Run by expert caretakers and trainers, Jo-Don Farms maintains a population of over 300 animals, who sometimes make trips off the property to visit TV studios, film sets, and even private parties. Of course, one can meet all the animals, including exotics such as tigers and zebras, by visiting the farms themselves. The animals all have names and a reasonable familiarity with people. Calling out to a pony or camel by name may get its attention and inspire a close-up visit. Other animals, such as the big cats, stay at a safe distance from guests at all times. Visitors can expect encounters both close and distant as they wander the 15 acres of paths and pens.
Bumper, Slick, Makaia, and Diego may sound like a team of superheroes, but at Oceans of Fun, they are the names of just 4 of the 12 sea lions and seals that inhabit the center's waters. Nestled in the Milwaukee County Zoo, the educational center focuses specifically on marine animals, educating visitors on their traits, their favorite places to play, and conservation strategies. Kids can feed the seals and sea lions buckets of fresh fish or build their animal-training repertoire during interactive programs; the animals also perform in shows four times daily throughout most of the year.
While guests can feed giraffes by hand and pet stingrays and sharks, the zoo has lots to do besides admire its furry and scaly denizens. Kids can clamber around a ropes and obstacle course, whizz by on zip-lines, and get a bird’s-eye view of the zoo on the ski lift-style Sky Safari.
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.
When he shuts up his workshop at the North Pole after another successful holiday season, Santa Claus doesn't simply hibernate until next December. Instead, he packs up his sleigh and heads to his summer home at the Fox River Valley's Santa's Village Azoosment Park. Open from May to October, the wonderland greets guests with three separate amusement experiences. The fun begins in Santa's Village, where quaint alpine building and expertly manicured pathways awaken feelings of nostalgia in hearts young and old. There, visitors can zoom down the original Santa's Tree House Slide, hitch a ride on the Kringle Convoy, or snap a picture at a recreation of Santa's North Pole home. They can also tap into the amusement rides including the antique carousel, the Tilt-A-Whirl, and Dracor the Dragon's Coaster.
A renowned lover of animals, Santa has also filled his park with a menagerie of creatures both familiar and exotic. After visiting Rudolph and company at Reindeer Ridge, visitors can grab a ride on a horse-drawn sleigh on their way to see the denizens of Parakeet Paradise, Tortoise Island, or Old MacDonald's Farm and Petting Zoo. In addition to grabbing up-close peeks of everything from a red-tailed boa to a fennec fox, visitors can also take in an exotic animal show that educates audience members about the park's wild residents.
Always in the holiday spirit, the park welcomes groups looking to add a spark to reunions, birthday, or group outings. This accommodating spirit even extends to the park's rule book: parking is free, and picnic baskets are encouraged.
Following a mission to educate guests on preservation and environmental responsibility, Bear Den Zoo and Petting Farm provides a safe, caring home for a wide range of farm animals and exotic species. A black bear, ring-tailed lemurs, giant tortoises, and exotic pheasants play and preen inside constructed habitats as guests look on from a safe distance, observing their mannerisms and learning to convincingly imitate them. In addition to providing guests with information on each animal, the zookeepers coordinate hands-on demonstrations that allow guests to interact with more social animals. During the fall, the zoo transforms into a pumpkin farm.