Lincoln Park Zoo

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As both one of the oldest and the only free zoo in the United States, Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo is a great place to spend the day in the city while still communing with nature. Located right inside of Lincoln Park on the city’s North Side, this zoo is open 365 days a year and full of fun and entertainment for all ages.

History

The 35 acres which make up the Lincoln Park Zoo house over 1,250 animals and have been doing so for a very long time. The zoo itself started rather randomly when the gift of a pair of swans was given to Lincoln Park Commission by New York’s Central Park in 1868. As such, Lincoln Park Zoo is among the oldest zoos in the United States, putting it in a class among giants such as the Central Park Zoo in New York (1862) and the Philadelphia Zoo (1859).

Through the years, small acquisitions built upon one another, including the addition of an escape artist bear cub in 1874, the Lion House in 1912, and the Primate House in 1927. Today, the zoo is home to more than 1,250 animals from species that range from gorillas and big cats to primates, polar bears, and penguins.

The most notable characteristic of the Lincoln Park Zoo is its free entry 365 days a year. Owned by the Chicago Park District and managed by the Lincoln Park Zoological Society, Lincoln Park Zoo subsists on donations alone and will never turn a visitor away from their gates because of an inability to pay entrance fees. Still, the zoo hosts less than 3 million people annually, making it a great, if less-travelled zoo trip when in the Chicago area.

Like many U.S. zoos, the Lincoln Park Zoo is as dedicated to conservation and education as it is to entertainment. In that vein, several resources for teachers are available as well as field trip opportunities. From the conservation side of things, Lincoln Park Zoo is involved in the Goualougo Triangle Ape Project as well as the Serengeti Health Initiative.

Main Attraction

Compared to other zoos, most notably the suburban Brookfield Zoo outside of the Chicago city limits, Lincoln Park Zoo is a small one at only 35 acres. However, there is still plenty to do when visiting.

The zoo is a popular destination for families featuring several programs aimed at small children such as the Nature Boardwalk, McCormack bear habitat and bird house. As well, the Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo, Children’s Train Ride, and Farm-in-the-Zoo are all popular choices for very young children and their parents. Special family programs, including daily story time, animal meetings, and even sleepovers, all offer children the opportunity to really engage with the zoo, its staff, and its animal residents.

In addition, adult-oriented programs and exhibits are offered as well. This includes special stage performances, gardening classes, and even date-worthy dining. Private events can also be hosted either inside the zoo itself or at its adjacent Café Brauer.

Why It’s a Must-See

Though not as much of a “big ticket” item as other, larger zoos in the area and beyond, the Lincoln Park Zoo holds a special place within the hearts of animal lovers and the city of Chicago itself. As one of the oldest zoological parks in the U.S., and the largest within the Chicago city limits, Lincoln Park is a great place to spend the day with the family with an admissions price that can’t be beat.

Where to Buy It

There are a number of ways you can enjoy admission to this attraction.

1. Purchase a ticket from the Lincoln Park Zoo when you get there.

2. .  .

3. Purchase as part of a money saving package. Popular examples to the right.

4. Purchase a Tourist pass. The Lincoln Park Zoo is available on the Go Chicago Card.