Explore Your Family’s Wild Side at Lincoln Park Zoo

Use these helpful tips for visiting the free urban zoo with kids.

Since 1868, the Lincoln Park Zoo has offered Chicagoland families a glimpse into the wild lives of animals across the globe. Hundreds of animals from around the world call Lincoln Park Zoo their home, including endangered species and even species that are extinct in the wild. 

Today, the zoo is loved by families for its exciting exhibits, interactive programs and plenty of spaces for kids to explore and learn about diverse animals and plants. Best of all, admission is completely free

The next time your family journeys to Lincoln Park Zoo, use this guide to plan out your adventure. From quick details about parking and food options to the best things to do with kids at the zoo and in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, our family guide has everything your clan needs to unleash their wild side. 

This article was recently updated on June 3, 2024 by Chicago Parent’s Assistant Editor, Nikki Roberts. The update included adding family events at the Lincoln Park Zoo in 2024. Questions? Please reach out to nikki@chicagoparent.com.

Quick details about the Lincoln Park Zoo

Lincoln park zoo with kids
Photo credit: Lincoln Park Zoo

  • Address: 2400 N. Cannon Drive, Chicago
  • Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Hours vary by season
  • Cost: Free! 
  • Getting there: The 22, 36, 151 and 156 CTA buses stop along the western edge of the zoo. The Armitage brown and purple line stop and the Fullerton brown, purple and red line stop are about one mile west of the zoo. 
  • Parking: There is limited street parking in the area. A paid lot is available at 2400 N. Cannon Drive. Parking in this lot is free for the first 30 minutes. After that, daily rates range from $30-$40. 

Things to do with kids at Lincoln Park Zoo

Lincoln park zoo with kids
Photo credit: Lincoln Park Zoo

  • Before you go, download the zoo’s interactive map
  • While you’re exploring the zoo, make time to watch a seal training, ape cognition and care session and more. Check the daily activities schedule to get in on the fun! 
  • Play at the Houston Family Play Treehouse, a nature-themed indoor play space for kids that features sensory and tactile components that every child can enjoy. 
  • Explore the Wild Sapling Play Forest, the zoo’s outdoor play area for kids.
  • Groom goats, feed cows and chickens and more at Farm-in-the-Zoo. Kids can explore at the Main Barn open-ended play area. 
  • Ride the endangered species carousel.
  • Tour the zoo on the Lionel Train Adventure. The trackless train departs from a red brick station and offers riders views of forest and canyon scenery. 
  • Take a virtual tour of silverback gorillas frolicking deep in the forest with “Gorilla Trek — A Virtual Reality Experience.”
  • Virtually dive with tiger sharks at “Shark DiveVR.” 
  • Feast on burgers, sandwiches, ice cream and more at Park Place Cafe. Two of the zoo’s seasonal eateries — Cafe Brauer and Bird’s Eye Bar & Grill — offer unique views of the zoo and its gardens. 
    • Drinks at the zoo are served without straws. Paper straws and plastic lids are available on request.

Tips for families when visiting

  • Located just inside the zoo’s East Gate entrance, the Seale Visitor Center is a helpful place to have on your radar. There, you will find the information desk, lost and found, stroller rentals, first aid and public safety and more. 
  • Guests with sensory processing needs can find weighted lap blankets and sensory bags with noise-canceling headphones, fidget tools and more at the Seale Visitor Center. Find a detailed breakdown of sensory concerns in each exhibit on the zoo’s website
  • Accessible restrooms are located throughout the zoo. Changing tables are available in every public restroom.
  • A Quiet Room is located in the Member Lounge for breastfeeding, sensory relief and prayer. 
  • Does your family love the Lincoln Park Zoo? Look into a family membership, which includes perks like free parking, discounts at zoo shops, discounts on camp and youth programming, invites to special events and more. 

Family-friendly events at Lincoln Park Zoo

Play! at Farm-in-the-Zoo

  • When: Wednesdays, Memorial Day through Labor Day
  • Cost: Free

Children ages 1–5 will explore the sights, smells, and textures that nature has to offer at this free, play-based experience. Take in a tall tale during story time, get messy at the art station, sift and scoop at the sensory bin or make music with your family.

Super Zoo Picnic

  • When: Friday, June 21, 2024; 5-8:30 p.m.
  • Cost: $15. Children ages 5 and under are free. Members only.

Join the zoo for an exclusive after-hours celebration just for Lincoln Park Zoo members. Members and their guests get the entire zoo to themselves for an evening of family fun!

Guests can enjoy free rides on Lionel Train Adventure and the Endangered Species Carousel, animal chats, face painting, carnival games, dancing and more.

Other things to do with kids in Lincoln Park 

Lincoln Park Conservatory. Photo provided by Chicago Park District

  • Is your little nature explorer eager for more? Head to the nearby Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum for more interactive play opportunities and a butterfly garden. 
  • The Lincoln Park Conservatory is just a quick walk north of the zoo. Plus, it’s free!
  • Walk the yellow brick road at Oz Park, a small park with an Oz-themed playground, Emerald City flower garden and statues of the Tin Man, Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion and, of course, Dorothy and Toto.
  • After a long day of exploring, enjoy dinner at Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company. This popular spot is known for its inventive take on deep dish pizza.

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Nikki Roberts
Nikki Roberts
Nikki Roberts is the assistant editor on the Chicago Parent team. She is always on the lookout for the coolest and trendiest new attractions, restaurants and events for Chicagoland families. Her newsletters, online family guides and exciting digital content keep families informed on all the latest happenings around town.
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