Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, is home to a variety of historical museums, charming pubs and inns, recreational sites and stunning natural beauty with vistas that are year-round attractions. With lots to do for families, art lovers, and outdoor enthusiasts, Manitowoc is an exceptional place to visit. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.
1.Wisconsin Maritime Museum at Manitowoc
© Wisconsin Maritime Museum at Manitowoc
The Wisconsin Maritime Museum at Manitowoc is located on the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan. The museum spans 60,000 square feet of high tech, interactive exhibits designed for families and marine enthusiasts of all ages. The museum is the premier destination for exploring the distinct maritime history of shipbuilders, sailors, and submariners of Wisconsin.
The exhibits celebrate the heritage of the Manitowoc, Two Rivers regions and the submarines built during the Second World War. The museum boasts a multimedia theatre, model ships, an operating steam engine and the opportunity to tour the World War II submarine, the USS Cobia.
75 Maritime Drive, Manitowoc, WI, 54220, Phone: 866-724-2356 or 920-684-0218
2.West of The Lake Gardens – West Foundation
© Travel Wisconsin
West of The Lake Gardens is a 6 acre manicured garden property acquired in 1934 by John and Ruth West, philanthropists from Manitowoc Wisconsin. The garden, formerly a streetcar right of way, was transformed after its purchase and has evolved from only tulip beds, once growing more than 30, 000 tulips, to today's elaborate Eastern influenced beds of cacti, succulents, roses, and colored gravel beds. The original home, designed by John West, nicknamed the "Shoebox Estate" for its similarities to a Frank Lloyd Wright design, is another feature of the property. The garden blooms from May to October.
915 Memorial Drive, Manitowoc, WI 54220, Phone 920-684-6110
3.Rahr West Art Museum
© Rahr West Art Museum
The Rahr West Art Museum is a heritage home, built in the late 1800s by former Manitowoc mayor, Joseph Vila. After Vila's death, it was restored by Rahr Malting president, Reinhardt Rahr, in 1905. The house is an impressive 13 room mansion with original architectural features and furnishings. The museum is home to art and sculpture from around the world including the Simon Schwartz collection of Chinese Ivories, spanning 300 years of history, an antique doll collection and, works of art from Georgia O’Keefe, Picasso, Andy Warhol, and Isadore Bonheur. There are special exhibitions throughout the year.
610 - 616 N 8th Street, Manitowoc WI, Phone 920-686-3090
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4.Pinecrest Historical Village
© Manitowoc County Historical Society
This 40-acre piece of farmland was donated to the Manitowoc Historical Society in 1977. Since then, it has been transformed into the Pinecrest Historical Village celebrating the history of the Manitowoc region. It features more than 30 structures gathered from across the country and relocated to the Village site. The museum property is divided into three sections; the Newcomer area, dedicated to the 1800s, The Growing Community, with buildings from the 1900s and, the Civic Centre with structures that re-tell the story of transformation from a stagecoach stop to a lively ballroom and boarding house.
54220, 924 Pinecrest Road, Manitowoc WI 54220, Phone 920-684-4445
5.Sputnik Crash Site
At the intersection of 8th Street and Park, Manitowoc WI, is a brass ring marking the exact spot where aa 20-pound piece of Sputnik IV, the famed Russian Satellite, crashed on September 5, 1962. Most of Sputnik burned in the atmosphere except for this one piece that landed in the middle of town. The brass ring is a memorial to the crash and the embarrassment suffered to the Russian space program after Sputnik failed to remain in orbit. Visitors come to the site to visit the brass ring, learn about the crash, and celebrate the annual Sputnikfest and other extraterrestrial events.
8th Street and Park Street, Manitowoc WI
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6.Henry Shuette Park
© City of Manitowoc
Henry Shuette Park, located along the picturesque Manitowoc River, is over 65 acres of natural beauty and recreational space. The park offers activities and facilities that range from picnic shelters, fishing spots, walking trails, a canoe and kayak launch, and fitness stations along the scenic river. Facility and equipment rentals are offered through the website. Cross country ski enthusiasts can enjoy the trails in winter months. A portion of Henry Shuette park trails belongs to the Ice Age Trail Community which tracing ice age formations across Wisconsin.
3700 Broadway Street, Manitowoc WI, 54220, Phone 920-686-3580
7.Silver Creek Park
© City of Manitowoc
Silver Creek Park sits on the shores of Lake Michigan. The park is over 71 acres and hosts some of the most picturesque views and topography in Wisconsin. Features of the park include open wooded areas, green hills, a winter sports area, fishing, skiing, sheltered pavilions and even a 36-hole disc golf course featuring a 6ft lighthouse on the 22nd hole surrounded by lake views on three sides. Silver Creek runs through the park with beaches and picnic areas dotted along its route. Facilities may be booked online.
3001 S., 10th Street, Manitowoc WI - Phone 920-686-3580
8.YMCA - Two Rivers
The Young Men’s Christian Association was started in 1844 in London, England. The mission of the Manitowoc YMCA is in keeping with the original spirit of the association, “To put Christian principles into practice through programs which build healthy spirit, mind, and body for all”. The Manitowoc YMCA brings the spirit of community to residents through recreational, youth and seniors programming. The center offers year-round programs that focus on fitness and well-being with activities ranging from aquatics, sports like tennis, basketball and gymnastics, classes on meditation, healthy living, weight training for seniors, martial arts and programs for individuals with special needs.
205 Maritime Drive, Manitowoc WI, Phone 920-682-0341
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9.Manitowoc County Ice Centre
Manitowoc County Ice Centre is an indoor, temperature controlled ice skating facility. The program was originally started in the early '80s inside the cattle barn on the Manitowoc County Fairgrounds. With little more than 20-30 participants to start with, the facility grew in popularity so by 1995, the new indoor facility was built. Programs at MCIC include figure skating, hockey, recreational skating as well as learn-to-skate programs. The Manitowoc County Figure Skating Club calls MCIC its home.
4931 Expo Drive, Manitowoc WI
, Michigan beaches
© Courthouse Pub
The Courthouse Pub, originally the F. Willinger Beer Hall, was renamed the Court Cafe during prohibition. In the 1930s the Pekel family purchased the property and renamed the establishment the Pekel Colonial Inn. Over the years, the exterior of the building has been remodeled but much of the colonial look of the interior remains untouched. The Courthouse Pub is now also a microbrewery featuring seasonal brews and customer favorites.
1001 South 8th Street, Manitowoc WI, 54220
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10 Best Things to Do in Manitowoc, Wisconsin
- Wisconsin Maritime Museum at Manitowoc, Photo: Wisconsin Maritime Museum at Manitowoc
- West of The Lake Gardens – West Foundation, Photo: Travel Wisconsin
- Rahr West Art Museum, Photo: Rahr West Art Museum
- Pinecrest Historical Village, Photo: Manitowoc County Historical Society
- Sputnik Crash Site, Photo: Gorodenkoff/stock.adobe.com
- Henry Shuette Park, Photo: City of Manitowoc
- Silver Creek Park, Photo: City of Manitowoc
- YMCA - Two Rivers, Photo: Microgen/stock.adobe.com
- Manitowoc County Ice Centre, Photo: Ross/stock.adobe.com
- Courthouse Pub, Photo: Courthouse Pub
- Cover Photo: Henryk Sadura/stock.adobe.com
Attraction Spotlight: Wisconsin Maritime Museum
The Wisconsin Maritime Museum is a museum situated in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Spanning 16,000 square feet, the facility is the biggest museum of its kind in the Midwest. The mission of the museum is to educate the public about the maritime heritage of Wisconsin and the Great Lakes of North America. It features interactive exhibits, World War II submarines, original artifacts, and archived materials. The museum is also dedicated to gathering and preserving maritime artifacts, advocating research, and carrying out local environmental education programs.
During World War II, Manitowoc was one of the main US hubs for building military submarines. As a result, a group of civic leaders and former submariners wanted to permanently display a World War II submarine in Manitowoc as a tribute. The museum was established in 1968, and was originally located in the building of the former YMCA of Manitowoc. The doors opened to the public in 1969, and in 1991, the museum relocated to its current residence on 75 Maritime Drive, Manitowoc. In 1970 the United States Navy gifted the US.Cobia to the museum. This Manitowoc-built submarine now resides in the Manitowoc River.
USS Cobia: Below the Surface: A Submarine Simulation Experience is an exhibit featuring a submarine simulator and a theater. The simulator recreates an actual battle sequence from th.Cobia’s war patrol log. Films shown in the theater detail the six war patrols of th.Cobia, the building of the 28 Manitowoc submarines throughout the war, and the vital role of the Navy submarines during World War II. Sailor IDs on display can also be studied to learn about the duties of the crew on board th.Cobia.
Those on the US.Cobia tour can peer through the periscope of a Manitowoc-built submarine and explore the Rasher Concourse, where an inside view of a Mark 14 torpedo is presented.
The Children’s Waterway Room, presented by Burger Boat Company, features hands-on construction activities. Children can choose from launching toy boats onto a scaled-down Lake Superior, maneuvering the waterfalls of the Wisconsin River, or sailing through the locks at Sault Ste. Marie.
The Little Lakefarer’s Room presented by Aurora Healthcare is a further hands-on, child-friendly environment for children and parents to enjoy. Visitors are able to play maritime games and look through the line of sight of a periscope.
The Maritime History Gallery displays how shipping and shipbuilding were some of the first industries to form in the early beginnings of Wisconsin. Visitors can tour the old streets of Manitowoc, where sailors, traders, and shipbuilders resided over 150 years ago.
The Model Ship Gallery & Car Ferries Exhibit displays a model of th.Edmund Fitzgerald, now a wreck sitting deep within the seas of Lake Superior. Also included are an array of scale models, half-hull models, and quarter boards, detailing the old freighters and sailing ships that sailed the Great Lakes. The Car Ferries Exhibit presents former car ferries of Lake Michigan, such a.City of Saginaw 31 an.City of Midland 41.
The museum houses a steam engine from the vintage car ferry, th.Chief Wawatam. Dating back to the early 1900s, the steam engine weighs 65 tons and was once used to power the ferry that brought rail cars, vehicles, and passengers across the Straits of Mackinac.
The Wisconsin-built Boat Gallery, presented by the Manitowoc Company, displays actual Wisconsin-built boats such as th.Skybird from 1947 and th.Lady Isabel from 1907. The collection also features hunting craft, outboard motors, and many other locally built boats.
Visitors can undertake the role of detective biologist when they enter the Suspect Species Investigation Lab. Designed to educate those interested the ecosystems in the Great Lakes, this interactive exhibit presents a mystery to solve by deciphering a number of clues.
Ongoing Programs and Education
A special overnight educational program is run by the museum, where groups can spend the night aboard the US.Cobia. Included within the program is a tour of the non-public areas of the submarine, access to the museum, and a selection of educational activities. The program also provides the opportunity for Boy Scouts to work towards an American Heritage Merit Badge with this stay.
Educators at the museum offer a variety of educational programs for school groups. These include a tour of the US.Cobia as well as guided tours of the museum. The museum educators can provide pre and post-visit activities to maximize learning from these visits.
75 Maritime Dr, Manitowoc, WI 54220, Phone: 920-684-0218
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