Best Things to Do in Kenosha, Wisconsin


Kenosha is famous for the Mars Cheese Castle and the Bristol Renaissance Faire, held every weekend from early July through Labor Day. It’s also famous for its electric streetcar, for producing talent like filmmaker Orson Welles and actor Mark Ruffalo, and for serving as the figurative 50-yard line for a key NFL rivalry. Most people in Wisconsin are die-hard Packers fans and most people in Illinois are Bears fanatics, but since Kenosha is just across the Illinois state line, these two football rivals mingle in a way virtually unheard of in any other part of the state.

Here are six fun things to do while you’re in town.

Explore downtown’s main thoroughfare

Like many small towns, Kenosha (population approx. 100,000) has a dense, walkable downtown that is easy to explore on foot. Wander between vintage stores, thrift stores, and bookstores, then pop into gift shops, clothing boutiques, and a mini plant store along 6th Avenue, the main thoroughfare. If you need a plaid, paisley or polka dot suit, head over to Mike Bjorn’s Clothing, which also has an awesome selection of fun socks.

When you’re done shopping, take a walk to the Kenosha Public Museum to learn about the mammoths discovered locally by museum staff members, who later rewrote scientific books, and the Civil War Museum, which focuses on the role seven Midwestern states played during the conflict.

Rather get a lift? You can also jump on the electric tram, which makes a two-mile loop around downtown. A restored trolley ride is just $1 and offers a scenic tour of the Lake Michigan shoreline while getting you closer to restaurants, shopping, museums, waterfront markets, and historic areas. Whether you’re on horseback or on foot, make your way to the photo-perfect Southport Lighthouse, which you can climb in the warmer months.

Note that many shops are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, so you’ll find the most to do on the weekends, especially before 2pm when there are more markets (indoor and outdoor) and shows in the parks.

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The Kenosha Electric Trolley takes you near attractions like the HarborMarket ©

Launch your market

If markets are your jam, you’ll love Kenosha. In the summer there is a cool and fabulous farmer’s market on the harbour, aptly named PortMarket, where you’ll find gourmet vegetables, honey, breads and oils, as well as non-food items from craft vendors. Summer Saturdays also include live music and special events, such as puppet shows, opera performances, and Bookmobile tours. In the winter the market shrinks a bit and moves inside the Kenosha Union Club a few miles away.

On Saturday mornings between May and October, the Kenosha Public Market also set up shop near the waterfront, before moving indoors to the nearby Vault Banquet Hall from November to April. In addition to locally produced microgreens and other edibles, you can browse (and taste!) baked goods, elderberry products, coffee, and artisanal soaps from surrounding counties. Come hungry – you can also grab fresh food like tacos and Palestinian falafel wraps.

Union Park is the place to be on the third Sunday of the month from June through October, when the Kenosha Art Market takes over. And if you still haven’t had enough, head to the Wilmot Flea Market, held Sundays from late April through early October at the Kenosha County Fairgrounds; just be aware that there is a $2 fee here unlike the others which are free.

For a flea market in a brick-and-mortar setting, head to Pencillarium, Kenosha’s specialty vintage pencil shop. (Yes, it really is a thing.)

Shop in the mall

Kenosha County is famous for its mall – anyone driving from Milwaukee to Chicago along I-94 will no doubt have noticed the cluster of stores selling discount versions of just about everything and no whatever.

Kenosha is Jockey’s world headquarters, and they have two stores there, as well as outlets for major brands like Gap, Express, Nike, and Banana Republic. There are also a handful of lesser-known and more unique outlets, like the Beef Jerky Experience, where you’ll find everything from buffalo and kangaroo jerky to alligator and ostrich.

A pale castle with pennants flying from its turrets on a clear day
Mars Cheese Castle has one of the largest cheese selections in Wisconsin ©

Taste Wisconsin’s famous beer and cheese

If Wisconsin is famous for anything, it’s beer and cheese, and Kenosha has plenty of both. While it’s true that you can find great cheese just about anywhere in the state, including supermarkets, gas stations, convenience stores, and farms, Kenosha is home to the famous Mars Cheese Castle. A cheese shop shaped like a castle that my nephew once thought was Disneyland, it has one of the largest cheese selections in the state. The shop also offers a good selection of snacks and drinks, as well as baked goods like kringle, the Danish pastry produced in the nearby town of Racine.

While you can certainly get some amazing locally brewed drinks at Mars Cheese Castle – and also at almost any supermarket and gas station in town – do yourself a favor and head to one of the bars, breweries or city ​​breweries. Kenosha Brewing Co.located on the site of the Midwest’s first brewery that opened after Prohibition, is now a bar and grill that brews beer and hosts live entertainment on weekends.

Right in the middle of downtown, Public craft brewery serves house-made cheese curds in tempura batter—a staple Wisconsin treat—alongside burgers, tacos, and mouth-watering craft beers. In addition to quizzes every Thursday evening, the public also hosts comedy shows, educational talks, and other nightlife events.

Just around the corner from Public East Rustic Road Brewery, which produces small-batch craft beer and mouth-watering food. (Try the spinach dip and the brisket sandwich.)

Person carrying a kayak on their shoulder, accessing the Lake Michigan water trail from a beach, Kenosha, Wisconsin
In addition to the county’s 130 miles of bike paths, Kenosha also offers access to the Lake Michigan Water Trail ©

Pedal, paddle and maybe it snows

Kenosha receives most of its visitors during the warmer months, which offer the opportunity to kayak, paddleboard, hike, golf, and visit Boundless Adventures, an outdoor aerial adventure park. The county has five beaches along Lake Michigan, all of which are free and offer free parking.

Cyclists will enjoy Kenosha County’s 130 miles of bike trails, including the Kenosha County Bike Trail, Pike Bike Trail, and a network of mountain bike trails in Silver Lake Park.

Outdoor markets may move indoors in the winter, but the fun is just beginning for adventurers who aren’t afraid of the cold. Once the snow begins to fall – some years as early as October – a wide variety of winter activities present themselves, including snowboarding, skiing (downhill and cross-country), snowshoeing, tubing, snowmobiling, ice skating and even the fat-bike on tires.

If you don’t bring your own gear, you can rent skis, snowboards, and tubes at Wilmot Mountain, snowshoes at the Pringle Nature Center, and ice skates at the Veterans Memorial Park ice rink.

Enjoy the nightlife

While there isn’t a single must-see nightlife spot in Kenosha, you’ll find several theaters and plenty of bingo, open mic, karaoke, and trivia events dotted around local bars and restaurants – including the breweries mentioned above. Museums and art galleries also host various classes, workshops and artist receptions, so be sure to check their event calendars during your trip.

For theater, stand-up comedy, gallery shows and live musical performances, check out Fusionthe Kenosha Performing Arts Center and Rita theater, located on the nearby campus of the University of Wisconsin – Parkside. the Rhode Center for the Arts puts on plays and musicals in a small historic downtown theater, and the Kenosha Comedy Club hosts 90-minute comedy shows every weekend, just a 10-minute walk from the Rhode at the Wyndham Garden Hotel.

For art lovers looking for hands-on experiences, Bellisima Shop (in the city center) and The Pinot Palette (two miles from Pleasant Prairie), host evening art classes and weekend painting and tasting events.


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