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 11 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.
The Waukesha County Museum, which started in a basement room of the old courthouse in 1914, houses a more-than-2,000-square-foot repository for American history. The Memories of World War II touring exhibit pays homage to veterans, photographers, and reporters with more than 100 photos from Associated Press archives in addition to testimonies and hundreds of artifacts donated by local residents. Duck into the Greatest Generation Theater for a 20-minute film that illuminates the sagas of four local surviving WWII veterans.
The 14,000-year-old Hebior mammoth stands sentinel past the entrance to the Milwaukee Public Museum, serving as a massive reminder to all who enter that they are traveling back in time. Originally founded in 1882, the museum has spent more than a century collecting artifacts and fossils from around the world to portray the vast reaches of natural and human history throughout 150,000 square feet of exhibit space spread over three and a half floors.
Representing the recent past, The Streets of Old Milwaukee's turn-of-the-century gas-lit lanes and the European Village place visitors up close to replicas of more than 58 structures, including an old-fashioned barbershop and a fully furnished Scottish dwelling. Traveling further back to the Cretaceous period in the Third Planet exhibit, a life-size replica of a tyrannosaurus greets visitors with its tiny arms and impeccable manners. Visitors can also explore treasures from Africa, Asia, and the Arctic, or stroll through the butterfly wing to witness free-flying exotic and native species.
Adjacent to the museum, the Daniel M. Soref Planetarium and IMAX theater display astronomical wonders with a Digistar 3 computer-projection system. The Skies Over Milwaukee show lights up the ceiling with the current night sky for a tour of the planets and constellations. In the same theater, IMAX films transport audience members to the top of Everest or to the bottom of the ocean with a six-story screen, wraparound digital sound, and the distilled imaginations of 5-year-olds.
Amber Flanagan's grandparents moved to Milwaukee from Mississippi in the 1960s, bringing with them their culinary heritage and their firm belief in the importance of good eating. Today, Amber carries on their passion for gastronomical traditions by leading walking food tours of the Silver City District and the Historic Third Ward. Milwaukee’s history as a hub for immigrants from all over the world is reflected in the city's diverse ecosystem of restaurants: tours may bounce between Vietnamese, Peruvian, Thai, and Mexican cuisines on their journey. Some restaurant outings incorporate cooking demonstrations, which could otherwise only be glimpsed after donning an elaborate busboy disguise.
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.