A short drive from Milwaukee, Racine is a prime spot for a weekend getaway.

Friday Evening

First things first, let’s get some dinner. Wells Brothers Italian Restaurant has been around since 1921, when James and Dominic Wells brought their old country recipes to Racine. Over the years it survived a gutting fire and a total internal remodel, and now the third generation of descendants has taken over to provide locals with delicious pizza. Order up one of their ultra-thin crust pies with all the toppings you want, or if you’re not a pizza-lover, go with a classic Italian dish like mostaccioli or chicken parmigiana.

Post-pizza, it’s time for some stargazing at the Modine-Benstead Observatory. The Racine Astronomical Society holds public observatory nights once a month April through October. You’ll get the chance to look through the high-powered observatory telescopes and witness the night sky like you never have before. Bet you didn’t expect to get a first-class view of space from Racine, did you?

Finally, check into the Harbourwalk Doubletree, a hotel right on the marina that provides quick access to Racine’s downtown shops, bars and museums. If you’re looking for a late night drink, stop by the Reefpoint Brew House, just a short walk down lakefront.

Saturday Morning

Up and at ’em. For a traditional Racine breakfast, there is obviously no real choice except Kringle. Not having this breakfast pastry would be like visiting Canada and eating your pancakes plain. There are plenty of local options for your morning Kringle, but I’ll go with the classic O&H Bakery. I’m a big fan of their seasonal Red, White and Blue Kringle, which fills me with patriotic fervor, but if it’s not available the reliable choice is always raspberry.

O&H Bakery’s cherry kringle; photo by Adam Ryan Morris

Full of Kringle and ready to mingle, it’s time to head over to the Wind Point Lighthouse, a 108-foot-tall historical landmark north of Downtown. The lighthouse has been around since 1880, and many a brave keeper has lugged gallons of fuel up the 144 iron steps every day to save our sailors from a dark crash against the shore.

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Just a short drive from the lighthouse is Wingspread, another national historic landmark. Contrary to popular opinion, Wingspread is not a Pokemon, but is instead a massive house designed by none other than Frank Lloyd Wright. The massive residence is now a conference center replete with four wings, a 30-foot chimney, and a Great Hall with tours available by appointment.

Saturday Afternoon

Morning activities complete, it’s on to an afternoon of entertainment. Start out at the Racine Zoo, where you can get your fill of lions, tigers, and lesser Madagascar tenrecs, oh my. This zoo is one of Racine’s best attractions, and this fall it’ll host a Chinese Lantern Festival, which makes it doubly worth the visit.

You’re still flying high off the Kringle, but now it’s time for a more substantial meal at Olde Madrid. Get yourself some tapas, maybe some beef skewers, or go all in with Mama Chuy’s Bistec. It’s all quality Spanish food here.

The next stop is the Racine Heritage Museum. Learn how Racine was made and explore the museum’s collection of artifacts and research.

Saturday Evening

As evening rolls on by, you might want to catch a show inside a giant golden disk. If so, drive over to the Golden Rondelle Theater. This flying-saucer-looking building was a main attraction at New York’s 1964 World’s Fair, before being moved to Racine where it stands as a historical landmark of weird ideas. Shows and lectures are put on inside the saucer, which I assume will one day launch back up into the atmosphere and return to the distant planet whence it came.

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Next, head over to Butcher and Barrel for dinner and a brewski. They serve a good steak, which is enough for me.

Sunday Morning

If you’re Catholic and/or an avid architecture fan, now would be the time to check out St. Patrick’s Church, a nationally registered historical landmark built in 1925. If not, grab breakfast at Meli Cafe, which will give you your fill of scrambled eggs and Loukoumades, a bite-sized Greek donut glazed with honey and cinnamon.

On your way back to Milwaukee, stop by North Beach, weather permitting, for a brief sunny interlude of lakeside goodness before Monday hits.

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