There aren't a lot of theater stages that can claim to have hosted presidential speeches—and fewer yet for which that president was William Howard Taft. Opened in 1883, the Grand Opera House has seen performances by the likes of Mark Twain, Harry Houdini, and John Philip Sousa, among other culture-makers of distant generations. Across a century and a quarter, the magnificent auditorium has played the parts of a vaudeville venue and a movie theater, and it wasn't until the mid-'80s that the stage resumed its duties as an opera house. After a sweeping referendum, the city acquired and restored the building, and in 1986 it reopened with a new staging of The Bohemian Girl—the same work that had first lifted its curtains more than a 100 years earlier. Today, 660 can enjoy the opera house's historic magnificence: an enormous, staggered chandelier, cherubic murals across the ceiling and flanking the balcony, and an unmatched ambiance of crimson and gold grandeur.
Keggers creates a lively atmosphere for casual parties and get-togethers. Its outdoor beer garden hosts live music events where patrons can sit at a wooden bar or lounge on the patio and sip a variety of beers including Miller Light, Spotted Cow, and Leinenkugel. For more intimate gatherings, the Lyric Room is available for rental as an event space with a 100-person capacity and entertainment capabilities for bands, DJs, or your fledgling mime act.
In 1976, educator, musician, and kinesiologist Robin Wes opened The Little Gym based on his new take on physical education. His curriculum emphasized motivating children to achieve instead of pressuring them to win. As a result, The Little Gym became a noncompetitive, positive, nurturing environment where young ones could develop physically, socially, emotionally, and intellectually. Since then, The Little Gyms have sprouted up across the country. The programs and classes aim to help kids develop skills such as rhythm and coordination, and kids camps during winter, spring, and summer breaks prevent children from creating finger paintings that express the existential ennui they feel when school is out of session.
For more than 30 years, the dedicated instructors at Valley Social Dance Studio have shared their joy of ballroom dancing with students of all experience levels. These certified teachers make it fun by making it easy, leading group and private lessons at a slow pace while making sure that everybody remains engaged.
Resting beneath natural light from the skylights mounted above it, the hulking figure of the 1.2 million-pound Union Pacific Big Boy cloaks visitors in a shadow that stretches for nearly 50 yards. As guests ascend the monstrous cab of this steam locomotive, they enter the centerpiece of the National Railroad Museum, a chamber echoing with more than 150 years of American railroading history.
After exiting Big Boy, guests can view a computer-generated porter that recounts how African-American rail workers formed the nation's first all-black labor union, and another stop invites passengers to view inside a portion of General Eisenhower's WWII command train. Elsewhere in the museum, various collections are housed with more than 15,000 photographs, archives such as maps and engineering drawings, and more than 5,000 artifacts including uniforms and tools.
The National Railroad Museum has over 60 pieces of rolling stock, including diesel, steam, and electric locomotives, and passenger and freight cars. Among these are some of the most influential and unique pieces in railroading history, including a number of items that pertain to the state of Wisconsin.
Other must-sees of the museum include General Motors’ experimental Aerotrain; the streamlined Pennsylvania Railroad No. 4890, a GG-1 electric locomotive; and the Frederick Bauer Drumhead Collection, the largest, single collection of railroad drumheads known to exist in the United States. Most facilities are accessible, except where rolling stock cannot be altered due to their historic nature. The Museum’s train ride is accessible, and a wheelchair lift is available.
A train ride is offered on a daily basis from May through September and guided tours are available from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The Museum also hosts a variety of special events for all ages.
In the 1930s, big bands and lauded musicians played a famous bar called Weilers and would one day become Memories Dinner Theater. The music bounced off the very same 2,500-square-foot maple dance floor, tamarack log ceiling, and twin stone fireplaces that remain today, though Memories has since expanded its entertainment options beyond song and dance.
As guests feast on three-course meals, the theater's roster of top-notch actors tackle dramas, musicals, audience-interactive murder mysteries, and comedies. The laughs continue on Chicken Comedy nights, when funnyman Rob Haswell hosts renowned comedians whose jokes keep diners chortling in between bites not of rubber, but of broasted chicken and food from an unlimited buffet.