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Lincoln Park Zoo Tips: Plan Your Day and Save on Extras

Last Updated on September 26, 2021

Lincoln Park Zoo has an amazing location and a ton of history. Opened in 1868, it is one of the oldest zoos in the United States. If it definitely worth a visit, if for no other reason than it isn’t often that you can see zebras and skyscrapers at the same time. As an added bonus, it is free to enter. What Lincoln Park Zoo tips do you need to know to plan your day?

Lincoln Park Zoo Tips

1. Where is Lincoln Park Zoo?

2. Choose Your Parking and Transportation Option

3. Know the Lincoln Park Zoo Hours of Operation

4. Arrive Early

5. Visit on a Weekday

6. Dress for the Lincoln Park Zoo Weather

7. The Lincoln Park Zoo Admission Cost is Nothing

8. How Much Time Do You Need?

9. See The Must See Lincoln Park Zoo Animal Exhibits

10. Follow the Interactive Map

11. Try a Self Guided Tour

12. Check the Show Schedule

13. There Are Rides

14. Explore the Lincoln Park Zoo Animal Encounters Options

15. Choose a Lincoln Park Zoo Restaurant

16. Outside Food at Lincoln Park Zoo is Allowed

17. Smoking is Prohibited

18. Leave the Pets at Home

19. There is a Baby Care Center (Kind of)

20. Check the Special Lincoln Park Zoo Events

21. Lincoln Park Zoo Membership Can Save Money

22. Know the Current COVID-19 Precautions

Lincoln Park Zoo Location Bird

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Lincoln Park Zoo Tips

1. Where is Lincoln Park Zoo Located?

The Lincoln Park Zoo address is 2400 North Cannon Drive in downtown Chicago.

2. Lincoln Park Zoo Parking and Transportation Options

How Much Does it Cost to Park at Lincoln Park Zoo?

The zoo has a parking lot located at the intersection of Fullerton and Cannon. You can park for free for a half an hour, which will basically never happen, then prices range from $20 to $35 per day.

Pro tip: If you don’t need in and out privileges, check Spot Hero for parking for less near Lincoln Park Zoo.

Rideshare

Rideshare services like Uber and Lyft can drop you off right in front of the Lincoln Park Zoo entrances.

City Buses

Buses 22, 36, 151, and 156 will drop you off in front of the zoo. The train to Lincoln Park Zoo is not the best option, as the closest stops are all about a mile away.

Lincoln Park Zoo Visit Camel

3. When Does Lincoln Park Zoo Open?

Lincoln Park Zoo is open from 10:00 a.m. through 5:00 p.m. on weekdays and 10:00 a.m. through 7:00 p.m. on weekends during the summer, and 10:00 a.m. through 5:00 p.m. every day throughout the rest of the year. The zoo closes early a few times a year, so check the current hours at the time of your visit. The zoo is open 365 days per year.

4. Arrive Early

Arriving early is perhaps the most important of the Lincoln Park Zoo tips. The property is best enjoyed without others. You will find the lowest crowds in the morning. Additionally, exhibits start to close before the actual zoo. If you arrive later in the day, you likely will not be able to see everything. Get up early and hit it first thing. Don’t be like this guy.

Lincoln Park Zoo and Conservatory Alligator

5. Visit on a Weekday

Regardless of what time you arrive, you will find a much smaller crowd on a weekday than the weekend. If school is in session, you may encounter some field trips, but it will still be better than your typical Saturday. If you have flexibility, try to go during the week.

6. Dress for the Weather

Chicago is cold in the winter. That’s no secret. A lot of this zoo is outdoors. Be sure to dress appropriately.

7. Lincoln Park Zoo Cost

Is Lincoln Park Zoo still free after the pandemic? Yep, it sure is. Admission is free every single day, but there are plenty of extras on which to spend money.

8. How Long Does it Take to Go Through Lincoln Park Zoo?

If you want to see everything and take your time, you could probably spend half a day here. You can hit the majority of the highlights in two to three hours.

Lincoln Park and Zoo Giraffes

9. Lincoln Park Zoo Exhibits

There are several exhibits at the Lincoln Park Zoo, almost all of which are named after rich people. Some of the highlights include:

A. Lincoln Park Zoo African Journey – African Journey features giraffes, rhinos, and pygmy hippos.

B. Regenstein Macaque Forest – Visit the forest to see the snow monkeys.

C. Lincoln Park Zoo Farm-in-the-Zoo – This is where you can find and feed farm animals. It is a cute section for little kids. Everyone else can probably skip it.

Pro tip: During normal times, the zoo offers a program a couple of times per week for children ages 5 and under that is free of charge. Check the schedule before you visit if you want to attend.

Note: Farm-in-the-Zoo is currently closed to the general public due to COVID-19, but members still have access.

D. Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo – You can see black bears, otters, and turtles in this area.

E. Kovler Seal Pool – Obviously, from the name, you will find the seals in this pool.

Pro tip: Check to see if there are any Lincoln Park Zoo seal shows or talks available on the day of your visit.

F. Helen Brach Primate House – This house should not be missed.

Pro tip: Check the hours of the house, because they may not be the same hours as that of the zoo.

G. Regenstein Center for African Apes – This is another must stop, featuring the gorillas and chimpanzees.

H. Walter Family Arctic Tundra – The Arctic Tundra houses the polar bears.

Pro tip: Check the show schedule for a polar bear talk.

I. Regenstein Small Mammal-Reptile House – Monkeys, sloths, and snakes are among the highlights in this house.

Lincoln Park Zoo Indoor Exhibits Monkey

10. Follow the Interactive Map

The signs directing guests toward certain animals are less than clear. It is not uncommon to see guests huddled around the signs trying to figure out which way to walk. The interactive map can help you avoid this problem.

Pro tip: If you don’t want stare at your phone all day, grab a paper copy of the Lincoln Park Zoo map.

11. Try a Self Guided Tour

Tight on time? The zoo has prepared proposed itineraries for guests with different priorities to ensure they hit the highlights in two hours. You can follow the itineraries on the interactive map.

Pro tip: The Little Explorers itinerary is designed for families with young children.

Lincoln Park Zoo Tips Seal

12. Check the Show Schedule

There are free talks, feedings, and activities offered throughout the day. Check the schedule to make sure you don’t miss those that interest you.

13. There Are Rides

The zoo has a carousel and small Lincoln Park Zoo train ride. Your kids won’t be able to miss them. Both rides cost $3 per ride as of the time of this writing. Be prepared to pay up or avert your child’s eyes.

Pro tip: If you go often, you can save on the rides by buying tickets in bulk.

Zebra

14. You Can Interact with the Animals

If you want to spend more time with the animals, you can pay extra to do so.

Malott Family Penguin Encounter

The Lincoln Park Zoo Penguin Encounter is a sixty minute program that gives you a behind the scenes tour and some time inside the habitat. You will not be allowed to touch them, but you can interact with them if they choose to approach. If the animal isn’t feeling you, you are SOL.

As of the time of this writing, the cost is $60 per non-member and $50 per zoo member. Kids must be at least six years old to participate.

Feeding Programs

You can feed cows and chickens and groom goats at Farm-in-the-Zoo.

15. Lincoln Park Zoo Dining Options

Lincoln Park Zoo has a handful of dining locations, all with gluten free options. Check out the Patio for an extensive cocktail menu filled with fruity drinks calling to middle-aged women.

Pro tip: Gluten free options are not marked on all of the menus. Speak to a server about your dietary restrictions.

Bonus pro tip: If you want to hold off until you leave the zoo, there are plenty of restaurants near Lincoln Park Zoo.

Chimpanzee

16. Lincoln Park Zoo Outside Food Policy

You can bring in outside food, but not alcohol. Feeding the animals is a big no no.

17. No Smoking

Smoking is not allowed anywhere on the property.

18. Does Lincoln Park Zoo Allow Dogs?

While it would normally seem obvious that you can’t bring your dog to the zoo, the urban location of this particular zoo makes it slightly less clear. For those who are unsure, no outside animals allowed other than service animals at Lincoln Park Zoo.

Dogs

19. There is a Baby Care Center (Kind of)

There is a space advertised as a Quiet Room located in the Searle Visitor Center. You can use this room to breastfeed, but you may have to share it with people who want to use the space for other purposes, like prayer.

20. Check the Special Events

This free zoo needs to make money, so it offers a ton of events throughout the year. These include adults only events with alcohol, block parties, Lincoln Park Zoo Lights during the holidays, and a ball to let you party as hard as you did at prom in the 1990s, if every prom ticket cost an amount with at least four digits in it.

Check the events to see if anything interests you at the time of your visit.

21. Membership

It is free to enter the zoo, so why should you pay for a membership? It isn’t worth it for everyone. If you go often, it may actually save you money.

Individual Membership

As of the time of this writing, individual memberships cost $69 per year and include the following:

A. $9 flat rate parking

B. Access to the Member Lounge at Searle Visitor Center

C. Access to member only events

D. Discounted Lincoln Park Zoo tickets for the train and carousel

E. Discounts on Lincoln Park Zoo food and merchandise

F. Discounts on Lincoln Park Zoo day camps and youth programs

G. Discounted and free admission to other facilities affiliated with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (including the Florida Aquarium)

H. Subscription to Lincoln Park Zoo magazine

Household Membership

As of the time of this writing, the Household Membership costs $95 per year and includes the following:

A. Two free parking passes and $9 flat rate parking for each visit after that

B. Access to the Member Lounge at Searle Visitor Center

C. Access to member only events

D. Discounted tickets for the train and carousel

E. Discounts on food and merchandise

F. Discounts on Lincoln Park Zoo summer camps and youth programs

G. Discounted and free admission to other facilities affiliated with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums

H. Subscription to Lincoln Park Zoo magazine

Lincoln Park Zoo Safari Membership

As of the time of this writing, the Safari Membership costs $189 per year and includes the following:

A. Unlimited free Lincoln Park Zoo member parking

B. Two free tickets to the annual after hours family event, SuperZooPicnic

C. Access to the Member Lounge at Searle Visitor Center

D. Access to member only events

E. Discounted tickets for the train and carousel

F. Discounts on food and merchandise

G. Discounts on Lincoln Park Zoo camps and youth programs, as well as early access to registration

H. Discounted and free admission to other facilities affiliated with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums

I. Subscription to Lincoln Park Zoo magazine

Lincoln Park Zoo Lily Pond

22. Lincoln Park Zoo COVID-19 Precautions

As of the time of this writing, the zoo has really scaled back on its precautions. Lincoln Park Zoo reservations are no longer required, but you still need to wear a mask in indoor animal areas.

Final Thoughts – Lincoln Park Zoo Tips

Is Lincoln Park Zoo a good zoo for you? It is definitely worth a stop if you are downtown anyway. It is a great way to fill a few hours and is completely free. Use the Lincoln Park Zoo tips that make sense for you to maximize your day and save on the extras.

If you are looking for a more intense experience at a Chicago zoo, try Brookfield Zoo. Brookfield isn’t free and is not downtown, but it offers a lot more.

Visit Lincoln Park Zoo Chicago if you are downtown. You will not regret it.

Lincoln Park Zoo Tips Pin

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San Diego with Kids: The Top Three Animal Must Dos

Waldorf Astoria Chicago Tips: Leave the Kids at Home

Lincoln Park Zoo Tips

20 thoughts on “Lincoln Park Zoo Tips: Plan Your Day and Save on Extras

  1. Such a great guide. As a Chicago girl, I second using the train. It’s so easy and much cheaper than parking at the zoo. Plus you can take the train system from just about anywhere near Chicago.

  2. Love that the zoo is free! Although I think the membership makes the discount on parking totally worth it!

  3. Great that the entrance to the zoo is free. Here in the Netherlands, you’ll easily pay 20 euros for adults and 15 euros for kids, which makes it an expensive outing. Would be cool to visit Lincoln park zoo when we visit Chicago.

  4. I’m from the Netherlands, but I’m planning a visit to Chicago in a few years. Will put this on my list with places I want to visit when I’m there!

  5. I would love to see the polar bears at Lincoln Park Zoo! This is definitely top of my list for when I visit Chicago!

  6. This is such a fantastic guide with so many tips! I’d love to visit the zoo one day – I love seeing the animals. Your photos are so cute, I especially love the zebra one!

    Emily xx

  7. We are still yet to visit Chicago from the west coast of Canada. Definitely on our “Must Travel To Next” list. The zoo looks like a great place to visit and a long history as well. Will bookmark this for our future visit to the city. 🙂

  8. This is such a great guide! And knowing that outside food is allowed, game changer! Will save for when we visit.

  9. I so appreciate tips, tricks and savings pointers to places likes zoos etc. because as a family of 4 kids all under age 10, we don’t have time for trial and errors. Lincoln park zoo sounds like a whole lot of fun.

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