The Top 5 Chicago 4th of July Road Trip Destinations: #5

Other enteries in this series:

With this cool weather hanging around, it might be hard to believe that the 4th of July is right around the corner.

Meerkat at the Racine Zoo

Meerkat at the Racine Zoo

With the 4th falling on a Friday, the long weekend is a great excuse to escape Chicago and go on a family road trip. Being in the Midwest, we might not be within driving range of the ocean but there are plenty of other fun and interesting destinations that are within driving range and well-worth escaping to.

This is my first installment in the series “The Top 5 Chicago 4th of July Road Trip Destinations.” Each entry in this series will focus on one great vacation spot that you can pack up the kids and head to for the long holiday weekend.

Make the 4th of July 2014 one that your family remembers forever with a visit to one of these family-friendly midwest hotspots. Each spot will be kid friendly and focus on needing little planning to enjoy. If you plan to stay in a hotel, you can use priceline or one of those sites to find a cheap room nearby. If you want to camp, you will want to start calling nearby campgrounds ASAP as campgrounds fill up much quicker than hotel rooms.

The Top 5 Chicago 4th of July Road Trip Destinations

#5 Racine, WI

The Racine area is the closest destination on this road trip list. Depending where you are coming from, it is between a 45 minute and hour and a half drive from Chicago. Despite the close proximity to Chicago, once you arrive in this area, you will feel like you are truly on vacation. There is everything from interesting food and beautiful beaches to an excellent zoo to visit.

The first point of interest is the Racine Zoo. It might be much smaller than the Chicago zoos, but it has some incredibly unique exhibits to visit. For $4 a person, you can sign up for a giraffe encounter and help feed the zoo’s Masai giraffes or you can choose to feed the resident camels. Inside the aviary, you can buy a seed stick for $2 and have the birds eat right out of your hands. There is also a miniature train and playground for younger kids. However, the true gem of this zoo is Walkabout Creek. Here, you can walk on a footpath through an enclosure that kangaroos, emus and wallaroos roam freely through. For a small zoo, this exhibit is an unexpected delight that kids will go crazy over. For more information: www.racinezoo.org

Right down the street from the Racine Zoo is North Beach. North Beach was the first beach in Wisconsin to be granted the Blue Wave Clean certification by the National Clean Beaches Council. It’s been ranked as one of the top beaches in the Midwest and is noted for being both clean and family friendly. If you are looking for a clean, safe place to take the kids swimming on Lake Michigan, this should be your destination. Parking is free, lifeguards are on duty, and there is a snack bar and washrooms at the beach.

Another picturesque sight to see is the Wind Point Lighthouse. This lighthouse is postcard-pretty and is also the oldest working lighthouse on Lake Michigan. At certain times of year, the lighthouse hosts tower climbs where you can climb the 144 stairs of the lighthouse and enjoy the breathtaking views of the lake and surrounding farmland. For more information: www.windpointlighthouse.com

On your way back to Chicago, you can take the time to stop at the Jelly Belly Factory in Pleasant Prairie or one of the many cheese shops located along the highway. This is just a small sampling of what Racine has to offer, for more information check out www.realracine.com

Close by you can also visit Milwaukee or Lake Geneva for even more fun. Food is more inexpensive in WI than Chicago, so don't hesitate to check out local restaurants. For more ideas on things to do, stop by the visitors center when you first enter WI and pick up guidebooks for Kenosha County, a copy of Real Racine and information about Milwaukee. Milwaukee also has a world class zoo and many other fun family activities.

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