For the final day, we’ll be doing a deep dive into some of the places that visitors unfortunately miss on their first few trips to Kenosha. It’s quite a challenge to fit all that this area has to offer into one or even several visits, so if you’re bored here then there’s definitely something you’re forgetting. There are far too many hidden gems to list here, but here’s a sample of what you’ll find when you dig a little deeper. Equinox botanical boutique is located in a wonderful historic building in downtown Kenosha where Sixth Avenue splits in two. They offer a huge selection of plants to brighten up your home or office and even host workshops and classes. Another offbeat curiosity to explore is Studio Moonfall. Owner, artist, and publisher Donovan Scherer fills his shop with storybooks, coloring books, buttons, original art, stuffed figurines, and so much more. For lunch, a trip to Soon’s Sushi Café will be a delicious respite on your journey through Kenosha. My favorite is the Kenosha Roll and the Squid Salad is to die for. In the afternoon, Duck Duck Goose is a toy-lovers dream store. Young and old alike will love their assortment of educational, creative, fidget toys, and plenty more. If you have children under 6 along for the trip, bring them to Play Space a family-owned indoor facility with equipment and toys for open play. If it’s an adult only getaway, head to PUBLIC Craft Brewing Co. and have some locally made beer along with great tacos and killer cheese curds. Finally, in the evening visit the Washington Park Velodrome, our nation’s oldest operating velodrome (a racetrack for bicycles) which has been around since 1927. Monday and Tuesday nights feature races in the summer and food trucks can often be found for trackside eats. If it’s a weekend, swing into the Kenosha Comedy Club inside the Wyndham Garden - Kenosha Harborside Hotel for a show that’s sure to bring you plenty of belly laughs. A great way to end an action-packed tour though Kenosha!