Whether it’s a fun family weekend or a couples’ weekday escape, beautiful Racine County, Wis., is easy to find and hard to leave.
Racine County is conveniently located off Interstate 94, less than an hour from Chicago’s northwestern suburbs. Take exit 333 (State Route 20) to reach Downtown Racine and the lakefront or the picturesque Fox River valley communities of Waterford, Rochester and Burlington.
DOWNTOWN AND LAKEFRONT
Charming and walkable, Downtown Racine (racinedowntown.com) is fun to explore all summer. Unique shops, galleries, nightspots and memorable restaurants are all within a few blocks of Lake Michigan. Summer brings quirky, interesting public art pieces to Downtown. This year’s theme, “Don’t Miss the Boat,” features colorful sailboats and speedboats. They’re on display through the Antique & Classic Boat Society’s Annual International Meeting and Boat Show, Sept. 6 through 9.
First Fridays (4 to 9 p.m., first Friday of March through December) is a rolling summer party with live music (and beer garden) at Monument Square. Enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride or simply stroll along Main and Sixth streets for art galleries, shopping and food/drink specials. (firstfridaysracine.com)
Just steps away is the 921-slip ReefPoint Marina and the full-service 121-room DoubleTree by Hilton Racine Harbourwalk hotel. Two distinctive B&Bs, Christmas House and the Lochnaiar Inn & Conference Center, are also nearby.
RACINE ART MUSEUM
The Racine Art Museum (RAM), 441 Main St., is home to the nation’s largest collection of contemporary crafts. Learn more at ramart.org.
RACINE HERITAGE MUSEUM
The Racine area’s rich maritime and innovation history is always available at the Racine Heritage Museum (RHM), 701 Main Street. Free admission — donations are welcome. A guided Heritage Walking Tour ($8 per person, reservations required) is offered Saturdays through Sept. 9. Visit racineheritagemuseum.org.
North Beach, located just a few blocks from downtown, is a Wisconsin crown jewel, designated as a Blue Wave Clean Beach by the National Clean Beach Council.
Also located along the lake at 2131 N. Main St., the 28-acre zoo cares for more than 100 species of animals (including 50+ endangered species), and features two playgrounds, the ZooChoo Express train, picnic areas, a snack bar, and gift shop. Learn more at racinezoo.org.
WIND POINT LIGHTHOUSE
Bring your camera! No lakeshore structure is more closely tied to the Racine area than the Wind Point Lighthouse. Built in 1880 to warn ships away from the shallow waters off Wind Point, the lighthouse is 108 feet tall and can be seen 19 miles away. Tower tours are available the first Sundays of June through October. Reservations at windpointlighthouse.org.
ICONIC ARCHITECTURE BY AN ICON
Legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright has a significant legacy in the Racine area that includes two buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. The SC Johnson corporate campus, near Downtown Racine, is anchored by the Wright-designed SC Johnson Administration Building and Research Tower, and also includes the Administration Building’s Great Workroom, a large open space supported by a series of unique concrete columns shaped like lily pads. The 15-story Research Tower is constructed on the cantilever principle off a center core.
The 14,000-square-foot Wingspread (1937), located in the nearby village of Wind Point, was designed for H.F Johnson.
SC Johnson offers free tours of its headquarters campus buildings and Wingspread; make reservations at scjohnson.com/visit or call 262-260-2154.
FAIRS AND FESTIVALS
Waterford Hot Air Balloonfest (July 21-22) features colorful hot air balloons, kids’ activities, food, a craft fair and more. The night glow of the huge balloons (weather permitting) is spectacular; visit waterford-wi.org.
The Racine County Fair in Union Grove (July 26-30) includes livestock judging, music, demolition derbies and family entertainment.
Plan your Racine County trip with Real Racine, the county’s destination marketing organization. Visit realracine.com or call 800.272.2463