The Lincoln Park Zoo Chicago is a must-see Chicago attraction with kids. Currently celebrating its 150th Anniversary, this zoo is open 365 days a year and it’s a free zoo. Yes, that’s right, its free to visit the zoo every day of the year. Perfect for families looking to save some money in this expensive city. Your family will love seeing all the Lincoln Park Zoo animals and exhibits all year long. Enjoy nice strolls through the zoo in the summer or visiting the can’t miss Lincoln Park Zoo Lights display in the winter. Wondering where to start planning your trip to the Lincoln Park Zoo? Use my Family Guide to prepare for a fun day out at the zoo. Find all the details you need to know about Lincoln Park Zoo parking, zoo hours, map, what animals to see, where to eat, and more great family tips.
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Lincoln Park Zoo Chicago
Lincoln Park Zoo Hours
The Lincoln Park Zoo is open 365 days of the year so you can visit the animals even if you are here on a holiday. Zoo hours vary based on the time of year you visit. Here are the hours for 2018 or follow this link (here).
10 a.m.–5 p.m. (gates open 7 a.m.–6 p.m.)
10 a.m.–4:30 p.m. (gates open 7 a.m.–5 p.m.)
10 a.m.–5 p.m. (gates open 7 a.m.–6 p.m.)
Memorial Day–Labor Day (May 24–September 1)
Weekdays 10 a.m.–5 p.m. (gates open 7 a.m.–6 p.m.)
Weekends 10 a.m.–6:30 p.m. (gates open 7 a.m.–7 p.m.)
Lincoln Park Zoo Parking
Start planning your zoo day by figuring out how to get to the zoo. The Lincoln Park Zoo Chicago is located in Lincoln Park just off of Lake Shore Drive at the Fullerton Parkway Exit.
The Lincoln Park Zoo address: 2001 N. Clark Street Chicago, 60614
The Zoo does have its own parking lot located at Fullerton Parkway and Cannon Drive. Unlike the zoo, the parking however is not free and can get pretty pricey. The rates change during different seasons and usually range from $20-$35 dollars a day. If you are looking for an easy and convenient place to park, this is it. The lot can fill up on busy weekends, summer days, and holidays, so make sure to get there earlier in the day.
Look here parking information: Parking
The Lincoln Park Zoo Parking address is: 2400 North Cannon Drive, Chicago, 60614
You can find a little cheaper parking at the Chicago History Museum Parking lot located across from the zoo on the south end. Easy walking distance to the zoo and a great alternative to parking at the zoo lot.
Chicago History Museum Parking Address: 1730 N. Stockton Drive, Chicago
Another alternative is to try and find street parking and pay the meter. I always take a drive around the zoo to see if I can find parking before paying the parking lots fees, but I have not had very good luck. This is a crowded area in the city and parking spots are hard to come by. However, it’s worth a quick drive around the zoo to check.
Public Transportation to the Zoo
Public Transportation in the city is a great alternative to having to drive and park at the zoo. The #151 Bus and the #156 Bus both stop outside of the Zoo’s west gate. The Brown and Purple L lines both stop about a mile away from the zoo at the Armitage Station.
Related Article – Brookfield Zoo Tips with Kids
Lincoln Park Zoo Map
It is hard to find printed maps once you are at the zoo, but you will find large signs with maps throughout the zoo to review. This zoo is not as big as other zoos, such as the Chicago Brookfield Zoo, so it is a little easier to navigate. If you would like to look over a map before you go, click on this link (here)
Lincoln Park Zoo Animals and Exhibits
There are hundreds of animals for your family to see at the Lincoln Park Zoo. If you would like to visit all the of exhibits, I would suggest spending a full day with a lunch break in between. With the zoo being 150 years old, you will find a variety of older historic buildings housing the animals and several newer buildings. Let me highlight a few of the animals and exhibits my family loves.
Farm in the Zoo
Do your kids want to know what it’s like to live on a farm? Head over to the Farm located on the south end of the zoo. You can look for the big red barn to find your way. The barn houses a tractor for the kids to climb, baby chicks, and several displays for younger children. Outside, let the kids learn how to milk a cow or pet some goats. Lastly, check out their huge gardens and see what kind of food grows in Illinois.
On your walk over or after the Farm, check out the new nature boardwalk created along the small lagoon. It has a beautiful view of the city and the bridge over it is a great spot for a family picture.
Regenstine Center for African Apes
This newer building is a great place to view the African Apes up close. Even the littlest kids will be able to view the apes in their habitat. They have both indoor and outdoor space to roam and it’s fun to watch them interact. Head over around lunch time to watch feeding time, too.
Regenstine African Journey
This is where you go to check out the Giraffes, Zebras, Hippopotamus, and more. This exhibit has an outside area and an inside exhibit area, too. Make sure to check out both on nice days. The kids will love seeing the huge hippopotamus swimming around and the huge Giraffes gracefully walking.
On your way into this exhibit, check out the African Penguin Cove located right outside.
Then on your way out of the exhibit, check out the Polar Bears and see if they are swimming in two different viewing areas both below and above water. Polar Bears will be located on your right when you come out. On your left side, check out the two huge Rhinoceroses.
Regenstine Small Mammal and Reptile House
If your kids like snakes, lizards, frogs and small mammals, this is a must visit exhibit. It is a larger exhibit then you realize at first as it winds around to the back where you find larger mammals like alligators and sloths. We spend a lot of time in this cool exhibit.
Related Article – Chicago Shedd Aquarium Family Tips and Things to Do
Pritzker Family Play Zoo
When your kids need some time to just run around, this is the place to go. This area is geared toward younger children. I will admit I was a little disappointed with this area when it was built as there is not that much in the exhibit, but it’s a great place to run and burn energy. If your running out of time, this would be an exhibit to skip.
The great part about the Lincoln Park Zoo Chicago is as you walk around, you are constantly walking past an outside exhibit of animals. This really helps keep the kids engaged as you walk. I only listed a few exhibits but you won’t want to miss the big cats, flamingos and Japanese Macaques either.
Where to Eat at the Lincoln Park Zoo
There are four restaurants in the zoo, in addition to vendors throughout the zoo on nice days. Here is a quick outline on the restaurants.
Park Place Café
Park Place Café is a cafeteria type restaurant where you can get Mexican food, burgers, sandwiches, Italian fare and ice cream. Everyone in the family should be able to find something to eat at this restaurant. They have seating both inside and out plus bathroom facilities. The restaurant is located in the middle of the zoo so it makes it a convenient place to stop for lunch or a snack.
Café at Wild Things
Café at Wild Things is located above the Wild Things gift shop and has a great view of the zoo. They have a smaller selection of food choices but it would work for a quick stop. They are also now serving kids meals endorsed by Healthy Fare for kids.
Eadie Levy’s Landmark Café
If you are looking for just a quick hot dog or snack, this is your stop. Located across from Café at Wild Things in one of the oldest historic buildings on the zoo grounds. You can hear the seals from here, watch the Lionel train ride or check out the Japanese Macaques from your outdoor seats.
The Patio at Café Brauer
Café Brauer is a Chicago experience with views of the native landscape and the Chicago skyline. This restaurant offers savory small plates, specialty burgers, cocktails and ice cream for the kiddos. If you wanted a nicer restaurant to stop for a break, check out this historic Café. It’s a win-win, grab a drink for the adults and ice cream for the kids.
Keep in mind, you are in the heart of the Lincoln Park neighborhood and there are tons of restaurants in the area to explore after the zoo for dinner.
Want to save some money? Pack your own lunch. You will find several benches around the zoo to sit at or bring a blanket and sit on the lawn. The Farm area has a whole section of picnic benches, too. My kids love to eat their lunch at the Kovler Seal Pool top viewing area. They like to eat and watch the seals swim around. Then after lunch, head down below to watch the seals in the underwater viewing area.
Lincoln Park Zoo Lights
Winter time is still a great time to visit the Lincoln Park Zoo Chicago. For 24 years, the Lincoln Park Zoo has been celebrating the holidays with their Zoo Lights Event. It’s a family-oriented event that fills the zoo with twinkling lights, activities, and fun luminous displays. Zoo Lights runs from the end of November through the first week of January. Check the calendar to find the exact dates (here).
Lincoln Park Zoo Lights gets busy so I would suggest going earlier in the day to visit the animals and staying for the festivities.
Want to add a little more education to your visit to the zoo? Look for these Zoo Tracks Flyer at the zoo entrances.
It will guide you on how to learn about different types of animals. For example, animals Built to Survive. 5 Animals are highlighted for you to find in the zoo and learn more about this topic. It’s a great way to keep older kids more interested in the zoo.
Add on a Beach Day
The great part about the Lincoln Park Zoo is it is located across Lake Shore Drive from Lake Michigan. You can easily walk across the path from the zoo to take a stroll along the shore line paths, play in the sand or take a quick dip in the lake on a warm day. If you park in the zoo lot, just leave some beach stuff in your trunk and grab it on your way to the lake. If you plan on spending the whole day in the cit,y this is a great add on to your day.
Check out this great beach/picnic blanket and cooler I like to take to the zoo and beaches. The cooler is the perfect size for family picnics plus it has room on the side to hold sippy cups. I love the blanket and use it everywhere we go not just the beach. It’s easily folds up to carry with a strap and is waterproof on one side. This works great for a damp soccer field, zoo picnic, playing at the playground and more. It’s so versatile I just leave it in the trunk of my car all summer long.
Add On Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
Located across Fullerton Pkwy from the zoo is the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. The museum houses an amazing indoor butterfly habitat your kids will love exploring. Find cool reptiles, learn about animals native to Illinois, explore the chicago locks systems in the water area and run around a cool indoor play area. Your visit should only take about 2-3 hours so you could easily visit both locations. They also have beautiful nature trails outside if you just want to explore the outdoors. Find more great tips on visiting the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.
I hope after reading this article you are now prepared for a day out at the Lincoln Park Zoo Chicago. You now know where Lincoln park zoo parking is, hours for the zoo, what animals to visit, where to eat and how to make a full day of family fun. And don’t forget to try out the Lincoln Park Zoo Lights this year!
Have you visited the zoo before? Do you have any great tips to add? Please leave them in the comments for us all to learn.
Enjoy a great day out at the Lincoln Park Zoo!!
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