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The Racine Zoo is unlike many other zoos across the United States as it has been classified as the only sensory inclusive and certified zoo in Wisconsin. Seated on over 28 acres of fertile, luxurious land along Lake Michigan’s shore in Racine, you have the opportunity of not only meeting some great animals but also getting a chance to bond with nature.
Also known as the Racine Zoological Gardens, it is currently operated by the Racine Zoological Society which is a non-profit institution. Interestingly, there are over 100 species of animals in this zoo’s collection, and is a mix of Wisconsin native animals found at various points across the state.
Racine Zoo History
Founded in March 1923, the Racine Zoo started as a small zoo that housed three monkeys that were donated by Jacob Stoffel, Jr., a local businessman. When his donations came, the city was prompted to build a small zoo in Island Park. As the months went by, more animals were brought in, and before the year ended, the additions included badgers, Rocky Mountain goats, deer, and gray foxes.
Before long, the original space was too small as there were a lot of animals, and they were still growing. As such, they had to seek a new location for the zoo, and, in 1925, they opened a new location at Goold Street and North Main Street. That site was a former brickyard and was also part of Lakeview Park.
For four years, they expanded the overall reach of the zoo that included building new habitats and adding new animals. By 1929, the zoo was home to some interesting animals like sea lions, bears, and various hoofed animals. They also constructed a duck pond (which was an initial clay quarry that was abandoned).
As the zoo grew in terms of animals, its popularity also reached a high due to its free admission. As the years passed and the Great Depression hit the world, the Racine Zoo managed to stay open while others had to close their doors because they charged people to enjoy the best of what nature had to offer.
The improvements did not stop there as, by 1939, developers designed and built the “Vanishing Kingdom,” a castle-like haven that houses the cat species and primates. Interestingly, this castle was built from the bricks that once held the county jail together.
This historic beauty never remained the same through the years as later in May 1958, they had to consider building barriers between the people and the animals as a 10-year-old girl was tragically mauled and nearly lost her right arm. One year later, they purchased a Siberian tiger from Como Park Zoo that was experiencing overcrowding. However, a sad turn of events in 1985 saw authorities having to kill over 35 ducks, swans, and geese due to a virus outbreak affecting those water-based animals.
Later that year, Racine Zoo was the center of amazement as they hosted the Kiwanis-Wheary Lights, a beautiful light display that ended up being hosted annually.
Fast forward to 2019, after numerous developments and changes, the zoo decided to partner with the Zigong Lantern Group to host a massive lantern festival. It was the largest event the zoo had ever participated in as it featured over 300 hand-made lanterns made by attendees.
The Racine Zoo Today
There is so much to experience at Racine Zoo for the entire family, from checking out the various species of animals to the setting of the Botanical gardens on the grounds of the zoo. It also features a discovery center, a children’s zoo, a playground, and lots of events to keep you entertained.
You can arrange for a more prospective tour that connects you up close and personal with the animals as well as other features of the zoo. Being the only sensory-inclusive zoo, you can organize a quiet hour package where you get a one-on-one tour without alerting the sensory signals.
Racine Zoo Events
We already mentioned a few already but add in everything from the Zoorific Saturdays that switch topics on everything from Bats to Rhinos, to Boo at The Zoo for Halloween. Add in dinner or breakfast with the animals, Brunch with Santa, Members-only events, and so. much. more.
What can I say – the place is really hopping.
Racine Zoo Animal Encounters
There are also various conservation programs in place that provide education details you and the kids may find interesting. Think you can out-do all the activities the zoo has to offer? Well, you are in for a surprise with the educational sessions on information about the over 100 animals on the grounds. There are protected habitats in the zoo you will be eager to learn more about. Racine Zoo is a part of Wisconsin that helps to tell the rich history of the area, so it is worth the visit. Create that memorable experience like no other as you bond with life outside of your everyday life.
To help you do just that, we whipped up a “My Animal Research Journal” that you can print off (For FREE) and take with you each time you go. Pick a different animal each time to learn more about or just pack these with you for your Zoorific Saturday excursions. Just this year you will cover Bats, Kangaroos, Endangered Species, Birds, African Penguins, Giraffes, Tigers, Lions, Orangutans, Rhinos, Reptiles, and the list goes on… wow!
Get a copy of it here:
You can print of your study report in color or black and white. It should help homeschoolers too!
Racine Zoo Map
I just love it when a zoo has a map that is so incredibly child-friendly, with animation and all. Just look at how cute this is!
How much does the Racine Zoo Cost
I know – it USED to be a free zoo – and now, there is a price to play.
If you are a member – your admission is waived each time you visit. If you are NOT a member, here are the current ticket prices for summer:
|Senior (62 years and older)||$9|
|Child (15 years and younger)||$8|
|Military (with ID)||$5|
Winter rates are $2 less – but still just five buck for military. That is OK though as in honor of serving, all active and non-active veterans receive FREE admission on Veterans Day. (Must show ID and applies only to veteran, not group rate.)
No worries about parking – it is free.
Racine Zoo Membership
With membership often comes privilege. Keep in mind that an average family will more than pay for the membership with just 2 visits – as ONE visit with 2 adults and 4 kids would run $52. Here are a few of the perks that come with a $60 Family Membership to the Racine Zoo:
- Admission for two adults and four children (ages 3 – 15) (cardholder must be present) (Primary cardholders must live in the same household)
- Two Encounter Tickets of your choice for the Zoo Choo Express, Giraffe Encounter, or Aviary
- Invitation to special members-only events
- E-Newsletter subscription
- Early access to our Wildlife Matters monthly online magazine
- Discount on Zoo Summer Camp registration
- Discounted admission to special events
- 10% discount on Behind-the-Scenes Tours
- 10% discount on Animal Crackers Concert Series season tickets
- 10% discount on stroller rental
- 10% discount on birthday parties
- 10% discount in the Racine Zoo Gift Shop
- 10% discount in Max & Jenny’s Jungle Grill
You can purchase it online or at the Zootique gift shop. It is totally worth the investment if you ask me! I would be there every Saturday with the kiddos! It DOES get you into some great other places across the country for 50-100% off. They have a list you can reference when you get your membership.
Racine Zoo Hours
The zoo is open from 10AM to 4PM, and the last paid admission at 3:30PM – you better hurry if you only have 30 minutes!
Racine Zoo Camp
Zoo Cam will be back this summer, after being pulled in 2020 for Covid-19 restrictions. They are committed to a fun, yet safe experience for all campers.
Racine Zoo Jungle Grill
The human watering holes are only open on weekends right now – hopefully, we will see more of it when things start opening up a bit. If you are there during the week, feel free to pack your picnic lunch and make a day out of it.
Racine Zoo Wedding
Yes, people can get married here – if your party is 100 people or less. Prices rage from $50 for a rehearsal to $900 for a 6-hour window to have your ceremony and reception. Keep in mind that doesn’t include food or rental items like chairs. You are going to want those 🙂
Doesn’t that sound like a fun wedding?
The Racine Zoo is a great way to spend an afternoon as a family – but don’t take our word for it – check it out for yourself! 2131 North Main Street – Racine, WI 53402