There’s always been something uniquely special about the arrival of fall in Chicago, but there are few places better to experience the beautiful season than at Lincoln Park Zoo. And its Fall Fest this year wraps up all the best things about fall, then mixes in a whole lot of fun, family togetherness and even some learning that will have the kids asking for more.
“Personally, my favorite season is fall and I think the zoo is a beautiful place to see this time of year with the gardens, pumpkins, and festive décor,” says Ellen Ernst, events manager at Lincoln Park Zoo. “It’s just a beautiful place to spend a fall day outside.”
When she helped create Fall Fest at Lincoln Park Zoo, Ernst set out to see what else is offered for families around Chicagoland to make sure she could create something completely unique and special.
“I think Fall Fest offers a really unique experience unlike any other. You can spend the morning walking through our Pumpkin Walk and as you go across the zoo, you can spot many different species engaging with pumpkin enrichment. It’s such a cool thing to see a rhino smash a pumpkin in two seconds,” she says, adding that families get a lot of different experiences all in just a relaxed day as they wander the zoo with apple ciders in hand.
Experience Fall Fest
Ernst shares a few highlights she thinks families will especially love experiencing at Fall Fest at Lincoln Park Zoo, which runs 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, Oct. 8-Oct. 31, plus Oct. 11. Best of all, even if you can’t take advantage of all of the great ticketed experiences the zoo is offering for Fall Fest, visiting the zoo is free every day, making it a no-excuses outing every family can enjoy this fall.
Do it for the ‘gram. New this year at Fall Fest, Ernst says, is a fun Instagram contest. Photo stops are set up throughout the zoo perfect for those family pics. Simply snap a shot of the kids and tag Lincoln Park Zoo on Instagram with the hashtag #ForWildlifeForAll for a chance to win prizes. Don’t forget to jump into a few of the shots, too, because you’ll definitely want to be part of the memories. That’s a win right there.
Watch pumpkin masters in action. Every Friday across the zoo’s main mall, watch pumpkin carvers create masterpieces out of giant 1,000-pound pumpkins. Really get your pumpkin spice fill by heading to the ticketed Pumpkin Walk, a decorated path that winds around the zoo’s beautiful gardens inside the Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo. On Saturdays and Sundays of Fall Fest, professional pumpkin carvers tackle the smaller pumpkins (think 50- to 100-pound gourds) to create wows that might even inspire you to step up your crooked toothless pumpkin game when the family gets home.
You can even pick your own pumpkin from the zoo’s Pumpkin Patch, with perfect options for that jack-o-lantern or homemade pie.
Learn all about the animals. It turns out, animals love fall, too. Throughout the zoo, watch some amazing animals enjoy their own pumpkin treats at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. every day of Fall Fest. That rhino, Ernst mentioned? Yup, they really do love pumpkins. Zoo learning chats will be held across the zoo to give the kids more insight into how well the animals are cared for and why they think and act like they do.
Fill up the tummy. Bird’s Eye Bar & Grill transforms into an over-the-top fall pop-up — Patches’ Pumpkin Bar & Grill — with festive food, drinks and fall decor. Better still, you will have great views of the brand new Pepper Family Wildlife Center.
Before you leave for the day (or to even jump start your day at the zoo), grab tickets to ride to the AT&T Endangered Species Carousel and the Lionel Train Adventure.
Ernst says she’s sure families will have a great time. “I think we really create a unique experience unlike any other offering, especially in the city of Chicago,” she says.
Admission is free every day. Experience tickets cost $3 for one ticket, $27 for 10 tickets and $51 for 20 tickets. Lincoln Park Zoo members can receive discounted tickets.
Find out more about the Lincoln Park Zoo at lpzoo.org.