Looking forward to a perfect family day escape from Covid-19 confinement. Think about a short trip to Milwaukee to enjoy the Harley-Davidson Museum, where history, innovation, and entrepreneurship are on display. The lobby has a giant picture that will seem so familiar to all of us currently enduring Covid-19. It is the 1919 Second Annual Harley Davidson Dealer’s Conference in San Francisco. All participants are wearing face masks while they endured the Spanish Flu Epidemic.
The Museum opened in 2008 and is so sparkling clean with a striking exterior and interior. It is stylish industrial modern architecture with free very accessible parking. You are welcomed to the campus with comfortable Adirondack chairs gracing the entrance. They have beautiful park landscaping, a patio with picnic table benches outside facing the river. The Davidson family gifted a sculpture just beyond the museum entrance called Ride Free! It is a spectacular art installation of a dynamic hill climber motorcyclist rousing all Harley-Davidson enthusiasts and a perfect photo opportunity.
They have adopted all CDC sanitary standards and have enhanced safety measures as they are welcoming back their guests with masks to their campus. Children have handles to spin, buttons to push, motorcycle toys displayed plus two video games featuring the Evel Knievel Challenge. The Museum is open daily 10 a.m.-5:00 p.m. on Thursday 10 a.m.-8:00 p.m. Do not miss The Shop where you can purchase everything Harley-Davidson, clothes, gadgets, purses, jewelry even infant and toddler gifts with the distinctive wings monogram. Hours are Daily: 10am – 5:30 p.m. (Thursday, 10:00 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.).
Plan on dining at the MOTOR BAR & RESTAURANT a Levy enterprise. Sunday-Wednesday: 11:00 a.m.- 6:00 p.m. Thursday: 11:00 a.m.- 8:00 p.m. Friday & Saturday: 11:00 a.m.- 7:00 p.m. They feature American Diner Comfort Foods such as specialty burgers, mac & cheese, Wisconsin beer brats, Teriyaki wings, house made hand battered best cheese curds, and more. We each had burgers. Mine was the breakfast burger with an egg, crisp bacon, cheese, tomato, onion and lettuce. I upgraded to Mac & Cheese for my side, so worth it, for all its cheesy goodness. My sister went for the fat boy burger and tomato basil soup. She loved it , but could not finish it. We shared a generous banana cream pie desert in a large Mason Jar. There is always room for dessert. The restaurant is located on the banks of the Menominee River. You can eat inside or out watching motorboats and kayaks paddle toward the Milwaukee River while cyclists cruise by along the trail.
When you are touring the HD Museum please consider adding the audio tour as it enhances the experience. If not, you will miss so many interesting stories like the Police Officer’s confrontation with an escaped lion, the first airplane motorcycle crash, or the recognition of women motorcycle riders and clubs early on in HD’s history. The 1920 Sport Model was specifically marketed to women. Also before you plan your visit, check out their numerous special events such as Building A Milwaukee Icon: Harley Davidson’s Juneau Factory. Recently discovered architectural drawings and photographs demonstrate the company’s phenomenal growth from a local business in 1909 building 1000 motorcycles to an International success manufacturing 27,000 motorcycles in 1920. By 1900 Milwaukee was known as: “Machine Shop of the World.” If you have your motorcycle endorsement, the museum is offering Saturday demo rides of 2020 Harley-Davidsons.
This was my first experience touring the H-D Museum. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised with how welcoming the staff was. They opened fifteen minutes early and the hostess directed us to the ticket windows cleverly framed by Harley-Davidson Windshields. She explained to us that we would turn our tickets in at the second floor and receive our headphones for the audio tour. There are stairs and/or elevators. Mark, a circulating guide was so knowledgeable and generously shared key points and some fascinating stories with all patrons. His favorite motorcycle was stored in a shipping crate in Japan. A Tsunami swept it out to sea 4000 miles away landing in Canada. It is damaged but the chrome still gleams. Harley-Davidson tracked the owner in Japan by its vehicle identification number. They contacted the owner and offered a free replacement new Harley-Davidson Motorcycle. The owner declined, so the bike is on display for all to see.
My favorite bike was what one museum visitor loudly exclaimed, “Check this out. This is the the first crotch rocket!” It is a stunning turquoise unusually shaped motorcycle from 1936 EL Factory Streamline OHV V-Twin. In 1937 this bike broke the land speed record 136.183 miles per hour in Daytona Beach, Florida. Bill Jackson, who manages the archives, favorite bike is a 1939 ULH because of the two-toned paint scheme that adds to the low profile body. He states “History is at the center of our customer passion.” These stories and the history is what makes this museum unique and a must see.
Harley-Davidson Museum 400 Canal Street, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53201 Phone: 1 (877) 436-8738
Photos: Courtesy of Harley-Davidson