Situated on 35 acres of beautiful scenery, the Lincoln Park is a fascinating oasis of nature in the midst of concrete and skyscrapers. Drawing upwards of 3 million visitors a year due to its free admission, the zoo is nestled in the heart of Lincoln Park in an intimate setting with close views of the animals. As one of the oldest zoos in the United States, the zoo pairs some of its original architecture with state-of-the-art facilities to provide character and charm to its guests.
Lincoln Park Zoo is unique in that it is depends primarily on visitors, donors and members to stay open every day with no admission fee. Subsidized by funds from the Chicago Park District, Lincoln Park Zoo is dedicated to animal care, education, conservation and science. In short, it’s a super cool, urban zoo that is free to visit. And don’t just assume this zoo is only for the summer, because it has plenty to see and do all year long as it’s open 365 days a year!
Not to Miss at the Lincoln Park Zoo
You could certainly spend all day at Lincoln Park Zoo and not really be able to see everything. But you’ll want to make a point to get to these exhibits:
Western Lowland Gorillas. The largest of primates alive today, these gorilla families offer an impressive peek into the world of these 200-400-pound creatures. Listed as critically endangered species, these gorillas have been part of Lincoln Park Zoo’s world-famous success in breeding. Located inside the Regenstein Center for African Apes.
Farm-in-the-Zoo. Located next to the Nature Boardwalk, adults and kids alike will enjoy petting goats, saying hello to ponies and even feeding cows! Seasonal gardening activities are also accessible at the urban farm exhibit. This hands-on, interactive experience is a great contrast to the many other exhibits that are centered around observation only.
Pritzker Penguin Cove. Welcoming a brood of penguins into the family a couple of years ago, Lincoln Park Zoo now provides face-to-face encounters with these unique creatures. Originally from the southern coast of Africa, you can enjoy some personal time with these small, 7-pound, endangered creatures in their new Chicagoland habitat.
Lincoln Park Zoo Amenities
Guest and member services are located inside Searle Visitor Center at the East Gate entrance of the zoo. Services and amenities offered by the Lincoln Park Zoo include:
Lincoln Park Restaurants
Several different dining options are made available at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Hot dogs, Mexican food, Italian fare, salads, sandwiches and many more options can be found at the Park Place Café, Café at Wild Things, Eadie Levy’s Landmark Café, and The Patio at Café Bruner.
On the main mall, the gift shop is often from 10am-4pm for souvenirs, handcrafted jewelry, games, puzzles, books, educational toys and much more. Several other shopping kiosks are also present throughout the zoo.
- Strollers and wheelchairs are available for use at the zoo.
- The zoo is generally wheelchair accessible, although certain exhibits may not be.
- Accessible and family restrooms are located throughout the park.
- An ATM is available at Park Place Café.
What’s Near the Lincoln Park Zoo
Located just north of the downtown Chicago area, Lincoln Park boasts enjoyable attractions nearby such as:
- North Avenue Beach
- Chicago History Museum
- Oz Park (the Wizard of Oz-themed playground & Park)
- Lincoln Monument
- Lincoln Park Conservatory
- Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
Getting to the Lincoln Park Zoo
Whether driving, taking public transportation, or biking, it’s easy to get to Lincoln Park Zoo:
Located just off of Lake Shore Drive, a few minutes north of downtown Chicago, take Fullerton Parkway or North Avenue (I-94) and go east to the zoo.
Parking is conveniently located at Fullerton Parkway and Cannon Drive and is open from 6am-11pm daily. Rates range between $20 and $35 per day, depending on the season, special events, etc.
CTA buses #22, #36, #151 and #156 all have stops located conveniently to the zoo’s West Gate, Farm-in-Zoo or Café Brauer.
Brown line and Purple Line trains stops at the Armitage station, which is approximately one mile from the zoo.
For those who want to ride their bicycles to the zoo, parking racks are available at several different entrance locations. Several Divvy bike share stations are located within walking distance of the entrances to the zoo.
When to go to the Lincoln Park Zoo
Open 365 days a year, zoo hours vary depending on the season but the gates typically open at 9am and close between 5pm and 7pm. In order to avoid the crowds, hitting the zoo early in the morning is going to be your best bet.
Lincoln Park Zoo Insider Tips
- Money Saving Tip: If you are planning on visiting several tourist attractions during your visit to Chicago, you might think about a tourist pass such as the Go Chicago Pass or Chicago Explorer Pass, both include the rides at Lincoln Park Zoo as well as a lot more.
- : If you are planning on visiting several tourist attractions during your visit to Chicago, you might thin about a tourist pass such as the Go Chicago Pass or Chicago Explorer Pass, both include the a tour on the Tall Ship Windy.
- Download a map from the zoo website before you go to make the most of your day at the zoo.
- Plan your visit so that you can stop by Regenstein Small Mammal-Reptile House at 11am where you can Meet the Animals.
- The zoo website’s daily activity page will keep you apprised of current events!
- Smoking at the zoo is not permitted for the safety of animals and visitors.
- Service animals that meet ADA requirements are welcome.