There are a few locations that we love visiting over and over again. Kenosha in Wisconsin is one of those places. It seems like no matter how many times we visit, there is always something new to explore or new restaurant to eat. It has been a few years since we last visited so we thought a visit would be in order!
Places to PLAY
Our adventure started off with visiting an attraction we’ve never been before but have always seen – the Kenosha (Southport) Lighthouse.
We headed to Simmons Island for our first adventure of the day: the Southport Lighthouse, Southport Museum, and the Kenosha Historical Society Museum. I have a thing for lighthouses so when I heard about this one, I knew I had to check it out. The only bummer was that only kids ages 8 and up could climb. My tour guide for the day, Ron, was extremely knowledgeable about the lighthouse and any facts related to the Museum. In fact, he’s loved lighthouses ever since he was 7, and his passion shows when he talks about them. He chatted about the fascinating history including how this has been the third lighthouse on the grounds since the other two had been destroyed (they were built on sand!). The current lighthouse has been stabilized since 1866.
The climb to the lighthouse is 72 steps and quite narrow. You better believe I was holding onto the rails for dear life. (I may or may not have a slight fear of heights.)
But the view is gorgeous and well worth it.
After our jaunt to the lighthouse, Ron gave me a tour of the Southport Light Station Museum, which was the former lighthouse keeper’s home. The two-story home now houses a bit of history about the lighthouse and its former lighthouse owners. There are a couple rooms decorated in that period for you to imagine what it was like living in that time.
Ron’s pride and joy was this amazing model of the S.S. Wisconsin that he created himself. He continued to talk about the fascinating yet plagued history of the S.S. Wisconsin. Did you know its shipwreck is located in Lake Michigan? A list of other shipwrecks are displayed here in case you’re curious.
Tip: Grab a “Kid’s Guide to the 1866 Kenosha (Southport) Lighthouse” activity guide for the kiddos.
Kenosha History Center
Afterward, we visited the other museum on the grounds, the Kenosha History Center, a free museum is dedicated to all things Kenosha. Did you know Kenosha has a rich history in industry and the automobile industry? On our visit, a public radio station was recording a show. It was really cool to see them in action!
The museum had beautiful classic cars on one side and an exhibit where you could walk the streets of Kenosha’s past such as a school room, apothecary, and more.
Timeless toys that our generation grew up loving are on display for all to see.
North Pier Lighthouse
On our particular visit, it was very windy and chilly so I couldn’t get closer to the other lighthouse close by. The red lighthouse is now privately owned and has become a place for artists to showcase their work. This was as close as I wanted to get without getting blown away.
It was then time to explore Kenosha’s awesome museums. The best way, in my opinion, is to park the car at the Kenosha Public Museum, then hop on a vintage streetcar. These electric streetcars are in tip top shape, and at just $1 a person, it’s also a great budget-friendly option. I love going on this streetcar! (Read about it here too.) The friendly driver gives suggestions on things to do. The 2-mile loop goes past downtown Kenosha. We stayed on for a couple loops, then got off at the Dinosaur Discovery Museum.
Dinosaur Discovery Museum
Any dino lover will enjoy visiting the free Dinosaur Discovery Museum. (Read our original review here.) While they are not the actual fossils but rather casts of the actual bones, it is still nothing short of amazing. And it was neat seeing how the boys could tell what kind of dinosaur it was without reading the signs.
In the basement, we found a cool dino room full of things to do like puzzles, rubbings, and a neat lab of the Carthage Institute of Paleontology.
Through the windows, we saw the actual work of uncovering fossils of a triceratops from their latest excursion in Montana. The glass cases also showcase their find, “Little Clint,” the smallest T.rex ever discovered.
Tip: Head to their basement on Saturdays or Sunday from 1 – 4.p.m. and the kids can participate in a dino dig where they can uncover a couple dinosaur fossils. All the kids LOVED this as they were so focused we didn’t hear a peep out of any of them, unless the instructor asked questions.
Civil War Museum
After our dino fun, we hopped back on the streetcar and headed to The Civil War Museum. We were able to catch the movie, “Seeing the Elephant” in the 360 degree theater. (Only 3 in the nation!) We were a little hesistant about the kids sitting through it, but it was interesting enough to hold their attention for ten minutes. Plus, how cool is it to be surrounded by a video, and feel like you are part of the action?
I was impressed with the rest of the museum; it was very well thought out. There are interactive elements which the kids loved, but quite honestly the topic may have been over their head.
Not to mention the life-size figures may have freaked the kids just a little bit.
But overall, very informative and I highly recommend it to anybody that has an interest in history. Kids are free so it wasn’t a big deal.
After exploring the exhibit, we headed upstairs to the reference room. This is where the kids had a great time! They can dress up in period clothing, play a civil war game, build with LEGOs and Lincoln Logs, put together puzzles, and participate in other activities. If you have kids, do NOT miss dropping by here! It was a great way for us adults to unwind and rest a bit.
Tip: On a nice day, head to the second level and head to the terrace for awesome views of the lakefront.
Jelly Belly Warehouse Tours
A free tram tour and free samples? Yes, please! The kids and adults always love going to the Jelly Belly warehouse tour to learn about how they make these delicious jelly beans. If you’ve ever wanted to try the weird flavors like dirt, grass, or boogers, this is the place to go!
Places to EAT
There are tons of unique places to eat in Kenosha and it was hard choosing where to eat.
Choo Choo Charlie’s, 5413 13th Avenue, Kenosha, WI
For the ultimate train lover, a visit to Choo Choo Charlie’s is a must. The restaurant gets bonus points since it’s actually housed inside the Metra station. Inside you’ll find all the things that kids adore – trains chugging around the restaurant and a paper tablecloth they can doodle on with crayons. They offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner and you’ll find kid-friendly favs such as hot dogs, hamburgers and hot dogs. Don’t miss out on trying the Chicken Philly. Find a full review here.
Places to STAY
There are many choices to stay in Kenosha. On our particular visit, we stayed at Best Western Executive Inn right off I-94. They offer free breakfast with choices such as make your own pancakes, eggs, sausages, bagels, and more. They also have a heated pool and even a pool table!
Other family friendly options with pools are: Comfort Inn & Suites, Country Inn & Suites, DoubleTree by Hilton, Hampton Inn & Suites, Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites, Wyndham Garden – Kenosha Harborside.
Disclosure: Thank you to Visit Kenosha for hosting us for the weekend. As always, all opinions are mine.
It seems like there’s never enough time to visit everything we want. Had we had more time we would have explored these places. Adding these to our list for next time:
Dream Playground – Kenosha’s first all accessible playground looks awesome! It was built with over 3000 volunteers. Look at this neat video of it.
Against the Grain – I love repurposed furniture and this is just up my alley.
Kenosha HarborMarket – a European-style market. So cool!