Touring in Racine County

Designed by: Dan Talsky, Journal Times file photos by: Gregory Shaver,; Scott Anderson,; Mark Hertzberg and Ron Kuenstler.

Human nature often leads us to believe that we must leave town to find new adventures. Yet interesting and entertaining opportunities to be a “tourist” exist right here in Racine County.

Did you know, for example, that free tours of Case-New Holland’s Racine manufacturing facility are offered to the public throughout the year? More than 5,000 guests from around the world took the agricultural equipment manufacturer up on its offer in 2012, according to Jennifer DeVore, tour coordinator for CNH. And, as long as you are at least 14 years old and willing to wear closed-toe shoes while in the facility, you are welcome to do so, as well.

Visitors can see how two types of tractors — the New Holland T8 and the Case IH Magnum — are assembled, as well as machining of parts and other aspects of production. And one of the things they might find surprising is how much of the work is done by hand, DeVore said.

The 2½-hour tour is guided by CNH retirees who worked in the plant and will be given to small and large groups with advance reservations. Tours are typically scheduled at 9 a.m. Monday through Friday. The manufacturing facility is located at 2701 Oakes Road in Sturtevant. To schedule a tour, call (262) 636-7273 or send an email to

Frank and Sam

SC Johnson also offers free tours of its historic Frank Lloyd Wright-designed campus, with several options for visitors to choose from. Even those who have visited the company’s facilities along 14th Street in the past can find new experiences there — including the most recent addition, “The SC Johnson Gallery: At Home With Frank Lloyd Wright,” which currently features an exhibit about Wright’s iconic Prairie-style architecture.

The gallery is one of the attractions of Fortaleza Hall, the building designed by London-based architectural firm Foster and Partners, in which a replica of Sam Johnson’s Spirit of Carnauba airplane hangs in the glass rotunda. Opened in 2010, Fortaleza Hall also offers the Frank Lloyd Wright Research Library and The Lily Pad gift shop. And it is just one of the unique buildings the public can visit as part of SC Johnson’s most in-depth tour, the 3½-hour Legacies Tour. Also included are the Administration Building and viewing of two films at the Golden Rondelle.

A shorter Landmarks Tour focuses on the Wright-designed Administration Building, considered one of the top 25 buildings of the 20th century. There is also a one-hour Gallery Tour that focuses on the “The SC Johnson Gallery: At Home with Frank Lloyd Wright.” Details of all three tours, as well as other public programs, can be found at Reservations can be made there, or by calling (262) 260-2154.

Culture fix

Downtown’s Racine Art Museum offers guided group tours of its galleries, as well as those at its partner campus, the Wustum Museum of Fine Arts, 2519 Northwestern Ave. Both new and returning visitors can gain fresh perspective aboutRAM’s holdings with the information and insights provided by its trained docents and staff.

“These are not just dull lectures about brush strokes,” said Tricia Blasko, curator of education for RAM. While tours are filled with a lot of great information, they are also exciting experiences in which people can learn how to connect with art and appreciate it, Blasko said.

“Our tours are another way for people to have a creative experience,” she said.

Group tours are available to both adults and children during the museum’s regular viewing hours. Reservations are required at least two weeks in advance, with a month’s advance notice preferred. The cost for adults is $5 each, and groups of all senior citizens (older than 62) pay $3 per person (one form of payment must be used to pay total group admission). Kids’ groups tour for free. Tours of Wustum are also free. For more information, go to or call (262) 636-9573.

Get personal

Ever wonder what goes on beyond the viewing area at the Racine Zoo? The zoo’s Behind-the-Scenes Tour is your chance to find out. Available to groups of anywhere from four to 15 people, these tours take visitors to the zoo’s “downstairs hub,” where they can see zookeepers at work, preparing unusual diets for the resident animals. They can also meet some “animal ambassadors,” who are not normally on display at the zoo, according to Maggie Tarasewicz, the zoo’s curator of conservation education. And visitors get to go inside the “Land of the Giants” where they can meet a giraffe and a rhino up close.

The hour-long tour costs $25 per person ($175 for group of 15) and has a minimum age of 6 (one group member must be at least 18 years old). Tours are led by zoo staff and require two weeks’ advance reservation. They are offered throughout the year, and money raised through the tours helps fund animal care at the zoo. To book a tour, call (262) 636-9273 or send an email to

More to tour

Group tours are also available by request at places such as the Racine Theatre Guild, 2519 Northwestern Ave. Call (262) 633-4218 or visit

And both the Wind Point Lighthouse and the Modine-Benstead Observatory in Union Grove offer public tour days at various times of the year.

Visitors can climb the lighthouse’s 144 steps, learn about its history, and get a view like none other in Racine on several dates from June through October. For more about these Tower Climb events, go to

The Racine Astronomical Society invites the public to its free, monthly open house nights at the observatory, where they can take a visual tour of the skies through the club’s telescopes (April-October). More about the educational evenings is available at

Subscribe to Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Load comments