Fantastic Museums Await in Downtown

Fantastic Museums Await in Downtown

by Meridith Jumisko

Within a one-mile radius in Downtown Kenosha, near the Lake Michigan shore, sit five museums to educate, entertain, and inspire you. In any given year, all five of the museums see visitors from throughout the country and world. Whether you are already familiar with the museums, or aren’t yet, here are some impressive and fun facts about them.

The Kenosha Public Museum has been accredited by the American Alliance of Museums since 1974. The Civil War Museum, Kenosha Public Museum, and Dinosaur Discovery Museum are also Smithsonian Institution Affiliates. Each has its own mascot: the new Dinosaur Discovery Museum mascot is Dr. Dizzy, while the Civil War Museum’s mascot is Abe the Eagle and the Kenosha Public Museum’s mascot is Woolly the Mammoth. There is a fee for the main exhibit at The Civil War Museum, otherwise all three museums are free.

At the Dinosaur Discovery Museum, you’ll learn about the correlation between modern day birds and prehistoric dinosaurs. This museum opened in 2006. What previously occupied the building? The Kenosha Public Museum, and prior to that, the U.S. Post Office. This is located in the Civic Center Historic District, one of four historic districts in Kenosha. Like The Civil War Museum and Kenosha Public Museum, this museum is on the Electric Streetcar line. While outdoors, enjoy the two dinosaur art pieces on the front lawn.

The Civil War Museum details the Midwestern states’ involvement in the war and houses one of only three 360-degree movie experiences in the nation, Seeing the Elephant. The movie was filmed at the nearby historical attraction Old World Wisconsin, specifically for The Civil War Museum. Nationally recognized broadcast journalist Bill Kurtis narrates the film. While at this museum, be sure to stop in the Veterans Memorial Gallery. The gallery honors all U.S. veterans and soldiers from the Revolutionary War to present day conflicts.

The Kenosha Public Museum offers fine art and natural history, including a main exhibit called The Wisconsin Story. It showcases the evolution of the local terrain and the people in the area over millions of years. Learn about the local famous mammoths! In fact, the Kenosha Public Museum has been featured in Archeology Magazine, due to the mammoth discoveries in Kenosha County.

The Kenosha Public Museum, The Civil War Museum, and the Dinosaur Discovery Museum have re-opened. You’ll find information online about temporary hours, visitor policies during this COVID-19 pandemic, which interactive exhibits are temporarily closed, museum cleaning procedures, and more. The Facebook pages and websites of the museums also have lectures, activities, and other ways you can engage from your home.

The Kenosha County Historical Society operates two museums: the Kenosha History Center and the Southport Light Station Museum. Both are located on Simmons Island and are currently closed due to the pandemic. Please continue to check online for updates and for ways you can make a donation.

The Kenosha History Center is a free museum that preserves and celebrates Kenosha’s automotive and industrial heritage. The museum has on display the Miniature Statue of Liberty that was first raised in Civic Center Park in 1950. In its collection – and currently on loan to another museum – is the 1962 Rambler American 400 Convertible that was featured on the television show 3rd Rock From The Sun.

You get two attractions in one place at the seasonal Southport Light Station Museum. It’s free to tour the 1867 Light Station keeper’s house, which details the historical importance of Kenosha’s harbor. Not to miss is the local shipwreck exhibit, which details more than 40 shipwrecks buried near Kenosha. On display is a model of the SS Wisconsin, which sank in Lake Michigan in 1929. There is also the 1866 Southport Lighthouse; the tower is open to climb during a non-pandemic summer (for a fee). There are 72 steps to the top!

Though the two museums are closed, you can still take a guided walking tour of the Library Park Historic District. The Kenosha History Center presents this tour, which is led by volunteer historians. This happens on the second Saturday of the month at 11 a.m. through October. Contact the Kenosha History Center for details: 262-654-5770.

Check out the Kenosha Area Convention & Visitors Bureau’s website – and sign up for our Visit Kenosha Monthly Newsletter – to stay on top of attraction, dining, shopping, and event updates. Also follow Visit Kenosha on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube for the latest scoop!

Meridith Jumisko is Public Relations Director at the Kenosha Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. Contact her at or drop her a tweet @MJ_Kenosha, and read her column in every issue of Smart Reader magazine or online at

(This story originally appears the print version of the Summer/Fall 2020 issue of Downtown Kenosha Magazine)