Wisconsin – The birth place of the Harley Davidson motorcycle, a company that’s now well over 100 years old and still going strong. As part of my trip to the Women in Travel Summit, the Milwaukee Harley Davidson Museum opened its door, after hours for the attendees to explore. I went, knowing I was seeing it for my Grandad, he’ll never be able to make the trip to see it for himself. He’s nearly 80 years old and still rides around on a Harley.
Not a biker? Don’t worry, 80% of visitors to the Harley Davidson Museum are non riders!
Right at the start of the museum there’s a simple illuminated 10 x 15 foot rectangle on the ground. It represents the size of the shed where the first Harley Davidson motorbike was built. As a blogger or for any small business starting out, it’s certainly inspiring to think that with effort and determination that small little rectangle has expanded into a huge, worldwide company.
So lets go back to the roots of the company. It was founded by William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson. In 1901, William drew the blueprints for an engine that could be attached to a bicycle. It took a further 2 years for the finished product to be complete.
My Favourite Parts of the Milwaukee Harley Davidson Museum
Seeing how the bikes have progressed
The first floor has a display of bikes from the first 5 decades of the company, the ground floor covers from the 1940s to present day. It’s worth speaking to the staff, their knowledge is incredible! One lady told us that the company has actually kept one of every model that’s ever been made!
It’s crazy seeing how, as mentioned above, the very first Harley was literally a push bike with an engine strapped to it, compared to the ones in production nowadays that are HUGE sparkly machines that come with build in music systems and display screens!
There are also galleries showing the bikes that were used for services, such as: the army, the US mail and the police force. They’re not just a cruiser bike!
The Tank Wall
I think I loved this because it satisfied my love of cool art and photography! 100 tanks in all different colours are displayed along one of the museum walls. It ranges from tank designs throughout their history, right to ones that are one of a kind designs by various artists.
The Tsunami Motorbike
In 2011, a Tsunami hit Japan. It washed away a shipping container that had a Harley Motorbike inside. The bike was discovered, 4000 miles away on a beach in Canada. The owner of the bike donated it to the Harley Museum where it now stands on display. It’s covered in rust after being destroyed by the salt water in the sea. It looks strange in amongst all the shiny bikes but it’s now a memorial to those that died during the tsunami.
Of course there’s an exhibit that shows off some of the crazy custom designs! Ones that make you think “how is that even possible to ride?!”. A couple of bikes in this area have also appeared in movies! Part of the Harley Davidson culture is that it embraces personal expression, you can be the person you want to be without being judged!
The Experience Gallery
Of course it’s fun to touch things! In the Experience Gallery there are several different bikes that you can climb on and pose for photos! 2 bikes even have self timers where you can then email the photo to yourself!
Funny Self Timer Story: The first bike you come to is smaller. I set the timer for 20 seconds, climbed on top of the bike and I seemed to have to wait for ages until the photo was taken. The 2nd self timer bike is a bit bigger…I didn’t realise this until I set the timer for 15 seconds and then struggled to get my little leg over it in time! So if you are short like me, take this into consideration!
Tickets: Adult = $20, Child (5-17) = $14
Audio Tours are an extra $4
Opening Hours: 9am – 6pm (Oct to Apr from 10am). Thursday are late night, open until 8pm
Parking: Parking is free and there’s plenty of it! There’s a capacity for something like 1000 motorbikes!
Their functions tent is MASSIVE! People have even got married at the Harley Davidson Museum!
There’s also a restaurant onsite and a gift shop (and 2 pressed penny machines for people like me 😉 )
400 W Canal Street
Milwaukee, WI 53201
Has this post inspired you to hit the open road and head out on an all American road trip? How about Route 66? It’s just as fun in a car!
Thanks again to the Harley Davidson Museum for giving the WITS attendees complimentary entry. I just wish I had longer to explore! As always, opinions are my own.