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A Tourist’s Guide to Kenosha: Top 10 things to do

Zach Pereles

Going to Kenosha is a Northwestern training camp tradition that’s now over two decades old. If you’re new to the tradition, it started with Gary Barnett: a few weeks before the regular season begins, the Wildcats head north to the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, about an hour away from campus. It’s an effective method to get away from the hustle and bustle and focus on football and bonding with teammates; as you can see from our live post-practice report yesterday, there’s not a whole lot in the immediate surrounding area, except, as we found out, Kenosha native and current Northwestern redshirt junior offensive lineman Graham Bullmore’s house.

But because we were making the trip up there and the spurts of rain were short-lived, we decided to explore not only downtown Kenosha, which is actually a decent trip from Wisconsin-Parkside itself, but the surrounding area as well. There was nothing scientific about it; we stopped at places that looked interesting. Along the way, we dined in a couple fine establishments as well.

Without further ado, Inside NU’s Official Tourist Guide to Kenosha, Wisconsin, whether you’re just driving through or planning your next family vacation to the 100,000-person city by the lake.

10. Ride Tall Ship Red Witch

Red Witch is a huge wooden boat docked at Kenosha’s Southport Marina, just a short walk from the lovely Kenosha downtown. The ship is pretty impressive, but for four college students, the price a bit too steep. Still, if we had been staying in Kenosha longer, we might have ventured out into Lake Michigan on Red Witch, which just returned to Kenosha this summer.

From left: Sam Brief, Ian McCafferty, Zach Pereles and Martin Oppegaard in front of Red Witch

No memories were made on Red Witch this time, but next time we head on down to the lakefront, it’s on our to-do list.

9. Culver’s

Sam Brief, Martin Oppegaard and Ian McCafferty ready to chow down.

Culver’s is consistently a pretty safe play. You always know what you’re going to get when you exit off the interstate into the welcoming arms of the Midwest’s Premier Fast Food chain. Or perhaps you’re a frequent Culver’s goer, and if so, all the power to you; we wish we had one in Evanston. Positioned 3.6 miles off of I-94, this Culver’s wasn’t in a particularly convenient location for the average traveler. For us thrill-seeking Kenosha adventurers, though, it was just a quick stop on our way downtown. The Butterburgers were buttery, the cheese curds were cheesy, and the concrete mixers were mixed.

You can’t really ask for anything more. Culver’s is a versatile restaurant, you can go there for lunch, dinner, or dessert, and leave satisfied every single time. It’s worth noting that nearly all of the Sky Team was enjoying a post-practice meal at Culver’s, definitely giving it the extra edge to crack our Top Ten.

8. Explore the Civil War Museum

The Civil War Museum in downtown Kenosha is likely a gem of gems, but we wouldn't know. We had just a few minutes to take a lovely picture with Honest Abe’s bust and stroll around the lobby. In fact, our Sam Brief is a descendant of General Daniel Sickles, who was a Civil War general. So there's a meaningful family tie there.

Sam Brief and Ian McCafferty with Honest Abe himself.

The Lincoln bust is nicely positioned right in the middle of this eloquent lobby, adjacent to a lovely gift shop. A beautiful building inside and out earns the museum the eighth ranking on our list. Not to mention the great line of state flags cascading down the hallway just beyond Lincoln’s bust. Really magnificent stuff from the museum.

7. Visit the Mars Cheese Castle

What’s the one thing you think of when someone says Wisconsin? Cheese, the thing you’re thinking of is cheese. Unfortunately, the Mars Cheese Castle isn’t actually made of cheese, but it’s honestly pretty close. Located right off the highway, a literal castle greets you upon arrival.

Ian McCafferty in front of the entrance to the Mars Cheese Castle

Now the name and appearance may seem grand; honestly, it’s just a grocery store, but a really cool one. As the name suggests, they have cheese. They have a lot of cheese. One whole part of the store is just the deli area where you can probably buy any type of cheese you want, made fresh on site. If cheese isn’t your thing (why are you here?) then they have plenty of other attractions such as popcorn, a bakery and a tavern.

They also have this terrifying mouse.

Sam Brief and Martin Oppegaard next to the devil mouse

Basically if you really want the authentic Wisconsin experience then you have to buy cheese somewhere, and where better than a castle?

The sign is tall. The cheese is good.

6. Lighthouse

Ah yes, the most picturesque opportunity at Kenosha: the Kenosha North Pier Lighthouse. Just across the tiny inlet that separates north and south pier (and thus, across from the Civil War Museum), the lighthouse is an Inside NU favorite for a couple reasons.

First, it’s just an awesome place, located right on the end of the pier and just a few steps from the sand.

But perhaps more importantly, the sign in front of it allowed us to honor a fallen friend.

Zach Pereles, Sam Brief and Martin Oppegaard pay their respects

Noted Harambe enthusiast and Northwestern wide receiver/kick returner Solomon Vault would approve.

5. Funkin Farm

Undeniably, one of the best parts of the rural Midwest is the pop-up, self-run farmer’s markets. Even with a downpour occurring at the moment we drove up to it, Funkin Farm was something that couldn’t be missed.

Martin Oppegaard braves the conditions for Funkin Farm. True memory-making.

Funkin Farm was less than a minute off I-94 at Exit 339, the same exit for Wisconsin-Parkside. With a range of vegetables and a we-trust-you “Pay Here” box, Funkin Farm is an awesome place for fresh produce (and conveniently-located, too!). We were more than happy to lend our support.

4. Kennedy Park

First and foremost, we need to preface this by mentioning that the Lakefill rocks are one of the best parts of Northwestern’s beautiful campus. The scenic view of Lake Michigan compiled with the Chicago skyline makes it a premier destination for students, visitors and Evanston residents alike. If you don’t know what we’re talking about, do yourself a favor and visit, it’s worth it. That said, Kennedy Park’s rocks were very comparable, minus the paint and Chicago skyline. These rocks overlooked Lake Michigan and provided us with a terrific view of the aforementioned lighthouse. I couldn’t think of a better place to bring the kids and set up shop for a picnic, or just go by yourself to clear your mind and reflect while the sun glistens off of Lake Michigan. You can even go to express yourself.

Ian McCafferty and Sam Brief recreate the iconic Jack and Rose scene from the Titanic.

It’s Pure Michigan. But it’s in Kenosha. Just next to the rocks was a public beach, the perfect complement to what had been a long day of driving. Kennedy Park was really a no-brainer to make this list, and with a strong performance today, it snuck its way into the coveted Top 5.

The rocks of Kennedy Park provide visitors with a postcard-worthy view.

3. Brat Stop

Martin Oppegaard and Zach Pereles in front of a timeless Kenosha centerpiece, The Brat Stop.

The Brat Stop gets it done, plain and simple: brats cooked to perfection with a host of topping and sides. It has it all, too: there’s the Brat Stop restaurant, but there’s also a miniature grocery store, an arcade and a performance stage. What more could you want? The food was, in fact, outstanding, and for a modest price. Here’s Martin Oppegaard chowing down on a brat.

It doesn’t get any better than that, folks.

2. Kenosha Yard Sales

One of the best parts of any trip are the little moments and surprises that you can’t predict ahead of time. For us, that surprise was while driving to practice when we stumbled across a large yard sale outside someone’s home. But more importantly, a pristine Brandon Jennings Bucks jersey that was just hanging there. Naturally we had to stop and check it out. Not only were the people incredibly nice (it is Wisconsin after all), but they even had Northwestern football tickets! They were Badgers fans of course, but were planning to visit historic Ryan Field later this year for the Northwestern vs. Wisconsin matchup. It’s the hospitality and crazy small world occurrences like these that are hard to come by in a large city like Chicago, and most importantly, the Jennings jersey was only $2!

Ian McCafferty wearing the infamous Brandon Jennings jersey. For $2, it was the steal of the trip.
From left: Zach Pereles, Martin Oppegaard, Ian McCafferty and Sam Brief

1. Watch Northwestern football

Northwestern’s gonna top this list no matter what advanced stats you want to dig up. S&P+? Gotta go to Northwestern. Football Power Index? Wildcats, all day. Let’s be honest. If Fitzgerald’s squad didn’t make the trip, we wouldn’t either. For this week, Northwestern is Kenosha’s Big Ten team.

We highly recommend you, our readers, give it a whirl, if only for a road trip pit stop. If you’re not trying to simply survive two-a-days like the Wildcat players are, it’s not that bad of a place. We certainly didn’t discover all the wonders of Kenosha, but we tried to give you as much of a taste as we could.

Thanks for an unforgettable day, Kenosha. Until next year...

From left: Ian McCafferty, Sam Brief, Martin Oppegaard and Zach Pereles in front of the Northwestern equipment truck.