Unique Animal Experiences Your Kids Will Go Wild For

Explore the animal kingdom with these amazing encounters.

If your family love animals, Chicagoland offers plenty of zoos, farms and other institutions that members of the animal kingdom call home. There are a lot of opportunities to learn more about various animals and make friends with creatures big and small. Make their day with these unique animal adventures.

Note: We’re updating our website as quickly as we can, but changes may occur due to COVID-19. Please double check before heading out for the most updated information on safety precautions, vaccine requirements and any last-minute cancellations.

Chicago and suburbs

Touch stingrays at the Shedd Aquarium

  • Address: 1200 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago
  • Cost: General admission is $39.95 for adults, $29.95 for kids ages 3-11; Discounts available for Chicago residents. Stingray Touch is included.

The Shedd is a fun place all year round, but summer visits are extra special because the seasonal outdoor Stingray Touch exhibit is open. (It operates between mid May and late October.) Guests of all ages can reach (gently) into the 78-degree water habitat and touch cownose rays.

Even if kids aren’t looking to get their hands on the rays, the close-up view offers a new perspective and appreciation of these mesmerizing creatures and the way they move through the water. Sea star touch and sturgeon touch session are other hands-on activities included with admission.

Feed alpacas at SafeHouse Farms Alpaca

SafeHouse Farms Alpaca, Photo Credit: Cheryl Eugenio

Do you love alpacas? For more alpacas that you’ve ever seen (43!), head to SafeHouse Farms Alpaca in Barrington where they offer a private tour to feed Renata, Jodie, and Bambino as well as their fellow alpaca friends.

While the alpacas are munching on the hay you feed them, you’ll learn more about alpacas, cousins to the camel and llama, from the friendly guides, Linda and Kevin. Meet and feed other animals, many of which are rescues including bunnies, chickens, Red the horse, the miniature horse Snow Queen and her buddy a Sicilian donkey named Lucca (look out for the cross on his back).

Feed bison at Elgin Public Museum

  • Address: 255 Grand Blvd., Elgin
  • Cost: $5 adults, $2 kids ages 3-12, free to kids under 3 but not especially recommended for so young. Free for members.

Did you know that Elgin has a zoo? The Lords Park Zoo invites visitors to learn about bison, deer and elk at the Lords Park Zoo. The fun starts at the Elgin Public Museum for a short “lesson,” then a quick walk to the bison shed where you can meet the bison, Becky, Drew, and Takoda, and feed them. Guests will also see elk and deer. Feeding starts at 2 p.m. on the last Saturday of the month. Registration required. Space is limited to 12 people.

Feed the giraffes at Brookfield Zoo

  • Address: 8400 31st St., Brookfield
  • Cost: Zoo admission is $24.95 for adults; $17.95 for kids ages 3-11; giraffe feeding is $10

Kids love to join in animal care and they can do just that by helping feed the giraffes at Brookfield Zoo. Offered twice daily (May to October) from 10:30 a.m. to noon and 1 to 2:30 p.m., it’s magical to see these creatures up close. The giraffes live in Habitat Africa! The Savannah.

Become better acquainted with coyotes at Cosley Zoo

Cosley Zoo features 20 exhibits and more than 50 species of animals. It’s a great place to see wildlife native to Illinois, including deer, foxes, turtles and more. For a unique experience, Coyote Connection allows guests to join zookeepers for a behind-the-scenes look at these coyotes and to observe a training session.

It’s offered daily with check-in before 12:45 a.m. Reservations can be made by calling 630-665-5534 or signing up the day of at the Wild Side gift shop.

See the new residents feathering their nests at the Phillips Park Zoo

Phillips Park Zoo has gone to the birds, and you can do so, too, when you are among the first to welcome two new feathered residents. Iggy is a blue-throated macaw, which is a critically endangered species, and Iris is a green acari, which is a small toucan.

Mastodon Island features a playground, pavilions, paths and a small amphitheater where zoo staff will occasionally bring both animals (like the new guinea pigs who recently became zoo residents) and books for story time as well as a chance to pet and experience the animals.

Walk goats at Nature’s Trail Yoga

For something a little bit different, try walking goats. Because who couldn’t resist an experience like this? Wally from The Mending Muse Goats joins Nature Trail’s Yoga for a fun walk on the farm. The 90-minute goat yoga class includes a short walk through the farm grounds then one-on-one time with the goats.

Beyond Chicagoland

Photo Credit: Nina’s Hands, Paws, and Claws

Spend one on one time with farm animals at Hephzibah Farms

  • Address: 13202 Hebron Road, Hebron
  • Cost: $5 per person for a private tour. Reserve a tour via Facebook Messenger or by phone.

If you truly want to see a working farm, then a visit to Hephzibah Farms is a must. Private tours allow guests to meet and hold many of their animals. For instance, on our family’s particular visit, we held baby chicks, chicken, and kids (baby goats). We even bottle fed one of the kids.

Although half the fun may be cuddles with animals, the tour guide Bekah was a treasure trove of facts and interesting tidbits about the animals. Don’t forget to stop at their farm store for farm fresh eggs!

Go on a drive-thru safari at Lake Geneva Safari

Starting May 1st, Lake Geneva Safari offers an opportunity for you to meet a variety of animals … from the comfort of your car! This drive-thru safari allows you to see camel, llama, zebras, yaks, and more! Make sure to buy a couple cups of feed. That stuff goes fast! Usually open from May to October.

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Chicago Parent Editorial Team
Chicago Parent Editorial Team
Since 1984, the Chicago Parent editorial team is trained to be the go-to source for Chicagoland families, offering a rich blend of expert advice, compelling stories, and the top local activities for kids. Renowned for their award-winning content, the team of editors and writers are dedicated to enriching family life by connecting parents with the finest resources and experiences our community has to offer.
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