A Field Trip to Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo

We were lucky enough to spend part of Day 3 of our Chicago Trip with my cousin and her 2 daughters at the Lincoln Park  zoo.

lincoln park zoo

The Lincoln Park Zoo is a free zoo located in downtown Chicago.  It is  fairly small as far as zoos go but, as one of the nations oldest zoos it it truly a piece of Chicago history.  On a  weekday, you could likely see most of the zoo in about an hour….we were there on a beautiful Spring Saturday. It was BUSY, so we were there quite a bit longer.

There is a  petting zoo with all the usual farm animals.  Its has goats, cows, pigs and chickens as well as a milking parlor. Although I’m not sure why it is a petting zoo as you couldn’t actually get close enough to actually “pet” anything. They have a few displays about agriculture that explained where food comes from.  It was nicely done and there is a garden in the middle of the petting zoo area.  The funniest part of the petting zoo area for me was that there is a brand new sparkling John Deere tractor on display.  Guess who got to stand in line for 15 minutes with Mowgli so he could sit on a tractor?  You guessed it.  Never mind there are 2 tractors sitting just outside at home, although they are definitely not new.  ( I have since decided the educational part of this experience was practicing standing in line. )

The kids enjoyed the gorillas and the chimpanzees as well as the seals and monkeys.  Unfortunately because the zoo is so small many of the animals are in much smaller enclosures than what you typically see in most zoos.  This made me sad particularly for the big cats that were in cages indoors.

There is a nice cafe at the zoo where we had lunch.  There are many options from fresh fruit to salads, sandwiches, pizza and a grill.  Prices were reasonable and the food was fairly good. As expected, like the rest of the zoo it very busy. As I understand there is a farmers market nearby that I would like to explore next time.  We had planned to go get lunch there, but time got away from us.

Located just next door to the zoo, is the Lincoln Park Conservatory. We took a stroll through the conservatory but didn’t stay too long as it was awfully hot inside and the large open grass area outside seemed to be beckoning us to come and sit awhile.  (I wont tell you how at this point one hot and tired mom flipped her lid when she say her 5 year old playing with a cigarette butt she found on the lovely grass area…. in hindsight perhaps I could have used this opportunity to talk about littering but…I didn’t.  What can I say a 5 day field trip can’t be perfect all the time.)

The Lincoln Park Conservatory  (and surrounding area) is actually very nice  but if you are looking for a conservatory to visit with little ones, I highly recommend the Garfield Park Conservatory. It is truly an amazing place.  Last year it was  recognized by the  Institute of Museum and Library Services as one of 10 recipients of the 2012 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. It has a fantastic children’s garden and is one of my favorite places in Chicago.  We have visited the Chicago Botanical Gardens several times and really have enjoyed it as well.

Helpful Hints: Here are  a few  fun printables I found to use with our zoo trip. Most of these are designed for younger students.





Money Saving Tip:  While the zoo itself is free, parking is definitely not.  We drove around for quite awhile looking for street parking but ended up parking in a parking lot a few blocks from the zoo.  Parking was $27.00 for 4 hours, if I remember correctly…ouch! (This country girl just can’t get over the price for parking in the city)


A Homeschool Field Trip to Shedd Aquarium

Day 2 of our Super Chicago Field Trip was spent at the fabulous Shedd Aquarium.   The Shedd is in an easy to find location, along the shore next to Adler Planetarium and The Field Museum.  It was one of our favorite visits while we were in Chicago, so much so that it has made the itinerary on several prior Chicago visit as well. (Maybe not terribly surprising since we are huge animal fans)  According the their website, Shedd Aquarium is the largest indoor aquarium in the world and I can’t say I’m surprised as there is A LOT to do and see.

Here is a little sampling of some of the fun we had.

Shedds Collage

We all had a great time exploring the aquarium and were able to take advantage of several animal encounters, a dive presentation in the Caribbean Reef and an animal chat about Sharks in the Wild Reef.  (Incidentally did you know you are more likely to die choking on a toothpick than you are to get bitten by a shark? Who knew, right?)

The favorite animal (by vote) was the sea turtle in the CarribeanReef.  Her name is  Nickel and she is enormous!  She only swims with her head down and her bottom up because she was involved in a boating accident in Florida.  I appreciate that they share the animals’ stories, I think it help us make connections with  the animals and can serve as great conversation starters with the kids, especially about conservation issues.

The Special Exhibit that is currently on display through 2013 is Jellies.  The Jellies exhibit pass was only a few dollars extra and was worth the price.  It  captivated the attention of even the 3-year-old.  The exhibit itself was very cool and had some really neat features.  I love this picture of my sister and Rose talking about the Jellies.  She is amazing with the kids.  It is so natural for her to be completely present and in the moment with them. Love her!

jellies exhibit at shedd aquarium



Mowgli’s favorite place at the aquarium was the Polar Play Zone and Underwater viewing area.  The Shedd has a baby Beluga whale and it was in the underwater viewing are that Mowgli and my sister saw the baby and mother swimming together while the baby was nursing… so sweet.  (Although it was also in this area that upon seeing the dolphins, he announced he was going to “eat them on bread” Oy!)  If you have little ones you wont want to miss the play zone where they can explore a submarine, dress up like a penguin, practice their belly slides or touch a live starfish.  As you can probably imagine we could have spent the better part of the day just in this area.  Here’s my boy working on his penguin slide..pure joy!

ice slide


We did not do the Aquatic Show this time for a couple of reasons.  First, all the animals that are in the show are on exhibit and still can be seen.  There were several trainers in the Oceanarium available to answer questions when the show was not going on.  Secondly, I was raised in North central Ohio during the Shamu days when Sea World was still located near Cleveland.  We were regular visitors and have seen some really great aquatic shows!  We have seen the shows at Shedd Aquarium and while they are good…Sea World they are not.  ( I guess we were just spoiled…thanks mom and dad!)  Lastly, admission to the aquarium is not cheap.   Admission was almost $100.00 for myself and 3 kids.  Was it worth it.. absolutely. Was I willing to part with another $40.00..no.   Which bring me to my money-saving tips.

Tips for Homeschoolers: In addition to discounts for Chicago residents, there is a discount available for educators in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin, but you do have to register online to get your pass.  Also I should mention that the Shedd Aquarium website has great information about the exhibits and aquatic animals in general so you will want to check it out.

Money Saving Tip: This may seem obvious but double-check your admission charges.   As I mentioned the prices vary widely with several options including shows and exhibit available as add-ons to the base admission price.  I was initially overcharged by over $50.00 and the employee, while nice enough, couldn’t figure out why and wasn’t sure how it fix it.  The charge on my sisters  card for her admission went through twice.  Maybe just a glitch with their system that day, but I thought I would mention.   My second money-saving tip is to pack a lunch.  They have a very nice cafe on site but as, I still have a child in diapers I carry a back pack anyway.  There is a lunch room as well as a beautiful multi-level covered outdoor eating area. This was the view from the deck.  We had a wonderful time at the aquarium and really enjoyed this amazing view of the city while we rested and enjoyed our lunches.