11 Fun Things to Do in Kenosha, a Wisconsin Lakefront Gem

Mira Temkin Avatar

Things to do in Kenosha include checking out the boats in the harbor .
Boats in the harbor welcome you to Kenosha, Wisconsin. Photo credit: Mira Temkin

Just over the Illinois border, vacationers will discover a delightful Wisconsin harbor town with a variety of family-friendly and affordable activities near the Kenosha lakefront. From just hanging out on the beach on Lake Michigan to interesting museums, art galleries, theaters and mouth-watering restaurants, Kenosha is the kind of town where your whole family will want to spend more time thanks to a wide variety of fun things to do. Let’s dive in.

1. Explore the Lake Michigan Shoreline

Let’s start with Lake Michigan. Even after prime beach season has passed, you’ll still find a day or two where you can sit on the beach and watch the waves as they come rolling in. Kenosha has five beaches with free admission and free parking.

Stroll along the waterfront and take a look at their lovely sculpture walk featuring local artists.

Kenosha boasts two different lighthouses that stand as beacons in the night, while one is still in operation for navigational assistance.

Things to do in Kenosha include the Southport Light Station Museum and Southport Lighthouse.
Southport Light Station Museum and Southport Lighthouse. Photo credit: Mira Temkin

Climb the 72 steps to the top of the Southport Lighthouse, built in 1866, in season, usually May – October. At the top of the Lighthouse Tower, you can look out at the windows and see two states and one Great Lake.

Take a complimentary tour of the maritime museum in the 1867 Southport Light Station Museum. Inside the maritime museum, you can learn more about local shipwrecks that have been buried in the lake. Find out more about the first and only female lighthouse keeper, Lorinda Merrill.

2. Learn More about History, Nature and Science

For history buffs, art enthusiasts and dinosaur lovers, Kenosha offers five museums to help you learn more about your favorite subjects. The Civil War Museum, Dinosaur Discovery Museum, and Kenosha Public Museum are all Smithsonian Institution Affiliates, a prestigious association and are open to the public for free. Other museums include the Kenosha History Center and the seasonal Southport Light Station Museum.

Things to do in Kenosha include checking out lots of dinosaurs at the Dinosaur Discovery Museum.
Lots of dinosaurs to check out at the Dinosaur Discovery Museum. Photo credit: Mira Temkin.

Kids Dig The Dinosaur Discovery Museum

The Dinosaur Discovery Museum showcases fascinating dinosaurs and appeals to both adults and kids. What’s unique about this museum is that it focuses on the meat-eating dinosaurs and their relationships to birds.

For the kids, “Little Clint: The Story of a Baby Dinosaur” is a 3-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex excavated in southeast Montana by the Carthage Institute of Paleontology. Children can learn everything about him from his hatching during the Cretaceous period to his arrival at the Dinosaur Discovery Museum.  This interactive exhibit includes puzzles and activities, plus a dinosaur dig ideal for children ages 3-10. Adult supervision is required.

Things to do in Kenosha include exhibits which showcase local tribes who lived around Kenosha.
Exhibits showcase local tribes who lived around Kenosha. Photo credit: Mira Temkin.

Explore Science and Art at the Kenosha Public Museum

The Kenosha Public Museum is a natural sciences and fine and decorative arts museum, that opened in 1933. The Museum’s collections have grown to over 80,000 pieces, including 1,200 works of fine art.

View the hands-on exhibitions that feature mammoths, world cultures, Native Americans, zoology, geology, fossils, and fine and decorative arts. In addition, the museum hosts special events that offer a chance to enjoy the fascinating intersections of art, history, culture and science. A day at the museum is like looking back on a million years’ worth of history.

Things to do in Kenosha include seeing “The Fiery Trial”, the Civil War Museum’s permanent exhibit that tells the story of the Civil War from the perspective of soldiers and their families.
“The Fiery Trial” is the Civil War Museum’s permanent exhibit that tells the story of the Civil War from the perspective of soldiers and their families. Photo credit: Mira Temkin

American Civil War Museum Brings History Alive

A Civil War Museum in Wisconsin? Yes! This American Civil War Museum in Kenosha, which opened in 2008, focuses on the impact of the war from seven Upper Midwest states — Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

These states sent over one million men to serve in the Union army, while the people who stayed at home provided much of the food and supplies necessary for the northern states to win.  

Listen to the personal stories of the people and soldiers and the impact the Civil War had on the home front; before, during and after the war.

A current exhibition explores the role of religion in the Civil War, now through June 2024. Faith in the Fight: Religion and the Civil War features stories about the role faith played in the soldiers’ lives.  

Things to do in Kenosha - Going to war, troops rode the train to their assigned base and took river boats on the way home because it was faster.
Going to war, troops rode the train to their assigned base and took riverboats on the way home because it was faster. Photo credit: Mira Temkin

Check out the award-winning 360-degree film “Seeing the Elephant,” a 10-minute-long glimpse into the life of a midwestern soldier as he journeys from recruitment to training, through battle and finally returning home. The museum also features a Veterans Gallery commemorating soldiers from each war fought by the US.

Things to do in Kenosha include riding the two-mile loop around downtown Kenosha on an electric streetcar.
Ride the two-mile loop around downtown Kenosha on an electric streetcar. Photo credit: Mira Temkin

3. Ride the Electric Streetcars

Electric streetcars were a way of life back at the turn of the 20th century. The historic streetcars were brought back to downtown Kenosha in 2000. Let your kids ride on Kenosha’s modern electric streetcar system that travels around a two-mile loop by the lakefront. As a bonus, you’ll get a scenic tour of the Lake Michigan shoreline, Harbor Park and the two historic districts. Each of the seven beautifully restored cars is a different color and carries a different theme, representing an American city that had a streetcar system.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Fare per loop: $1.00 for ages 13 and older / $.50 for ages 5 to 12 / 4 and under free.  $3.50 for an all-day pass. Exact change required. Check the website for a seasonal schedule.

4. Bring a Taste of Wisconsin Back Home from Mars Cheese Castle

Wisconsin is known as America’s Dairyland, producing the best cheese as well as sausage, spreads, jellies, authentic Danish Kringles and popcorn.  Mars Cheese Castle is an experience not to be missed. It does look like a castle and you’ll be treated like royalty as you shop for these delicacies. If you’ve never tried authentic cheese curds before, this is the place to s-t-r-e-t-c-h them out. Stop in the Mars Cheese Castle restaurant for sandwiches, burgers and Wisconsin beer. Don’t forget to visit their gift shop for a unique Wisconsin souvenir. Open daily from 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.

5. Explore the Hawthorn Hollow Nature Sanctuary and Arboretum.

Walk through the beautiful grounds of the Hawthorn Hollow Nature Sanctuary and Arboretum while enjoying their full slate of activities. An annual Art Fair, live music at the Pike River Summer Concerts and telescopic sky tours are just some of the family-friendly activities you’ll find at this nature center. Dare to walk the Haunted Trails of the Hawthorn Hollow Nature Sanctuary and Arboretum? Check out their events calendar for the full schedule.

6. Kenosha Farmers Markets 

This is the best way to shop locally. Kenosha has two year-round farmers markets: Kenosha HarborMarket and Kenosha Public Market. Both are located in downtown Kenosha, near Lake Michigan, May through October. November through April, both are held indoors. Kenosha Winter HarborMarket is inside the Kenosha Union Club, 3030 39th Avenue. Kenosha Public Market is inside the Kemper Center Simmons Auditorium, 6501 Third Avenue.

Head to the Anderson Arts Center, overlooking Lake Michigan throughout the summer for free live music concerts. Inside you can enjoy local and regional art gallery exhibits at Anderson Arts Center, which is located inside a French Renaissance Revival-style mansion on the shores of Lake Michigan. Check out their events calendar for the full year-long schedule.

7. Bike It

For more family fun, Kenosha offers more than 130 miles of bike trails in Kenosha County, including the Kenosha County Bike Trail, the Pike Bike Trail, and mountain bike trails at Silver Lake Park.

8. Bristol Woods Park

Get your hiking boots ready to walk the four miles of hiking trails at the Bristol Woods Park in nearby Bristol, Wisconsin. While in the park, check out the Pringle Nature Center for educational programs about the local flora and fauna.

But for real outdoor fun, take the challenge at Boundless Adventures, an aerial adventure park with ropes courses and ziplining inside Bristol Woods. This Kenosha zipline park features nine ropes courses with 20 zip lines that allow you to fly through the treetops for the ultimate in family fun. But there’s also ax-throwing, monthly night climbs and other activities at this playground.

9. Year-Round Outdoor Activities

Nearby Wilmot Mountain offers skiing, snow tubing and snowboarding on freshly powdered snow.

Things to do in Kenosha include checking out the Crisp onion rings, a great starter at Captain Mike’s.
Crisp onion rings are a great starter at Captain Mike’s. Photo credit: Mira Temkin

10. Wisconsin is known for Craft Beer and Breweries

You can’t go too far in Wisconsin without stumbling on an authentic Wisconsin brewery. In Kenosha, you’ll find several craft breweries serving great cheese curds and pretzels like Kenosha Brewing Company.

Things to do in Kenosha include trying the Cheeseburger Walrus at Captain Mike’s.
Cheeseburger Walrus at Captain Mike’s. Photo credit: Mira Temkin

A great place to chow down is Captain Mike’s Beer and Burger Bar, known for its great selection of kobe and grass fed burgers as well as creamy Mac-n-Cheese. Check out their “Burger of the Week” and “Mac-n-Cheese of the Week.” Create your own specialty mac-n-cheese by adding your favorite meats, cheeses, vegetables and sauces to the mix. Or pick “Swayze Express” or a PG-13-named burger, an homage to the Trailer Park Boys TV series. There’s a great selection of local beer from Wisconsin and beyond too.

11. Hit Up a Baseball Game with the Kenosha Kingfish

Enjoy America’s favorite pastime at a Kenosha Kingfish game played at the historic Simmons Field from May – August. The Kenosha Kingfish team plays in the collegiate summer Northwoods League.

Things to do in Kenosha include salmon and trout fishing. Check out a private fishing charter.
Kenosha is known as the number one spot in Wisconsin for salmon and trout. Check out a private fishing charter. Photo credit: Mira Temkin

Things to Do Near Kenosha

Neighboring towns to stop for a visit around the Kenosha area include Racine and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which also border Lake Michigan. Or visit Pleasant Prairie for the Pleasant Prairie Premium Outlets. Driving distance from Milwaukee is about 44 minutes and a little over an hour from Chicago.

Kenosha is also the last stop on the Metra Union Pacific North line train from Chicago. Many visitors take the train to Kenosha and can navigate without a car using the electric streetcar, the Kenosha Trolley and local buses.

For more information, check out their full events calendar at visitkenosha.com. A road trip to Kenosha will create loads of great family fun and memories.