I was AMAZED to find out that Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago is completely free to visit! It’s not unusual for city attractions to have a free day every now and then but Lincoln Park Zoo does it one better by being free 365 days a year!
Lincoln Park Zoo is located a little north of the main Chicago Downtown area. The nearest CTA station is Armitage, located on the purple and brown line. From there it’s around another one mile walk to the park. If you don’t fancy the walk, there are buses that connect the station with the zoo!
The Zoo is open 365 days from 10am and did I mention it’s FREE!? (Yes, yes I did).
The Animals at Lincoln Park Zoo
I was most excited about seeing the gorillas! I’ve been to loads of zoos around the world, I even used to volunteer at one of the best zoos in the UK and I’ve never before seen gorillas!
The monkey exhibits are really awesome with several different species on display (with babies!). Of course there are chimps too!
Lincoln Park Zoo is also home to a polar bear but on a boiling hot day in summer, I think it was hiding in a cold indoor enclosure! I checked on it several times during the day and it was always hiding! Having worked in a zoo through all the seasons, I’m well aware that animals can be hard to see in certain weather conditions!
Other animals include: giraffes, zebras, black bears, tigers, lions, camels, meerkats and penguins, just to name a few! The bird enclosure is ginormous and some of the species are free flying! I spent ages watching the naked mole rats, these little hairless moles with giant teeth are a bit of a scientific wonder and can live up to 32 years old!
The zoo has a program of animal encounters and demonstrations throughout the day. I watched the seal training. The keepers go through a routine with the seals to check their wellbeing and the condition of their skin and mouth etc. The seals are rewarded with a fish each time they complete a command.
Lincoln Park Zoo relies on donations, grants and the profits from the concessions and souvenir sales. They have other events throughout the year that help to raise funds. Such as during the summer they have ‘Yoga at the Zoo’ once a week.
A land train and a large carousel also help to raise funds at the zoo, by charging a small fee in exchange for a ride. If you have small children (between the age of 5-12), you can even camp (in a tent) at the zoo overnight on certain weekends! That would be such a unique experience, I wish they did it for grown ups too!
There are several different dining options from sit down meals to quick snacks. During my visit on a warm June day, the outdoor eating area at The Patio at Cafe Brauer was packed out. It has views across the South Pond, boardwalk and the Chicago skyline.
Luggage storage – This was one thing I Googled like crazy before visiting the zoo and struggled to find any answers. I was carrying my backpack as I was between flights and was in desperate need to dump it somewhere (I even considered hiring a kiddy cart or buggy to pull it around in)! There are lots of entrances to the zoo, the lockers are near the car park entrance. Regular lockers are available and take 4 quarters and roughly hold a normal sized backpack. Larger lockers can be hired for $5 but they are open to all the elements and the contents are on display like an animal. Padlocks are at the information centre…quite a way from where the lockers are actually located!