Lincoln Park Zoo
- 2001 N. Clark Street
- Chicago, IL 60614
- (312) 742-2000
We really have an affinity for zoos. All three of us love spending a day at the zoo and we’ve done it several times already this summer.
This past weekend, J needed to go home for an event at Skydeck Chicago. L and I tagged along and we were joined by J’s parents. After we had some fun on The Ledge, we decided to continue our tourist look at the town by heading out to Lincoln Park.
The Lincoln Park Zoo is Chicago’s free zoo. It’s also one of the oldest in the United States with a founding date in the 1860’s. The first animals were a pair of swans from Central Park’s Board of Commissioners.
While there’s no admission fee to the zoo, there is a parking fee if you’re traveling by car as we were. The entrance to the parking lot is on the north side of the zoo off of Fullerton Parkway. It’s not a one admission for all approach either. Like all parking in Chicago, how much you pay depends on how long you stay. You take a ticket when entering the lot and pay an attendant on the way out. We were there a little over two hours which falls in the range for a $25 dollar parking day.
There are actually several entrances to the zoo because, again, it’s free, so they just open up the gates and let you wander in and out from the park. It’s not uncommon to see joggers make the zoo part of their path and if you take public transportation or find a spot to park outside of the park, you can enter from many different places.
The main entrance is on North Cannon Drive (which is actually the parking lot). It’s about half way between where you enter and where you pay. There’s no attendant or anything at the gate. It’s just swung open and you’re free to wander in and out.
The zoo is in a park setting and is built to blend in with the surrounding Lincoln Park. A lot of the animal exhibits have buildings and outdoor displays. One of the oldest buildings is the Kolver Lion House. It was built in 1912 and last renovated in the early 1990’s. There is a male and female African lion that roam a big outdoor part of the exhibit as well as a smaller indoor exhibit inside the building. The Lion House is also home to a number of other cats including an Amur Tiger, Amur Leopard, a Eurasian Lynx, a Pallas’s Cat, a Puma, and a pair of red pandas. The inside of the building, as with the cast of most of the indoor habitats at Lincoln Park Zoo, is a huge, cavernous building. We first had to go downstairs to find a potty, but after that, L would stand at each exhibit and wave to the “kitty.”
Our next stop was the Kolver Sea Lion Pool. There has been a sea lion pool at the Zoo since the 1870’s. The pool today is home to three young harbor seals that came from SeaWorld. The pool has three viewing areas. The biggest area is just looking in to the pool and watching the seals swim. There’s also a grandstand like area on the topside and an underwater viewing area that is accessible from a ramp on either side of the pool.
We took kind of an odd turn at this point to head over to the Helen Brach Primate House. Everybody loves monkeys and L is no exception. This building opened in the 1920’s and is the home to all sorts of primates. Each has their own indoor habitat that is viewable though large glass windows. The Gibbons are the most popular residents here and they actually get an indoor and outdoor space. L even got out of her wagon long enough to watch the Gibbons race around the trees chasing each other.
The next stop was the really cool stop at Lincoln Park Zoo. The Regenstein Center for African Apes is a pretty awesome exhibit. This building opened in 2005 replacing the Lester E. Fisher Great Ape House. This awesome exhibit is home to the Western Lowland Gorillas and the Common Chimpanzees. There are three large exhibits in this building with floor to ceiling glass. At one of the exhibits, there is a hollowed out log that is cut in half by the glass. One side is in the habitat for the gorillas, the other side is open for kids (or adults I guess) to climb in to. L climbed in with a bunch of other kids and one of the gorillas came in on their side. There was a bunch of shrieking kids as they came nose to nose with the gorilla and a lot of parents laughing and trying to snap pictures. The gorillas and chimps were all very active the day we were there and this building, by far, was our favorite stop at the zoo.
We continued along the path to the Antelope and Zebra area then somehow missed the Farm-in-the-Zoo. I didn’t even realize that was there until I looked at the map just now to write this entry.
We briskly walked past the Hope B. McCormick Swan Pond and the Waterfowl Lagoon on our way to find a potty. I sort of lagged behind and just took in these naturally beautiful areas as everyone else ran towards the Park Place Cafe to find a bathroom for L.
The one place we didn’t go in on purpose was the Regenstein Small Mammal and Reptile House. I like the small mammal part of it, but the reptile part can be pretty boring. Not sure why we passed on that, but we walked past it twice and no one had any desire to go in.
After a quick lunch at the Park Place Cafe, we had one more stop before our final stop. We wandered over to check out the Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo. We were expecting more of a petting zoo (which I’m guessing is the Farm-in-the-Zoo we missed). Instead, it was just more exhibits and another building that we had to drag L out of screaming. They had one of those big climbing structures that she so desperately wanted to climb, but there were so many older kids and I don’t think I could have gotten up there to get her. Everything seemed to be better though when we found our way to American Black Bear which was pacing right next to the glass. He was actually rubbing up against the glass and smearing whatever was on his coat to block our view of him. Still, he came nose to nose with L and she giggled as the giant bear just kept walking back and forth.
On our way out, we promised L she could ride the carousel. It’s right near the main entrance and she noticed it as soon as we walked in. The AT&T Endangered Species Carousel sits on top of the Judy Keller Education Center. It’s a large carousel with 48 animals. L picked out the panda right away. It’s a $3 ride and since she’s still not tall enough, I rode with her the first time. Ride number two she road with Grandpa and once that ride was done, so was our day at the zoo.
It had been a really long time since I had been to Lincoln Park Zoo and I really didn’t remember it. My family always went to Brookfield Zoo because it’s in the suburbs. My parents really weren’t, and still aren’t, city drivers so the only time we went to LPZ was on school field trips.
Our day at Lincoln Park Zoo was a blast. It’s just such a great old zoo in a really relaxed park setting. We didn’t feel rushed to get through the whole thing and we didn’t feel like we were walking forever between exhibits. J and I don’t get downtown as much as we’d like to when we get home, but making a day out of it with her parents was a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.