Amur tigers stretch out in the sun, red kangaroos hop leisurely along, and orangutans groom each other in the shade while tree pythons and box turtles roam their tanks, oblivious of each other and everything outside. Nearby, budgies, storks, cormorants, and screech owls roost on perches and soar over the heads of their human visitors. These creatures join a menagerie of more than 250 animals—representing 76 different species—that mingle across 32 acres of natural habitat at the Racine Zoo. Together with their staff counterparts, these animals speak to the zoo’s efforts toward conservation and strengthening the bond between humans and their wild neighbors.
Though they can get up close to animal enclosures, visitors also explore more immersive wildlife education through seasonal and year-round attractions. Giraffe encounters allow guests to participate in the supervised feeding of a masai giraffe, and Animal Chats prompt visitors to ask questions of the caretakers, such as how they feed the zoo's carnivores and which of the herbivores prefer italian dressing. At the Benstead Discovery Center, guests greet reptiles and amphibians and watch fish swim in a 2,000-gallon saltwater tank. In the open-air Norco Aviary, visitors can behave as flocks of Australian budgies, rosellas, or cockatiels. Children, meanwhile, frolic across the two-story climbing structure, slides, and zipline at the PlayZoo Playground, or board a colorful, seasonal miniature express train.
The Midwest Therapeutic Riding Program serves children with special needs through therapeutic horseback-riding services in northeastern Illinois and southeastern Wisconsin. A horse’s movements, similar to a human's, can help improve the rider's posture, balance, and sensory processing, making horseback riding an ideal therapy tool for people with special needs such as autism, Down syndrome, and cerebral palsy. For some children, riding a horse as part of the riding program marks the first time they've been able to feel what walking is like. In addition to physical and sensory motor benefits, horseback riding can also improve socialization and self-esteem.
The CFI-certified flight instructors at Racine Sport Flyers conduct all their lessons in the cockpit of a 2010 Flight Design CTLS, a carbon-fiber light sport aircraft. Using its Dynon glass avionics panel, Garmin GPS, XM satellite radio, and dynamic map and terrain displays, they guide fly-along students through the steps necessary to become certified sport pilots and private pilots. Instructors also train students to FAA standards through ground school—which covers topics such as aerodynamics, aircraft systems, and navigation—and instill the basics through sessions in a multimonitor flight simulator.
Led by CrossFit Level 1 certified trainers Frank Colavita and Erin Stewart, CrossFit classes combine weightlifting, gymnastics and sprinting into a strength-and-conditioning program that hones in on endurance and agility. Participants in 15–20 person On Ramp classes receive personal coaching as they work up to training shape by learning basic core lifts and maneuvers such as deadlifting weights off the ground and heaving stalling airplanes off crowded runways. After two weeks, On Ramp graduates confront more of CrossFit's 4400-square-foot gym through workout-of-the-day courses, which build upon On Ramp exercises with gymnastics and specialized moves. Pull-ups, pushups, and sit-ups sculpt upper halves, jump ropes course cardiovascular exercise through entire bodies, and Turkish get-ups strengthen shoulders quicker than scooping gravy with a fez.
Golf shots soar high over the grounds of Raymond Heights Family Golf Center, looking down upon a beginner-friendly complex that encompasses a nine-hole, par-3 course, a driving range, and a miniature golf course. With five holes measuring in at 100 yards or shorter, the lilliputian links help beginners find their swings and give aces a chance to flaunt their short-game prowess without having to aim chip shots at next-door neighbors' mailboxes.
Open as early as 8 a.m., the 30-stall driving range—equipped with both artificial and natural-grass hitting areas—enables late-night practice sessions with lights that activate after sundown. Glowing balls trace the night sky or roll across turf runways during moonlight play, which Raymond Heights hosts at both the par-3 course and its 18-hole mini golf course, made possible by shimmering flagsticks and caddies that locate hazards using echolocation. After a day on the links, vintage vinyl barstools offer a respite for spiky-soled shoes at the Center's full-service restaurant and bar.
Within the cream-colored brick exterior of a century-old city building, Papa Luigi’s II marries an Italian restaurant with a bowling alley. Amid the wood paneling, wine-red carpet, and chandeliers of the dining room, taste buds can warm up with the house’s favorite appetizer—sicilian eggplant lathered in Papa’s special marinara sauce. Thin-n-crispy pizzas, which Papa Luigi’s II has been perfecting for 23 years, come loaded with canadian bacon or shrimp.
After meals, guests can adjourn to the newly remodeled, smoke-free bowling alley. Here, shining orbs hurtle down 10 lanes whose automatic bumpers forgive shaky aim, and an automatic scoring system lets bowlers tuck their personal mathematicians back into the trunks of their cars. Between rounds, players can refuel at a pub-style bar by tipping back chilled mugs brimming with imported tap beers and gazing at a trio of plasma televisions. Those seeking a new arena for competition can drop by the game room or rent the upstairs gym for shooting hoops.