By Kay Howell – A few weekends ago, I had a realization. I hadn’t traveled outside of Milwaukee since winter break. Instead, I’d been lost in the Bermuda Triangle of graduate school: class, work, homework.
“Let’s drive up to Canada!” I suggested to my boyfriend, passport already in hand. An hour later, he’d talked me down off the proverbial northern ledge and convinced me that a day trip to Kenosha would be a better way to break out of my graduate school routine. The first sunny Saturday morning that came along, we piled in the car and headed south, eager to get away from the city and all our corresponding responsibilities. Here are just a few highlights, in case you need a break from studying and want to take a day-cation just a short drive away:
- Brunch at the cheese castle
Okay, this technically is not one of Kenosha’s charms. However, we discovered that the cheese castles along the highway serve the best brunch. And it’s free! You just have to be willing to elbow your way past hordes of tourists and make it up to sample platters before all the cheddar, Gouda, and brie is gone. We were more than willing to do so, and enjoyed the spoils of victory until we couldn’t stuff one more delicious piece of cheese into our faces. And then we bought some cheese curds for the road, because you can never have too much cheese on a trip through Wisconsin.
- Lighthouses and beaches
Awash in the thrill of storming the cheese castle, we were pumped up and ready for our Kenosha adventure to begin. After reaching downtown, we set out in search of the Southport Light Station. Built in 1866 from Cream City brick, the light station sits right at the edge of a park and a sandy beach. The light keeper’s house and wasn’t open—they probably don’t get a lot of visitors in late February. But after prowling the grounds, we set off across the beach. Here’s the beautiful thing about Kenosha: There are lots of dog owners, and they all bring their friendly canines to the beach on Saturday mornings. Next, we braved the wind and walked out onto the pier to visit lighthouse #2, the bright red Pierhead Lighthouse. The view of Lake Michigan from the end of the pier was beautiful, and the thirty mile-an-hour gusts of wind added an exciting element of peril to our walk.
- Common Grounds coffee shop
Obviously, a long morning of marauding through cheese castles and traipsing around the shoreline left us exhausted and hungry. Fortunately, we found a quaint little coffee shop not far from the beach. Set up in a converted old house, Common Grounds coffee shop looks small from the outside, but actually has several rooms and an expansive deck. The shop was crowded that morning, but we eagle-eyed a spot by the window until the couple there left, swooping in before their seats got cold. The best part about this café? There’s a room specifically for ages thirteen and up, so it’s quiet place to read a book or do some homework. And their sandwiches are delicious, although, they could use a little more cheese.
- The pig playing a saxophone
It’s not a real pig playing a real saxophone. It’s just a sculpture. Kenosha is not quite that magical.
- The Kenosha Civil War Museum
Fortified with coffee and sandwiches, we were ready to learn. Both the Public Museum and the Civil War Museum are located right down by the waterfront, in part of a larger park. With time to only see one, we opted for the Civil War museum. I wasn’t sure what to expect; I love museums—usually, I only leave when my feet begin to ache from hours of standing and staring at things. However, a museum about the Civil War seemed like a grim way to spend a sunny Saturday afternoon. It actually wasn’t. The museum is very new, and many of the exhibits featured interactive displays. We came away having learned a lot, and we both agreed that the museum did a good job of honoring and telling the story of Midwestern soldiers without glorifying the war.
At the end of the day, we were tired, full of cheese and history, and ready to go back to Milwaukee. So if you’re feeling stuck and need a break from school, Kenosha is a great place to take a day trip and get away from studying. Just make sure to get to the cheese castles early, while the samples are still fresh!