Donut chickens, dinosaur bones, and cheese koozies: Discovering the offbeat side of Kenosha, Wisconsin

banner wisconsin

The moment I noticed the wonderfully ridiculous half-chicken, half-donut logo for a place called Mike’s Donuts & Chicken, I felt at home.

mike-donuts-chicken

I have yet to find a place that doesn’t have some level of quirky fun, and immediately I knew Kenosha, Wisconsin wouldn’t let me down. Not with its old-timey streetcars, dinosaur bone museum, birth house of Orson Welles, free shot of tequila with breakfast at the diner, and plush Ulysses S. Grant doll at the Civil War Museum gift shop.

greetings kenosha sign

And of course, there was cheese. Lots of cheese and cheese-related products. Cheese koozies, cheese-shaped napkins, cheese-colored hand towels with holes in them. Check out the most fun and interesting sights I encountered while visiting Kenosha.

Quirky historic sights in Kenosha

The city of 99,000 sits on Lake Michigan between Milwaukee and Chicago, making it a convenient day trip for millions of people. If you’re into quirky and unique experiences like me, you’ll want to start by riding Kenosha’s vintage streetcars, which were revived in 2000, decades after they last traversed the streets.

kenosha streetcar

The city has several different types of train cars, all modeled after old streetcar designs from other cities. The Cincinnati car is bright yellow, while Pittsburgh is orange. The track runs for two miles from the Metra train station across town to the lakefront.

The Civil War Museum (opened in 2008) covers the important conflict in great detail from the Midwestern perspective. Anyone interested in that part of our history should check it out. If you’re looking for something offbeat, head to the gift shop and find the plush Civil War figures – Abe Lincoln, Robert E. Lee, and Ulysses S. Grant. Who doesn’t want a stuffed Abe doll?

stuffed abe lincoln plush doll

Another attraction with a ton of history is the Dinosaur Discovery Museum. This facility is small, but it has some cool sights, like this femur bone of a Thescelosaurus, a medium-sized plant-eating dinosaur. It’s always mind-blowing to see bones from millions of years ago.

thescelosaurus-femur-bone

A more recent historic site is the birthplace of Orson Welles. The famous actor and film director (Citizen Kane!) was born in 1915 in a duplex that still stands on 7th Avenue. There’s a small marker noting the historical significance of the property.

orson welles birthplace

orson-welles-marker

Interesting food experiences

Frank’s Diner is the iconic dive where you go for local character and huge servings while seated in a lunch car diner. Established in 1926, Frank’s is the kind of place that hangs a sign that reads, “Shut up and eat.” They sell t-shirts that say, “Order what you want, eat what you get.” They have a deep-fried twinkie on the chalkboard of daily specials.

franks-diner

It’s also the kind of place that serves free tequila shots with morning brunch to those sitting at the counter. I had no idea that was coming, but at 11 am the server walked around offering shots in mini plastic cups. I’ve never had tequila with my omelette before, but I can’t say it was a bad experience.

I’m an ice cream junkie, so I had to stop by Scoops, which had fun flavors like Zoreo (chocolate fudge with marshmallows & Oreos), which was unspeakably delicious. I was also amused by the “Exhausted Parent” flavor (bourbon-spiked espresso ice cream.)

scoops-ice-cream

And then there’s Mike’s Donuts & Chicken. Since I had already stuffed myself at previous stops during the day, chicken was out of the question, but there’s always room for dessert. I went with a Mint Oreo gourmet donut.

After that, it was time to grab a drink at Public Craft, a brewery that has the vibe of a coffee shop, with local art on the walls, live band performances, Chet Atkins records playing on the turntable, and foosball, shuffleboard, and giant Jenga games. It’s such a comfortable place to hang out. The beer isn’t bad either.

public-craft

Really quirky miscellany in Kenosha

There’s a sports store in Kenosha called Something Different, which is an understatement to say the least. This shop has the biggest supply of sports products I’ve ever seen. It’s amusing how many different items they have in stock.

Here you can find plates and mugs with the logo of your favorite football team. Plus Santa Claus ornaments, wall signs, even boxes of tissue and ice scrapers!

something-different-sports

My favorite unexpected Kenosha discovery was Mike Bjorn’s Fine Clothing. If you’ve ever wanted a lime green prom tux or polka dot socks, this is your place. They have “normal” clothes too, but the flashy stuff is what catches my attention.

mike-bjorns-suits

Finally, since we’re in Wisconsin, we have to talk about cheese. Spots like Mars Cheese Castle and local delis and gift shops all have numerous cheese-related products. Besides selling dozens of different kinds of cheese and cheese curds, they have cheese-shaped napkins, cheese koozies, and hand towels with holes designed to look like cheese. Cool!

cheese-products

Which of these quirky Kenosha places would you most like to visit?

My visit to Kenosha was made possible by Visit Kenosha.

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About Scott Shetler

Scott is a Chicago-based journalist and blogger who seeks out quirky sights and awesome destinations throughout North America and beyond.

6 comments on “Donut chickens, dinosaur bones, and cheese koozies: Discovering the offbeat side of Kenosha, Wisconsin

  1. EVERY thing about this post makes me want to go to kenosha. wow. i had never heard of it and now i am all PLAN A VACATION AROUND KENOSHA. seriously. my only complaint is that the cincy streetcar should be orange and the pittsburgh one needs to be yellow. #duh

  2. Scott,
    I’m glad someone from outside of the area finds the downtown as charming as we do. I moved my business to the downtown area 2 years ago, and love the fact that I can walk out of my office and find great dining, unique shopping or quality entertainment just steps away.

    My real estate and property management office is next door to Mike Bjorns where I have bought clothing for over 20 years. Of course there is also S.J. Crystals just down the block.

    You can walk in to the flower shop and order flowers, or walk down the street for some unique popcorn at Sandy’s Popper that rivals the infamous Garrett’s in Chicago or a quick hot dog at Trolley Dogs.

    Take in some live Jazz at Sazzy B, Enjoy a pizza at Kaisers, Slice of New York or Villa D’Carlo all within walking distance. For more upscale dining such as pasta or steaks you have choices like Wine Knot, or Mangia which is co owned by Chicago Chef… (but Kenosha native) Tony Mantuano of Spiaggia with many of the same flavors you would enjoy at Spiaggia or Bar Toma without the hassle of downtown Chicago driving and parking.

    Needless to say… you scratched the surface, and I hope you return to enjoy more of what the area has to offer!!

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