We are zoo people. We love animals and frequent area zoos several times a year. One of my favorite, especially with young children, is the Racine Zoo. Located just north of the border, it’s a a small zoo that is perfect for kids who might not have the stamina to last the whole day at a larger zoo.
Getting there: The town of Racine is on Lake Michigan, approximately 17 miles from the Illinois/Wisconsin border, and is very easy to get to. For those of you in the Western Lake County suburbs, a quick trip up 94 North will get you there. If you are closer to the lake, you can take the scenic route and drive up Green Bay Road (Route 131), which is actually a two-lane highway for most of the drive.
The zoo is located in downtown Racine on 2131 N Main Street, and actually borders the lake. There is even a public strip of sandy beach that can be reached from right outside the zoo, so in the summer months, bring your bathing suits/towels with and really make it a fun-filled day!
Of all the zoos in our area (Brookfield, Lincoln Park, Milwaukee) this is my favorite when you have toddlers and preschoolers. At 28 acres with approximately 100 animals, you can easily spend a few hours wandering the zoo and hit the road in time to pick up the big kids from school (and get a car nap on the way!). It’s also very walkable for small kids (it is also stroller friendly and has rentals available) who insist on walking themselves.
Some favorite exhibits:
- Walkabout Creek, where there are actually kangaroos, wallabies, and large birds (emus and peacocks) in very close proximity to the walking path (all that separates them and you is a rope fence, and the animals have been known to come onto the walking path).
- Aviary and Barnyard Safari where children can get up close and personal with familiar animals. The aviary is filled with parakeets and feeding sticks are available for $3 each. The Barnyard is full of the usual suspects, goats and sheep, with brushes to use on them.
- Penguin Play Area unlike some of the larger zoos, the Racine penguins are outside. We went on a hot August day and the penguins were not only out and playing, they were squeaking up a storm. I don’t think I have ever heard a penguin make noise before so it was quite an experience.
In addition to their indoor/outdoor animal exhibits, the zoo has a playground, and plenty of green space for the kids to run around in or have a picnic. There is also a restaurant/snack shop on-site, if you prefer not to pack a lunch.
They have a few extra activities that charge a fee, such as a little train ride that is approximately 8 minutes long, and a giraffe animal encounter, where you can pay to feed the giraffes from your hand.
The Racine Zoo is a really pretty park with lots of pathways, greenery, and views of the lake throughout. The zoo is open 365 days a year, has free parking in a lot one block from the zoo, and is fairly inexpensive. It’s our favorite outing for preschoolers and toddlers. My husband has been known to randomly take the younger two on a surprise adventure up there while the big two are at a practice or game because it’s truly an adventure you can do in just a few hours, but leave the kids feeling like it was a big deal.
Have you been to the Racine Zoo? What’s your favorite part?