I traveled to Milwaukee with my friend from Chicago in early May 2013. The main purposes were obviously Harley-Davidson and breweries, which made Milwaukee famous. I write about my Milwaukee trip separated by each category, rather than dividing by each day.
Needless to say, Harley-Davidson is many men’s and women’s dream machine. The original bold and strong body shape, V-twin engines with the original sound, and long production history. Harley is American classic and beauty.
We visited Harley-Davidson Museum on the second day. The museum was located just across our hotel, Ramada Milwaukee Downtown, over the river and less than 10 minutes walk.
Let me write the result first. Harley-Davidson Museum was much more than an ordinal museum. The museum size, the volume of exhibited motorcycles, the exhibition style, and quality, explanations, entertainment, and dining….everything exceeded regular museums. Plus the museum had superior customer service. It was my first time to visit a museum made guests feel welcomed like a home upon entering. Not only the female greeting staffs at the door and ticket window, but also big male staffs with tattoos all over their arms, just like could be imagined from “biker type”. Very friendly, courteous and informational. We might be able to experience wonderful service because we went to the museum soon after the opening time, but I could see all staffs were trained by the museum and company very well. Harley-Davidson Museum showed what a corporate museum should be as the face of America’s leading corporation.
I also learned an important thing as a person in the same hospitality industry. My friend and I spent almost 5 hours at the Harley-Davidson Museum, including lunch and gift shop. I hardly dine at museum restaurants because foods are usually expensive and not much interesting. I hardly buy at museum stores because I’m not much interested in souvenir shopping. The reason we visited both was the exhibitions were so substantial and made me feel like we wanted to experience the museum more. In any industry, I think it’s important to make the main part substantial and superb to make customers spend more money for additional parts. Additional options are enhancements of the main portion, not only giving customers variety choices overall. Without being more than average in the main, it will be difficult to get the customer’s interest on the additions. Harley-Davidson Museum just proved that to us. The result was staying at the museum for 5 hours. It was my record, I hadn’t been at a museum more than 2 hours. Lunch at the museum was pretty good (please see on upcoming next chapter). I thought museum shop would probably need more effort on affordable products (but it seems like they developed souvenir collections according to their website).
As written earlier, the museum was huge, like a medium size airport terminal. From the beginning, we were knocked out by the number of cool vintage Harley displays on the large exhibition area. How many motorcycles did they have in the area? The classic motorcycles were displayed in the order of years from their first model in 1903 up to 1947, 3 bikes per row, on the second floor (museum entrance and ticket windows were located on the first floor but the museum route was started from the second floor).The models after 1950’s were mainly displayed on the first floor. Each motorcycle was very impressive with different shape and features, we look at each very carefully and were impressed. We paid extra and rented audio tour. The audio tour is highly recommended to enjoy more at the museum with better knowledge in addition to the information board of each display.
The museum wasn’t only about the displays. We could experience some other fun at the museum. We could draw, ride on both toy bikes and real big Harley…the museum gave us the important opportunity to feel like being back to childhood.
Personally, as a Japanese, one of the most impressive exhibitions was a broken Harley washed out to Vancouver Island, Canada from Fukushima, Japan, by tsunami occurred by a big earthquake in 2011. I knew about the exhibition before by several Japanese newspapers. When the broken motorcycle was found in Canada and could identify the owner in Japan, who fortunately survived, Harley-Davidson Japan volunteered the owner free restoration. The motorcycle owner had already purchased a new Harley and requested Harley-Davidson to display the “tsunami” motorcycle at their museum in Milwaukee for earthquake awareness instead. When I heard the story, I assumed the “tsunami” motorcycle would probably be displayed at the edge or shadow of the museum at a small area. My assumption was because the request was just for one single customer, even the person was an earthquake victim and a regular customer. There should be many customers had wishes about their special machines in this world. My expectation was wrong. The “tsunami” Harley was located at the relatively center of the first floor, and the display was big with a large board of explanation and map. The motorcycle was also contained inside of a large clear box to prevent further damage. The exhibition was very visible and many people seemed to be shocked by the power of the tsunami. I felt the Harley-Davidson showed how they treat even single customer very well. I was very impressed.
HARLEY-DAVIDSON MUSEUM : http://www.harley-davidson.com/content/h-d/en_US/home/museum.html
ADDRESS: 400 West Canal Street, Milwaukee, WI 53201
TEL: 877-436-8738 (toll-free)
- MILWAUKEE, WI (PART 2): MAY 10-12, 2013 (FRI-SUN). Beer & Food Paradise
- MILWAUKEE, WI (PART 3): MAY 10-13, 2013 (FRI-MON). Overall Impressions