By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Jul 18, 2003 at 5:21 AM

{image1}If like me, you usually bypass Kenosha on the way to Chicago, there's more than one good reason to head to the city's historic downtown.

I'll mention it first, but won't suggest that the best reason to go to Kenosha is to leave again, but why not park for free on the streets near the Metra Station and take the commuter train into Chicago next time you're headed to the Windy City? It's cheap and easy and you can avoid parking or traffic hassles in Chitown. The depot is located at 5414-13th Avenue. Call (262) 653-0141. Parking at the depot is $1, free on Sundays.

But, really, go to Kenosha to experience Kenosha.

Stroll the shops along 6th Avenue downtown and DO NOT miss Mike Bjorn's Fine Clothing and Museum, 5614 6th Avenue. Bjorn, in addition to all sorts of unusual ephemera -- from old photos to model airplanes and more -- sells tuxes and suits (free socks, belt, tie and shirt with every one!). (262) 652-0648.

Enjoy a coffee at one of downtown's popular cafes. There's the beloved Common Grounds, 5159 6th Ave., Juice & Jitters, which serves Alterra Coffee, 5610 7th Ave., and Kristi's Cafe, 5537 6th Ave., which sits on a corner right across from the trolley route.

Speaking of the trolley, there's no better 15 minutes of fun in Kenosha than a ride along the full circle of the electric streetcar, which connects the Civic Center Historic District, the lakefront and marina, Metra station and other attractions. Rides on the refurbished cars (purchased from Toronto, which explains the signs that say the cars are supported by funds from the province of Ontario) are just 25¢ and offer a good, quick orientation of downtown Kenosha.

You'll pass the Kenosha Public Museum, 5500-1st Ave., along the lakefront, has collections of decorative arts and natural history, including the skeleton of a woolly mammoth uncovered not far away.

In the shadow of the 55-ft. tall, nearly 150-year-old Southpost Lighthouse is the Kenosha History Center, 220-51st Pl., which contains information and artifacts on the 175 years of Kenosha history.

Check out the beautiful library square on the southern end of downtown and the palatial homes that line the grassy square. The whole neighborhood -- where you can also visit Kemper Center's historic buildings overlooking Lake Michigan, 6501-3rd Ave. and Harmony Hall, 6315-3rd Ave., the international headquarters of the Barbershop Harmony Society -- is worth a look.

Out of downtown, but on the way, if you take the Hwy. 158 exit off I-94, is Tenuta's Delicatessen and Liquors, 3203-52nd St. The large grocery and liquor store, which also has a big deli and a wide selection of cigars, is one of the centers of the Italian-American community (another is the Italian-American Club a little further east on 52nd).

Italian-Americans make up 24 percent of the city's population and Kenosha has been a remarkable incubator for Italian-American acting talent, including Don Ameche, Daniel J. Travanti ("Hill Street Blues"), Al Molinaro ("Happy Days"), Concetta Tomei ("Providence") and Mark Ruffalo ('You Can Count On Me," "Windtalkers"). Tenuta's is where they all go to stock up on fresh and dried pasta, sauces, antipasti, wines, beer, Italian cookies, sodas, cheeses, prosciutto and more. Particularly interesting is the photo gallery in the lobby, with images from the shop's long history.

Outside, you can get a piping hot grilled sausage or Muff-Lotta sandwich. (262) 657-9001.

Also out of downtown are the Jelly Belly factory, Dairyland Greyhound Track, Bristol Renaissance Faire, a pair of outlet malls, the famous Brat Stop and more. Contact the Kenosha Convention and Visitors Bureau to learn more about our sister to the south. (800) 654-7309.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.