On June 30, 1904 Col. William and Anna Vilas donated a tract of land to become a public park and free recreational space in memory of their son, Henry, who died due to complications from diabetes at a young age. They added numerous improvements over the decade and in 1911, the Henry Vilas Zoo gained its first animal exhibits. Today, the zoo covers 30 acres and features a number of creatures from around the world, ranging from the vanishing chimpanzee and endangered red panda to locals such as the great horned owl and american alligator. The zoo also remains one of the few free AZA-accredited zoos across the country.
Leading up to and following the zoo's centennial, the ReZOOvenation project has expanded the visitor areas, replacing the entrance and gift shop and adding a tropical-rainforest aviary and big-cat complex. A variety of annual events are scheduled, including Halloween at the Zoo, with costumes and stops for sustainable palm-oil candy, and earth day, when children can plant trees to help lower the global temperature just enough for icicles to form. The zoo’s many conservation projects also engage the public in protecting the environment and its inhabitants by installing solar-energy panels, sponsoring trips to save endangered orangutans, and collecting old cell phones.
A 7,100-square-foot sculpture garden is only the tip of the iceberg at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. In fact, the garden is also the tip of the museum—it’s on the facility’s roof. Designed by Cesar Pelli, the sprawling building encompasses an eclectic array of modern works, including a 5,000-item permanent collection that incorporates pieces ranging from Frida Kahlo’s works to John Coplans’ black-and-white self portrait, which shows only his feet.
A rotating lineup of temporary exhibits complements the permanent core, and a regular event schedule features films, talks, and performance by masters of their craft. Visitors can browse art books and craft jewelry in the museum store, where all purchases support artists and designers more simply than training to become a muse.
Café Belwah presents inventive cuisine and sophisticated adult beverages in a refined yet relaxed atmosphere. Hearty breakfast choices, such as pancakes topped with sautéed apples, bananas, and homemade butter-pecan syrup ($7), imbue diners with the strength to speed-read encyclopedias or move mountains just a touch to the left. Lunchtime arrives with salads, soups, and sandwiches, including the croissant-borne crab-cake sandwich with chipotle tartar sauce ($10). Café Belwah's wines, specialty cocktails, martinis, and beers flirt with the brain's happy centers and the knees' wobble buttons, and dependable menu standbys are frequently crafted with local ingredients, including the likes of roasted duck with cranberry chutney ($24) and mushroom ravioli genovese ($17).
Established in 1968, Midway Village Museum embodies a sprawling, 137-acre time capsule. Within the museum’s 27 fully functioning, Victorian buildings, exhibits tell the story of Rockford since its incorporation in the early 19th century. Throughout the years, the town has made history as the progenitor of the sock monkey, the launching point for aviator Bert Hassell, and home of the Rockford Peaches—an all-female baseball team fictionalized in the film A League of Their Own, though the real squad neither played in the 1943 championship nor battled a CGI dragon. Other attractions amid the barns, blacksmiths, and general stores include a dollhouse museum and a meticulous archive of Rockford’s long, proud history in the furniture industry.
The Great Urban Race is a one-day event pitting teams of two against one another in a race combining physical challenges, scavenger hunts, and puzzles. Up to 700 twosomes will traverse 4 to 8 miles of Toronto terrain on foot and by public transportation as they solve 12 challenging clues in a fun quest to reach the finish line first. Sample clues and challenges from past Great Urban Races include charades, bubble-gum chewing, pig Latin deciphering, bicycle races, and word scrambles, making this race ideal for competitive eaters and cryptographers alike. Teams are encouraged to dress up in matching outfits, and prizes will be awarded for best costume. Prizes are also given for race results, with $300 going to first place, $200 to second place, and $100 to third place. The top 25 teams will qualify for the National Championship in New Orleans in November, with the top three teams receiving free entry. Each participant gets a T-shirt and postrace refreshments of fruit, granola bars, and a run through a Perrier sprinkler. Read over the rules and FAQs for more information.