Completed in 1892 as the private home of the Pabst family, Pabst Mansion stands as the last bastion of more than 80 mansions built for Milwaukee’s elite during a booming, bygone era. Since its construction, the estate has housed archbishops, priests, and sisters and was saved from near-demolition during the 1970s. The Flemish-Renaissance-Revival home has since been awarded a place on the National Register of Historic Places for its bounty of architectural intricacies.
Today, on-staff docents conduct a range of tours for public groups, private parties, school groups, and well-behaved rugby teams through the fortress of halls, opulent rooms, and verdant grounds, each restored to their original condition.
The Pabst Mansion’s impressive art collection includes works from the 1640s through the 1900s by artists such as William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Gaetano Trentanove, and Eugene Joseph Verboeckhoven. The emporium of excess also features Pabst Beer Pavilion, the pavilion built for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and the glass-covered conservatory where tropical plants and beer trees continue to flourish.
The mansion gift shop holds classic Pabst drinkware and memorabilia as well as antique photos, books, and former employees' original finger paintings.
Dance Fabulous's instructors think that dancing should be a stress-free experience. With that in mind, they’ve crafted a lineup of commitment-free drop-in classes that introduce students to hip-hop grooves, teach them core-strengthening belly-dance shimmies, and help party away calories with energy-packed Zumba moves. The lineup also includes more sensual classes meant to boost students' confidence, such as aerobic striptease dance and core-strengthening pole dance. During Hot Heels Hour classes, participants learn a new routine designed to be performed in pumps, which help strengthen cores, lift buns, and aerate the front lawn if practiced at home.
In addition to their drop-in classes, the instructors also schedule private lessons, which may cover the styles taught in group classes or focus on ballroom techniques or wedding choreography. Their adult parties come with similar themes, with lessons in styles from break dancing to striptease to Irish step. The studio was also named one of The Daily Page's picks for best places for a kids' birthday party; soirees can center around such themes as cheerleading, West African dance, and ballet. The staff offers a kids' hip-hop classes and a once-a-month family dance party, during which parents can tenderly pass down their ability to do the worm.
A two-story brick house from the late 1800s stands within walking distance of a wooden fur-trader’s cabin from the 1700s. Just down the road, cheesemongers and printmakers ply their time-honored trades behind open storefronts, and the ringing of a blacksmith’s hammer joins with the click of a digital camera’s shutter in a soundtrack several centuries in the making. It’s safe to say that Heritage Hill State Historical Park’s anachronistic blending of historical eras might confuse an uninformed onlooker, but visitors who know better will relish the park’s four outdoor areas, each of which depicts a unique period in Wisconsin’s history. The living-history museum sits on 50 acres along the banks of the Fox River and features more than 25 original and reconstructed buildings that illustrate the lives of their residents—a list that includes French-influenced fur traders, the federal occupants of Fort Howard, and Belgian immigrants. The museum’s curators have brought these former residents back to life through strange and unexpected means; the fur-trader’s cabin was discovered almost by accident by a demolition crew who found it hidden inside a larger house. In each of the park’s areas, historic interpreters dressed according to their time period divulge facts about the buildings’ histories and their inhabitants’ day-to-day lives, which often included hours of churning butter and playing 8-bit Atari games. Five of the original on-site buildings can be found on the National Register of Historic Places, and museum groundskeepers further ensure each area’s historical accuracy by planting period-appropriate trees and plants. Tours take visitors of all ages on regular journeys through the past, and museum staffers organize field trips and summer camps especially for youth groups. Seasonal events include craft workshops, live concerts, and raucous fiddle-shredding contests.
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.
Harry Houdini was legendary for his daring escapes, but he's still never escaped the public's imagination. To wit: AKA Houdini, whose artifacts offer a hands-on glimpse into some of his most infamous tricks. Along with the Appleton-raised illusionist, The History Museum at the Castle's award-winning exhibits focus on other notable Fox Valley natives, including Senator Joseph McCarthy. Dating back to the 1840s, the museum's collection of Fox Valley artifacts includes 35,000 photographs and 20,000 pieces, such as parts of a vintage gas station. At an exhibit tracing the origins of the area's most famous foods, such as frozen custard and fish fries, visitors can even spear sturgeons inside a life-size virtual ice shanty.
These pieces of Fox Valley history are housed inside a Masonic temple listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1923, the temple exemplifies the medieval, Norman Revival style with rough-hewn stone, vaulted ceilings, and fire-breathing dragons guarding its entrance. Designed as a community center, the temple continues to serve that function by hosting the museum's year-round events, including papermaking programs and magic workshops.