Tax dollars don't go to waste at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. America’s most historic zoo, it’s one of the country’s last remaining free-admission zoos, and it's just as popular among the locals as the tourists.
Lincoln Park Zoo, located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, is open 365 days a year and hosts events and activities throughout the year. But the real attraction is the animals.
Larger habitats include the elephants, cheerful sea lions and the endangered Siberian tiger. At the state-of-the-art Regenstein Center for African Apes, huge glass windows give guests an opportunity to literally go nose to nose with curious and complex apes.
Lincoln Park Zoo recently welcomed its first baby rhino in 25 years. — Photo courtesy of Lincoln Park Zoo
The Regenstein African Journey allows visitors to become fully immersed in the sights and sounds of Africa. The 75,000-square-foot facility replicates the natural homelands of two dozen African species from the rain forests to the savannas to the lakes of Great Rift Valley. It's home to some of the world’s rarest creatures like black rhinos, wild dogs, pygmy hippos and dwarf crocodiles.
In late August 2013, the zoo welcomed a baby boy. It reported the birth of an Eastern black rhinoceros calf. New babies are often celebrated with great fanfare, and the zoo's website has a whole page devoted to their arrivals with updates.
Although the animals are the star attraction, throughout the year Lincoln Park Zoo hosts unique entertainment from Wine & Wildlife conservation events to the summer concert series Jammin’ at the Zoo to the holiday dazzle of ZooLights.
It also offers gardening classes for adults, and kids can take a twirl around the on-site carousel. The lush gardens within Lincoln Park Conservatory feature tropical palms and ancient ferns. It's a nice respite during the colder months.
Since Lincoln Park Zoo sits in a vibrant Chicago neighborhood, dining options are plentiful just outside the zoo’s bounds. RJ Grunt’s boasts a fun and funky vibe that’s perfect for families and within walking distance, while Bricks Chicago serves up pizza once you pass its hidden stairwell doors.
For those who prefer to stay on the premises, Park Place Café is convenient. Kids enjoy the animal-themed food court with seasonal organic offerings. During the summer, the Patio at Café Brauer allows diners to enjoy a glass of wine or meal al fresco with the view of Chicago’s skyline as the backdrop.
One can easily spend an entire day at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo because there are so many things to see and do. The hard part is deciding how to spend the time.