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.
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)