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.
Situated in the heart of downtown Racine, RAM is dedicated to the exhibition, education, and collection of contemporary visual art. With more than 5,000 objects in its permanent collection, the 46,000-square-foot space houses one of North America’s largest collections of contemporary crafts in a multitude of mediums such as ceramics and fiber arts. The museum also constantly cycles in new retina-rallying exhibitions such as the current Not So Still Life, examining a range of quirky interpretations of classic still-life subjects such as fruit bowls or avant-garde Jello molds. Visitors can also admire the bold contour lines and expressive mark-making of painter couple Ruth Grotenrath and Schomer Lichtner. Check the exhibitions schedule for a sampling of upcoming shows to fuel future bouts of cognitive calisthenics.
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.
In 1848, dairy cows grazed on the 30 acres that now host the Volo Auto Museum’s five showrooms. The mooing of heifers has given way to the imaginary roar of 200 collector cars and 100 gleaming autos that once graced movie and television sets—including a Batmobile from the 1966 TV series, a Herbie from the latest movie, and one of the first General Lees. After ogling the television and movie collection, guests can wander among vintage and antique vehicles and reminisce about the days when we still had to go places in person.
Nearby, the military exhibit’s realistic scenery surrounds vehicles ranging from a WWII BMW motorcycle with sidecar to a 1967 Bell helicopter shot down in Vietnam. After examining older artillery and artifacts, visitors can gaze at cases holding items retrieved from Saddam Hussein’s palace and from captured Iraqi soldiers. Those below driving age can explore kids’ attractions, including SpongeBob’s boatmobile.
Guests traverse the vast showrooms on foot or via a 1915, Victorian-style trolley, free on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Trolley tours begin by exploring autos that used to be stabled by the rich and famous alongside their unicorns. They then venture into the old dairy farm’s 19th-century barn, where activity by Civil War ghosts has drawn investigators from the Discover Channel’s Ghost Lab. Before leaving, visitors can refuel with an Angus-beef patty at the Betty Boop Burger Bar and Beer Garden or drop into four antique malls.
All Community Events gathers together athletes of all stripes to set off on brisk, well-organized outdoor runs. In the one-mile Run the Pier jaunt, sprinters can goggle at the skyscrapers surrounding Navy Pier, dash beneath its towering ferris wheel, and reach underneath the pier to grab fistfuls of the cotton candy keeping it afloat before finishing through its welcoming arch. The World's Largest Corn Maze Run/Walk weaves through five kilometers of paths that wind through a dense cornfield, while a pair of Turkey Trots let exercise-hounds burn off calories in advance of the day's traditional feast. Though its exact date will be pinned down as the event draws closer, the Chi Town Half Marathon pits runners against 13.1 miles of verdant north-side terrain. The challenging but beginner-friendly race's March date places it well before most of the year's other major races, and provides a compelling reason to step outside during the dark, werewolf-riddled chill of winter.