The Milwaukee 7 was formed in September 2005 to create a regional, cooperative economic development platform for the seven counties of southeastern Wisconsin. In this OnMilwaukee.com series, Gregg Hoffmann profiles each of the counties and highlights their unique attractions and appeal.
Kenosha County, home to the world headquarters of both Jockey International and Snap-on Incorporated, serves as the gateway to the Milwaukee 7 region and the entire state for thousands of visitors from Chicago and elsewhere.
Interstate 94 has a steady stream of northbound traffic on most weekends, especially during summer months. Kenosha County has prepared itself well in recent years, to make sure that at least a percentage of those travelers stop and explore.
Many of those visitors make their first stop the Prime Outlets at Pleasant Prairie. More than 90 outlet stores offer brand name products in the mall at I-94 and Hwy. 165.
If you go east into the City of Kenosha, you'll find a variety of attractions, starting with a renovated marina and lakefront access.
The Electric Streetcar Circulator includes five beautifully restored electric streetcars which travel a two-mile loop. The route provides a scenic tour of the Lake Michigan shoreline, HarborPark, two historic districts, the downtown business district and the METRA train station. The fare is 25 cents.
If you're in town during the summer months, the bike races at Washington Park are a must-see. The facility there is the oldest operating velodrome in the U.S.
If you prefer indoor activities, the Dinosaur Discovery Museum, Kenosha History Center and Kenosha Public Museum offer great tours and exhibits.
You can enjoy the arts throughout the Kenosha area. The Anderson Arts Center, Carthage College, Kenosha Art Association, Kenosha Pops Concerts, Lakeside Players, Inc. at the Rhode Center for the Arts, Lemon Street Gallery & Artspace, Inc., Pollard Gallery and the University of Wisconsin-Parkside provide performing arts and exhibits. LakeView RecPlex & IcePlex, adjoining Prairie Springs Park, is another highlight.
Kenosha is proud of its reputation for Italian heritage and numerous notable Italian-Americans actors hail from Kenosha, including Don Ameche, Al Molinaro, Daniel J. Travanti, Mark Ruffalo and Ellen Travolta. You can enjoy Italian cuisine at several restaurants in the city. Villa D'Carlo is this writer's favorite. Mangia, 5717 Sheridan Rd., is arguably, though, the best and most well known restaurant in the County.
But, you need not limit yourself to that one ethnic variety. Other excellent restaurants are throughout the city. Ray Radigan's and the Hobnob are two traditional places that top the list.
As you head west out of the city, you can stop at Dairyland Greyhound Park to enjoy some racing and, during the summer, at the Bristol Rennaisance Faire where "Knights are Noble, Maids are Merry and Turkey Legs are Titanic."
When you travel west of I-94, you're into the area where this writer was raised. Outdoor recreation is plentiful, headed by Bong Recreation Area. Here you could spend a day hiking, hunting or fishing.
If you're a golfer, Petrifying Springs, Brighton Dale, Spring Valley, Bristol Oaks and other courses in the county offer fun, challenging layouts. Don't miss the links-inspired Strawberry Creek and the Donald Ross-designed Kenosha Country Club courses too.
Paddock, Hooker, Silver and Twin Lakes are great lakes for boating, fishing, swimming and other recreation. The communities around them also offer small town atmosphere, with plenty of services and places to eat.
If this writer had one day to spend in Kenosha County, it would start at the beach or HarborPark to watch the sun rise over Lake Michigan. Then, it would be breakfast at Frank's Diner near Harbor Park.
Celebrities who have visited Frank's Diner over the years, include Bela Lugosi, Duke Ellington, Liberace and the Lawrence Welk Orchestra. Portions are generous so bring your appetite. The food is great and the service is sassy. The motto at Franks Diner is "Order What Your Want ... Eat What You Get."
Another historic place to eat is Andrea's Jack's Café on 60th Street. It has a historic soda fountain.
Fill out the morning by making some tours of one or more of those museums previously mentioned, then I would head west. If I had time, I'd play golf at either Pets or Spring Valley, which was my home course at one time. Any of the courses will offer a good round.
If I had company that preferred to fish, I'd hit Paddock Lake to wet a line. Again, any of the lakes offer good fishing, depending on the time of the year.
I'd try to make time for a hike at Bong or one of my longtime favorites, Fox River Park. between Silver and Twins lakes.
Then, watch the sun set over Lake Mary or Lake Elizabeth (the two Twin Lakes), and stop for dinner at the Stage Stop in Wilmot. It's an upscale, legendary steakhouse -- family owned and operated for six generations -- making it Wisconsin's oldest tap and dining room.
As you can see, one day isn't nearly long enough. So, why not take advantage of the many accommodations in Kenosha County and stay longer.
If you want to locate there, and maybe even establish a business, the Kenosha Area Business Alliance and other agencies can help. Kenosha County is ideally located between Chicago and Milwaukee, making it a good place to live if you commute to one of those larger urban areas, or a good place to establish a business to take advantage of the location.
There was a time that Kenosha County was primarily known for American Motors, and little else. It was a place to drive through as you headed farther north.
But, that time has long passed. The county now is a diverse, interesting place to visit or live, while still serving as the gateway to the region and state.