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Good For Kids
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This motorcycle actually came from Japan, washed up with debris from the Tsunami in 2011.
Closest available address
400 West Canal Street, Milwaukee, WI 53201
May-Sep. 9am- 6pm (Thursday 9am- 8pm) Oct.-April 10am- 6pm (Thursday 10am- 8pm)
Best time to visit
The Harley-Davidson Museum is a motorcycle museum showcasing a diverse collection of over 450 Harley Davidson motorcycles as well as related equipment and merchandise. In addition to the museum itself, there is a gift shop and a restaurant at the three building facility in downtown Milwaukee. The Harley-Davidson Company is over a hundred years old and is the sole surviving motorcycle company from its era. Harley riding enthusiasts are extremely loyal to the company, and owner groups can be found worldwide.
The company was established by three Davidson brothers and William Harley in 1907, but the first motorcycle was actually built in 1901-1903 in the fast growing industrial city of Milwaukee. Interestingly, the first motorcycles were essentially bicycles with engines – far different from the motorcycles of today. Harley enjoyed rapid growth boosted by police and military sales, and by 1920 the company had become the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world. Harley experienced ups and downs over the years, but managed to survive when all other domestic motorcycle producers failed. Perhaps its greatest test came in the early 1980s when, shortly after a management group purchased the company from a conglomerate, Harley nearly went bankrupt. It survived by a whisker, aided by US tariffs on Japanese imports. The company had more challenges in 2009 with strikes and workforce reductions, but again pulled through, helped by strong owner loyalty and dominance in the heavyweight bike category.
The museum is primarily on two floors. A third floor has a small display area with a motorcycle workshop and storage area. The main floor shows a progression of bikes over the years along with related equipment like engines and gas tanks. A section about bike racing and record-setting riders was the most interesting display on the main floor. The downstairs area had more contemporary bikes and also some video clips about bikes in popular culture. Another display area downstairs had owner statements about their enthusiasm for motorcycling. At the end of the exhibits, about 6 bikes were made available to sit on and imagine one's life on the open road. If time is limited, the downstairs section should be of greater interest to most people because the bikes and displays are more contemporary and relevant and fun.
As this is a motorcycle museum, it will most appeal to motorcycle enthusiasts, obvious, but true. If you are not that into motorcycles, than forking over $20 for admission does not make a lot of sense. This is not to say that the museum does not have an impressive collection; it does. Many of the bikes are beautifully restored and thoughtfully displayed. More interpretive signage would have been helpful though, and an introduction movie would have been a big plus. Some of the displays downstairs did have videos but more would have been better. If you like bikes, than a visit here will be a solid choice for a few hours. But, if motorcycles don't get your motor running to head out on the highway, than your time and money will be better spent elsewhere.
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