Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- Jelly Belly Center
- Dinosaur Discovery Museum
- Kenosha Public Museum
- The Civil War Museum
- Anderson Arts Center
- Kemper Center
- Lake Michigan Beaches
- Southport Light Station Museum
- Kenosha History Center
- Petrifying Springs Park
- Hawthorne Hollow
- The Pike Bike Trail
- University of Wisconsin - Parkside Disc Golf Course
- Washington Park Velodrome
Looking for a quick trip from Chicago or Milwaukee? Check out Kenosha, Wisconsin. This charming small town on the shores of Lake Michigan hosts one of the most popular family summer festivals, has a candy factory Willy Wonka would love and cheese curds. And many of the best things to do in Kenosha are free.
Home of the Bristol Renaissance Faire, Kenosha’s lakefront location combines small town Midwest charm with family fun. The Kenosha Area is home to museums, fine arts institutions, impressive symphony and opera programs.
The following 16 free and family friendly attractions can help make a family vacation in Kenosha more affordable.
Jelly Belly Center
Just minutes from Kenosha in Pleasant Prairie is the Jelly Belly Center. There you can learn the secret to making Jelly Belly jelly beans by watching video presentations while riding an indoor train that travels through the company’s distribution center. Play games and taste samples in the Jelly Belly Station. Add a candy art gallery, candy store and snack bar, and the whole family will be thrilled to go. Tours are free and open to the public. Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tours 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily.
Dinosaur Discovery Museum
The Dinosaur Discovery Museum is home to an array of meat-eating dinosaurs including a 40-foot T-rex. Discover the link between meat-eating dinosaurs and birds. Featuring dramatic life-size dinosaur replica casts, bones and fossils, interactive exhibits, family programs, a real working on-site paleontology lab and a gift shop. General admission is free. Open Tuesday-Sunday, Noon-5 p.m.
HarborPark, while listed as one thing to do, is filled with things to do in Kenosha. This 69-acre outdoor, open area has a free kids splash pad, Celebration Place (where many events are held), the Sculpture Walk and an electric streetcar. The streetcar is particularly popular with the kiddos! With its vintage trolley appearance, it takes a two mile loop going by the shoreline and into downtown Kenosha. There is a cost associated with the streetcar- Ages 13+ $1, kids 5-12 .50, 4 and under free. If you have all day, you may want to consider a day pass for $3.50 that will allow you to take as many rides as you want.
If you love Farmers Markets definitely check out the Kenosha HarborMarket. There is a summer version and a winter version of this Saturday market. Both offer a mix of vendors selling items ranging from handmade goods to fruits and vegetables to delectable baked goods.
Kenosha Public Museum
This museum spans it all — from natural history to fine and decorative arts, there is something for just about everyone in the family. Kids will love the giant woolly mammoth and the Four Season Native American Village, as well as a Field Station with hands-on activities. General admission is free as is parking.
Open Monday- Saturday 10am-5pm. Sunday 12pm-5pm.
The Civil War Museum
While there are a lot of Civil War museums, this one is unique. It focuses on the experience of the Upper Midwest States — Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin — during the Civil War. The museum features an I Spy scavenger hunt to engage the kids. Print the game board and find as many items as you can. Have the kids turn in their board at the front desk for a prize.
Adult admission is $9 but children 15 and under are admitted for free with a paying adult. Parking is free. Open Monday-Saturday 10am-5pm. Sunday 12pm-5pm.
Anderson Arts Center
Check out one of the current exhibitions at this Arts Center located in a 30+ room historic mansion. During the summer, free Twilight Jazz concerts are a great way to spend time in Kenosha.
The Kemper Campus includes the above mentioned Anderson Arts Center. The whole campus is listed on the National Register for Historic Places. You can book a tour of the grounds (a whopping 17.5 acres on the shore of Lake Michigan), Kemper Chapel and walk through Durkee Mansion. Private tours have a cost affiliated with them but admission to the Durkee Mansion is free on the first and third Saturday and Sunday afternoons of the month from 1:30 pm to 4:00 pm. (April through October). If you visit close to Halloween, be sure to make it to the Haunted House.
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Lake Michigan Beaches
The third largest of the Great Lakes, Lake Michigan has almost 8 miles of frontage in Kenosha and nearly all of it is open to the public.
There are no lifeguards on duty at Kenosha’s Lake Michigan beaches. One of the most popular beaches is Simmons Island Beach. It is located off of a boardwalk with views of two lighthouses.
Southport Light Station Museum
Located at Simmons Island Park is the Southport Light Station Museum. This 1867 Light Station keeper’s house now operates as a seasonal maritime museum. The museum is free. If you are age 8 and up, you can pay to climb the steps to the lighthouse tower, which stands 55 feet above the grounds. Climbing the tower costs $10 for ages 13 and up and $5 for ages 8-12. Children under 8 are not allowed to climb.
Kenosha History Center
Automotive lovers will want to add the Kenosha History Center to their things to do in Kenosha list. While one gallery focuses on the history of the Kenosha Area, the other one explores Kenosha’s automotive contributions. The Rambler Legacy Gallery showcases some wonderfully preserved antique vehicles. The Kenosha History Center is located on the same grounds as the Southport Light Station Museum at Simmons Island Park. Admission is free. Check the online event calendar to see if there will be a classic car show during your visit.
Petrifying Springs Park
With walking trails, play areas and a golf course, Petrifying Springs Park makes a great stop on your Kenosha vacation. Plan a picnic or stop by the beer garden for a local brew.
You’ll sometimes see Hawthorn Hollow listed as an arboretum, but it is so much more than that. The Hollow has two miles of nature trails, a 12-acre arboretum and three historic buildings that were moved onto the property. There is also a Nature Center and a project called the Farmstead that educates kids about organic gardening. Admission is free although donations are happily accepted. Hours vary, please check the website for details.
The Pike Bike Trail
Hike or bike along the 14+ mile Pike Bike Trail through Kenosha County. The scenic trail runs by various attractions including three National Register Historic Districts, Lake Michigan, two historic lighthouses, recreational opportunities, Carthage College and Poerio Nature Center.
University of Wisconsin – Parkside Disc Golf Course
Outdoor lovers have so many choices in the Kenosha Area. One great option is the UW-Parkside disc golf course. It’s free of charge and open to the public, featuring 18 holes over the 700 acre campus. You’ll need to bring your own discs or you can purchase discs from the Proshop in the University Bookstore. The first hole is near the Student Center. Parking is free on the weekends. During the week, you’ll need to purchase a $5 day parking pass from the University Police Department or feed the meters.
Washington Park Velodrome
Located at 17th Avenue and Washington Road. Mid-May through August, enjoy the thrill of high speed bicycle racing at the oldest operating velodrome in the United States. It was completely rebuilt in 2016 and features races every Tuesday night.
Mars Cheese Castle
Looking for somewhere to eat while you’re in Kenosha? Check out the Mars Cheese Castle. Even if you’re not hungry, stop and take a picture. This hard-to-miss storefront is a combination grocery store, deli, bakery, taproom and cheese heaven. You can chow down on cheese samples, order a Chili Cheese Burger (yum!) or shop for wine in the castle’s tower. It’s one of those unique Midwest road trip stops that we love.
Check out this Visit Kenosha FREE activity book before your trip for more great attractions and activities.
Places to Stay Near Kenosha, Wisconsin
What else would you do in Kenosha, Wisconsin? Let us know if we’ve missed any of your favorites!