Lincoln Park Zoo


The Lincoln Park Zoo is a great zoo in a fun part of the city. Since admission is free it's easy to make a day of it or just stop in for a quick break. While parts of the zoo show its age, new buildings and exhibits are consistently phenomenal, especially the Center for African Apes and the lions (Pepper Family Wildlife Center). As a free zoo in an urban area, there's a fun mix of visitors, from the typical family with young kids to office workers walking through to stretch their legs or get a bite to eat.

Being smaller than the Brookfield Zoo, and in a more dense environment, it can feel very crowded—especially on a weekend with nice weather. It's still worth a visit, but be prepared for busy walkways and get to lunch early!

Top Tips

  • The best exhibit in the zoo is the Center for African Apes, with huge windows that go down to the floor and ample outdoor space that the apes enjoy on nice days
  • The loop at the north end of the zoo is next best. The interior of African Journey is fine, but if the weather is nice I prefer just staying outside and seeing the macaque monkeys, rhinos, zebras, giraffes, polar bears, and penguins as you go around the large loop. Make a point to look around for the polar bears, who can wander to several different portions of the exhibit, and looking at the prairie next to the African Journey entrance where you get a great view of zebras and giraffes.
  • The Children's Zoo has some decent animal exhibits, but is best as a space to burn off some energy in play areas.
  • The Farm in the Zoo is officially open, but most buildings are closed, and there aren't many activities. I think it's not worth visiting until it opens up more.
  • If it's at all busy, get to lunch by 11:30. If you're willing to spend a little extra, the Patio at Cafe Brauer has excellent food (including for kids, although kids options are more limited), a relaxed atmosphere, and a beautiful view of the city—but even there, arriving by 11:30 is crucial on busy days.


Summer (Memorial Day to Labor Day):
Weekdays: 10am-5pm
Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays: 10am-7pm
(Gates open at 8am, but buildings remain closed until 10am.)

The rest of the year:



Parking is $30-40 per day.

Museum website