Welcome to Kenosha: A Wisconsin Harbor Town
Published: Tuesday, September 1, 2020
By: Kenosha Area Convention & Visitors Bureau
Kenosha is the name of the county that’s located in the far southeast corner of the state. It’s also the name of the county seat—the City of Kenosha.
The county stretches from the scenic Lake Michigan shore to the rural countryside. Among Kenosha's most attractive features is Lake Michigan, with nearly 90 percent of the shoreline publicly accessible. There are beaches, parks, biking and walking paths, two lighthouses, and festival places welcoming you. Just steps away from the shore is downtown Kenosha, which is a thriving lakefront district filled with historic charm, friendly faces, and a surplus of things to see and do. The walkable neighborhood is filled with small, locally-owned shops and restaurants, as well as museums, galleries, and entertainment spots. Kenosha’s authentic Electric Streetcar line travels through downtown and along the lakefront.
Kenosha is known as the trout and salmon capital of Wisconsin with the highest catch-per-hour rate in the state. Enjoy a memorable charter fishing excursion with the Kenosha Charter Boat Association. Captains will clean your catch for you, and your filets will be bagged for you to take home or to a local restaurant that will cook your fish for you. There are some great fishing spots from the shore, as well.
More On-The-Water Activities
Enjoy sailing excursions on the Tall Ship Red Witch or with Sail Away Charters. Rent a stand-up paddleboard or kayak—or take sailing lessons—at the Kenosha Community Sailing Center, which is located at the Kenosha Yacht Club. Two water trails travel through Kenosha County: the Lake Michigan Water Trail and the Fox River Water Trail. If you have your own kayak, take advantage of the local access points.
In addition to a Great Lake, countless attractions, and plenty of fun events, there is a lot more to be seen in the Kenosha area every day. Just take a look around as you walk through downtown; you’ll find that public art is everywhere. From murals on the sides of shops to mosaics outside of galleries, local and regional artists have been hard at work to make the community an extra beautiful and inviting place. One of the largest displays of public art is the Sculpture Walk at HarborPark. Here you’ll find more than a dozen pieces of large-scale art on display with the harbor and lake as the backdrop.
Near the Lake Michigan shore are five entertaining, educational, and inspiring museums. The Civil War Museum details the Midwestern states’ involvement in the war and houses one of only three 360-degree movie experiences in the nation: “Seeing the Elephant.” At the Dinosaur Discovery Museum, you’ll learn about the correlation between modern day birds and prehistoric dinosaurs. The Kenosha Public Museum offers fine art and natural history, including a main exhibit called The Wisconsin Story. It showcases the evolution of the local terrain and the people in the area over millions of years. Learn about the local famous mammoths! Explore Kenosha’s extensive auto-manufacturing history at the Kenosha History Center. Climb a lighthouse tower and discover local maritime history at the seasonal Southport Light Station Museum.
Kenosha is a community rich with history and culture. The Library Park, Third Avenue, and Civic Center historic districts are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, while Pearl Street is listed as a locally designated historic district. The Kenosha Area Convention & Visitors Bureau offers detailed walking tour guides online. Among the highlights of the districts: Simmons Library was designed by architect Daniel J. Burnham and opened in 1900. The building that houses the Dinosaur Discovery Museum was moved a few blocks — foot by foot — to its present location in 1933. Its prior occupants were the United States Post Office and the Kenosha Public Museum. A plaque notes the 1915 birthplace of acclaimed actor, writer, director, and producer Orson Welles, while the site of an Underground Railroad stop is also marked with a plaque. For more than 100 years, the present-day Kemper Center was a boarding school for young women.
Among the most popular reasons to visit downtown Kenosha is to experience the incredible shopping, dining and entertainment scene. Find sports-themed gifts, comics and collectibles, Kenosha swag, foodie finds, home décor, and unique fashions at the boutique stores. Also shop at farmer’s markets. With dozens of restaurants, performance spaces, breweries and pubs, art galleries, boutique shops, and even a comedy club, there is never a shortage of things to enjoy. From pizza and burgers to hot dogs and gourmet paninis, there is something delicious around every corner. Smoothies, hot coffee, and craft beer are readily available as well—including from rooftop bars, lakeside decks, and sidewalk seating. You can sing, paint, dance, or play a rousing game of bingo. Whatever you fancy, chances are you’ll find it in downtown Kenosha.
Plan Your Kenosha Vacation
Let the Kenosha Area Convention & Visitors Bureau help you plan your next getaway to Kenosha! Log onto VisitKenosha.com for ideas on what to do and where to go for fun in the Kenosha Area or call (262) 654-7307. Also follow Visit Kenosha on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube for the latest scoop!
This article first appeared in the Fall Issue (Sep/Oct) 2020 of Great Lakes Scuttlebutt magazine.