Museums in Kenosha, Wisconsin

Just steps beyond Kenosha’s delicious, multi-cultural HarborMarket, and right on the revitalized lakefront, are the Kenosha Public Museum and Civil War Museum, two of the three museums that comprise the Kenosha Public Museums campus.

The Kenosha Public Museum was established in 1933 as a natural sciences and fine arts museum. Its new location on the lakefront museum campus opened in 2001 and still adheres to the museum’s original mission of collecting, preserving, and interpreting “decorative and fine arts, natural science specimens, and cultural artifacts from around the world and throughout time.” In recent years, the main attraction at the Public Museum has become the woolly mammoth that was excavated in Kenosha County in 1994. Ninety per cent of the skeleton was uncovered and it is the largest specimen ever found in North America.

Other highlights include life-size depictions of early Native American life in the Four Season Native American Village;

The Field Station, a hands-on science exploration area for kids;

and this backdrop.

Admission to the Public Museum is free.

Right next door to the Public Museum is the Civil War Museum. Even before we arrived in Kenosha, I knew I wanted to see the Civil War Museum. The Working Dad and I both enjoy history, especially war history, and I figured this would be up our alley. Plus, I don’t recall ever visiting a museum devoted specifically to the Civil War.

The Fiery Trial Exhibit is the largest in the museum and it focuses on the contributions and sacrifices made by soldiers and families of the Upper Middle West during the Civil War.

It is quite an impressive exhibit, with life-sized dioramas and even a “speech” by Frederick Douglas (a video recording of an actor portraying Mr. Douglas). While The Working Dad and I took our time and studied each part of the exhibit, our 3-year-old fell asleep in her stroller. It’s probably a good thing because she would have been a bit bored. There is not much in the way of interaction or excitement for the younger children at this museum. However, the Kenosha Public Museum and Dinosaur Discovery Museum help to fill that void and are just a short walk or streetcar ride away.

Apart from the main exhibit is the Veterans Memorial Gallery which honors United States veterans of all wars, starting with the Revolutionary War up to present-day battles. The gallery is a low-lit, peaceful hall and I was moved by the World War II and Vietnam displays, having loved ones who served in both conflicts.

Before leaving the museum, be sure to head up to the outdoor terrace overlooking the harbor. It is especially lovely on a sunny day, and a great spot to take in the view and clear your mind after thinking and talking about the heavy topic of war.

View of Piazza Cosenza and Lake Michigan from the Civil War Museum terrace.

Admission to the Civil War Museum is free; however, there is a small fee for the Fiery Trial Exhibit.

The Dinosaur Discovery Museum, mentioned above, is located at 5608 Tenth Avenue, a few blocks from the Public and Civil War Museums. Because we had a short time in Kenosha and there is so much to see and do, we did not make it to the Dinosaur Discovery Museum. It will be our first stop on our next trip to Kenosha, though!

Admission to The Dinosaur Discovery Museum is free.

My family’s trip to Kenosha, including accommodations, meals, and admission to the Fiery Trial Exhibit, was provided by the Kenosha Area CVB and its partners. All words and opinions, however, are my own.

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22 Responses to Museums in Kenosha, Wisconsin

  1. craig zabransky (@StayAdventurous) October 3, 2012 at 11:20 pm #

    sweet backdrop, and free admission to a dinosaur museum has me stopping here when my travels take me to this battle ground state… and I am not talking civil war either… although a museum about that up here was quite the surprise.

    stay adventurous, Craig

    • Francesca October 9, 2012 at 7:00 pm #

      Yes, the Civil War Museum was quite surprising – and in a good way. We really enjoyed it.

  2. Leah Travels (@L_e_a_h) October 4, 2012 at 9:23 am #

    I never seem to take advantage of museums, especially ones that are free, when I travel to smaller-market places. I really need to revisit that idea.

    • Francesca October 9, 2012 at 7:06 pm #

      I’m totally the same way, Leah. I’m not going to pass up museums anymore 🙂

  3. Adam Sommer October 4, 2012 at 12:26 pm #

    Kenosha is one of the places that has been on my “to visit” list for awhile…I really need to make the trip, these photos look awesome!

    • Francesca October 9, 2012 at 7:06 pm #

      Thanks, Adam! I hope you guys get to Kenosha soon.

  4. D.J. - The World of Deej October 4, 2012 at 3:38 pm #

    Awesome view…see, I had no idea Kenosha was on the lake. Learned something already!

    • Francesca October 9, 2012 at 7:11 pm #

      Glad I can teach you a thing or two, Deej 🙂

  5. The World Wanderer October 4, 2012 at 7:00 pm #

    I love the kids exploration area in the museum. So cool!

    • Francesca October 9, 2012 at 7:11 pm #

      Yes, that kids area is very cool. I picked up a few ideas there for activities to do at home!

  6. ilivetotravel October 4, 2012 at 9:09 pm #

    Honestly, I am surprised to hear of a Civil War museum so far north! I would love to see it. Good job of finding free museums – and of sharing your finds with your readers!

    • Francesca October 9, 2012 at 7:21 pm #

      Sure thing, Raul! I like to share all the good stuff I find in my travels, free or otherwise.

  7. Ted Nelson (@travelingted) October 4, 2012 at 10:31 pm #

    I enjoy Civil War history as well, so thanks for bringing this museum to my attention. What a beautiful view through what looks like some sort of atrium. Very nice post.

    • Francesca October 9, 2012 at 7:22 pm #

      Thanks so much, Ted. You should check out the Civil War Museum next time you’re up that way.

  8. Tawny- Captain and Clark October 5, 2012 at 8:09 pm #

    Free admission? You’re speaking my language! I’m a huge sucker for museums and history. I think I would definitely love this place.

    • Francesca October 9, 2012 at 7:26 pm #

      Excellent, Tawny! Next time you’re out this way, you should stop in Kenosha.

  9. Pola (@jettingaround) October 6, 2012 at 12:54 am #

    The backdrop looks amazing! Who knew Kenosha had so many museums…

    • Francesca October 9, 2012 at 7:30 pm #

      Thanks, Pola! I saw that lady sitting on the bench, looking out at the lake, and I pulled out my phone as quickly as possible to snap that shot. I definitely did not know Kenosha had so many high-quality museums; it was a pleasant surprise!

  10. Laura G. October 8, 2012 at 9:12 am #

    The Kenosha Public Museum and the Dinosaur Discovery Museums are FREE admission. The Civil War Museum has a small admission fee for the main exhibit, The Fiery Trial. (And by small, I mean $7 per person – very affordable compared to other museums admission fees.) Just wanted to be sure everyone was clear on the free museums vs. the one that has a fee. The Civil War Museum is totally worth the $7 – plus the Veterans Gallery is free, and so are the resource library and temporary gallery!

    • Francesca October 9, 2012 at 7:34 pm #

      You’re right, Laura. That’s why I was sure to include the admission information in this post 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  11. Eric S. April 21, 2013 at 6:26 pm #

    You forgot the forth city museum: Kenosha History Museum on Simmons Island. Lots of dioramas of Kenosha’s early days and a big American Motors / Snap-on Tools classic automobile exhibit.

    • Francesca April 24, 2013 at 10:46 am #

      Thanks for the comment, Eric. It’s not that I forgot about Kenosha History Museum; I didn’t know anything about it! I’ll have to check it out next time I’m in Kenosha.

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