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Wisconsin Parent

Family Vacation in Racine, Wisconsin

Oct 27, 2014 08:00AM ● By Melissa Schwartz
Racine, Wisconsin will always have a special place in my heart. It's where I first tried custard, Kringle, and visited a lighthouse on the Western shore of Lake Michigan.

Another guest post written by Melissa Schwartz (who happily drove up from her home in the nearby Northwest Chicago), read where Melissa took her family for a getaway weekend in Racine.

A Family Morning at the Zoo We began our adventure at the Racine Zoo. We found the zoo to be the perfect size for a morning or afternoon aside with a nice range of animals from regional to exotic. This year welcomed adorable lion cubs that literally tumbled about while we viewed them. Feeding experiences furnish hands-on engagement with a giraffe, camel or birds.

Another hands-on experience is found in the petting zoo where you can brush goats! Kiddos have freedom to run around on two playgrounds. A nice little train ride, views of the lake, conservation exhibits, a gift shop and snack shop round out a pleasant day. Plus, there is a program allowing scouts to camp in the zoo. Too cool!

rac2Enjoying a Racine Tradition A tad hungry after exploring the zoo, we opted to hit Party on the Pavement for some street food. Party on the Pavement is an immense annual block party that began as a celebration of the end of a huge construction project in Racine. Over a decade later, the vibrant party provides a treat every year the last weekend of September.


Several major roads in town are shut down  permitting businesses and residents to come together for a family-friendly afternoon of amusements, art demonstrations, craft activities, car displays, local food and more. We were impressed by the threads of artistic expression throughout the festival. Live music, woodcarving, chalk drawing, active kilns, and more art experiences encouraged exploring.

rac5The Racine Art Museum had free admission during the festival, so we ducked in. The museum houses a mix of art largely from American artists using various media. The museum is well laid out with plenty of room to walk around. However, the art is fairly delicate so I would recommend the museum to families with older children. We admired the intricate dresses made with candy wrappers. We also enjoyed taking in many of the interesting sculptures throughout the museum.

rac12Racine Eats After an afternoon of partying on the pavement, we stopped into the quaint tapas restaurant Olde Madrid for a meal. However, instead of ordering tapas we opted to share a cheese plate piled full with a selection of cheeses and fruit. Additionally, we ordered a paella which could have satiated a family of four. Excellent food with an atmosphere that is fun and quite enjoyable for families!

rac14Families looking for sweet treats rejoice—Racine is home of the Kringle, a traditional Danish pastry constructed of 32 flakey layers encasing a variety of fillings. Topped with white frosting, the Kringle is the perfect accompaniment for a cup of coffee or tea. Four Racine bakeries serve up these unique treats. We visited Larsen's Bakery for the Sunday special.

rac7After picking up our raspberry Kringle, we headed over to Wilson's Coffee & Tea for a cup of freshly roasted coffee and a warm cup of chai tea. Wilson's is quite the treasure trove for tea and coffee lovers purveying an array of coffee roasted right in Racine, a wide selection of tea and accoutrements and more. I savored a chai tea which was perfect for a crisp morning while my husband enjoyed a fresh cup of coffee.

rac8Along the marina, we found the Reefpoint Brew House which had a large, family-friendly menu and a lively atmosphere. If there is availability, you can sit outside or inside with a marina view. The menu includes pub fair, a selection of salads and my favorite—wings! This is a nice place for a family lunch.


A Snapshot of Racine History Walking around Racine,  you immediately notice the character of the buildings. Beautiful architecture abounds. We were thrilled to attend the annual Tour of Historic Places and survey various historic structures, many of which are not commonly open to the public. Through the tour, we traveled through over 100 years of Racine history in one afternoon.

rac13A visit to the S.C. Johnson Headquarters including the Frank Lloyd Wright Administration Building and Research Tower was one highlight of the tour.  Wanting nothing but the best, H.F.  Johnson, Jr.  chose Frank Lloyd Wright to design the buildings. The Research Tower brilliantly displays Wright's signature Cherokee red bricks and windows made using Pyrex tubes. Inside, a mock up 1950's lab creates a picture of labs where scientists created such products as Glade, Pledge, and more. Tours can be scheduled to see the tower.

The tour also included a visit to S.C. Johnson's retirement cottage perfectly perched above Lake Michigan. A beautiful home with stunning views! Further travels took us to Victorian homes situated on the former site of a Civil War training camp, a downtown apartment in an Italianate structure and a charming, tucked away Romanesque revival home.

Another highlight was a tour of the impressive St. Luke's Episcopal Church. The church cuts a powerful profile in the downtown landscape. Just walking around the Gothic Revival structure is a treat. Inside, the altar, stained glass windows ,and baptismal font are gorgeous.

rac11Sweeping Lake Views Footsteps from the downtown area, we basked in crystalline blue views of Lake Michigan. The nearby marina provides opportunities to catch boats coming or leaving. During our late September visit, North Beach exuded utter tranquility but I am sure it is full of lively beach fun in the summer.

rac17Within walking distance of North Beach is Kids Cove park aka a child's paradise! The park furnishes plenty of places to crawl, climb, jump and swing.

rac9Where to Stay The Radisson Hotel Racine Harbourwalk sports a stunning view of Lake Michigan while being within walking distance of the downtown. With nearby dining at the Chancery Pub & Restaurant and an in-house coffee shop open in the mornings, the hotel is a logical pick for families. Of course, the indoor pool will be an instant favorite! The staff is friendly and the hotel is well kept. The Radisson is a popular site for events including weddings. We enjoyed our stay and loved the views and easy walk to downtown.

A Well-Rounded Stay in Racine

Our weekend away in Racine was as well-rounded as a trip gets. By attending two uniquely Racine events, we were able to savor the true flavor of the town. Visits to the zoo, art museum, beach, historic sites, and more provided special family memories while learning about Racine. What a beautiful family weekend along Lake Michigan!


**Disclosure: Thank to Real Racine for hosting Melissa's visit. All opinions are 100% her own.

icelandbiophotoMelissa Schwartz is a contributor and editor of Two Moms, a Little Time, and a Keyboard, a hyper-local blog in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago. She also manages the social media for Norton’s U.S.A., a general store in Barrington, Illinois only selling products made in the U.S.A. She has a passion for traveling a little off the beaten path and finding gems that others have overlooked. She especially enjoys creating special travel memories with her husband and 9-year-old daughter.