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.
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.
Over the past quarter century, Serpent Safari's indoor zoo has amassed a collection of rare reptiles that have appeared in publications such as National Geographic. Animals of impressive age, unusual coloring (such as an albino alligator), and Guinness World Record-holding weight have all called the Safari their home. Originally founded as a reptile adoption and education center, the Safari now runs guided tours and birthday parties that usher children through the world of scaly, cold-blooded creatures known as bankers into the diverse realm of reptiles. Following the tours, patrons can partake in photo opportunities with giant snakes, or take home a friend from the pet store.
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.
A tractor rumbles along the rolling hills of Green Meadows Petting Farm's back 40 as it pulls hayride passengers toward the farm’s animals' barns and pens. There, hands of all ages can snuggle on the fuzzy fleece of a baby goat or sheep, brush against the bristly hide of the 700-pound Patty the Pig, or comb fingers into the soft mane of Lad the Pony. Farmers on the staff also share insights and anecdotes on the farm and its four-legged friends as guests roam the farm at their leisure. For Charlie and Mavis Keyes, of all the sights and sounds on a farm that's been in the family since 1964, the ones they enjoy most watching and hearing are from the children and parents who come to visit. It's a thrill, Charlie says, to hear the kids say that they had "the best day ever," providing a happy counterpoint to childhood days that include trips to the doctor's and punishments to file and catalogue a sister's dolls' dresses.