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In Kids & Family

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Wisconsin sites offer fun and education

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With the price of gas going through the roof, your economic stimulus check might not be enough to convince you to vacation outside the Badger State this summer. However, in addition to its many natural charms, Wisconsin also offers some fun family destinations that are also educational.

Think caves, logging camps, zoos, planetariums, experiential museums, parks.

Jeff LeMahieu of Wisconsin Connections Academy (WCA), a public, K-8 virtual school based in Appleton, is an expert on these destinations.

"We do on average three field trips a month," says LeMahieu. "One of the first priorities is to spread them around the state because our students are spread throughout the state and we want them to all have access to the trips."

That, says LeMahieu -- a middle school math teacher -- means that he learns about wide-ranging opportunities for fun and educational trips all through the state, not just in a tight geographical area.

Many destinations have official tours to get the most out of the visit and some also offer pre-visit prep sheets available on their Web sites to get the most "brain power" out of your visit. LeMahieu suggests doing some advance work with your kids, by simply using the Internet to get background knowledge on topic.

"You can Google 'caves' and you and your kids can come up with really great questions to have ready for the tour guides," says LeMahieu.

Speaking of caves, they are great family adventures for children in kindergarten through 8th grade, says LeMahieu. In fact, he says, visits to caves get the best response.

"The cave trips are always popular with the kids. A lot of the kids have never been in a cave before, so it's totally new to them."

But be aware that there are usually a lot of stairs, it can be damp and slippery and dark.


The Allen F. Blocher Planetarium
UW-Stevens Point
(715) 346-2208

The planetarium will be closed to the public from May 19 to June 15.

Barlow Planetarium
UW-Fox Valley, Menasha
(920) 832-2868
Planetariums offer spellbinding tours of the cosmos using laser and light shows and other exhibits.

The Building for Kids, Fox Cities Children's Museum
100 W. College Ave., Appleton
(920) 734-3226

The 30,000-sq. ft. museum delights and educates young visitors with exhibits like the Story Telling Tree, Water Play, DaVinci Studio, Happy Baby Garden, Airplane Hangar and more. Closed Mondays.

Dinosaur Discovery Museum
5608 Tenth Ave., Kenosha
(262) 653-4450

Wisconsin was once home to dinosaurs and mastodons and other amazing creatures. You can learn about it all here. Museum opens at noon.

Kenosha Civil War Museum
5400 First Ave., Kenosha

Opening on June 14, 2008 on the lakefront (the trolley, see below, stops nearly at the front door) explores the social, political and economic influences that caused the Civil War, using dioramas and interactive exhibits at this one of a kind museum.

Kenosha History Center
51st Place, Kenosha
(262) 654-5770

The Kenosha History Center's mission is to collect, exhibit and educate people about Kenosha County's rich history. Exhibits include Voices of WWII, Grandma's attic and a blacksmith shop.

Kenosha Public Museum
5500 First Ave.,
(262) 653-4140
The Kenosha Public Museum, located next door to the Civil War Museum (see below), has interesting natural history exhibits (including a giant wooly mammoth and a dinosaur room) as well as cultural materials and neat selection of dioramas depicting the studios of great artists. There's also a fine view of the lake.

Kenosha Trolley

There is no better way to spend a quarter in Southeastern Wisconsin than on riding the downtown Kenosha streetcar. The five brightly colored trolleys travel south on 11th Avenue to 56th Street.

La Crosse University Planetarium
La Crosse
(608) 785-8669

The planetariums present spectacular laser and light shows to explain the cosmos to kids and parents. Call or visit the Web sites for current shows and times.

NEW (Northeast Wisconsin) Zoo
4378 Reforestation Rd.,
Green Bay
(920) 448-7878

There are miles of trails, trout ponds and an observation tower with fabulous views! The nearby Brown County Reforestation Camp offers miles of hiking, biking and nature trails, too.

Oshkosh Zoological Society
Menomonee Park, Oshkosh

Visit monkeys, goats, prairie dogs and more!

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haasmindyj | March 13, 2009 at 2:56 a.m. (report)

For those traveling to the Eau Claire area, you can find lots of family friendly events, restaurant reviews, and much more listed on the VolumeOne website.

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