Chicagoland families love Lincoln Park Zoo all year round, but fall is an especially exciting time to visit. Lincoln Park Zoo offers families a full roster of autumnal activities that educate, entertain and inspire children and families. And if you’re looking for affordability (and who isn’t these days), general zoo admission is free.
Have a blast at Fall Fest
Running from Sept. 29 to Oct. 29, Fall Fest is a free, five-weekend event that promises a world of fun for families.
“Fall Fest is our biggest event of the season,” says Gretchen Kirchmer, Lincoln Park Zoo’s Director of Marketing and Events. “From games and activities to story times and animal chats, there are endless ways for children to enjoy Fall Fest.”
While many activities are free, you will also find a variety of don’t-miss ticketed attractions. Highlights include a giant Fun Slide, the Pirates Revenge ride and a kiddie Ferris wheel. Kids can also enjoy a bounce house, an inflatable obstacle course and a harvest maze with pumpkins.
A new attraction is Gorilla Trek, an action-packed virtual reality ride. Participants join a world-renowned primatologist through the mountains of Rwanda.
Bonus: If you have any Fall Fest tickets left over, they are usable at the next weekend’s Fall Fest. “Things change every week so there are plenty of reasons to return,” Kirchmer notes.
However, Fall Fest isn’t just about rides and games; it’s also about community.
“Lincoln Park Zoo collaborates with local organizations to offer diverse story times during Fall Fest including offerings in ASL and Spanish,” says Kirchmer.
Enjoy the zoo’s festive fall theme
For city dwellers or suburbanites looking for a taste of rural charm, Lincoln Park Zoo’s mini pumpkin patch and seasonal pop-up Patch’s Bar & Grill are the place to be. Buy pumpkins and gourds to decorate your home or sit by open fire pits for marshmallow roasting. There is a selection of hot beverages including hot chocolate and mulled wine. And, the pumpkin patch and maze offer plenty of adorable photo opportunities for the kids.
“We want to make this the perfect place to enjoy autumn with your family,” Kirchmer says. “You will see fall decor throughout the entire zoo. We go all out to make it seasonal and festive.”
Get in the Halloween spirit
If you love Halloween, you’re in luck. Kids will love to explore Spooky Zoo, hosted by the zoo’s Auxiliary Board, on Oct. 21 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Kids can dress up and trick-or-treat in the unique zoo space. This event is well attended, so be sure to get there early while supplies last.
Parents can get in on the fun at Adults Night Out: Howl-O-Ween on Thursday, Oct. 26, from 6:30-10 p.m. Visit the Haunted Trail, hosted by the zoo’s “Boo Crew” of volunteers who are ready to give you a fright. Also enjoy a live DJ, dueling pianos, cash bars, festive foods and fall-friendly animal chats. You even get free, unlimited rides on the carousel.
“The Haunted Trail gives you a taste of our winter celebration, ZooLights,” Kirchmer says. “For Howl-O-Ween we light up the trail with festive colors like purple, orange and green.”
Learn through nature
Fall is the perfect time to see more of your favorite zoo residents. Plus, you’re likely to come across zoo experts giving fall animal chats, especially on the weekends.
The zoo has some exciting new arrivals. Three lion cubs were born this year as well as a baby zebra. In the reptile house, you can meet the zoo’s new twin skinks, a type of lizard.
“Seeing our newborn additions is a really cool opportunity for kids to watch how animals grow and develop,” says Kirchmer.
Support the zoo
“Having members who support us helps us to offer free zoo admission 365 days of the year,” Kirchmer says. “When you join as a member you are also helping animals with their care and allowing us to put on events like Fall Fest.”
Joining as a member is easy, with several tiers available to fit many budgets. Members get perks like free parking and other amenities. Visit the zoo’s member page for more details.
Bottom line, you don’t want to miss fall at Lincoln Park Zoo, says Kirchmer. “We have beautiful gardens and a scenic view you won’t find anywhere else in the city. As Midwesterners, we know and love the sights and smells of fall. You can get all of that here, right in the heart of Chicago.”
To find out more about fall events at Lincoln Park Zoo as well as how to support the zoo, visit lpzoo.org.