Recently, I opened up my calendar and was met with something so rare and exciting, an open weekend day without a single sporting event, birthday party or family obligation. I knew this was the day to try a new adventure. My goal for the day was to get outdoors, see something completely new and spend little to no money. Lately, I’d heard a lot of positive comments about Kenosha Wisconsin like “free dinosaur museum,” “coolest farmers market” and “beautiful lakefront.” I did some quick research online, drafted a loose itinerary for our day and set our minivan north around 9:00 a.m. Everything about our adventure went better than I could have imagined, and my family of six (with kids ranging in age from 4-11) enjoyed a lovely day in Kenosha, Wisconsin essentially for FREE.
We did, however, pay for a delicious and memorable lunch. The key to going on Saturday is the huge outdoor Kenosha HarborMarket (which runs every Saturday through October 14). Everything else on the itinerary is open on weekdays as well.
1. Kenosha HarborMarket
Place de Douai and 2nd Avenue between 54th and 56th Street
Outdoors, FREE, held on Saturdays from May 13-October 14, 9:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.
As we approached the waterfront in Kenosha, the energy was high and the smells delicious. We quickly found street parking and walked about three blocks to the market. I brought the stroller for my four-year-old twins, as it is fairly crowded and with over 150 vendors, a large market to walk. This is a fun street market, with interesting people watching, and lots of dog watching (along with many vendors featuring dog products).
Adjacent to the market is a grassy area, and then the public museums. Two vendors on the grassy area were using large bubble wands and the kids had a blast jumping around catching bubbles. At one end of the market was a playground that was very busy, but it looked like a lot of fun. After perusing the booths and picking up some fudge, the kids were ready for a little shopping break. Our family spent about 40 minutes in the market. If you are a big shopper, it could take longer. While in search of a bathroom break, we found ourselves inside our next quick stop, the Civil War Museum.
2. The Civil War Museum
5400 First Avenue, Kenosha, WI, Admission to the Veterans Memorial Gallery only is FREE
We wandered into the Civil War Museum, which is directly adjacent to the Harbor Market. It was calm, cool and quiet. Our Saturday adventure day happened to be on Memorial Day weekend, and we toured the Veterans Memorial Gallery, a free room off the lobby. It’s a beautiful tribute to the fallen soldiers of all the major conflicts of the United States. We as a family took about 10 minutes to reflect on the exhibit and discuss the role of the armed forces in our country. It was a nice quiet moment and we really enjoyed it. With four kids, we decided against paying admission to tour the entire museum, but we did make a pit stop in the clean restrooms before continuing onto our adventures by exiting out the door on the lakefront side of the museum lobby.
3. Kenosha Sculpture Walk
Kenosha Lakefront, FREE
We wandered out of the Civil War Museum and saw a beautiful lakefront trail. We hopped on the trail for a quick walk to enjoy the views of the water and the interesting sculptures. Our favorite had to be “Giraffgiraffe” by Joe Gagnepain. After a 20-minute walk outside on the path, we headed back to the museum campus to the check out the museum directly next door to the Civil War Museum, the Kenosha Public Museum.
4. Kenosha Public Museum
5500 First Avenue, Kenosha, WI, FREE
After finishing up our outdoor walk along the lakefront, we ventured inside the Kenosha Public Museum, which focuses on natural sciences and the arts. We meandered through the Wisconsin Story exhibit, which was a great interactive exhibit of the evolution of Wisconsin from the earliest biology through the lives of Native Americans in the area. The kids loved the exhibit, especially the large dinosaur replica and the Native American exhibit. It was quick, and we walked through in about 15 minutes while reading and examining everything.
We went on to the upstairs exhibit, which was hanging wall art, and spent another 10 minutes walking through. As we headed downstairs, we took a break in the kids interactive play area, which had animal puppets, weaving activities, books about the natural world, etc. for the kids to explore. We took a nice 20 minute break to color, read and play before heading back outside. For more information about the Kenosha Public Museum, check out Jenna’s full review here.
Although this sounds like a busy day, everything flowed easily and the venues were close to one another. At this point, we had only spent about two hours on our morning adventures. The kids were all doing well, and we decided it was a perfect time for lunch. I had heard so much buzz about one restaurant in particular in Kenosha, we decided to throw caution to the wind and bring the crew, realizing it might be very busy on a Saturday at mid-day during market season. From the Kenosha Public Museum, we mapped our pit stop at less than half a mile, and we set out on a walk to Mike’s Donuts and Chicken
5. Mike’s Donuts and Chicken
707 56th Street, Kenosha, WI
The buzz about Mike’s Donuts and Chicken is huge, and I first heard of it here on Little Lake County, with Loralie’s tantalizing review. This place pops up in my Facebook feed all the time with people raving about the food and the experience. I was hesitant to drag my large family to this trendy little enclave on a beautiful Saturday, for fear that it would be too busy, expensive, and not family friendly. But I also couldn’t bear the thought of spending a day in Kenosha and not going here. The hip vibe is evident as you walk up to the restaurant; it looks more like a cool bar than a diner. We went in and thankfully found six spots in a row at the counter. It was bustling with lots of walk-up traffic and full tables with families. It’s fairly small, and there weren’t any tables that would have accommodate our larger family, so we were very fortunate to find our spot. If we hadn’t found somewhere to sit, we may have ordered doughnuts to-go and moved on.
The restaurant is decorated with fun, eclectic art and signs, with the doughnut case in the center of the counter definitely the highlight. Amazing candied doughnuts and creations are on display. My kids also loved the phone booth inside the restaurant, with a functioning public phone (that I had to explain). Everyone picked a doughnut to try, and we ordered a seven-piece drumstick basket to share. The chicken is prepared fresh and to-order, so they warned us it could take up to 30 minutes. We took the risk and the kids ate their doughnuts while we waited for the chicken. All of the food was decadent and delicious. The service was friendly and helpful, even though we were a big, squirmy family. Overall, it was a fun, memorable and even affordable lunch. We spent approximately $40 for the food and tip for our family of six. Mike’s Donuts and Chicken is definitely worth the price for the food and the experience.
Energized from lunch, we decided to keep the adventure going. We didn’t want to stray too far from our car, so we meandered back through the downtown, peeking into the cool vintage furniture shops along the way. Downtown is enjoying a hip cultural renaissance, and it’s got a very funky vibe. We hopped back into the car and set a course to our next stop, the Dinosaur Discovery Museum, which was only about a five-minute drive from our parking spot near the market.
6. Dinosaur Discovery Museum
5608 Tenth Avenue, Kenosha, WI, FREE
The Dinosaur Discovery Museum is located in a beautiful old post office building in the historic downtown of Old Kenosha. We pulled up and found a parking spot right in front of the museum. The first floor is filled with life-sized replicas of dinosaurs in one large room, including a T-Rex. After exploring the dinosaurs, we headed downstairs to the activity room, where we found a dinosaur dig area, puzzles and books. We spent about 30 minutes total at the museum, it was a fun pit stop and we really enjoyed the small size and ease of seeing everything quickly. You can read more about the Dinosaur Discovery Museum in Loralie’s review from 2013.
After visiting the Dinosaur Discovery Museum, it was approximately 2:00 p.m. and we decided we had enough energy to continue our adventures. Now we wanted to get back outside into the beautiful weather. My research on Kenosha kept bringing me back to one must-see park, so we fired up the GPS and headed to Petrifying Springs State Park.
7. Petrifying Springs Park
4909 7th Street, Kenosha, WI, FREE
This beautiful 350 acre park has two playgrounds, hiking and biking trails, a public golf course, a Biergarten and a free artesian spring water well that visitors are welcome to bring a jug and fill it with water from the spigot of spring water. It was about a 10-minute drive from downtown Kenosha. We didn’t make a stop at the well or the Biergarten, but did find a great playground and beautiful trails. It was the perfect way to end our day of adventure. We spent about an hour hiking the woods and playing on the old-style playground merry-go-round. This park was busy, but not too crowded. It could have easily kept us busy for an entire day, especially with my older kids who enjoy exploring, hiking and biking.
We packed it back into our car around 3:15 p.n. and we were home in Lake County by 4:00 p.m. Our family enjoyed an unforgettable day of adventure in about seven hours, without feeling rushed and essentially for free. We undeniably had a few really good turns of luck, such as perfect weather, easy parking, small crowds (except at the market) and restaurant seating availability, so we were able to hit all the stops on my wish list of activities. The only thing we didn’t do that would have been fun is ride the trolley. With a double stroller in tow, hopping on the trolley wasn’t an option for us. But we have ridden it in the past, and it’s a fun ride around Kenosha.
I would recommend any or all of these activities for a Saturday trip to Kenosha. The venues can be mixed and matched, and there is no reason that it all needs to happen in one day. All of the museums are small, and for us, that was perfect, as they were fun, free and informative, and still left us with time and energy to try other things. A Saturday in Kenosha proved to be just what we needed for family fun and adventure.