Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago

Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo is one of Illinois’ most popular cultural destinations, with over 3.6 million visitors each year. The Lincoln Park Zoo is the only privately managed free zoo in the country.

Just minutes north of Chicago, amidst skyscrapers and freeways, this natural oasis is a haven for animal lovers.

See verdant pastures, tropical rain forest, and spacious savannas in this truly unique FREE zoo—one of only nine year-round free zoos in the U.S. Lincoln Park Zoo is one of four zoos in the Chicago area, though Lincoln Park is the only zoo within the Chicago city limits.

Lincoln Park Zoo’s mission is dedicated to connecting people with nature through a family-oriented wildlife experience right in the heart of Chicago.

Their goal is to serve and teach the highest quality of animal care, education, science, and conservation. Founded in 1868, the Lincoln Park Zoo now has over 49 acres of attractions.

Fun Fact: In 1930, Lincoln Park Zoo commissioners transferred the zoo’s marine collection to the Shedd Aquarium. Therefore, sparking the birth of one of Chicago’s top tourist attractions.

Plan Your Visit-to ensure you don't miss a thing!


Lincoln Park Zoo is home to more than 1,200 mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, as well as thousands of fish and insects.

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The zoo collection includes polar bears, penguins, gorillas, and monkeys, representing over 200 different animal species, many of which are rare and endangered.


The Zoo gift shop features unique nature-inspired items for kids and adults, including travel gear, souvenirs, games, puzzles, educational toys, books, handcrafted jewelry, and a wide variety of plush animals.

Lincoln Park Zoo members and AAA members get a 10% discount.


The Patio at Café Brauer features scenic views of Nature Boardwalk, a restored native ecosystem in the zoo.

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The café features an American cuisine of burgers and salads and serves cocktails, craft beers, and wine.

The Park Place Café serves Mexican and Italian food, sandwiches, beer, wine, and ice cream with indoor and outdoor seating.

The Bird’s Eye Bar & Grill highlights an open-air rooftop setting overlooking the Main Mall. Eadie Levy’s Landmark Café offers Chicago-style hot dogs, fries, and other snacks.

View of a beautifully decorated low lit dining room with lots of florals and live music at Café Brauer in Chicago, Illinois, USA

photo credit:
Cafe Brauer - The Great Hall via Facebook

Special Events

The Malott Family Penguin Encounter allows guests to get up close to these waddling loveable aquatic birds.

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Here, visitors can meet some African penguins living at the Robert and Mayari Pritzker Penguin Cove and discover their daily lives and habits in both Chicago and the African coast.

Photo Alert: Who doesn’t want a picture of the cutest rarest penguins on this side of the equator?

Plants & Gardens: The beautiful botanical parks in the zoo are a welcome distraction from busy city life.

The zoo’s landscape is bursting with over 1,200 different plant species in addition to the amazing creatures.

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These urban gardens include native birds, frogs, turtles, insects, and more. Check the website for a guided map to explore the zoo’s accredited arboretum.

Self-Guided Tours

Guests can download the map and select categories to browse the various zoo animal exhibits.

Hours of Operation

The zoo is open every day from 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.

Admission is free, but paid tickets are required for several attractions, including the carousel ride and the corn maze.


The Lincoln Park Zoo has some of the country’s most extensive zoo-based conservation and science programs.

The zoo studies the effects of wildlife research in the savannas and forests of Africa and monitors behavior to improve the welfare of zoo animals.

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Lincoln Park Zoo’s activities are open to all ages but change from season to season. The typical length of a program is around 10 minutes.

Some of the events include Seal Trainings and Ape Cognition and Care sessions. These classes teach how positive reinforcement training benefits animal welfare.


Hop aboard the Lionel Train Adventure, a trackless 28 passenger train that crosses over a quaint country bridge through forests and canyons before returning to the station.

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This beautiful-crafted train is located near the zoo’s West Gate and features passenger cars, a coal car, and a wheelchair-accessible caboose.

Photo Alert: Snap a picture riding the AT&T Endangered Species Carousel. In addition to being a true Chicago landmark, it has over 48 hand-carved and painted replicas of threatened animals.

History of the Lincoln Park Zoo

In 1868, the Central Park Zoo commissioners gifted two rare swans to Lincoln Park igniting the birth of the zoo.

Landscape architects Swain Nelson and Olaf Benson designed the grounds in the late nineteenth century.

The first bison ever born in captivity was born in Lincoln Park. Built in 1912, the Kovler Lion House is a historic attraction on the zoo grounds. Meanwhile, with a $15 million donation, the habitat is now twice the size of the original.

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Another zoo landmark is the burr oak tree which dates back to 1830, three years before the zoo’s inception.

Fun Fact: One of the zoo’s first animals was a bear cub. While adorable, he had a knack for escaping and was often wandering around Lincoln Park.

Lincoln Park Zoo Highlights:

The Viking Ship

This full-scale replica of a Norse Viking ship sailed from Norway to Chicago for the 1893 World Columbian Exposition.

Wide shot of the front of the viking ship and the ramp leading to the the top at Friends of the Viking Ship in Chicago, Illinois, USA

photo credit:
Friends of the Viking Ship via Facebook

The Small Animal House

The Small Animal House, now the Helen Brach Primate House, is the zoo's home to monkeys, apes, pumas, and also lynx.

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Rabbit Village

The quaint rabbit village features bunny-sized bungalows, a schoolhouse, a courthouse, and a church.

Sea Lion Grotto

Constructed in the 1890s, this habitat is one of visitors favorite stops.

Fun Fact: Once two sea lions escaped the grotto and wandered into a Clark Street restaurant.

The Bird House

Now, the McCormick Bird House features a skylit central court with a small waterfowl pond. It is the oldest animal house still operating today.

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The Lion House

Now, the Pepper Family Wildlife Center is home to the zoo's infamous big cats.

In addition, the zoo prides itself on teaching about diverse species from around the planet,  with scientists that protect ecosystems from Chicago to the Republic of Congo.

The zoo is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

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Written By Erin

Erin Poche` is a Utah-based writer and editor for Tripster and contributing writer for BeyondType1. She also writes and edits for an indie publisher of fanta ...

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