Kenosha proves that Wisconsin is so much more than just farmland! Situated on the Kenosha Harbor and Lake Michigan, the city is full of Instagrammable spots including the iconic red lighthouse, a harbor full of shiny sailboats, and colorful murals, sculptures and landscaping throughout the scenic downtown.

There’s a lot of old-fashioned charm in the city, as many of the buildings are from the early 1900s. The electric trolley, that runs a two-mile loop through downtown and the harbor, is another nod to a time gone by.

We absolutely loved spending a few days in Kenosha and would recommend it to other families!

*Disclosure: Our trip was sponsored by Visit Kenosha, but our opinions are our own.*

What To Do In Kenosha with Kids

If you’re looking for a vacation a short drive from the Rockford area, you’re in luck! Kenosha, Wisconsin is only 90 minutes from the Stateline region so it’s the perfect distance for a weekend getaway. Kenosha is an easy-to-navigate city for families with kids. Parking is mostly free, and easy to find, and downtown is very walkable and stroller-friendly. There’s a lot to do in Kenosha and much of it is low-cost or free! 

Go Museum Hopping

Go Museum Hopping

Kenosha has some great museums that all have FREE admission! You can easily spend a day just visiting the museums. Three museums – The Civil War Museum, Dinosaur Discovery Museum, and the Kenosha Public Museum – are Smithsonian Institution Affiliates. All of the museums are wheelchair accessible.

Dinosaur Discovery Museum

5608 10th Ave., Kenosha, WI

Open Tuesday through Sunday from 12 pm – 5 pm

Cost: Free admission

The Dinosaur Discovery Museum opened in 2006 in the beautifully renovated 1908 building that once housed an earlier version of the Kenosha Public Museum. The Dinosaur Discovery Museum takes a look at the connection between modern birds like ostriches and chickens and the theropods they descended from. 

Upon entering the Dinosaur Discovery Museum, you will see the main exhibit. As you walk around this circular exhibit, you are transported through time to see how the dinosaurs evolved over millions of years. There are specimens of all sizes in the exhibit ranging from tiny dinosaurs barely the size of a cat to giant dinosaurs that nearly reach the ceiling and tower 10-20 feet above you. 

One of our favorite parts of the museum was the Little Clint exhibit. This exhibit tells the story of Little Clint, a three-year-old T.Rex who was found in the Hell Creek formation in Montana. There are interactive parts of the Little Clint exhibit where kids can try on dinosaur costumes, dig for bones, and design their own dinosaur museum exhibit. 

The museum also has an interactive area downstairs where kids can dig for fossils and watch students from Carthage College, a four-year liberal arts college located in town, work on real dinosaur bones. This area also includes a colorful mural painted by the lead educator, Mr. Nick. There are several interactive exhibits there including a fossil dig area.

There is a gift shop with toys and dinosaur items for sale on site.

Kenosha Public Museum

5500 1st Ave., Kenosha, WI

Open Monday through Saturday from 10 am – 5 pm and Sunday from 12 pm – 5 pm

Cost: Free admission

The Kenosha Public Museum is a natural sciences and fine and decorative arts museum. It is located near the harbor and shares a parking lot with the Civil War Museum.

The Kenosha Public Museum building was designed to represent an iceberg carving through the land. This symbolism relates to the theme of the museum which primarily tells the story of the two wooly mammoths that were found in Kenosha county in 1992. One is the largest and most complete mammoth excavated in America and the other is the first mammoth found butchered by people east of the Mississippi. The museum also takes you through the history of Wisconsin, explores world cultures, teaches you about Indigenous peoples, and contains displays of fossils and decorative arts. The museum has more than 80,000 items in its collection including 1,200 works of fine art. 

In addition, the museum has an imaginative play area with comfortable seating, space for kids to sit down and color, and a wooden cabin play structure with props. 

There is also a gift shop in this museum with toys and collectibles for sale.

The Civil War Museum

5400 1st Ave., Kenosha, WI

Open Monday through Saturday from 10 am – 5 pm and Sunday from 12 pm – 5 pm

Cost: $9 per person / free for kids 15 and under

The Civil War Museum takes a unique look at the Civil War through the lens of seven states in the Midwest ( Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan). The main exhibit is titled The Fiery Trial and it explores the personal stories of men and women experiencing the Civil War. In this exhibit, there are dioramas and displays that help you see the Civil War through the eyes of soliders, nurses, children, slaves, tradesmen, clergy, and others who lived it. The exhibit is full of personal touches like letters home.

The Museum also has a digital movie exhibit about three men experiencing combat for the first time and a Veterans Memorial Gallery where you can pay your respects.

Until June 2023, there is also an exhibit centering around the role Ohio played in the Civil War on display.

Other museums you can visit in Kenosha include:

Kenosha Lighthouse Studio at North Pier Lighthouse

Visit the Farmer’s Markets

Kenosha has two year-long farmers markets that move outdoors in May that you can visit – the Kenosha HarborMarket and the Kenosha Public Market. Both markets sell a variety of local produce, baked goods, jewelry, art, books, and flowers! We saw some of the most beautiful bouquets in both of the markets. During the markets, there is lots of activity including live music, food for sale, and people blowing giant bubbles.

The HarborMarket runs from 9 am – 2 pm on Saturdays from May 15 – October 29th outdoors. It’s located on 2nd Avenue between 54th and 56th Streets, only one block from the museums. Admission and parking are free!

The Public Market also runs from 9 am – 2 pm on Saturdays from May 15 – October 29th outdoors. It is located at 625 52nd Street. Admission and parking are also free! The trolley is a convenient way to get to both markets as it loops past each one.

Ride the Trolley

If you have a fan of Daniel Tiger in your life, you’ve got to ride the Kenosha electric trolley when you visit. Most of the trolleys are authentic 1951 President’s Conference Committee (PCC) cars. The streetcars were brought back to Kenosha in 2000. Each one has a name and color scheme. We took a ride on Toronto, named after the Canadian city where the PCC cars once operated.

The trolley runs in a two mile loop that passes by the Lake Michigan shoreline, Harbor Park, the Sculpture Walk, and downtown Kenosha. We rode it to attend both farmers markets on Saturday morning. The trolley runs all year long and only costs $1 per person ages 13 and up and $.50 per kid ages 5-12, free for kids 4 and under. It costs $3.50 per person for an all-day pass.

Visit an Inclusive Playground

If you visit Kenosha with kids, Dream Playground in Petzke Park (2820 14th Ave.) should be on your must do list! The playground was built in 2015 after volunteers raised funds and assisted in building the playground.

It is one of the biggest accessible playgrounds in Wisconsin with more than 15,000 square feet of play space for all! This playground is wheelchair accessible with foam flooring throughout. There are several slides, a smaller playground area for little kids, swings, spinners, a merry-go-round, Braille and sign language alphabets, and more. The playground is lighthouse themed to match Kenosha’s iconic red lighthouse. 

My kids had a blast playing here and easily would have stayed for the entire day. There are bathrooms on site, picnic tables, and water fountains. We absolutely loved this playground and wished we lived closer so we could visit it more often!

Spend Time on the Farm

Jerry Smith Farm is located just outside Kenosha in Somers, Wisconsin. It’s a working farm with events throughout the year including sunflower fields, a pumpkin farm, a spring festival that shows off the new chicks and ducks, chalk fest, sweet corn fest, and a holiday light show. We were lucky enough to visit during sweet corn fest which includes live music, food trucks, vendors, and of course, corn on the cob!

The farm also has a petting zoo which includes animal encounters with zebras, skunks, kangaroos, and armadillos. These encounters have an additional cost depending on the animal. 

Finally, there’s a Country Store stocked full of homemade goodies, jams, local honey, fruit and vegetables and more. Be sure to try one of their famous frosted cookies! We also tried a delicious caramel cookie while we were there that we highly recommend!

Get on the Water

Get on the Water

Kenosha is a lake town! One of the first things you’ll notice when you get downtown is the beautiful view of the harbor, inlet, and Lake Michigan. Here are a few ways to spend time on the water during your visit.

Spend a Day at the Beach

If you’d like to swim in Lake Michigan, there are five beaches that you can visit, but be prepared, Lake Michigan is chilly! All of the beaches have free parking and free admission. Please note, none of the Lake Michigan beaches have lifeguards.

We visited Simmons Island Beach and loved that it has a mobility mat which allows wheelchairs, walkers, and strollers to be pushed down to the water. These mats are removed when the beach is not open and replaced in the morning. If you visit Simmons Island Beach, be sure to walk along the pier to the Southport Lighthouse. 

There are also two outdoor public pools and a splash pad located in HarborPark.

Rental a Kayak or Pedal Boat

The Kenosha Community Sailing Center (5130 4th Ave.) is located on the harbor and rents kayaks, fishing kayaks, stand up paddle boards, and duck themed pedal boats to use in the harbor.

Renting a duck pedal boat was one of our favorite activities from our Kenosha trip! The ducks are four-seaters where the front two seats pedal and the back seat is for relaxing. Duck boat rental costs $11 per adult and $6 per child. We spent 45 minute paddling around the lagoon and enjoying the views. You must book your rental in advance online.

Where to Eat in Kenosha

Where to Eat in Kenosha

If you want to eat local, Kenosha is the spot to be! There are several restaurants that have been in business for more than 80 years. It’s clear that these businesses are beloved in the community because they were quite busy when we visited! One of our favorite parts about traveling is checking out the local eateries and Kenosha did not disappoint. All of the restaurants we visited had kid’s menus, or kid-friendly options like hot dogs, burgers, fries, mac and cheese, and chicken fingers.

Frank’s Diner (508 58th St.) is an institution in Kenosha! Horses pulled the building to the city in 1926 and it’s been a staple ever since. The interior has seen many famous faces including The Three Stooges. The restaurant is considered a “lunch car” and the interior feels like you’re on a train. If you go, get a famous garbage plate and a cinnamon roll. Don’t forget to try some of the homemade bread made from honey, yogurt, and wheat bran. It’s delicious!

Kaiser’s Pizza and Pub (510 57th St,) is the place to be if you love pizza! You can enjoy a meal in their cute and clean dining room or get a pizza to go. They offer a variety of award-winning pizzas including thin crust, double decker, and pan. We tried both a thin crust (BBQ chicken) and a Double Decker (sausage and pepperoni) and they did not disappoint. The mozzarella sticks are also a must-try!

The Coffee Pot (4914 7th Ave.) is another Kenosha staple having been in the community for 90 years in one form or another. Fun fact: the neon coffee sign was commissioned in the 1930s and still hangs in front of the restaurant! You can sit at the counter indoors and watch your food being made or you can eat outside in their outdoor garden. The restaurant gets very busy on the weekends! If you stop by, try the omelets and the cream cheese stuffed French toast!

Trolley Dogs (5501 6th Ave.) is conveniently located near the museums and other shops in downtown Kenosha. We had a quick and delicious lunch here after spending the morning at the farmer’s markets. As the name implies, Trolley Dogs mostly serves hotdogs in a bunch of different ways! These aren’t Oscar Meyers though, they are jumbo Vienna Beef Chicago style hot dogs. If you stop by, try a Chicago dog or get the corndog! It was perfectly fried and reminded me of the corn dogs you can get at the fair. We also tried a gyro that was tasty and had lots of tzatziki sauce. You can take your hotdog to go or eat in the dining area which has a motorized trolley circling on a track near the ceiling. This was my kids’ favorite place to eat in Kenosha!

Scoops Ice Cream and Candy (5711 8th Ave.) is just about the cutest ice cream shop we’ve ever seen! They carry Chocolate Shoppe ice cream as well as offering homemade treats like cakes, pies, brownies, candy and more. If you have dietary restrictions, they offer vegan, nut-free, and no-sugar-added options too! If you go, try the double-dipped waffle cone with layers of milk chocolate and white chocolate. Be sure to stop by in the evening so you can see the twinkle lights and enjoy your treat outside!

El Camino Kitchen (9900 77th St., Pleasant Prairie) is a short drive from downtown Kenosha, located in Pleasant Prairie near a shopping area with big box stores and chain restaurants. It is a large modern local restaurant that specializes in both Mexican food and burgers! It was lively on a Saturday night with many people enjoying dinner in the dining room and at the bar. If you go, be sure to get some appetizers. The guacamole and queso were both excellent! We went with Mexican food on this visit and both the barbacoa tamales and the quesadillas were good. One item that caught my eye was the popular Elotes burger that we’d try next time we visit.

Bristol 45 Diner (8321 200th Ave., Bristol) is also located a short drive from Kenosha in Bristol. The location has been a restaurant for 60 years, but the diner opened up in 2008. The diner is decked out in 1950s themed decor and furniture including a lot of black and white checkers. We were immediately in love with the place because of how cute everything was and the 50s music playing in the background. They have a large menu, filled with diner favorites, including shakes, malts, burgers, fries, wraps, and dinner plates with comfort food like fish fry, homemade soup, and mac and cheese. If you go, try the shakes and the Bristol 45 wrap! The food was delivered quickly and was very fresh. Bristol 45 also hosts car shows throughout the summer in their parking lot.

Where to Shop in Kenosha

Where to Shop in Kenosha

Kenosha has a thriving small business community with so many great places to shop. There are a variety of shops and boutiques selling food, toys, clothes, books, and more. You can view an entire list of Kenosha shops here. During our visit, we had the chance to stop by the following places.

Blue House Books (5915 6th Ave. A) is a picturesque independent bookstore located in the shopping district of Kenosha. If we lived in Kenosha, this would be a regular Saturday morning stop for us! It had a great vibe and the friendliest staff. They have a nice selection of both new and used books including popular fiction, non-fiction, children’s books, and blank journals. There were also some really cute gifts for book lovers like the “Book Nerd” baseball hat we picked up. 

Duck Duck Goose Children’s Shop (5811 6th Ave.) is a local toy store with a great selection of toys and games for kids of all ages. We saw well-known brands as well as some smaller brands including educational and eco-friendly toys. There was a great selection of items including viral toys like Squishmallows and unique toys like light-up figures for bathtime. Both of my kids found toys that they were excited to buy.

Sandy’s Popper (5503 6th Ave.) is a great little shop filled with all of the popcorn flavors you could imagine. Immediately upon opening the door to the shop, you’re greeted by the delicious smell of fresh popcorn. They specialize in both cheddar and caramel popcorn, but they also make some really interesting flavors like PB&J, Red Hot Cinnamon, and Mellow Vanilla. The shop serves ice cream and has candy for sale as well. 

Mars Cheese Castle (2800 West Frontage Rd.) is its own destination! No exaggeration, you could spend hours looking around this massive store. Inside the castle, there’s a meat and cheese shop, restaurant, souvenir shop, ice cream counter and bakery! They carry hundreds of cheeses, and meats, snacks and drinks to go along with them. It’s truly a sight to see! Plan to spend at least an hour here if you visit.

Where to Stay in Kenosha

Where to Stay in Kenosha

While in Kenosha, we stayed at the Wyndham Garden Kenosha Harborside. Our room had a lovely harbor view and was within walking distance of evening music performances at Veterans Memorial Park and the Saturday morning Harbor Market as well as several restaurants and shops! The room was clean and comfortable with two Queen beds for our two adults and two kids.

The hotel has quite a few perks including a lounge, a business center, a fitness area, an indoor pool and hot tub, and complimentary breakfast buffets each morning. The hotel is also pet-friendly! We spent most evenings enjoying the pool, which was comfortably heated and about 3-4 feet deep throughout. We also loved grabbing a quick snack, and coffee, from the breakfast buffet before heading out for the day.

Staying downtown made getting to each destination convenient and we were able to walk to several places we visited. When we did drive, we enjoyed the free parking throughout Kenosha and had no trouble finding a place to park near our destination.

Next time you are looking for a nearby getaway for the weekend, or a longer stay, keep Kenosha in mind! The city is family-friendly and fun! We will definitely be back! You can find a lot more information to plan your trip to Kenosha at

Here’s a short video of some highlights of our trip to Kenosha!

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