Belle City of the Lakes

Fairs, Farmers Markets, Fests and First Fridays

Racine folks really like to celebrate art, ethnicity, food, music, shopping and sports. Here are just a few events held in this
 lakeside town throughout the year. or

First Fridays: Restaurants, galleries, shops and nightspots offer specially priced food, drinks and products from 4 to 9 p.m. on the first Friday of the month, April through December.

Farmers Market: Saturdays, May through October, downtown in the CNH parking lot at State and Erie Streets.

Party on the Pavement: A grand, downtown street party the last Saturday in September. Food and fun run from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The Big Chill Wisconsin State Snow Sculpting Championships: Monument Square, second weekend in January.

Mardi Crawl:Beads and bar crawl on the second Saturday in February. Call 262-637-4730.

St. Patrick’s Day Parade: Floats, Irish music and dancers. Held on Main Street on the second Saturday in March. Call 262-634-6002.

Taste of Scotland: Scottish food and entertainment. Held in mid-April. Call 262-639-7824.

Lakefront Artist Show: Festival Park on Fifth Street the first Saturday in May, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call 262-637-7892.

Belle City Brewfest: Sample more than 100 craft beers and sit in on a beer seminar.

Monument Square Art Festival: Downtown the last weekend of May from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Attracts more 
than 120 artists.

Greek Festival: This festival has a carnival, Greek food, dancing, music and a church tour. Held at the Kimissis Greek Orthodox Church during the last weekend in June. Call 262-632-5882.

Salmon-A-Rama: Festival Park on Fifth Street is a well-known fishing tournament, held during the third weekend in July.

Racine Regatta RYC Summer Racing Series: Beginning June 29, RYC hosts a series of regattas.

Italian Festival: Food, music and entertainment the fourth weekend
of July at Festival Park.

Racine Yacht Club HOOK Race: The 33rd consecutive running from Racine to Menominee, Michigan. Begin July 23, 2016.

Armenian Fest: Festival Park, food, dancing, music, held on the first Sunday in August. Call 262-639-6076.

Racine Zoo Classic Car and Bike Show: Held the third Sunday in August.

Great Lakes Brew Fest: At the Racine Zoo, third Saturday in Septembe. Features more than 200 craft beers and ciders.

Walking Ghost Tour of Downtown Racine: Last three weekends (Fridays and Saturdays) of October.

Downtown Holiday Parade and Tree Lighting: Event is at Main and Sixth Street the first Saturday in November at 5:30 p.m.


Belle City of the Lakes

By Jodie Jacobs
For contemporary arts and Frank Lloyd Wright architecture, Danish kringles and festivals, drop anchor in the Lake Michigan harbor town of Racine, Wisconsin.
If you’ve cruised Lake Michigan’s western shoreline, you have likely passed the 11-story Wind Point Lighthouse that sticks out at the north end of Racine. But did you know that there’s also a 15-story tower designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright nearby?  

The Wright structure isn’t Racine’s only gem. A short amble into downtown from the shoreline is one of the country’s largest and most notable contemporary glass, ceramics, works-on-paper and WPA prints collection, all housed at the Racine Art Museum.

Racine, the fifth largest city in Wisconsin centrally located between Chicago and Milwaukee, has always been a hub of innovation. The city is the hometown to many industries, including Horlick’s Malted Milk, Little Golden Books and SC Johnson, whose headquarters were designed in 1936 by Wright.

But no matter what type of food or activity peaks your interest, you must try a kringle. Racine is nicknamed America’s Kringle Capital. The kringle, a traditional Danish oval pastry, typically has a delicious fruit or pecan filling.

On the water: Relax, swim, fish and repeat

The sighting of the Wind Point Lighthouse is your indication to pull into Racine’s gorgeous Reefpoint Marina and relax awhile. Marina manager Carrie VanDera is waiting to cater to your boating and vacation needs.
 “We operate the marina like a five-star resort,” says VanDera. “We want people to relax and enjoy themselves. There’s a pool here, a hot tub, an outdoor restaurant with music and we have boat-side delivery service. We can bring you a six-pack of beer or whatever. People come here to be on vacation.”

The 921-slip, full-service marina features a new ship’s store, newly remodeled restroom and shower facilities, and boaters lounge. In addition, a marina shuttle takes visitors (for a small fee) to area attractions, including the lighthouse, SC Johnson headquarters (for an architectural tour) and Danish bakeries. But the ship’s store also carries Racine’s famous Danish kringles and can deliver one boat-side.

During the height of the boating season, the best plan of action is to reserve a transient slip ahead of your visit to Racine. However, the marina will take last minute boaters, particularly if they hit bad weather. Transient boaters can notify the marina on Channel 9, or call 262-633-7171.

When you’re ready for a refreshing dip in the lake, take advantage of the 50-acre North Beach, just a short dinghy ride north of the marina. In 2012, USA Today listed it as a Top 51 American Beach and in 2010, Midwest Living named it a top city beach.

Listen up if you’re an angler; the world’s record 41-pound, 8-ounce brown trout was caught in Racine waters during the town’s week-long Salmon-A-Rama tournament. So, if you’re interested in catching trout (rainbow, lake or brown) or salmon (Coho and Chinook), make arrangements at the marina to hop aboard one of the local charter fishing boats.

“We have a very knowledgeable charter fleet,” says fishing captain Bill Harris, head of the Fishing Charters of Racine Association. “Racine is prime fishing. We have reefs off Wind Point, a reef off Racine and (underwater) hills off Racine. These are the places where the fish hang out.”

Another advantage of taking a Racine fishing charter is the equipment and service that’s provided — the charters have ice and will clean the fish, so clients leave with fillets ready to cook that are fresh and packed in ice.

In town: Browse and tour

The notable contemporary arts collection is an easy walk from the marina up Fourth Street to the Racine Art Museum, known locally as RAM.

With thousands of works in the collection, items range from fibers and metals to glass, ceramics and wood. Under the experienced eye of executive director/curator Bruce W. Pepich, exhibits are well organized in several areas of the museum. What visitors may see at any given time at RAM are works by Dale Chihuly, Wendell Castle, Joel Philip Myers and Toshiko Takaezu. Tip: the gift shop is a great place to find unique, artistic items.  

The museum — which first began in 1941 as the Charles A. Wustum Museum of Fine Arts on the 13-acre Wustum property (also worth a visit) — opened its downtown facility as RAM in 2003. The original campus is about two miles from RAM’s downtown location and holds fine art and craft exhibitions, including Wisconsin artists’ photography and watercolor shows.

“The collections grew too large,” Pepich says. “When Karen Johnson Boyd gave us a major donation of baskets, ceramics and jewelry in 1992 it brought national attention to our collection so we began to attract other donations and visitors in the 1990s. We now get visitors from all over.”

The next downtown stop is the Heritage Museum, a few blocks south of RAM on Main, at Seventh Street. This museum is “dedicated to preserving the material culture and telling the special stories of the people of Racine County.” On a recent visit, the museum featured an exhibit called Waterways, which explored Racine’s early history as a thriving Great Lakes commercial port, and Underground Railroad, featuring stories of Racine County during and after the Civil War. Another exhibit displayed items relating to Danish settlements in the area from mid to late 1880s, when Wisconsin was attracting immigrants from the Scandinavian countries.

“They came for jobs. They were a diverse, hardworking people,” says Heritage Museum executive director Christopher R. Paulson.

Just north of the marina, the 32-acre Racine Zoo is home to some of the world’s most endangered species. The Zoo now features more than 100 different species of animals, including the Transvaal lion, orangutans, Eastern black rhinoceros, Masai giraffes and African penguins.

Lighthouse, Wright tower, Kringles, oh my

You might feel as though you are entering Oz’s Emerald Kingdom when visiting the SC Johnson campus — SC Johnson’s 15-story Research Tower designed by Frank Lloyd Wright is that awe-inspiring. Instead of walking a yellow brick road, if you’re moored in Racine, take the marina’s shuttle to the campus.

Thousands of visitors come to Racine just to see the Research Tower and Administration Building, also designed by Wright, so tour openings fill up ahead of time. Visit the company’s website ( and book a free tour before you arrive.

The Landmarks Tour explores the Wright-designed buildings: the Administration Building that opened in 1939 and the Research Tower, opened in 1950. The tour also visits Fortaleza Hall, designed by London-based Lord Norman Foster and his firm, Foster + Partners, which opened in 2010.  

A quote by H. F. Johnson Jr. on the SC Johnson website explains the Wright relationship: “Anybody can build a typical building. I wanted to build the best office building in the world, and the only way to do that was to get the greatest architect in the world.”

Expect to be awed. The Administration Building, considered among the top 25 buildings of the 20th century, has dendriform (tree-like) columns, 43 miles of Pyrex glass tubing and “bird cage-style circular elevators.” The Research Tower, standing 153 feet tall, is built on a cantilever principle with its 15 floors supported by a core that goes 54 feet into the ground.

Fortaleza Hall is just as amazing. A Gold Certified LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) building that reflects Johnson’s Brazilian expeditions, it is 60,000 square feet with a vertical garden, a 19,200-piece mosaic topography map of the Western Hemisphere that follows Sam Johnson’s journey from Racine to Brazil, an 8,000-square-foot mural of a Brazilian palm forest, based on photos by H. F. Johnson Jr., a waterfall and a reflecting pool.

The other tower to see, the Wind Point Lighthouse, rises 111 feet. The view is worth the climb of 144 steps. Stop in at its museum in the Fog Horn Building to learn about the lighthouse and the keepers’ jobs. Wind Point is among the tallest and oldest lighthouses on Lake Michigan still in operation. Built in 1880, it still has a Fresnel lens. The original lens can be seen in the old Coast Guard Keepers quarters.

You work up an appetite climbing those stairs, so it’s OK to reward yourself with a kringle and bring some back to the boat. With reportedly one of the largest North American settlements of Danes (outside of Greenland), Racine is known for its Danish pastries: the kringle. The recipe on the Food Network from O&H Danish Bakery suggests that more than 75 hours go into making the kringle and the traditional kringle has 32 layers. Racine’s Danish bakeries ship their kringles across the U.S. and abroad. Five locally owned bakeries produce kringles: Bendtsen’s Bakery, Larsen’s Bakery, Lehmann’s Bakery, O&H Danish Bakery and Racine Danish Kringle.

But be sure to visit O&H’s new location on Washington Avenue. Founded by Christian Olesen and Harvey Holtz in 1949, the bakery is still run by the Olesen family. Like the other Danish bakeries, their kringle is a terrific treat, but their store’s Danish ambiance sets them apart. From the checkout counter shaped like a Viking ship, to the plaques and large brass kringle topped with a royal crown, the bakery’s newest location is a fun place to shop and stay awhile.

Son-in-law Matt Horton explains the ambiance: “The store shows the Danish heritage in wood, metal and stone. They are symbols of the Danish spirit of adventure. The Danes were also merchants and tradesmen.”

Traveling a short distance west, on Washington Avenue, another must-stop is Lighthouse Gallery and Gifts. This unique shop boasts a large selection of lighthouse and nautical gifts and decorations. They also have the ability to blend their printing expertise with that of fine photography, transforming your photos into cherished keepsakes to remember your trip.

Stay for a bite to eat

Reefpoint Brew House, the on-site restaurant at the marina, features great good, an extensive beer menu, entertainment and a recently renovated patio. Open year-round for lunch and dinner (and Sunday for a brunch buffet), it’s the perfect place to relax with great views of the harbor and Lake Michigan.

If you like orchards, head out to Apple Holler on Interstate 94 for lunch. Its restaurant, open year-round, features a menu centered on apples, pears and pumpkins. Take a hayride around the farm in the fall, or a horse-drawn sleigh through the snow in the winter.

Getting hungry while walking around downtown? Consider: the Yardarm Bar & Grill, for fish and seafood; Salute, for an Italian meal; Third Coast Wood-Fired Pizza & Pub; Shogun, a Japanese-style steak house; Ivanhoe Pub & Eatery for a great beer selection; and SIP, for locally-sourced dishes. Also, put Roberts Roost and its homemade biscuits on your list for breakfast; along with Kewpie Lunch, an old diner atmosphere famous for its burgers; and Olde Madrid for Spanish tapas. Treat your sweet tooth with a taste of Italian-style gelato at Divino Gelato Café.

If you need a break from the boat’s bunk, but still want to be near Lake Michigan, get a room at the Lochnaiar Inn, The Christmas House or the Harbourwalk Hotel Racine.

The Lochnaiar (Gaelic for “on the water”) is a converted Tudor home built in 1915 on a Lake Michigan bluff. The 7-room inn was recently updated and features impressive views, continental breakfast on weekdays and a full breakfast on weekends.

The Christmas House is a historical landmark, located just a few blocks from Lake Michigan. It was originally home to a founder of Racine’s J.I. Case Co., and then later owned by the Horlick family, of Horlick Malted Milk Company fame. The beautiful estate features elegant rooms and gourmet breakfasts. The main floor can host small events, and the original Carriage house is still on-site, featuring three bedrooms and a private balcony.

Tasty pastries, historic architecture, an impressive marina and vibrant downtown — considering all of the town’s attractions, Racine really is more than a mere boating season destination.

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