Riding Through the Past: A Visit to the Harley-Davidson Museum

Visiting the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin is like taking a ride through the past.

Set on over 20 acres of beautifully manicured grounds along the city’s revitalized river front, and with spectacular view of the downtown skyline, the Museum plays host to Bike Night every Thursday from May to September. All Harley-Davidson lovers are invited to ride their hogs to the Museum and put their beloved beauties on display for other like-minded bikers. We were lucky enough to visit during on of these bike nights and we recommend that if you’re planning on visiting, to make sure you do so on one of these evenings. The sheer scope, breadth, and customization of some of these motorcycles is a true pleasure and an object-lesson in genuine love for an auto brand.

From the moment you enter the museum, you’re met with a long gallery of classic Harley-Davidson motorcycles, spanning from the earliest Harley (Serial Number One), to the most recent, organized in chronological order. The display is one long walk from 1903 to 2017, with hundreds of bikes of different makes, models, and colors, that extends throughout the museum. Other amazing highlights include a wall of colorful gas tanks aka the Tank Wall (a favorite of the Instagram crowd), and displays showing the various different types of motorcycles Harley-Davidson has created over the years, including hillclimber bikes and the impressive board track vintage racing bikes that careened around a 45 degree wooden board track without brakes (while reaching speeds of up to 100 mph).

One of the most interesting parts of the museum is the Custom Culture exhibit, showcasing the wild and wonderful world of customized Harley-Davidson bikes. From an owner-created tandem bike to a bedazzled patriotic piece of Americana, the ingenuity and creativity on display here is a true testament to Harley-Davidson’s long-lasting and beloved niche in the automotive world.

Another can’t-miss part of the museum is the Archives and while it does cost extra, it’s certainly worth your while to see the impressive climate-controlled storage facility that holds hundreds of Harley-Davidson motorcycles (almost all of them in pristine, mint-condition) on a series of industrial shelves that move via controls like those found in a college library, so you can, literally, shuffle through the archives and take a ride into the past.

Overall, the museum is an impressively designed, curated, and maintained homage to a classic American brand and the sub-culture that loves it.

To learn more about the museum or to plan your visit, check out the Harley-Davidson Muesum’s official website here.