Nearly 105 years in the making, the Harley-Davidson Museum, located near downtown Milwaukee, opened its doors to the public on Saturday, July 12, 2008. The 130,000-square-foot Museum adds a new dimension to the Harley-Davidson experience. Visitors get a feel for the freedom, camaraderie and pride that Harley-Davidson riders experience every time they fire up their motorcycles.
Every gallery and exhibit is a testimony to the legendary bikes, the people who built them and, of course, every individual who ever felt their powerful rumble on a long stretch of asphalt.
At the H-D Museum you can:
“A few years ago, a girl riding a motorcycle would cause a sensation, but today we see them going down the highway and operating their motor as it should be. We have clubs now that are composed entirely of girl riders; they thoroughly enjoy this grand sport.” - The Motorcyclist, June 1940
Women have been riding Harley-Davidson motorcycles since the early days of the sport. Seeking independence and driven by the desire to do something new and exciting, female riders took to the roads and haven’t looked back.
Since the 1980s, the number of women in motorcycling has increased greatly. More clubs exist than ever before, organizing events and providing camaraderie. Female riders continue to find inspiration in their motorcycles, the open road, and each other.
The Harley-Davidson Museum celebrates women riders in a new display that opened at the beginning of May. It features two unique bikes owned and ridden by female enthusiasts, along with clothing and other memorabilia that help to tell the story of women saddling up.
As you begin your tour of the Harley-Davidson Museum® you'll find yourself on the Museum's second floor staring down a line of bikes, three wide and 180 feet long. These bikes begin to tell the story of the company's first fifty years.
Each bike in the gallery was specifically chosen for its noteworthy heritage, as well as its unique expression of signature Harley-Davidson elements – beauty, performance, functionality and style.
Running along the east side of the second floor, you'll find five interconnected galleries designed to bring the first five decades of Harley-Davidson's rich and illustrious history to life.
Our story opens in the south-most gallery with the motorcycle that is often referred to as "Serial Number One." Dating back to the first years of the company, this is the oldest known Harley-Davidson® motorcycle in existence. Winding your way north through the galleries, the stories of the people, products, culture and history that made the Harley-Davidson Motor Company what it is today continue to unfold.
Highlighted stories include the launching of a global, independently-owned dealer network; the Motor Company's contribution to America's efforts in two world wars; the emergence of color and style in the mid-20s; and the not-to-be-ignored Knucklehead motorcycle that helped define the styling you know today.
Lined up three wide and nose-to-tail, this exhibit features bikes from the late 1940s to the present. These vehicles comprise the continuation of the motorcycle gallery which began on the upper level.
As you meander downstairs to continue your tour, you'll enter another set of galleries which feature some of Harley-Davidson's more recent history.
At the foot of the stairs sits a diorama recreating a window display from a 1951 Harley-Davidson® dealership. Making your way through the galleries, you'll experience some of Harley-Davidson's most successful and most challenging events of recent years – from the launch of the Sportster® model in 1957 to the merger with AMF in 1969.
Not to be missed is the three-screen video that tells the courageous story of all those involved in buying the company back from AMF in order to regain control of Harley-Davidson's destiny.
As you enter this gallery, it is impossible to miss the Exploded Bike display. Separated into a multitude of pieces, this 1940s Knucklehead is a mechanical drawing brought to life. The display highlights signature design and styling elements that define a Harley-Davidson® motorcycle.
Across the north wall resides our version of a "family tree." Set against a wall of orange, the engines on display illustrate the evolution of the Harley-Davidson engine from its earliest to its latest incarnation. Spread throughout the rest of the gallery, you will find interactive exhibits showcasing engine mechanics.
Within the frosted-glass walls of this gallery lie the testaments to Harley-Davidson's neverending drive towards uncompromising quality and design.
From a hand-written design notebook dating back to the 1940s, to the original clay styling prototype of the 2002 V-Rod® motorcycle, you can trace Harley-Davidson's design influence. This exhibit covers the early Engineering Departments as well as the first Styling Department formed in 1963 – all the way to today's Willie G. Davidson Product Development Center.
Competition is the theme for most of this gallery. Faster. Higher. Farther. Those were the words of the day. Standing thirteen feet tall, a replica section of board track sports five vintage Harley-Davidson® motorcycle racers. This exhibit accurately portrays the forty-five-degree board track curve that allowed racers, without brakes, to achieve top speeds of over 100 mph.
From board track racing and hillclimbs, to club rides and endurance events, this gallery pays tribute to the grassroots movements of the early twentieth century that revolved around the camaraderie, thrill-seeking and competitive spirit that drove the motorcycle culture of the day.
This gallery is dedicated to the personal expression and creativity that permeates the Harley-Davidson culture. While riders have been customizing their bikes since the early 1900s, it was not until after the Second World War that individuals started the customization movement we see today.
From stripped-down bikes to attire with attitude, these nonconformists unknowingly created an "outlaw" image. This small movement quickly turned into a cultural phenomenon thanks to Hollywood's sensationalizing storytelling machine. Make sure to see the "King Kong," a custom creation with two engines that measures nearly 13 feet long!
For some of you, this is the moment you've been waiting for. That's right, go ahead and swing your leg over one of the many motorcycles that inhabit the gallery.
Chosen for their diverse scale, feel the history, the bikes in this gallery are here for you to sit on, touch and admire. And while sitting in the saddle of one of these legendary rides, enjoy a video that allows you to experience the great roads of America and the camaraderie of riding that is at the heart of the Harley-Davidson experience.
Directions & Parking
400 W Canal St
Milwaukee, WI 53201
LOCATION AND HOURS
Monday - Wednesday 10 AM - 6 PM
Thursday 10 AM - 8 PM
Friday - Sunday 10 AM - 6 PM
Located across from the Museum
Monday - Wednesday 10 AM - 6:30 PM
Thursday 10 AM - 8:30 PM
Friday - Sunday 10 AM - 6:30 PM
Accessible Guest Services
The Harley-Davidson Museum is disabled accessible and meets all A.D.A. requirements.Please feel free to bring your own wheelchair. A limited quantity of courtesy wheelchairs are available in the lobby located at the main entrance. They are offered on a first-come, first-served basis. Assisted listening devices are also available at the admission counter.
Baby strollers are welcome. We recommend smaller strollers to navigate crowded areas more easily.
Conveniently located off I-94, you'll find the Museum at the crossroads of 6th and Canal Streets. Free parking for approximately 500 cars or 1,000 motorcycles is available on thestreets of the Museum grounds and in the Parking Gardens located across the street from the Museum. Entry to the Parking Gardens is from Canal Street. Overnight parking orcamping is not permitted on-site.
Planning a trip to the Museum? Download a printable trip guide (PDF, 1.5MB) that includes directions and parking information.